The journey in:
NOT many passengers flag down the Barnstaple train at Chapelton station.
"You're the first person I've known get on here in five years," said the conductor as I paid my £2.70 return fare.
In fact First Great Western's figures show there was a footfall of just 190 passengers at the tiny single-platform station in 2011/12.
Not all trains even stop there. But the 7.53am service does, provided you wave at the driver in good time.
My journey had started at 7.45 when I set off (in a high-viz jacket) to walk the five-minute stretch of the A377 leading from home to the station.
It's a road where many drivers view 60mph as a target to aim for – not a limit – and there are no pavements.
But thankfully it was an uneventful walk. I stepped onto the station platform about 60 seconds before the train appeared from the Umberleigh direction.
Getting a seat wasn't a problem – the train's two carriages were virtually empty.
So after buying my ticket I had just a few minutes to relax and watch the rural North Devon scenery before the train slowed and pulled in to Barnstaple at 8am.
Things were all going far too well – so of course this was where it all went pear-shaped.
I'd calculated I had time to enjoy a coffee in the station cafe before getting the 8.14am 8A Stagecoach bus to Roundswell business park.
But by 8.20, with no sign of the bus, I looked more closely at the timetable – and realised that service only operated on Saturdays and in school holidays.
The bus I should have caught was the 8.04 – which had left without me while I was smugly drinking my coffee.
It didn't look like another bus to Roundswell Business Park was likely to appear until after 9am.
So instead I enjoyed a brisk walk up Sticklepath Hill and through Roundswell to the office, arriving (a little out of breath) about five minutes before 9.
I should probably do it every day. I'm sure my doctor would approve.
Total journey time: one hour and 10 minutes (but should have been about 30 minutes if I'd read the timetable correctly)
The journey home:
The journey home was always looking a bit tricky. The only evening train from Barnstaple which would stop at Chapelton was timetabled to leave at 5.08pm.
To catch it I'd need to get the 4.59pm bus from just outside the office – which would supposedly drop me at the bus station at 5.07pm.
I figured that fiendish bit of time-tabling gave me one minute to scoot across the platform and onto the train.
But a colleague cheerfully told me they lock the doors 40 seconds before the train leaves: "So you only have 20 seconds."
As it happened I didn't even have that.
After standing in the rain at the bus stop (whatever happened to shelters?) the bus turned up dead on time.
But due to other passengers insisting on getting on and off at various stops on the way we arrived at the railway station at 5.10pm. The train had left.
So now I had a choice.
I could follow the (frankly bizarre) suggestion of the National Rail Inquiries website: wait two hours for the 7.16pm train, travel to Exeter St David's, wait for 40 minutes, get on the returning 9pm train and get off at Chapelton at 10.03pm – some five hours after leaving work.
Or I could get the 6.13pm to Umberleigh and hope someone in Chapelton could come and get me.
Or I could go for dinner in the Rising Sun at Umberleigh and wait for the Chapelton-bound train at 9.59.
Or I could get a taxi.
Guess what. Thanks to Barnstaple firm Taxi Anne I was soon home and dry, and for the very reasonable fare of £10.
Total journey time: 40 minutes