In the Lake District

Back in 1998 I visited the Lake District and had a very enjoyable few days walking across the hills and valleys. Sadly I’ve not been back since (well I did go in 1999), not really had the chance or the time. Hoping that this year that may change. I think this is around Ennerdale.

Lake District

Lake District

Lake District

Lake District

Lake District

Lake District

Lake District

Lake District

Lake District

Lake District

Lake District

I took these photographs with a Canon EOS 500 camera using film, the images were scanned in from prints.

Commuting with my bike

Today for the first time I took my bike with me when I took the train to work. It seemed to work okay, but I still need to get home.

It’s an old bike. Here’s the proof, a photograph of it at Cheltenham Railway Station

My bike

You have entered the Quiet Zone!

What’s the point of the Quiet Zone Carriage?

What’s the point of the Quiet Zone Carriage?

Twice today I have travelled in the Quiet Zone Carriage, first with First Great Western and secondly with CrossCountry. Both times there were people in there listening to their personal stereos really loudly! Though of course for everyone else in the carriage had to put up with the irritating tinny music.

To be honest I would have been annoyed with it, even if it had been a “normal” carriage. One of the reasons I listen to music or radio on the train is often to drown out the tinny music from others. However with respect to other people I don’t listen when I am in the Quiet Zone Carriage, as I know they don’t like it.

Now I would stand up and ask the person to turn it off, however I have no idea where they are sitting in the carriage and from my seat I can’t actually see who it is. Also the noise I would make asking them to turn it off, potential argument, would annoy people even more I think, well it does when I hear it.

The only reason I am in the Quiet Zone Carriage is that though there was no reservation on the seat I was sitting in, someone did have a reservation. Personally I think they caught the wrong train, but it was easy to move and there were free seats in the Quiet Zone Carriage.

Virgin Trains use to have a weird Quiet Zone policy when they ran the franchise (now run by CrossCountry) you couldn’t even use your laptop in the Quiet Zone Carriage. This was just use it, for reading, writing, not listening to music or watching a film. I remember one woman getting very irate I was using it, even though she made significantly more noise shouting at me then I was using the laptop. She got very hot under the collar, so much so, that the guard made an announcement over the tannoy about not using laptops in the Quiet Zone Carriage.

Talking of announcements I am reminded again of Virgin Trains where the buffet person when we were arriving at Birmingham, where he was getting off, he thanked us for been a lovely audience!

The Quiet Zone Carriage only really works if everyone in it respects the rule that it is the Quiet Zone Carriage. Unlike the First Class Carriage the rules aren’t enforced by the guard or ticket inspector; if you don’t have a first class ticket then you can’t sit in the First Class Carriage. Whereas if you aren’t quiet, you can sit in the Quiet Zone Carriage and be noisy.

I have to admit I don’t really see the point of a Quiet Zone Carriage on a really busy train, mainly as trains are very noisy things anyway, lots of engine noise, and announcements. Those within it, even those been quiet, have conversations, chat, tap away at keyboards, breath, drink noisely, snore and so much more.

The question is, with a small four carriage train, can we really afford to have a Quiet Zone, well one that works as it should?

Travelling stories

I recounted earlier this week the problems affecting my travels to work caused by the weather.

It actually hasn’t got much better.

On Wednesday I checked to see the trains were running and they seemed to be running fine. After changing trains at Bristol Temple Meads I arrived in Gloucester a few minutes late, but nothing too untoward. There were problems on the rest of the network, but it seemed to be restricted to Devon and a few other parts of the UK.

As it got to the time to leave work, I did check the departure board from my phone and it seemed that there were a few alterations, but nothing that would impact on me too much (I hoped).

I arrived at Gloucester station, checked the departure board, saw I had a 30 minute wait for my train, got an espresso from the Pumpkin Cafe and sat down with my laptop and the free wifi. After a minite or so and just as I was checking the e-mail, a CrossCountry Voyager came into the station, this was a bit strange as they generally avoid Gloucester these days. The station announcer came on and said “arriving platform two, an extra train to Bristol Temple Meads” well that was an unexpected opportunity. So I grabbed the coffee, my laptop and bag and got on the (quite) crowded train. Found the last remaining seat in Coach C and sat down.

One of the reasons that CrossCountry trains don’t call at Gloucester is that it isn’t on the main line from the South West to Birmingham. As you come down from Birmingham you swing right into Gloucester. To continue down to Bristol you reverse direction and swing back onto the main line. I recall catching trains from Weston to York and they would call at Gloucester, they would then detach the engine from the front of the train loop the carriages and couple it to the other end. With High Speed Trains (with a cab at each end) the driver needed to switch cabs. This of course would all take time, sometimes enough time to grab a coffee from the cafe – though I did sometimes worry about been left behind.

HST at Gloucester Station

Today though you need to change trains at Cheltenham Spa or Bristol Parkway to get to Gloucester as the mainline trains don’t call there anymore, hence my surprise at the CrossCountry Voyager. So I was expecting the train to leave Gloucester from the same direction it had arrived… it didn’t! It left in the opposite direction to the way it had arrived at Gloucester. That wasn’t the way to Bristol, that took you to Lydney, Chepstow and Wales. I really did think for a while as the train travelled further into Gloucestershire, into Forest of Dean country that I had taken the wrong train, would have to pay a penalty fare and end up in Cardiff!

Eventually the train manager came on the tannoy and said there had been a landslip in Westerleigh. As a result the southbound mainline was closed. The train was going to go around the problem, through Lydney and Chepstow, under the River Severn and arrive in Bristol Temple Meads.

We eventually arrived in Bristol, five minutes later I made the connection home. What was slightly weird was I actually got home thirty minutes earlier than I normally would.

As a result today I decided to drive. This morning the motorway was a lot busier than normal and I suspect the railway problems contributed to that. However checking my National Rail app on the iPhone it was apparent that lots of trains had been cancelled, so train hadn’t been an option even if I wanted to try the train.

This evening though, sadly there was a six vehicle accident on the M5 which closed all three lanes for a time, so it took me over two hours to drive home, twice as long as it should take. There are lots of accidents on the M5, which is one of the reasons I recently swapped to taking the train.


Well tomorrow is another day.

Travel Nightmare

Worle Station

What with the bad weather and all that I wasn’t expecting travel to work today to be smooth and easy.

I have recently been catching the train to work, it takes twice as long as driving, but with current fuel costs it is slightly more economical and I can do a lot more work on the train than in the car!

I got into the car to travel to my local station (not got a bike sorted out yet) and my usual trip was disrupted due to excessive flooding on Summer Lane Bridge. It was closed and as a result I got turned around by the police. By the way the bridge, which is a railway bridge, was not flooded, but the approach road was. Getting to the station was a little more difficult, but luckily it was early.

I had checked the trains before I left home, some had been cancelled, but not my usual train, so went straight to the ticket machine and got my train ticket. It was literally seconds after that I found out my train was cancelled. At that point I needed to make a decision. Did I get back in the car and drive to work or wait until the next train. According to the disembodied voice on the platform the next train was an hour later. I wasn’t entirely confident at that point, if I could get a refund if I didn’t use my train ticket. So deciding to wait for the next train, I went to get some coffee. Alas not much choice near Worle station, my first choice, Sainsbury’s wasn’t open, so I went into McDonalds! Not really where I wanted to go, but I got a coffee and they did have free wifi, so got on with some work.

After about forty minutes I ventured back to the station to catch the train. Disappointed to find that this one was marked as delayed with only a few minutes to go. I did wait, but in the end with the train been delayed by about twenty minutes from departing from it’s starting station and the result would mean I would miss the connection at Bristol Temple Meads and so would be even later into work, I decided to give up and work from home. Even then due to traffic chaos (caused by not one by two bridge closures) it still took me nearly thirty minutes to drive the two miles home!

With all the weather we’ve been having, I was also concerned about not just getting to work, but getting home again. It wasn’t really a nightmare, not like some of the stories I have been reading about, in the main as I decided that in the end it was going to be better not to travel.

Tomorrow, it’s a bit more challenging as I will be going to the Forest of Dean, driving as it’s impossible to get there by train. Wish me luck.

Steaming down the mainline

The main railway line to Plymouth and Penzance from Bristol passes relatively close to my house and as a result we often venture down to the line when interesting trains pass by. I think living by the trainline has cultured my boys’ interest in trains and as a result I often find myself dragged to Bristol Temple Meads for a “train ride” or to the STEAM Museum in Swindon.

Over the last few weeks the mainline has been awash with steam engines thundering down the railway track. It’s quite amazing and nostagic to see these beautiful pieces of engineering move along the railway track at speed. If you have ever been to a heritage railway the trains move relatively slowly (about 30mph) whereas the steam trains I have seen on the mainline are going significantly faster at about 70mph. They certainly make a difference to the regular HST and Voyager trains we usually see on that line.

At the end of July, there were trains on the Saturday and the Sunday, and this week there were two steam trains within 15 minutes on the Sunday.

The first train had two engines, the 71000 Duke of Gloucester and 60163 Tornado.

71000 Duke of Gloucester and 60163 Tornado.

The Duke was built in 1954 and withdrawn just eight years later in 1962. Just over ten years later and with most of her important parts “missing” she was saved from scrapping and restored to become a regular on the mainline steaming tours. The second engine probably couldn’t be more different, similar in size, Tornado though is just a youngster completed in 2008. A completely new engine though built to a 1940s design (with many modern improvements). They were moving at some speed with steam and smoke billowing from their funnels and pistons.

On the Sunday, it was the turn of 70013 Oliver Cromwell to steam down the line.

BR standard class 7 70013 Oliver Cromwell

This engine was completed in 1951 and retired in 1968.

There is something about these historical engineering marvels and watching them steam down the railway track. I am sure back in the 1950s and before when there was lots of them, they weren’t exactly seen in the same light. I am glad that not only are they still around, but that they still have the fires lit underneath their boilers and allowed to steam at speed through the countryside.

Finding my way to Olympia

I usually really dislike going to Olympia as it is such a pain to get to. In the past I would, after arriving at Paddington, catch the District line to Earls Court, then wait an age for the tube to Olympia. Returning, there would usually be a bit of wait for a tube back to Earls Course (every 30 minutes) and then at Earls Course wait for the “right” train that would go to Paddington. The pain was the waiting, so what is only a 2 mile distance could take an hour or more to travel, probably quicker to walk!

Notting Hill GateThis time, going to Learning Without Frontiers I decided to try a different approach. I took the District/Circle line to Notting Hill Gate, then the Central Line to Shephard’s Bush before crossing the road and catching the Overground to Olympia.

I was expecting a similar nightmare, but both my outgoing and return journeys were smooth, quick and not too much waiting. So the next time I have to make that trip to Olympia I will be taking the Overground.

Tally Ho!

I don’t fly very much, we usually holiday in the UK and I think it was 2004 the last time we flew anywhere on holiday. The job however does take me up into the air now and again. In the last two years I have flown to New Zealand, Ireland, Inverness, Edinburgh and Leeds!

I have had a few meetings in Leeds or Yorkshire over the last few years and generally depending on how long I am up there and what I am doing I will go by train or drive. For example at this year’s ALT Conference, where I needed to carry a TV studio I took the car, a few months earlier I took the train. However now and again when the diary is quite full and I need to only be in Yorkshire for the day I fly from Bristol Airport. It’s a very quick flight, about 50 minutes and very convenient as there are some excellent bus services from Leeds/Bradford Airport to Leeds and other places in Yorkshire. It means I can be in Leeds for 10am or even earlier and be home before the middle of the night and also means I needn’t stay over.

The route use to be run by Air SouthWest however they recently went out of business and it is now served by Eastern Airways (even if they use the same planes).

Today I was quite surprised to find that there were only two of us on the flight up to Leeds…

I generally don’t feel that bad about my carbon footprint when flying as I don’t fly that often and where possible I will do stuff online or via the phone. Today I feel really bad, as the carbon cost of this flight per person must be so much more than it usually is. I can’t think to imagine how much this must be costing the airline and the loss they are making on this flight. I guess they will still need to fly up to Leeds, as they may be picking up passengers there for their onward flight to Aberdeen and I also guess they need the plane in Aberdeen as the flight from there will be needed.

It should be said that I am getting a very good inflight service and I had a choice of seats, though I did find it funny that even though there were only two of us on the flight, we couldn’t choose where to sit, we had to sit in our allocated seats because of the weight distribution in the aircraft. Just a bit nervous about going to the loo just in case I upset the trim of the plane. The nerves are probably compounded because it’s a plane with propellers and I really don’t feel comfortable flying in a plane with propellers . I don’t know why, it just seems much closer to flying than I feel happy with, I keep thinking I should be wearing goggles and shouting out tally ho!

Wonder how busy the flight home will be?

The Finishing Line

I watched this film by British Transport when I was a young lad and I struggled to sleep that night as it freaked me out.

Warning, this 1970s information film does contain graphic and disturbing scenes and was shown to persuade children not to play games on the railway network.

If I remember rightly I saw it on Nationwide, however what I do remember is the film disturbed me out so much that I couldn’t sleep that night. I should also point out that I also never played on the railway either!