Walking along the canal

With all the beautiful weather we decided to take advantage of it and go for a walk along the Kennet and Avon Canal, well part of it anyhow.

The Kennet and Avon Canal is a waterway in southern England with an overall length of 87 miles, made up of two lengths of navigable river linked by a canal. The name is used to refer to the entire length of the navigation rather than solely to the central canal section. From Bristol to Bath the waterway follows the natural course of the River Avon before the canal links it to the River Kennet at Newbury, and from there to Reading on the River Thames. In all, the waterway incorporates 105 locks.

The two river stretches were made navigable in the early 18th century, and the 57-mile (92 km) canal section was constructed between 1794 and 1810. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the canal gradually fell into disuse after the opening of the Great Western Railway. In the latter half of the 20th century the canal was restored in stages, largely by volunteers. After decades of dereliction and much restoration work, it was fully reopened in 1990. The Kennet and Avon Canal has been developed as a popular heritage tourism destination for boating, canoeing, fishing, walking and cycling, and is also important for wildlife conservation.

We decided to do the walk as my eldest had gone on a school trip (as part of curriculum enrichment) in 2015 and had recommended it to us.

We caught the train to Avoncliff Halt.

Seriously this is a halt, and the platform is only big enough for a single carriage, so we had to make sure we were at the front of the train. Originally opened in 1906.

What looks like a road bridge is in fact part of the Avoncliff Aqueduct.

The Avoncliff Aqueduct crosses both the Wessex main line and the River Avon.

It was built between 1797 and 1801

There was this lovely house alongside the canal.

Very peaceful walking along in the shade. Though to be honest there were a fair few cyclists and other walkers as well.

Quite a few boats as well.

This is the Dundas Aqueduct, again built between 1797 and 1801.

The aqueduct is also the junction between the Kennet and Avon Canal and the largely derelict Somerset Coal Canal. The short stretch of the Somerset Coal Canal still in water forms Brassknocker Basin, used for boat moorings, cycle hire and a cafe.

Whilst we were walking along, two military helicopters, probably on their way to RNAS Yeovilton flew past, relatively low. One was a Puma, the other a Merlin.

As we got near the city centre of Bath, we went through two amazing tunnels.

Overall quite a trek, but great weather, lovely scenery and rather peaceful.

The Longleat Miniature Railway

Longleat House

On a recent visit to Longleat Wildlife and Safari Park we rode on the Miniature Railway. It reminded me that we, as a family, had done this quite a few times over the years. So when we got home I looked over my photographs and it bought back lots of happy memories.

The 15 inch railway was established in 1965 and expanded in 1976. The track has changed over the years, but currently skirts the lake before heading back to the station through the trees. There is a tunnel and a halt which is used at Christmas.

My first visit to Longleat was in the early 1970s, of which I don’t remember much, and I am not even sure if we went there. What I do remember was going to sleep, having an amazing dream about going to a Safari Park and getting a safari themed Land Rover in the shop.

Corgi Longleat Safari Land RoverWhen I woke up in the morning, I was astounded to find the Land Rover in my room.

It looked a lot like this one.

Was it a dream, was it reality? No idea if I travelled on the railway, it was just a dream…

Myself and my wife visited in 2002, but I don’t think we travelled on the train, as we only did the safari park. Back then the train was an extra cost, as were most of the other non-park attractions.

As a family we took my son to Longleat in 2005 and as well as going around the Safari Park, we also travelled the railway. He was really into trains.

The Longleat Miniature Railway

We were pulled by the Ceawlin, locomotive number five.

the Ceawlin, locomotive number five

In this photograph you can see the Lenka Railcar, the only engine built at Longleat. It was sold to private owner in 2017.

Lenka Railcar

We went again in 2008, but I have no photographs of the train, but I am pretty sure we must have had a ride on the train back then.

Between 2011 and 2017 the railway was known as the Jungle Express, with the station and carriages given additional theming.

Longleat Jungle Express

We visited in 2012 and travelled on the Jungle Express.

Longleat Jungle Express

This time the train was pulled by the Flynn Locomotive.

Flynn, Longleat Jungle Express

I do remember that the station had a model railway shop, but by our visit in 2012, it had stopped selling model trains and now sold toy trains, wooden trains and stuff.

On our most recent visit the Jungle Express theming had gone, as had the shop.

The Longleat Miniature Railway

The railway has fifteen carriages, all built at Longleat between 1976 and 2013 and are now wearing mock British Railways crimson and cream livery The railway also has several permanent way wagons.

Longleat Miniature Railway

This time our train was pulled by the huge John Thynn.

John Thynn

We enjoyed our most recent visit and I expect we might go again some time in the future.

Stuff: Top Ten Blog Posts 2016

Across this blog I wrote fifteen posts in 2016. As might not be expected most of the top ten posts that year were from 2016, and I was pleased to see how popular my 1990s photographs of the Bristol Harbourside were.

I visited Legoland in 2013 and felt that it was A bit tired and this was the tenth most popular post, dropping one place from last year.

Also about Legoland Miniland was the ninth post.

The eighth post was about Time travelling by train which was a post on the newly painted GWR High Speed Train in the classic 1970s blue and yellow.

Inter City 125

The seventh popular post was inspired by a newspaper article and talked about the many Changes at the railway station in Weston-super-Mare.

The sixth placed post was from my 2012 series of Cinematic Advent Calendar posts, this one was #07 – The Eagle has Landed. There were quite a few films in the advent calendar that have significant memories over and above the film itself. Queuing for Star Wars was significant for example. With The Eagle has Landed I went to see it at the Aldeburgh cinema with my grandparents.

When I used film, I didn’t take than many photographs, but I did take a fair few of the Bristol Harbourside, so the fifth post was of the Bryan Brothers’ Garage Demolition, Bristol, circa 1999.

Three of the next four posts were similar and all contain photographs from the Bristol Harbourside in the 1990s.

Construction in the Bristol Harbourside

Fourth was this post Bristol Harbourside in the 1990s and third was this one: Bristol Harbourside in the 1990s (second part).

The second most popular post was a comparison of Trenchard Street, Bristol, circa 1970s and the view today.

The most popular post of the year on the Stuff blog was a series of photographs of Bristol Harbourside in the 1990s.

So quite a few posts from 2016 in the 2016 top ten.

Changes at the railway station

Though I am more likely to spend time at Worle station, I have been known to catch trains from the main station in Weston-super-Mare. Despite being a smallish town, Weston has three railway stations. The main station which opened in 1884 replacing the original station which opened in 1841. Weston Milton opened in 1933, a small halt to serve the then expanding Milton area. Worle station was opened in 1990 and unlike the other two stations, which are on the Weston loop, Worle is on the main Bristol to Plymouth line.

Over the years the railway station at Weston-super-Mare, well in terms of tracks, has changed quite a bit, even if the buildings and platforms have remained as much as they have since the line was built. This photograph from the local paper reminded me of how much has changed.

Weston-super-Mare Railway Station

Back then there was an up and down line on the Weston loop. There was also multiple sidings for good and carriages. I suspect a lot of the coal wagons for the local gas works were stored there awaiting return to the Welsh collieries.

By the late 1970s (the BR HST is still in blue and grey), when this image was taken on 28th March 1978, most of the sidings have now been taken away and replaced with a coach park. Lots of visitors to Weston-super-Mare were now coming by coach. The light brown building on the right of the photograph in the background is the Odeon cinema which is still there today, but Weston is getting it’s own multiplex at Dolphin Square.

Weston-super-Mare Railway Station Copyright Roger Winnen

You can see a lot of the points had been removed too.

By the time of this Google Street View image, the sidings have all been removed and replaced with a Tesco store and car park (which was the focus of the story in the local paper). Hildesheim Bridge was built in 1991 and crosses the eastern end of the platforms.

Weston-super-Mare Railway Station

Hildesheim is the German town which Weston is twinned with.

Change happens and over the next few years I suspect we will see more change.

Time travelling by train

Inter City 125

At Bristol Temple Meads I did wonder if I had travelled back in time to 1976, as there was a British Rail blue and yellow engine on the platform. My train yesterday morning included a very different engine, this was a GWR High Speed Train painted in the original colours when the train entered service forty years ago in 2016.

Inter City 125

This was painted up specially for an event in May to celebrate forty years of the HST. I thought it was nice that only was it painted up in the original colours, but is currently being used to pull trains. It’s a pity that they couldn’t paint a whole train in the original colours.

Stuff: Top Ten Blog Posts 2015

As with my other blogs I am looking at the ten most read postings over 2015.

The tenth most read post on this blog was posted in the last two weeks of 2015, and was about WHSmith. At WHSmith you can afford to give them anything but the ordinary this Christmas contained an old advert from the high street store.

I visited Legoland in 2013 and felt that it was A bit tired and this was the ninth post in this top ten. Certainly when we went this year in 2015 there were some new models in Mainland.

Legoland

You have entered the Quiet Zone! was eighth most read post and I asked what’s the point of the Quiet Zone Carriage?

Back to Legoland for number seven, Legoland Miniland.

The sixth most read post was on Ten Incredible Sand Sculptures that have been on the beach at Weston-super-Mare over the last ten years.

Ten Incredible Sand Sculptures

The post at number 5 was from the Cinematic Advent Calendar which I posted back before Christmas in 2012. The post in question was #24 – Back to the Future and as 2015 was the year in which Marty McFly went to in the film series, it’s quite apt that it in this year’s top ten.

Back to the Future DeLorean

More Lego at number 4 with The Bat Cave in Lego.

The third most popular post was “the cafe on tv at weston super mare is it real” and the answer is, it isn’t!

Over 2015 there were seventy Shaun the Sheep sculptures places all across Bristol and the top two posts on the blog were about these Sheep. At number two was Ten out of Seventy and the most read post was about all seventy sheep, Shaun in the City.

42. Sgt. Shepherd - Shaun the Sheep

Happy New Year for 2016.


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.