A Day out in Carlisle

Yesterday, we set off on one of our day excursions along the fantastic Settle/Carlisle railway line and pulled by a steam engine. The train arrived at Leeds on time and we set off on one of the most picturesque train rides in the entire country, which takes in some breathtaking views of the Yorkshire Dales and crosses the famous Ribblevalley Viaduct.  We were being pulled by Black number 44932 an engine that we have never travelled behind previously. My brother (who is as enthusiastic about trains as I am) were travelling with us as they have never been on an excursion before.

Waiting for the train on Platform 12

SmileyWhere is the train?

Here we are all patiently waiting on Platform 12 for our excursion train to arrive.

Stretching our legs at Appleby

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Steam trains have to take on water, and our first water stop was at Appleby.

Enjoying ice cream

Here we had a good fifteen minutes to stretch our legs and enjoy an ice cream from a lady who was selling them on the platform.

Black no 44932 in Carlisle

The first chance I had to take a good shot of the engine was when we finally arrived in Carlisle and all the other passengers had departed! Everyone wants to take a good photo of the engine, everyone wants their photo taken in the cab, its not easy to get a clear shot of a steam engine with no one else on it.

Unfortunately we didn’t have long in Carlisle and so couldn’t visit the castle, so we had a walk around the shopping precinct there, we were shot at by two storm troopers on the way, and then we sat out in the glorious sunshine and enjoyed a Costa coffee (and some hot chocolate with marshmallows in Kerri’s case and Terry’s case.

Stormtroopers in Carlisle

Carlisle

Heading our way!

Kerri happily joined in with all the theatricals by getting out her invisible lightsaber and attacking them both. (Always the actress!)

We made our way to the Lane’s Shopping Centre where I took a shot of these attractive coloured lights in the roof, and also one of a very interesting statue at one of the shopping junctions. Shopping centre’s like this one will in my view be the only savour of our towns to counteract the threat from out of town supermarkets, plus they are ideal if the weather is bad as they are covered.

Shopping Centre in Carlisle

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It was a real pity that we hadn’t time to take in the Castle but we made up for it by sitting outside a Costa coffee shop and enjoying both a cappuccino (in my case) and the gorgeous warm sunshine.

Here for your enjoyment I’ve placed all of the shots I took with my camera and phone into a photo album. Click on it to view it as a slideshow.

Enjoy.

Technogran

A Day out in Scarborough.

Here she comes!

On Friday we enjoyed a day out to Scarborough and travelled there on the Scarborough Flyer pulled by the Duchess of Sutherland. We have done this excursion in the past, setting off from Huddersfield, but as the route has been altered due to works on the line causing the excursion to be diverted through our little station, it was a forgone conclusion that we would take advantage of the situation.  The train was roughly half an hour late arriving at Brighouse, but she soon caught up so that by the time we arrived at York we were on time.

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The weather was fairly cloudy and we had endured some rain whilst waiting for the train to arrive, but as we arrived at Scarborough it had brightened up somewhat, although it was still overcast. After taking some shots of the Duchess (which isn’t easy to do as everyone else is busy doing the same thing) we made our way down through the main shopping street to the front. I always like to go down to the front at Scarborough via the steps, as you get a lovely vista of the whole bay, the Castle on top of the hill, the harbour and of course the beach and shops.

Scarborough from the steps

Scarborough tends to be one of those seaside towns that I have often spent a day in, yet never stayed for any longer. It’s a bustling fishing port as well as a holiday destination. We walked around the harbour, taking in all the sights and sounds and taking photos along the way, ending our journey by walking along the walkway to the lighthouse building where the statue of the diving girl stands facing the harbour entrance out to sea.  There are lot’s of boat rides to take, one on a small version of a pirate ship, but I wasn’t sure how long it would take so we didn’t bother. Besides, Kerri was on the hunt for a t-shirt to add to her now not inconsiderable collection, and I intended to get yet another fridge magnet for my own collection.

Scarborough Harbour stitch

Following a short gaze out over the choppy sea towards Cayton Bay, we made our way back along the walkway to the shops along the seafront in search of some t-shirts. We eventually found some and she bought two, one white and one black. If there’s one treat I never miss whenever I’m in Scarborough is to visit Pacitto’s Ice Cream Parlour on the seafront for a Knickerbocker Glory. You simply haven’t lived until you’ve tried one! Kerri had a chocolate milk shake. We then decided to return to the shopping area above via a very steep narrow street which was quite a climb!  After taking a well earned breather at the top, we made our way slowly along the shopping area, paying a visit to the Brunswick Shopping Centre, where Kerri took a look at the mobile phone shops to admire a Nokia Lumia 710 that she wants for her next phone.

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As it was now raining,  we quickly made our way to the railway station and enjoyed a decaff cappuccino  and a hot chocolate apiece in the station cafe, and then once the rain had stopped we ventured along the platform so that we could take some more photos of the Duchess as she patiently waited for us passengers to return and climb on board.  We departed Scarborough dead on time, but we were again held up during the return journey owning to signalling problems along the way, and we arrived back at Brighouse about ten minutes late.  We’d enjoyed a wonderful excursion to Scarborough pulled by one of my favourite steam engines, and as always on these day trips, we’d also made some new friends who were sat at our table during the journey.

I am hoping we get the chance to go on the Leeds to Carlisle excursion this year before it ends, as for me it’s the ultimate steam engine excursion to be on, with those spectacular views of the North Yorkshire moors and the breathtaking journey over the Ribblehead viaduct.  Enjoy my photos taken during our day.

Technogran.

A visit by a Duchess.

Kerri and I have had a hectic morning this morning. Up at the crack of dawn, showered, dressed, we hadn’t time for a lavish breakfast, a small bowl of Fruit and Fibre for me with a glass of orange juice, and a breakfast bar and orange juice for her, backpack added and following a quick wash of the dishes, my bag complete with camera for me.  We were out of the door for 09.00am precisely and as the sky was a gorgeous unbroken blue, we bravely had only our thin raincoats with us.  Setting off down to town at a fairly brisk walking pace, we made good time.

“We won’t get a good spot to see her if we aren’t fairly early.” I reasoned with her as she grumbled to herself walking down, trailing behind me some several paces at least. As is usual, I ended up nearly breaking my arm by having to hold her hand and gently ease her along at a more steady pace than she takes under her own steam.  Finally we are through town and walking up to the station. As I thought! There are already plenty of others with exactly the same idea as us!  Ahh!  Two are stood in a very well chosen spot at the very end of platform 2.  I shout out to them from the walkway.

“ Which platform is she arriving on?”

“ Platform 1 but you won’t be able to budge on there as it’ll be packed, and you won’t get a good shot, that’s why were over here!”

Good thinking, so we continue on around the road and join the other platform on the other side. Kerri plonks herself down immediately on a seat whereas I saunter up to the two men in the advantageous position at the edge of the platform, and as is usual in these situations, we swop stories of our journeys, sightings, love of all things steam etc. Apparently they have been coming down here to get shots of the Duchess every week for the last three weeks. Not only on a morning such as today, but also at night when she returns. In fact, they are planning on returning tonight at 21.30pm. Of course it will be coming dark by then, but they both have expensive SLR’s that put my little point and shoot to shame, so I would imagine that they will still get some good shots.

The platform opposite where the Duchess is to pull in is now packed with people, not only the photo enthusiasts, but also all those who are boarding the ‘Scarborough Flyer’ for it is this excursion train that the Duchess is so ably pulling.  Some of you may remember Kerri and I also going on this excursion ourselves a few years ago, setting off from Huddersfield.

“Why is she coming through Brighouse anyway?” I ask my two new friends. (Kerri is still sitting on the bench fiddling about with something, probably texting on her phone.)

“ Because They’ve been doing work to the line and so she’s been diverted through here instead.”  Hmm. Wish I’d have known all of this. Kerri and I had planned to do this excursion again to Scarborough and we could have boarded here in our little home town!  And what a wonderful day weather-wise for a trip to the seaside!  As its turned out, I’m feeling fine following my chemo yesterday.  Isn’t hindsight wonderful!  I would have been fine for a day trip today to lift my spirits!

At last we see her coming round the bend in the far distance, a thin  plume of steam issuing straight up into the blue air from her chimney.  Camera’s begin to snap, people lean forward at angles to try and get a better shot or glimpse of her as she arrives, now decked in green livery, which personally I am not all that keen on, I preferred her in that gorgeous maroon when we road behind her a few years back.  She zooms past me and I forget to move my camera at the same speed as I take the shot, so its all blurry.  Sigh. As is usual with these excursions, she’s pulling behind her some nine to ten carriages, the middle one’s are Pullman dining carriages for those who are travelling first class and will have had a cooked breakfast since boarding and will also be getting a three course dinner on the return journey.

Note here she is decked in Maroon livery which I think suits her better.

We dash up to the other end of the platform in order to get some close ups as she waits for all the passengers to board and gets some steam up for the off. In the cab, a young lad is looking out of our side. It gladdens my heart to see the youngsters getting involved with steam train driving, or the mechanical side of it all, we need to keep all of our old skills alive or who will carry it all on when the drivers and engineers who have worked so tirelessly on keeping this part of our heritage going, are no longer around? 

She begins to pull away, a short whistle and she’s off! How I wish we were on board!  We wave to all those lucky enough  to be peering at us from their comfortable seats in the carriages and I silently wish them luck with the weather when they land in Scarborough for their day out.  We all begin to disperse, in our particular case, now off to do some shopping whilst we’re in town, others to wherever. It’s not often our small station see’s the sight of a steam engine, its a big event and one that I am so glad I didn’t miss.

Here’s a photo album for you to see the shots we took, as always, Kerri has managed to pull of a much better shot of the Duchess as she passed under the bridge than I could muster, despite getting my arm in it. I could crop it out of course, but hey! Its part and parcel of our natural amateur photos!

Enjoy.

Technogran

Another day out in Wales.

Yesterday, we had another excursion to Wales, this time offering a choice of venue which were to visit either Betws-Y-Coed or Blanaeu Ffestiniog. I hadn’t a clue as to what either venue offered and hadn’t really made up my mind which one to choose until we arrived there. In the end we decided to remain on the train and not alight at Betws-Y-Coed, although in hindsight we may not have made the right choice. It’s now blatantly obvious to me that I certainly miss the detailed information that used to be supplied to every passenger on the GreenExpress Railtours and which helped you to not only be able to find your way around a venue that you were unfamiliar with, but in cases such as this where you were offered different venues to visit, helped you to decide which one seemed the more interesting.

Scene through the train window

Unfortunately, CompassRailtours  don’t provide a detailed information sheet and brochures about the venues that you are travelling to , so you are completely in the dark about the interesting places that each new venue offers unless you have visited before. All you are given is a simple synopsis of each venue.  Someone else on the train stated that Betws-Y-Coed was just a small village and that Blanaeu Ffestiniog was bound to offer more. After all, it had the Ffestiniog narrow gauge railway and a slate mine so surely it would be the venue of choice. We had just three hours to explore Blanaeu.

When we arrived, it was about 1.00pm or lunch time to my sidekick Kerri,  and all my readers will be well aware of what that means. First priority then was to find somewhere decent to have some lunch. Hmm.  Exiting the railway station, it looked as if the whole place was being completely overhauled. Areas were cordoned off with bright orange fencing surrounding road works and building works making the whole area look unkempt and messy. Right outside the station was supposedly a Hotel which also contained a restaurant called the Queens Hotel. We entered and then quickly beat a hasty retreat. According to the signage outside it was up for sale despite its obvious advantage of being right outside the famous Ffestiniog railway and I would have thought a veritable money spinner owing to its position and a prime choice for tourists to either stay at or eat in.

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As the current owners were obviously vacating the premises, it was run down and didn’t look terribly well looked after, in fact during the short time we were there, there was no member of staff around to ask about meals. Using my mobile and the Local Scout tile, I did a search for somewhere else to eat.  One of the choices was the King’s Head Hotel, so we set off using my phone as a map guide in a similar way to using a Tomtom in a car. It was quite a trek, and at one point we actually crossed the narrow gauge railway and saw the train pass us by.  However we were to be bitterly disappointed when we finally arrived at the King’s Head Hotel as it appeared to be closed!  What sort of place was this? Was nothing open for visitors?

We made our way back to the railway station and entered the fish and chip shop that we had spied earlier. I had been reluctant to choose to have our lunch there but in hindsight we would have been better to do so, as by now it was past 2.00pm and the cafe area where you could sit down to eat your fish and chips was now closed! We had to take them outside and eat them as best we could sitting on a nearby bench in a blustery wind.  Not only that, but at precisely 2.00pm, the ice cream parlour across the road also closed.  Didn’t these people want to encourage visitors and tourists to their town? What on earth was wrong with these people?  The whole place resembled a roadwork’s and there was little or no services provided for visitors! Where were all the gift shops etc.?  Where was all the hospitality and encouragement to return for another visit in the future? 

Note all the work taking place.

I have since learned via the web that our visit was actually ill timed as a ‘regeneration’ of the town was begun as recently as May this year, so we can probably put the whole experience down to bad timing, and hope that once the regeneration has been completed then things vastly improve.  I would have loved to have paid the Llechwedd Slate Caverns a visit whilst we were there, but wasn’t sure how far they were to walk to and therefore whether or not we had enough time.  An ideal opportunity would have been to provide a bus service that picked up visitors from the railway station and took them to the Slate mine.  If we ever return to Blanaeu Ffestiniog in the future then I will make sure that we pay the slate caverns a visit.

The only upside to our visit was that luckily the weather was kind to us as we ventured around the town, and the rain, although always threatening to put in an appearance judging by the dark ominous clouds, thankfully stayed away.  Enjoy my photos album of our day and as always just click on it to see all the photos and also as slideshow if you prefer.

TG

Journey to Wales and back again.

On Wednesday, we set off on a rail excursion to Wales, an area I have never visited before in my life. It’s been quite a while since we enjoyed one of these excursions, our old providers Green Express railtours are sadly no more. This particular excursion was being run by Compass Tours, a new company to us. Picking up from our station at 06.10am meant that Kerri and I were trundling through town with all of our gear in the early hours of the morning. There were plenty of other early travellers who turned up on the platform eventually, including many familiar faces from the old Green Express tours days.

Obtain a token to pass...

The train arrived on time and we all knew the drill by now, get on and then walk down to your assigned coach (in this case E.) All carriages were well looked after, and our steward for the day Dave introduced himself and then promptly disappeared. We had lot’s of stops to do in order to pick up other passengers all the way down to Crewe,  but eventually we began the journey along the single line track known as The Heart of Wales’ railway. On this line, the driver had to obtain a token at various stretches of the line in order to continue along the route. The vista viewed as we travelled along was breath-taking, with high hills and valleys spread out before us on both sides of the train. Fields dotted with sheep and their lambs scampering away as our train passed them by. Babbling brooks meandered along the same route as ours, twisting this way and that. I did makes some attempt to take plenty of shots of it all through the window which thankfully had been thoroughly cleaned, but as always its not easy and many were very blurred.

rolling hills of Wales

We arrived at Cardiff approximately on time at 14.30pm and it was a relief to disembark the train and stretch our legs. Now where to go? It’s always difficult whenever you visit a strange venue to know where to go and which direction to set off in. Unlike our previous tours, there had been no brochures on our tables to help you plan a route around your intended destination. As you never have a lot of time to explore on these day excursions, this small detail was always an aid for planned exploration of a strange venue, and was therefore sadly missed by everyone who had done these journeys previously. We headed off in the same direction as everyone else seemed to be heading and then spent the next hour or so wandering aimlessly through shopping precincts and malls and the like before finally asking someone the directions to Cardiff Castle.

The Castle gate

We have visited many castles the length and breadth of the UK, and Cardiff Castle has to rate amongst one of the best. Firstly after making our way through a door in the left side of the castle wall, we toured around some beautifully decorated rooms complete with ornate carvings especially around the fireplaces. One room in particular was breath-taking in its carvings which adorned the walls and ceiling. Trouble is having wasted time previously, we couldn’t linger around to admire it all or visit every attraction in the castle, so we made our way across to the central tower, passing some birds of prey demonstration along the way.

Decorated ceiling inside the castle

The central tower was surrounded by a moat, currently occupied by a few ducks. Its foundations were covered in golden daffodils and the entire sight looked absolutely fantastic in the sun. Kerri was none too keen to climb all of the steps up to the tower, but she managed it and also some of the steps inside the tower, eventually calling a halt to sit inside one of the many archer slits whilst I continued on to the top of the tower to enjoy a magnificent view of the surrounding parkland. Ever mindful of the time, we both descended into the grounds where many were making the best of the sunshine. We were enjoying a spectacular day weather-wise and I remarked that we had not seen one cloud in the sky all day so far.

Surrounded by a moat

We had already purchased our souvenirs at the Castle gift shop but as we exited the castle gate and crossed the road we spied another gift shop where Kerri could have bought a t-shirt that wouldn’t bury her and I saw a much greater choice of fridge magnets. Patience is a virtue! We slowly made our way down the road towards the railway station, where we enjoyed a Burger King meal for our tea. Arriving in the station with some time to spare, I found the next book in the ‘Game of Thrones’ series that I am busy ploughing through and bought it alongside a packet of Randoms for the journey home. We made our way up to Platform 4 to await our train. At approximately 18.10 it pulled in and we all clambered on board to take our seats.

Kerri sits this climb out.

Everyone began to swop tales of where they’d been and what they had done and seen. The lady sat opposite had lost her husband and went to look down the train for him. When on a train excursion, staff always remind everyone that they will cannot wait and if anyone misses the train because they turn up late, they would have to make their own way home. Thankfully he arrived in the nick of time and we set off on the long journey back.  Once it became dark outside the return journey became tedious. There was no longer any glorious countryside whizzing past to grab your interest, but at long last we began to drop off other travellers along the way and eventually after what seemed a journey of eternity,  we arrived back at our little station at 23.36pm. Two of our friends from previous train excursions offered to kindly give us a lift home from the station and we gladly accepted their offer.

 

We had enjoyed a wonderful day out visiting an area I had never been to before in my life. I do hope you enjoy the photos I took along the way, and I also hope its not long before we are once again setting off on another train excursion to somewhere as equally exciting.

TG