Up to Scotland. The journey there.

Sorry I’m late with this post everyone, haven’t been feeling up to blogging much of late, anyway, here it is!

Set off on Friday morning to our local train station to catch the 10.58 to Leeds. Kerri had been despatched to respite the day before, complete with huge hefty case. Train arrived dead on time, and I landed in Leeds station with just under half an hour to wait for the Cross Country train to Glasgow Central. I spent the waiting time taking a shot of a Battle of Britain train stood at the opposite platform.

Battle of Britain train

Our train arrived right on time, and after spending a lot of energy pelting down the platform in the wrong direction looking for coach F, I finally boarded, stashed my suitcase in the rack and settled down into my reserved seat. Lot’s of lovely leg room to stretch my legs, and no one sat beside me! Yippee!

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For my lunch on the train I had taken a McDonalds Chicken Caesar salad and I could also plug my phone into the provided socket and enjoy the free Cross Country wi-fi all the way to Glasgow! How’s that for travelling in style? The journey up the east coast mainline is always enjoyable, especially when you begin to travel alongside the sea. I was lucky that I was sitting on the side next to the coast, and managed (though at the speed we were travelling it wasn’t easy!) to get some shots as we flew past which I’m including below as part of a photo album.

 

We absolutely seemed to fly all the way up to Glasgow, changing crew along the way. This is necessary because this train has journeyed all the way from Plymouth, and its quite a journey! We arrived in Glasgow Central early and my eldest son and his family were waiting on the platform. It was a tearful reunion for me, I knew it would be! I haven’t seen my two grandchildren for two years in the flesh, and they had both grown so much and are both far taller than me.

My eldest informed me that they had had to park the car some distance away from the station as a fish and chip shop outside had burned down, so there was no access for cars at that time as the fire brigade had closed off all the street. There had also been a big water leak nearby as well, so it was a bit chaotic to say the least.

We all had lot’s to talk about and before I knew it, I was being greeted at the door by Sandi the dog and all the cats!  A welcome cup of tea, then we set off to the supermarket so that I could buy some bits and pieces in, such as my gluten free bread and cereals etc, then we all spent the night watching Prometheus on Blue Ray which I had taken there with me so that they could watch it.

Tomorrow, they planned to take me to the Kelvingrove Art Museum, so I was really looking forward to that!

TG

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The best laid plans.

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We had one of those days on Saturday. A day where none of my plans came to fruition and it was all my own fault.. The initial plan was to walk down to our local train station, catch a train to Leeds, buy my train tickets for my forthcoming trip up to Scotland to visit my eldest son and his family, then another train to Huddersfield and from there the last leg home. That was the plan.  We did arrive at our local train station where unfortunately I began to suffer from griping stomach pains, no doubt caused by eating lot’s of soft liquorice the day before.

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Panic set in, and we ended up dashing down the road to Sainsbury’s for a toilet instead of clambering aboard the Leeds train.  At this point, we did discuss abandoning the whole trip and going back home, but eventually deciding that the risk was worth it we caught the bus to Huddersfield, thereby completely cutting out Leeds altogether.  It was a beautiful day, with a cloudless sky and far too good to waste, even if I was in some discomfort and having to keep my shop browsing to shops which I knew contained a loo. How embarrassing I thought and completely self inflicted as well! What idiot eats a ton of soft liquorice when they are planning to venture out on a run-around the following day? You all know the answer to that one!

Needless to say, I did make it home without having any mishaps or embarrassments and can assure my readers that I won’t be so foolish ever again.  So remember everyone, if your planning a day out the following day, keep off the liquorice!

TG

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

A holiday of a lifetime, on our way.

I’ve always wanted to go to Cornwall, and during my battle with cancer last year I vowed that this year we would go there for a holiday. At last we set off on Friday the 25th May for a week in a holiday home at Riviere Sands near Hayle, travelling via my favourite mode of transport the train. After catching a train from our local station to Leeds we arrived early, in fact we could have caught the earlier train to Plymouth at 09.10am and as it turned out we might have been better to have done just that.

Our train arrives.

Wiling the time away whilst we waited for our train, we had a drink from the Pumpkin cafe on the station platform, Kerri having her usual hot chocolate whilst I had a decaf cappuccino. After what seemed like an age, our train finally pulled into platform 12 and we settled down into our seats for the long journey to Plymouth. Despite the fact that it was quite warm outside, we were nice and cool thanks to the air conditioning in the coach. I’d also been helped to get my suitcase onto the train and in the luggage rack by a nice young man and in fact our journey down to Cornwall has helped restore my faith in human kindness, as we received help every time we had to get the suitcase off or on the train. Either that, or I looked so feeble and old that they took pity on me!

As we neared Plymouth, we were held up by approximately half an hour due to signalling problems and we missed our connection with the Great Western train to Hayle. They did contact the station at Plymouth and ask if the train could be held up until ours arrived, but they wouldn’t wait, so once we all embarked at Plymouth with now another hour nearly to wait, we were all compensated with a ticket for free drinks for our trouble, and handed a compensation claim to make to Cross Country trains. However, this was actually not fair in my view, as it wasn’t the fault of Cross Country trains, it was a Network Rail problem.

At least we had plenty of time for a toilet break whilst we waited. Trouble was, we were not going to be arriving at Hayle station until roughly 20.00pm or thereabouts. I just hoped that someone would be available to give us our van keys at the holiday camp once we finally arrived. Just in case, I rang the office ( I had the booking papers with me which contained their phone number) and warned them that it would probably be after 20.00pm before we arrived, and I was assured that someone would be manning the desk to give out the keys.

First Great Western HST

At last the Great Western train arrived and we all piled on with our luggage. Again I received help with our suitcase and we settled down for the remainder of our journey. The coach that we had chosen happened to not have its air conditioner working, so again all passengers in the coach were given free drinks. Hmm. Good job we have had a toilet break I thought as we journeyed along. Eventually we arrived at Hayle station. It was a steep walk down to the town itself from the station, and from there I rang for a taxi after getting the number from a passer-by.  It was about a 10 to 15 minute drive from the station to the holiday park. Sure enough a member of staff was manning the office and handed us our keys after marking down on the map of the park where our particular van was.

The kitchen.

By now, both of us were just about managing to keep upright. I was tired and so was Kerri, but we mustered forth all of our remaining resources and found our new home for the week.  First job, cup of refreshing tea!  It was just a good job that I had had the foresight to bring some teabags with me and the man in the office kindly lent us some milk, as the park Spar shop was closed. After that we emptied the suitcase and put everything in its allotted place. Whoever had cleaned the van had forgotten the sheets and pillowcases for Kerri’s single bed, so I had to return to the office to get some for her before we could make her bed up. Hmm.

Before you could say ‘Jack Robinson’ we were both attired in our jimjams and ready for bed! What a day! I do know this, there is no way would I ever contemplate driving all the way to Cornwall from Leeds even if I could drive, and it makes you realise just how big our country is. It was bed at 10.00 and as soon as my head hit the pillow I was fast asleep. We would have to go exploring the park and our surroundings tomorrow.

TG

A Day Out in Skipton.

Yesterday we set off for a day out to one of my personal favourite places, namely Skipton. Known as the ‘Gateway to the Yorkshire Dales’ it also contains a medieval castle which is well worth a visit. It has a thriving market, and a canal basin from which you can enjoy a canal tour via boat. Yesterday was particularly worthy of a visit because Skipton was hosting the annual Waterways festival. We stumbled upon this annual event purely by chance some years ago when we paid Skipton a visit as the festival happened to be taking place. On arrival by the bridge that spans the canal, I couldn’t understand what all the festivities were about, but quickly found out that every year, narrowboats from other areas congregate at Skipton and then deck their boats up in various arrays of decoration. There are lot’s of attractions as well for visitors and a stage with entertainment taking place throughout the day.

Getting in the festival spirit.

On arrival, we went to book a canal tour but the first boat was fully booked by a party. So to pass the time before the next available boat at 12.00pm, we took a walk along the canal so that we could get a close look at the boats and their decorations. This years theme, because its the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year, was based on Great Britain, although some boats did seem to veer from this remit somewhat! We were also having lot’s of luck with the weather for although quite chilly, at least the rain did not show its face. We eventually arrived at the park and decided take a stroll up the path before turning around to make our way back to the marina in time to board the next boat.

View from the boat

Seating our selves at the front of the boat on boarding, we set off down the canal. It’s such a tranquil experience cruising along at a snails pace, and so removed from the usual hustle and bustle of our daily lives that I recommend everyone to take a canal cruise at least once in their lives. The boat had hot and cold drinks on board, a waitress who takes your order and of course a toilet. We were rewarded with some stunning views over the countryside before we eventually turned around to head back to the basin.

Far too much.By now it was well past one, and Kerri had already sussed out (her first job when we arrived as its top of her priorities) where we were going for our dinner, Bizzy Lizzies. This establishment is fairly new, I don’t recall it being there on our last visit to Skipton, and its conveniently sited next to the canal bridge. The service in there was excellent and a telling sign that its a popular eating place is the fact the we had to wait a while for a table.

The table manager was very friendly as he told Kerri that he had seen her dancing earlier on the Quay side to the music from the entertainment. Although it turned out that because it was a Saturday, they didn’t serve their smaller ‘pensioners portions’ which I prefer because a full serving tends to be too much for me these days, my fish and chips were amongst the best I have ever tasted, and I thoroughly recommend that if ever you are in Skipton, you pay Bizzy Lizzies a visit. Kerri had a chicken burger with chips and coleslaw followed by the inevitable chocolate cake.

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Following our wonderful meal we made our way up to the Skipton Castle for another visit. Despite the fact that we have visited the castle many times, we never tire of exploring it again, its fascinating to see how everyone lived over 900 years ago, the kitchens, the toilet (which Kerri always enjoys trying out) the dungeon and the old St John the Evangelist chapel. Of course there’s a gift shop in the grounds so I bought my customary fridge magnet (I’m rapidly running out of space for them now, and could do with a double doored fridge) Of course I took loads of photos which you can see via the enclosed photo album. We made our way back to Skipton station and luckily our train to Bradford Forster Square was in.

Travelling on these electric Siemens trains is an experience in itself. They are electric, so they are whisper quiet in operation, lovely and comfortable though they are beginning to look well used now, although we both can remember when they were brand spanking new. I think they were the first trains we ever travelled on that used the tannoy system (and the scrolling info boards in each carriage) which state the next station, and at the end of your journey, the usual ‘this train terminates here, please take all your belongings with you’ to which Kerri always adds ‘especially your knickers’ (yes, I have to hear it every time, and she still finds it hilarious. The joke has kind of worn off for me..) It’s from this particular train that you can visit not only Skipton but also Keighley and Worth Valley railway and also Saltaire which is a world heritage site. So quite a well used route! Enjoy all of my photos of our day.

 

TG                                 (this blog is composed, formatted and edited in Windows Live Writer.)

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

Early morning chatter.

I’m an early riser. I always have been, being schooled well as a youngster by my mother that ‘early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy wealthy and wise.’ This did not work out for me personally unfortunately, and as time has past and I have grown older, my waking time has gradually become earlier and earlier. These days, I’m usually awake and up and about at roughly about 06.00am in the morning, largely depending on the resident crows and their escapades outside. Of course, this alarm call tends to alter depending on the time of year, and this morning I was rudely awakened by loud shouting and chattering from my immediate neighbours in the tree outside at about 05.00am.

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