Saturday, 17 March 2018

Brummagem part three

Day three 14th March 2018

A historic railway station and a trip to Worcester

For my third day I decided to venture out of Birmingham and catch a train to Worcester, a city with which I'm familiar but haven't visited for some years. I wanted to see if it had changed and to see some of the bits I'd not previously visited, such as the cathedral. So once again up, showered, out, breakfast (Pret), and this time down to Moor Street station. Unlike the labyrinthine New Street and the subterranean Snow Hill, Moor Street is a traditional station,  a combination of the original station, opened in 1909 by the GWR as a terminus for local trains, and a newer Moor Street station with through platforms, adjacent to the original, which opened in 1987, the two were combined into one station in 2002, when the original was reopened and restored, and the newer station rebuilt in 1930s style. It's certainly the nicest of the three.

Moor Street station

Moor Street station

Moor Street station

Moor Street station water tower
The 11:09 West Midland Railway service took a little under an hour to get to Worcester Foregate Street and is under a tenner for an off-peak return. A walk down through the city centre showed few changes, some familiar shops gone, some moved. The biggest change being the recent big redevelopment of the Cathedral Square shopping mall. Carrying on down to the bridge found the River Severn very full as usual at this time of year. So full that it had overflowed its banks in places blocking the path to the cathedral.

River Severn
River Severn in flood

Worcester Bridge
Next was the cathedral, or as its officially called ,the Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Mary the Virgin of Worcester. (No gags about finding a virgin in Worcester please.) Built between 1084 and 1504 it towers over the Severn and contains the tombs of King John of Magna Carta fame, Prince Arthur, younger brother of Henry VIII, and Stanley Baldwin, three-time UK Prime Minister. I'd never been inside before. It's big. Very big. 

Tomb of King John

Worcester Cathedral crypt

Worcester Cathedral interior

Worcester Cathedral interior & tomb of King John

Worcester Cathedral from Cathedral Square
There's little left of medieval Worcester apart from the cathedral, much having been replaced in the 1960s in what some locals refer to as "the rape of Worcester" when the council redeveloped much of the city centre. Friar Street contains quite a few ancient buildings including Greyfriars, built around 1485 and since 1966 owned by the National Trust. I'm a NT member so that was the next place to visit.


The volunteers in Greyfriars were very knowledgeable and informative and able to discuss the long history of the house and its former occupants. Part of the house is still let as a private residence - part of the agreement of its being given to the trust being that it remained in use as a home not just a museum.

Friar Street

Friar Street

Friar Street
After a day in Worcester it was time to return to the station (via Starbucks) and get the train back to Birmingham. The return train went via Worcester Shrub Hill where it stopped for a 15 minute rest, so the trip back to Moor Street was a little longer in duration.

Worcester Foregate Street station
Selfridges Building, Bullring, Birmingham
Back to the hotel for a bit then out again for food and a couple of pints in The Wellington. The beggars were out in force again in the city centre but were at least willing to accept the blatant lie "sorry mate, haven't got any change" and move on.

Day four 15th March 2018

The return home

Checked out after another comfortable night and breakfasted at Pret again, using their Wi-Fi to check the travel situation and to find out how close May and Putin were to chucking nukes about. The train from New Street was only a couple of minutes late and after the usual seat claiming dance made an uneventful journey to Reading, easily making Reading in time for the connexion to Sandhurst. Despite gathering clouds I was able to walk home from the station without getting wet.

It was an enjoyable trip all told and considering I'm writing these reports while watching the snow fall again, well timed weather wise.

I took many more photos than shown in this blog and they can be seen in this Flickr Album

Brummagem part two

Day Two 13th March 2018

The cutest train in Britain, a museum, and canals

Up, showered, out, breakfast (Pret), and down to Birmingham Snow Hill station to catch another train. It's not raining. You may gather I like railways and since watching All The Stations episode 23 I've wanted to visit Stourbridge and ride the unique branch line from Stourbridge Junction to Stourbridge Town. This service is provided using two Parry People Movers also known as Class 139 railcars.

The journey to Stourbridge Junction on West Midlands Railways went smoothly and after a short wait the train arrived from the town.

Stourbridge Junction

A slightly bumpy 3 minute ride gets you to Stourbridge Town station, adjacent to the large bus interchange and a short walk from the town centre.

Stourbridge Town
A walk around Stourbridge revealed an impressive red brick town hall

Stourbridge Town Hall
And the Stourbridge Canal

Stourbridge Canal
A break for coffee and then return to Birmingham (via Moor Street station) to continue doing the tourist thing.

Museum entrance
On the previous evening's walk in the rain I'd passed the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery which looked to be worth further investigation, particularly when I remembered that it contains the Staffordshire Hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork, stashed away by someone in the 7th century and for reasons unknown never recovered until it was rediscovered in a field near Hammerwich in 2009.

Despite most of the artefacts being damaged when they were removed from the items they originally decorated - the hoarder presumably being interested only in their monetary value - the fine scale of the workmanship is apparent and even by modern standards impressive.

The ornate interior of the building (part of Birmingham City Council House) is worth seeing anyway.

Museum interior Industrial Gallery
Sword pommel, one of the three thousand five hundred pieces in the Staffordshire hoard.

Piece from the Staffordshire Hoard
A cup of tea and then out into the.... Sunshine! Sat in Victoria Square with my camera and took advantage of the fine weather to get some shots of the Town Hall and City Council buildings.

City Council House

Victoria Square

Birmingham Town Hall

Street sign
It still wasn't raining so once I had worked out which way to go to get around the huge building site that is Chamberlain Square I walked down to Gas Street Basin to wander around and over the canals. The area around the canal has been redeveloped with bars, restaurants, and shopping to attract tourists and by extension although probably not by design, beggars. There are quite a few beggars in Birmingham all of whom seem to need 80p.

Gas Street Basin

Gas Street Basin

The Worcester bar (the part of the canal not the name of the pub).

Gas Street Basin, Regency Wharf

Boats in Gas Street Basin

Old Turn Junction
Having been out and mostly on my feet for 8 hours it was time to return to the hotel to freshen up and drop off the camera, backpack etc. and take the weight off for a bit before heading out in search of food and beer. Especially beer 🍺

Food was taken care of by Byron's posh and expensive - very nice though - burgers. There are a lot of pubs and bars in the city centre, some loud, some cheap (though I'm trying to avoid Brexit-plugging Wetherspoons unless really desperate), and some plain odd. For real ale though I'd have to say that The Wellington on Bennetts Hill is going to be hard to beat. Sixteen pumps on the bar and as the first one was Wye Valley HPA I figured that was a good start. There I stayed until it was time to return to the hotel and bed.

More to follow...


A week off in March, what to do? A city break sounded like a good idea and I'd not been to Birmingham for a long time. Also never had a chance to explore properly on previous visits which were either for work or to the Children's Hospital. So train and hotel booked and away I go.

Day One 12th March 2018

The Train - GWR late again.

Sandhurst station platform.
Sandhurst Station, please wait.
Up early, check travel information, everything running OK. Have breakfast, check again, all OK. Leave in good time to walk to station. Check again, train now shown as delayed by 13 minutes. Hmm, gives 8 minutes to make the connection at Reading, should be do-able.

Arrive at station. 11;35 train now expected at 
no, 11:51
no, 11:52
no, 11:51
no, 11:53... 11:52... 11:54... 11:52... 11:51...

Eventually it slowly rolls in at 11:53 which means assuming it isn't further delayed about 3 minutes to get across Reading station to get on the CrossCountry service to Manchester calling at Birmingham New Street. Also it's now raining.

Made it with seconds to spare. Evicted the squatter from my reserved seat and settled down for the journey in the plasticky ambience of CrossCountry's slightly cramped and toy-like train. One carriage of which was out of use which meant a very British round of polite "excuse me but that's my seat" musical chairs at each subsequent stop. They took the train out of service at Birmingham and transferred those going further north to a replacement. Cue much confusion amongst those who'd boarded after the guard had been along and explained that was going to happen. 

Birmingham New Street Station. I'm sure you could get lost in there for ever but I managed to find the right exit and escaped into a very wet city centre.

A hotel with no obvious reception.

Ibis Birmingham New Street hotel is actually in Ladywell Walk in the city's Chinese Quarter, a short wet walk from the station. On entering I was thrown for a moment as there's no actual reception desk. Instead you are met by a staff member who checks you in on a small tablet computer - could have been a large smartphone actually - all very quick, easy, and 21st century.

The hotel itself is fine, small but comfortable and well furnished rooms, and free Wi-Fi throughout. Wi-Fi moreover that worked, was connected to a decent fast internet connexion, and did not require you to enter 13 items of personal information including your inside leg measurement before you could use it. Full marks. 

A wet wander around.

China Town from the hotel window
China Town from the hotel window
Settled into hotel room. Time to start exploring and find some dinner. Also it's still raining.  
I checked out a couple of likely eateries (the Ibis has a 24hr restaurant but I didn't fancy anything on the menu) and headed out through China Town (didn't fancy Chinese either) into the city. Ate at  The Windsor in Cannon St. Standard pub fare, reasonable prices (lots of pensioners amongst the clientele 😐 ), good service, not a bad beer selection. 

The rain has eased off a bit so time to walk off the steak and Guinness pie.

Birmingham has trams.
I didn't actually travel on one but here's a quick photo anyway.

Midland Metro tram.
Through the Bullring centre and a view of the very modern Selfridges building that sits opposite the very traditional Moor Street Station.

Selfridges Building

Birmingham Town Hall, Victoria Square, and Queen Victoria Statue.

Town Hall

Down by the canal. Old boats and new flats.

Canal at night

Open till late

And back at the hotel. In spite of the advertised late night action opposite thanks to triple glazing I had an undisturbed night on a comfortable bed.

More to follow....