Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Revealed: What 200 people were doing in a field in Crayford on a Sunday afternoon.

Sunday 4th August 2019

Nice clickbaitey title 😀

So now the embargo has been lifted on this I can talk about what happened on the first Sunday in August. At the beginning of july I got an invite from Geoff Marshall of All The Stations fame to take part in something slightly silly and railway/tube related along with a couple of hundred other like-minded idiots enthusiastic people.
How would you like to come to Crayford wearing a tee shirt the colour of a London Underground line and stand about for an hour?

Well who wouldn't? Name added to spreadsheet, railway ticket booked.

The idea was to create a human version of the "Tube Map" - or at least the Zone 1 section of it because we're not that mad - and then video the result to be published on Youtube. Previously All The Stations had done something similar, the BR Double Arrow symbol. That only needed 100 people to be herded into place, the tube map would need at least double that (we'd hoped for 300).
One thing became apparent, getting enough people with enough of the right coloured tee-shirts wasn't going to be simple.

Hammersmith & City (pink) was always going to be a problem.

Everyone has a black tee-shirt so Northern Line definitely wasn't going to be a problem.
I chose Piccadilly (dark blue) because I was born near what at the time was the western end of it. Having decided on Saturday that my intended shirt had in fact faded to something nearer the Victoria line I went cheap tee shopping (Decathlon £1.99 as it happens) and as at that point there were plenty of Piccadilly and not enough District looked for a suitable green tee as well. It seems the clothing industry only now knows two versions of green, fluorescent lime or khaki, nether of which are close to the required shade.
 The event was held on the pitch at VCD Athletic / Oakwood Training Ground, Crayford. It wasn't hard to find, followed the trail of coloured tee-shirts from the station.
Once the goalposts had been moved out of the way and some group photos taken by the talented Luke Agbaimoni all that was needed was to arrange 200 people into a semblance of Zone 1 of the tube map. It took a while, with a few tweaks and rearrangements and checking from above by drone. Eventually we were ready for the actual filming. This was all done from Geoff's drone which he assured us had never fallen from the sky yet so we would be perfectly safe 😀
 And it didn't.

So what was the point of all this then?

Does there have to be a point? A lot of people, most of them having some interest in railways and or the Underground got together and did something essentially a bit daft and chatted, socialized (the football club bar was open and it was a hot day), and met people who they might only have known online or have met before only briefly. Not all "social media" activity is carried out through a screen.

Nobody fell over backwards Falklands penguin style following the drone as it flew over (and no one got that reference when I mentioned it at the time).

At no point did I hear anyone shout out "Mornington Crescent!", though it was a big field and I'd be amazed if nobody thought of it.

Everyone who was there seems to have enjoyed the experience and in these uncertain times that's not something to be passed over lightly.

The final result?

That's now live on Geoffs channel, go and watch it and "think yourselves accurs'd you were not there, And hold your manhoods cheap whiles any speaks that stood with us upon Human Tube Map day." 😜

Human Tube Map, The Video.





 

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Journey into the fiery furnaces of hell*

* Also known as Birmingham New Street 😅

25th July 2019

It started off well. A leisurely Pret breakfast and walk down to Shrewsbury station to catch a train for home. The forecast was for rail-bending record high temperatures though so I got an earlier train than I originally intended, hoping to get well on my way before everything melted.

It didn't work out that way.

The 1103 departure to Birmingham New Street waited at the platform and I was glad to see that West Midland Trains kept it running and with the air-conditioning going because it was already very warm outside. We rolled out of Shrewsbury on time and the journey to Birmingham was pleasant and uneventful, the train lightly loaded. Arriving at New Street I could probably have run and caught the 1304 Cross Country train bound for Bournemouth to get to Reading but I had an Advance Single ticket, valid only on the 1333 departure to Reading. That was probably my first mistake. Shortly after the 1304 train departed the cancellation of the 1333 to Reading was announced.
Oh well, get the 1404 Bournemouth train then, ticket now valid on any train because the booked train was cancelled. So stooged around in the station, got tea, got a pasty, used the snazzy new seats with USB charging built in to top up the phone, and listened to the announcements and watched the screens.
They weren't a pretty sight, nearly every train delayed as the temperatures rose and speed restrictions were imposed.

1404 Bournemouth moved slowly up the list. Right up until the single garbled announcement that it would now depart from Birmingham International instead of Birmingham New Street and that passngers should go to platform 7 to get a train to there to catch it. On platform 7 there was a train to London which didn't appear to be stopping at International so no one knew they were supposed to get on it until it had gone. A poor train driver who was waiting to take over an incoming train was the only uniform present so was soon besieged by confused and irritable passengers wanting to know what to do and where to go next. Fair play to the guy he did his best with the apps on his smartphone and concluded that we should all return to platform 1. The next departure from which should have been 1433 to Reading which was mysteriously absent from the departure screens and from my Train Track app. Only by checking carefully on Cross Country's web site did I find out that all the Reading trains had been cancelled and passengers advised to use the Bournemouth trains - or to wait until the next day when they would be happy to accept tickets from today. I did consider that option but getting a hotel room in the centre of Birmingham at that short notice proved to be difficult, expensive or a combination of both. So wait, sweat, and hope the 1504 Bournemouth train wasn't cancelled or diverted as well. 
I can't say I recommend Birmingham New Street as a place to hang about in >35℃ heat. We were exhorted over the PA system to carry water when travelling in the current hot weather. I took the more sensible course of actually drinking it. What goes in has to come out though and you have to hope you don't miss an important announcement whilst having a piss.

CrossCountry Class 220
The 1504 arrived at a packed platform 1 around 20 minutes late and the desperate scramble to get aboard began. When it moved off we were packed in in conditions that would be illegal if we'd been livestock. I was in the vestibule of coach D between the bike racks. The coach in which the air-conditioning had failed.

It was fucking hot. Before long I had little fountains of sweat coming out of my lace holes 😅 Still, if anyone was going to pass out from the heat they'd have to do so standing up, there wasn't room to fall down. After Birmingham International a few people got off, whether that was their intended stop or whether they couldn't handle the sauna-like interior of the  Voyager any longer I don't know but it allowed some of us to move from the vestibule to the saloon. It was maybe a couple of degrees less hot in there. After Leamington enough passengers baled out for me to get a seat. Also the train manager announced that as soon as he could move down the the aisle he'd try to get the air-conditioning going in coach D. When he did so he got a huge round of applause 👏👏👏 and the temperature dropped to "still bloody hot but a bit more bearable". Slowly we trundled south through Oxford to Reading. We arrived 2 minutes after the train to Sandhurst departed. Train Track app showed the next was due in about 40 minutes and the two after that were cancelled, which was a bit worrying.

I found a bench, got out my Kobo reader and finished reading Kate Williams' Rival Queens until the train arrived at platform 4 then grabbed a seat on board for the last leg. After just under 9 hours I arrived at Sandhurst station having completed what should have been a three and a half hour journey, on the hottest UK day on record. It was hellish though not in fact my longest disrupted train trip, that "honour" still goes to a journey to Glasgow in June 2018.


Friday, 2 August 2019

Shrewsbury

24th July 2019

After my trip up the Heart of Wales Line I had a day to explore Shrewsbury. Whichever way you pronounce the town's name it's a really nice place to visit with historical buildings around every corner.
Starting (if you arrive by train) with the railway station which is as impressive as a London Terminus.

Built in 1848 and Grade II listed since 1969 its imitation Tudor style was intended to match the real Tudor Shrewsbury School opposite, which is now the library.

At the south end of the station is Severn Bridge Junction signal box, the largest surviving mechanical signal box is the world and the station has an interesting selection of upper quadrant and lower quadrant semaphore signals as well as some colour light signals, a result of its joint LNWR & GWR heritage. Elsewhere if you like old half-timbered building then this is your
kind of town. There's a castle too, obviously, an Abbey, and a Roman Catholic cathedral.
There's also more modern building too, this is a working town not an open air  museum, with three shopping "malls" jointly managed, one of which seemed to be dominated by charity shops. Most of the usual chains and eating places are present (including Pret I was glad to see) and some nice pubs (better than Swansea, sorry Swansea) and I'd recommend The Loggerheads with it's multiple small bar rooms, and the Three Fishes Inn. Both have a good selection of real ales.
Most of the historic part of town is enclosed by a loop of the River Severn with the Welsh Bridge (5 arches) and English Bridge (7 arches) crossing the river on the west and east sides respectively. Given the very warm weather a boat trip on the Severn was an obvious choice of activity.
The Sabrina sails - or rather motors - around the loop of the river from Welsh Bridge to English Bridge and back again and was a pleasant trip with views of the town and riverside buildings.

Post voyage I went for a walk and a '99' under a shady tree in the large riverside park called The Quarry, part of which was being prepared for the big flower show and much of the rest was dotted with young mums'n'kids picnicking.

I spent much of the rest of the day exploring the town. There really is a lot of history here.


And here's the photos:



Shrewsbury

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

The Heart of Wales Line

23rd July 2019

The rail trip from Swansea to Shrewsbury via what is now known (and promoted) as The Heart Of Wales Line is high on any list of scenic railway journeys in the UK. Technically The Heart of Wales runs between Llanelli and Craven Arms but the trains run from Swansea to Shrewsbury which are more convenient start and finish points.

So I was up early on what was already a warm morning and forecast to be a hot day in time to check out of the hotel and find some breakfast before going to Swansea station ready to catch the 0934 departure for Shrewsbury. I was on an Advance Standard Single so trading cost against flexibility, which meant valid only on this train and no hopping on and off at intermediate stations alas.

If travelling from the Swansea end you'll want to get a seat by the window and facing "the wrong way" as the train reverses at Llanelli so you'll be facing "the right way" for the most scenic part of the trip.

There were quite a few other passengers aboard when we left Swansea and a lot more joined at Llanelli so bagging a decent seat was a must. Given the forecast temperatures I went for what I hoped would be the more shaded side of the train too - starboard to start which became port after the train reversed at Llanelli. Also took plenty of drinking water, this isn't a service run with modern air-conditioned rolling stock - our train was a two car Class 150 Sprinter. It did have free WiFi though, however this resolutely refuse to allocate me an IP address and eventually gave up the ghost altogether. It may have been due to the heat but the train electrical system did appear to be quite unwell resulting in no interior lights (cue ghost train screams in the tunnel sections) and a khazi door with a mind of its own 🙄

Anyway, the scenery, yes it's worth the trip.

Sugar Loaf Station. Sadly no one requested to stop at this most remote of stations and I was distracted so didn't manage to get a picture ☹️

This one is taken from the top of Cynghordy Viaduct though, which is quite a view.



At Builth Road there was quite an exodus of passengers and from there on we gained and lost quite a few as locals as well as tourists make use of this line.

The scenery continued to be worth the trip.

We gained a couple of well laden cyclists for a while who were so keen they almost got off one stop before they were supposed to (too many stations with names beginning Llan ?) and then stood by the door for the next several miles.




Most of the stations, even the smaller ones, appeared to be well looked after especially those under the care of community groups.

Still more scenery.

Between Knucklas and Knighton we crossed the border into England and lost the "Llans" and the terrain became more rolling than hilly.


Around Craven Arms there were more industrial buildings and eventually we crossed the River Severn into Shrewsbury Station.

My word it was hot in Shrewsbury town centre!

I found a cafe in the shopping centre and had a much needed cup of tea ⛾
then checked into the Premier Inn and turned the air-con down ❄


The Heart of Wales is definitely one to tick off the scenic railway must do list and will quite possibly get a revisit at some point, hopefully with some more time available to explore.

More photos from the Heart of Wales (and a bit of England too):

Heart Of Wales Line

Monday, 29 July 2019

Swansea

22nd July 2019

I needed to get to Swansea as the starting point for a trip on the Heart of Wales line. Checking for tickets on GWR's website I noticed that an Advance 1st Class single could be had for only a handful

of pounds more than an Anytime Standard Single. So the lure of a comfortable seat and sufficient legroom proved irresistible and besides which you get fed and watered in 1st Class. Which means the price differential is even less by the time you've had lunch and a couple of cups of tea. Given that there were only 2 other passengers in my section of the carriage I assume that the bargain fares are GWR's attempt to fill some seats that would otherwise remain empty. Worth checking when booking anyway.
It would prove to be by far the most comfortable and pleasant journey of a 3 leg trip over the next 4 days.

A late booking netted a good deal at the 4* Dragon Hotel a short walk from the railway station and convenient for the bright lights of Swansea city centre. 

Nice to have an air conditioned room which was quite big although with only a view of the backs of neighbouring buildings. I've noticed that as a solo traveller you rarely get allocated a room with a decent view.

The city centre did seem to be one big building site mind you, which made it difficult for someone from off to get their bearings.

An early evening explore revealed Swansea to have the usual complement of chain bars and restaurants so I settled on Turtle Bay more or less at random, which turned out to be a good choice. I very much enjoyed the curried goat and the waitress reminded me of a girl from Llansamlet that I knew back in the early 1980s. Maybe she was related, I wasn't going to ask.

Post-prandial wandering took me via the marina  to the huge expanse of Swansea beach, along which I walked from end to end in the warm evening. It wasn't busy, a few walkers and joggers mostly. It stayed dry too in spite of the gathering clouds.

Swansea is an interesting place which will probably be worth a longer visit at some point rather than just a Monday night stop-over.

I retired to The Three Lamps, a "new multi floor venue in the heart of Swansea" of which only the ground floor bar was actually open, and sampled a pint of their own beer from the on-site micro-brewery, which wasn't bad at all. From a seat by the open front of the bar I was able to watch the world go by for a while, which inevitably included the various dodgy characters who gathered in Castle Square outside. Then back to the hotel for an earlyish night as I had to be up in the morning to catch the 0934 to Shrewsbury.


More photos from Swansea:


Swansea

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Betchworth

20th July 2019

A day out in the Surrey countryside, taking in the county's quietest railway station, a church used in a big hit film, and a pub lunch.

According to the Office of Road and Rail statistics for 2017-2018 Betchworth Station is now the least used in Surrey, taking over bottom spot from the once isolated Longcross.

There were  just 14,972 entries and exits, which if we assume is passengers making return journeys equates to about 20 people a day using the station. This could partly be explained by the fact that the station isn't in the village but a 20 minute walk away along a route that couldn't be described as pedestrian friendly - including having to cross the busy A25 Dorking to Reigate road. To reach either of those places, or even Guildford, most people are going to drive.

The station building is now in private hands and when I was there the interior was being redecorated. The ground floor now being converted to offices along with four car parking spaces, further reducing the likelihood of Betchworth gaining any commuters.

I hope the new occupants of the offices like trains - and the warning siren on the adjacent busy level crossing 😉




If you do take the walk to Betchworth you'll find a quintessentially English village scene which is probably a good reason it was chosen as a filming location for Four Weddings And A Funeral. St. Michael's Church was the location for Wedding No. 1, Angus and Laura, supposedly at ‘St John’s Church, Stoke Clandon, Somerset’.
At least it was a bit closer to the reception, which was filmed at a house in Hertfordshire 😀


 Of more immediate and practical importance you'll also find near the church the Dolphin pub.

Early on a Saturday lunchtime this provided a couple of pints of decent ale and a sausage sandwich of the type usually referred to as a "doorstep". Both were very welcome.

Rather than return directly to the station via the "main" road I took a more scenic and longer route leaving the village via a bridleway the other side of the church and through arable fields, once again having to cross the A25, and then climbing up to cross the railway and join the North Downs Way long distance footpath.

 Following this path East towards Station Road I saw this strange brick tower standing on its own amongst the trees.

Despite looking like a spare support for a viaduct it is in fact a 110 foot tall  lime kiln. Though the area north of the station looks a picture of rural tranquility now it was once the site of a substantial lime quarrying and processing works, with a connection to the railway just west of the station. It also 3 other railways within the site, all of different gauges. The only obvious clue now to the casual wanderer that there was such industrial activity here is that the road leading out to Station Rd north of Betchworth Station is called "The Quarry".

And so I arrived back at the station to catch one of the two-hourly stopping services back home.


A video you say? Yes, there's a video:




And it didn't even rain, even though it was forecast. Win!

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Carlisle and the Lake District by Public Transport

17th to 21st June 2019

A week off to go somewhere. Can't be arsed to drive long distances. Got a train to Carlisle and a room at the Hotel ibis Carlisle, in Botchergate, a short walk from the railway station.

Monday

GWR train from Sandhurst to Reading. On time, good start.

GWR train from Reading to Paddington. Had booked the 1111 train but that was delayed so just hopped on the 1107, plenty of empty seats. Handy that there are now frequent fast trains Reading to London. Very fast too now that it's all electric IETs. I'll still miss the HSTs though as I grew up with them.

Hammersith & City Line to Euston Square and the short but crowded walk to Euston  Station. People, you really don't need to walk 4 abreast 😒

Virgin Pendolino* to Carlisle. Actual legroom in my booked seat! I'll admit to having gone via London despite it costing slightly more mainly to avoid several hours in CrossCountry's cramped Voyager trains even though I booked via CrossCountry's web site as I've found it to be the least aggravating to use.
Arrived Carlisle a few minutes late to find unexpected sunshine. I seem to have neglected to photograph any of the above trains 😀

(* The spelling checker suggests Gwendoline for Pendolino, I think they should rename them forthwith. 🤣 )

Settled into the hotel and went for a walk and to find food. I was a bit worried to see that the hotel room faced a number of clubs and bars but as it turned out they were all shut so nights were undisturbed. No mobile signal (Three UK) but good free wifi.
Dinner at The Griffin, standard Greene King stuff, explored a quiet Carlisle city centre, and had a couple of swift ones in The Fat Gadgie where you could count the customers on the fingers of one hand. With spares. It's quiet in Carlisle on a Monday evening.



Tuesday

A trip around the Cumbrian Coast Line. Tickets bought via Trainpal but picked up at the station rather than on the mobile app as it would be a long day battery-wise. Better safe than sorry.

A small group of mostly train enthusiasts gathered on the platform awaiting the arrival of a Northern train crew.
Who appeared at exactly the time it was supposed to depart.
Almost everyone sat at the right hand side windows 😀

This line is in every list of the UK's most scenic railway journeys with good reason. Once out of the city it's countryside all the way until it reaches the coast south of Maryport.

Then it hugs the coastline nearly all the way to Barrow-in-Furness.
In places it runs along the sea wall and there are views out to sea along most of the route.

There are some quite remote stations such as Nethertown and some oddly named such as Aspatria and the for some reason amusing Corkickle.


It runs a bit further inland towards Barrow giving views of the southern Lakeland Fells on the other side of the train.

The line also crosses the head of the River Duddon estuary, flat countryside you don't normally associate with the Lake District, you could be in East Anglia or Hampshire.




Barrow was hot and sunny. It's not what you'd call a tourist town though.
Unless you're interested in the Naval Dockyards and they're mostly behind high walls and security gates. I did spot a submarine but too far away to identify it. I suppose it must be one of ours though 😀

The train back was in the rush hour. Which meant that it was lightly loaded leaving Barrow and then very full from Sellafield as all the workers from the nuclear processing and decommissioning site knocked off. Contrary to rumour none of them appeared to have extra heads or other appendages. ⚛

Wednesday

There are no trains to Keswick. The line closed in 1972 so the choice now is drive or bus. The car was at home so at 0900 I joined the other "bus wankers" at Carlisle bus station to get the Stagecoach 554 to Wigton where it becomes the 554 to Keswick. Something to do with drivers shifts and hours I think. Anyway you just stay on the bus and after a fairly scenic drive (top deck front seats are a must) it deposits you in Keswick outside Booths supermarket. Now Keswick really is a tourist town which is probably why it costs you 40p to take a leak and the public toilets accept contactless payment!

My word it was busy but I've been to Keswick before staying at the Camping Club site near the lake side, it always is busy.

Followed the trail along the edge of Derwent Water for a bit, which was also busy then climbed up through the woods to the viewpoint at Castlehead. Steep but worth it for the view over Derwent Water. Only half a dozen other slightly more energetic visitors up there.

The 554 is not a particularly frequent bus route at 4 runs per day which meant plenty of time in Keswick.

So I took a boat trip around Derwent Water which was glorious, then ambled around the shops and had a pint in the Dog & Gun which had quite a few of the former but none of the latter as far as I could tell. The beer was good though and was as welcome as the seat in the shade. Before getting the bus back to Carlisle I did a bit of  shopping in Booth's and save myself 40p while I was there. The bus got back to Carlisle a little before 7 pm so I had a quick freshen up in the hotel and then went a few yards down Botchergate to the Shaha Tandoori for a well deserved (well I thought so) curry. It's one of those places which are upstairs so you don't know what it's like until you get inside. A traditional curry house and very good was the answer.

Thursday

Windemere does still have a railway. A short but scenic branch line runs from the West Coast main line at Oxenholme The Lake District station.

This is a busy little station being as the name suggests the main access to the Lakes for tourists travelling by train.

I got a ticket on my mobile using the Trainpal app which does split ticketing so saved about £3 on the return fare.

Alas the Transpennine Express was late arriving at Oxenholme so I became better acquainted with the station than I'd hoped with a 50 minute wait until the next departure to Windemere. The Northern train arrived and everyone piled on, glad to be on the move again.  Windemere station is nice but of course Windemere town isn't where the lake is.

That's at Bowness-on-Windermere so you have to walk (or get a bus) a mile or so to get there. I walked. It rained. I had looked at the forecast and decided not to take my big waterproof coat. It rained some more and continued to do so every 15 minutes for the rest of the day. I now have (another) new lightweight waterproof jacket. Thankfully Mountain Warehouse had a sale on (Don't they always?) 


I took shelter in The Flying Pig and dried out a bit. Went and got chips by the lake and watched the ducks and
geese getting rained on, and suitably fortified walked back up the hill to Windemere station to get the train back to Carlisle.

The sun came out.





Back in Carlisle and it being only just past 4 pm I visited the castle. Got to try and get the most out of my year's English Heritage membership (otherwise it's £7.50 for an adult) and I can tell you 4.20pm on a Thursday is the ideal time to visit, there were less than a handful of people exploring the extensive castle buildings and grounds.
Carlisle Castle is unusually intact having been in use as an Army base until the 1960s - in fact still used by the Territorials.



Friday

Hmm, train doesn't depart until 1249. Fortunately don't have to check out of the hotel until 1130 so had a lie in and then packed and read for a bit (Kate Williams' Rival Queens: The Betrayal of Mary Queen of Scots if you're wondering.) then wandered down to the Market Hall where I found the most traditional market "caff" I've seen in ages and had a full English. 'Cos I'm still officially on holiday and it's allowed.

I found a seat at Carlisle station to wait, to read, and to desperately hope that the hen party also waiting would be at the other end of the train as they'd obviously got on the giggle-juice early. (They were 😌)

At 1249 eleven coaches of Pendolino from Glasgow pulled out of Carlisle and only lost around 9 minutes by the time it arrived at Euston. It's a long walk from the back of an eleven coach train to the ticket barrier, then fight your way across the concourse and down to Euston Square. Circle Line to Paddington arriving about twenty to five.
A curiosity: I had an Off Peak Return with a seat reservation on the 1700 train from Paddington to Reading. The departure boards were clearly displaying a big flashing message that said Off Peak tickets were not valid on this service.


I wasn't up for that argument on a Friday evening so got on the 1652 to Bristol Temple Meads, first stop Reading, and plenty of available seats instead. The train from Reading to Sandhurst was standing room only and unfortunately the part I was standing in contained The Child From Hell who screamed and swore at the other passengers and demanded they move so he could sit down and demanded of his father(?) that he "give me some f*****g chocolate". He got his way on both counts 😒

There are many, many more photographs from this trip in this Flickr Album

Cumbria Trip, June 2019

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Derbyshire

10th to 17th May 2019

I had never been to the Peak District. Driven past it on both sides to places further north many times though. So this year I decided I should go and find out what's in the middle. I booked a week at Middleton-by-Wirksworth at a cottage called The Miner's Rest. Conveniently located for a number of Derbyshire Dales visitor attractions. Yes, that includes railways.

Peak Rail 

I walked up to Middleton Top to the bus stop and caught a local bus to Matlock Bus Station which is handily next to the railway station. Plenty of time before the next Peak Rail departure to have a wander around Matlock before returning to the station and crossing the footbridge to Sainsbury's and platform 2 from where Peak Rail operates.

Top Tip: The bus station toilets require 20p. The ones in Sainsbury don't and you have to walk past them to get to the trains. Just sayin'.

I had a pleasant trip on Peak Rail and being early in the season it wasn't absolutely packed, though by no means quiet.



Ecclesbourne Valley Railway

Next up Derbyshire's longest heritage railway and the closest to where I was staying. The EVR runs from Wirksworth to Duffield. It also has another line running up a steep gradient to Ravenstor but that wasn't running on this particular Sunday.

The EVR was a bit busier than Peak Rail - the sunshine had brought out the Grandparents and Grandchildren - but still not crowded and it was a good run to Duffield and back.




After returning to Wirksworth I walked up to Black Rocks where there is a view not for those without a head for heights but worth the climb.

From here I walked along the High Peak Trail, formerly the Cromford and High Peak Railway, built to carry minerals and goods between the canal at Cromford and that at Whaley Bridge utilizing some incredibly steep inclines, so no level easy strolling.

Along the way I found the other local heritage line, the Steeple Grange Light Railway.
I didn't ride this one (they don't run many trains) but was all but dragged through the gate by one of the enthusiastic volunteers for an interesting chat. They've recently extended the line into Middleton itself.

Heights of Abraham

A different attraction today, The Heights of Abraham at Matlock Bath is a hill top park with a cable car to get up there and tours of show caves - former lead mines - to draw in tourists, which it has been doing since the 1780s.

Top Tip: The Heights of Abraham offer a 20% discount off the £18 cable car tickets for those arriving by Rail or Bus. This makes it cheaper to park at Cromford railway station (£2.50), get an off peak return to Matlock Bath (£1) which is next to the nearest car park to the cable car station anyway which costs £6 a day. (Prices correct at time of writing.)

It's cool in the caves, you might want a jumper. The view from the top is spectacular, even more so if you climb the Victoria Tower (because the hill isn't tall enough?). Who doesn't like a cable car? It's a Derbyshire Dangleway!

Trams, trams, trams


Crich Tramway Village or The National Tramway Museum is the other local "big day out".

Plenty of car parking and I couldn't work out the local buses so I drove (I was going on elsewhere afterwards anyway).

You pay your entry fee and get given an old penny coin (1d). This you then exchange for a day ticket to ride as many times as you want. A piece of totally unnecessary theatre but I guess kids like it and old farts can reminisce about the good old days of £.s.d. (or LSD as appropriate). I've got a big bag of old pennies at home, could've taken my own. There are a lot of trams though only a selection run on a particular day. Also static displays, a cafe, and a pub. A real pub, The Red Lion, transported here from Stoke-on-Trent and rebuilt brick by brick. Damn, should've got the bus.

Newark and Derby

The weather forecast was for showers next day (although in the event I saw none). I decided an awayday was in order and got an off peak return from Cromford to Newark, planning to stop off in Derby on the way back.


Oasis, Some Might Say cover.png
Cromford Station is slightly famous, or at least familiar to fans of the popular beat combo known as Oasis, having appeared on the cover art for the single Some Might Say

By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, Link

The line runs from Matlock all the way through to Newark, which means it links both Peak Rail and the EVR to the national rail network.

Newark has a castle, free to enter but partly closed off when I visited due to cracks having been found in the river side curtain wall.

It's an interesting old town to wander in, the market was closing up by the time I arrived but there were plenty of places to obtain vital supplies of cappuccino and cake.
Derby I had actually visited before. At least I had been on a school trip to the now demolished railway works in the late 1970s. I vaguely recognized some of the streets around the station from that trip. As for the city centre, it's much like any other in the UK now. I got something to eat, had a wander about, and headed back to the safety of the hills.

Also while I was there...

I visited Eyam, famous "plague village" of Derbyshire, which was more interesting than expected and had many plaques on the walls of the buildings detailing who had lived and died in them during that dark period during the 1660s.
Shame the National trust have cleared off or I could have made use of my membership. Settled for a nice pot of tea at least.
Edale. Lovely countryside to stroll through. Also the southern terminus of the Pennine Way.

One day.

Maybe.



Flickr Album of my holiday pics if anyone's interested 😀