Friday, June 24, 2016

The Garden in June

The new Clematis montana 'Alba' only went in last year, but it is showing promise already.

There was only the one bloom on this new Rhododendron, planted in 2015, but I think I made a good choice. Hopefully it will grow on well. In general though it wasn't a good year for the rhoddies this year at Skip.

These Himalayan poppies seem to like the conditions!

I left it late in planting up the containers this year, but these two are coming away nicely now.

I've made another attempt at a Dahlia bed this year (in the background of this pic), for colour later in the year. I have all sorts of other things in containers, especially hostas.

I tried to get rid of these poppies early in the year, but, as you can see, I wasn't really successful!

These day lillies were originally grown from seed and do add a splash of colour.

Geranium Johnson's Blue is always reliable.

I encountered Strawflowers for the first time last year in a friend's garden, and was fascinated by them. I failed to get seeds in time, but found a couple of plants when browsing the Rouken Glen garden centre in early June. Xerochrysum bracteatum is native to Australia.

This red squirrel has been a regular, welcome visitor to the garden, first thing of a morning for a nibble at the peanut feeder.

I should probably give him a name! I hope he stays around.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Pacers

Of all the passenger trains on the network, these Class 142 DMUs are probably the least loved! Here 142091 and 142017 sit in Darlington station.

And here, in the background, is a third set pulling out of the station heading for Saltburn. 'Pacers' are diesel multiple units which date from the early 1980s, see here. Successors to Class 140s and 141s, Class 142s were built by Leyland and British Rail Engineering in 1985. The body was based on a Leyland National bus, as here. The class has a capacity of 120 passengers per two-car set.

The Pacers were built inexpensively and running costs were to be low. They feature a modified bus body, and other bus components such as the seating. Each carriage has four wheels on a fixed wheelbase, rather than the more usual eight wheels on bogies.

Most of the Pacers still in use are in service with Northern, that franchise, a division of Arriva, beginning in April this year. The company has made a commitment to replace the Pacers by 2019, see here.

The Bishop Line, which runs between Darlington and Bishop Auckland, is important to Britain's railway heritage, see here, as it formed part of the original Stockton and Darlington Railway. The Stockton to Darlington railway opened on September 27, 1825.

I have been a passenger on the line on a number of occasions, and recently experienced the Pacers again on my way to Shildon. Here Pacer set 142086 arrives at Shildon.

Shildon is of course home to part of the National Railway Museum, see here. I'm rather fond of the place! Here I am getting up close to the wheels of LMS Stanier Class 5, no 5000, built at Crewe in 1935.

I wonder if some of the Pacers will be preserved and run on heritage lines in the future. Or perhaps displayed alongside the locomotives at Shildon!

Pics © Skip Cottage

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Visitors

It was a real surprise to find this red squirrel visiting Skip on a couple of mornings last week. I assume it was just exploring new territory. I've not seen red squirrels in the garden before, although when I first came to Wamphray there were some in the forest plantation on the other side of the village.

It was great to see another visitor to Scotland recently - Flying Scotsman! We caught up at Bo'ness where the locomotive was on show for the day. A big crowd had come to see it, such is the hype surrounding this very special locomotive.

At this time of year, there is always something I like to see. I headed to Drumlanrig Castle for a bluebell experience!

The walks through the grounds of Drumlanrig are always interesting, whatever the time of year. The drifts of bluebells were spectacular last week.

This is the pets' graveyard!

What a lovely place!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Pride of the Tyne

This is the 07.09 from Glasgow arriving at Carlisle, having run down the Glasgow South Western line via Kilmarnock and Dumfries. It was my transport on to Newcastle that day, to spend time exploring pastures new whilst the car was having its first service in Carlisle.

It was my plan to explore the Metro system, and this I duly did, and enjoyed the experience!

My all zones day ticket took me to South Shields, and included the ferry crossing. A trip on 'Pride of the Tyne' was too good an experience to miss!

I rather liked the fact that the South Shields ferry landing has a name!

It was officially opened in July 1999. It was named Maisie’s Landing after Councillor Maisie Stewart, who at the time was Lord Mayor of South Shields. The name was chosen through a competition in the South Shields Gazette.

Tied alongside is the newer ferry 'Spirit of the Tyne', see here.

'Pride of the Tyne' approching the landing side on. The vessel was one of the last to be built at the Swan Hunter shipyard in Wallsend in 1993. She has been recently refurbished, see here.

After only a few minutes we were approaching North Shields. An uphill stroll to the Metro Station, and I had time to go the long way round to Newcastle Central Station to catch the train back to Carlisle. And home to Skip. A 'different' day out!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Spring is here!

It's the last day of April, and this brave little daffodil is braving the hail! Was spring ever going to arrive?

Then, in just three days at the beginning of May, the bare branches of the beech trees on the road to Skip became covered in green!

In the garden, the wild cherry blossom came out.

And the new growth on this Sambucus racemosa Sutherland Gold was wonderful to see!

I don't have many alpine plants in the garden. I picked up three 'interesting' containers at a car boot sale last year. This is one.

Rhododendron 'Elizabeth' is first to flower this year. It's thirteen years since it was planted. It took a bit of a knock this winter when some invading sheep had a good nibble on it, but it's done well.

So much work to do yet in the garden. This is the busiest month. But no flowers from seed this year. Potatoes are in, and growing away. I expect I'll get some salad greens underway this week too.

I encountered this wildflower on a walk. I haven't yet identified it though. Now, where's my book?

This sparrowhawk has cottoned on to the fact that I feed the birds all year, and it has been visiting regularly, and keeping all the little birds on their toes. The photo is taken through two layers of glass, so I was quite pleased to get the shot, although it would have been nice if he (she?) had turned round to look at me!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Friday, April 29, 2016

Edinburgh Culture

Gardening, trainspotting, speedway and walks are all very well, but sometimes my life needs an injection of culture. Wednesday saw me in Edinburgh, by train of course, and as I left Waverley Station I noticed that the Scott Monument was cordoned off.

Now that is a different sort of job, when you get up in the morning and spend the day dangling off a rope with a bucket.

The monument is currently closed for the installation of a state-of-the-art lighting system to show off its intricate architectural features, and make it 'glow in the dark'!

This was where I was headed - the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Modern 2.

This was the exhibition I had come to see. Excellent it was, and well worth the entry price. Read about it here, and see highlights here.

The special exhibition takes up all of the second floor of Modern 2, but there's much of interest on the ground floor, such as this 'representation' of Sir Eduardo Paolozzi's studio. You could look at this for hours!

The Surrealism and the Marvellous gallery has Paul Delvaux's La Rue du tramway (see detail here), and makes me smile every time I see it, whatever the artist's intention! Did you know that trams are a classic sexual metaphor, according to the psychologist Sigmund Freud. I must remember that when next I visit the Transport Museum.

I wonder what Freud would have made of this video, of the No 3 tram in Glasgow (a big part of my childhood) filmed by a minister, the Rev John Walsh, in 1960!

The gallery also has this wonderful library! Read about it here.

Lots to see in the grounds. This is The Virgin Of Alsace by Emile-Antoine Bourdelle.

Spring has come to the Water of Dean somewhat before it has reached Wamphray!
Menawhile, back with Freud, I had to have a hurl on Edinburgh's trams while I was in town. Make what you like of the significance of this one exiting the tunnel under the road near the Gyle.

My transport back to Waverley Station and the train south to Lockerbie.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Monday, April 25, 2016


It's been a varied month, still cold, but the occasional day has been quite lovely. I liked this sky, seen over Dollar when visiting friends.

Daffodil month!

I've forgotten the name of these, with their cream coloured trumpets.

It was time to introduce the new camera to some steam!

Here is an old favourite of mine see here, and here. No 46233 'Duchess of Sutherland' is a Princess Coronation Class 4-6-2 'Pacific' built in 1938 by Crewe Works for the London Midland and Scottish Railway. Photographed on a rainy day early in April at Carlisle's Citadel Station. It had hauled the steam charter from Carnforth, and was headed south via Shap to Crewe.

It's all happening at the station.

It will be interesting to watch the progress of the refurbishment over the next couple of years.

Royal Scot arrives at Carlisle. The history of this locomotive can be found here. I've a soft spot for 46100, having ridden behind it, see here, before its recent return to the main line.

I found this great book in a local second hand bookshop. It was written in 1995 and records the author's life as a trainspotter since the 1960s. I probably began just a little before Nicholas did, but his memories of the last days of steam match my own. But I had not, until reading this book, considered myself as a 'Twentieth Century Hero'! 

This was a strange rainbow over Workington late Saturday evening, April 9. The colours are just as seen. I couldn't get back far enough to get the whole rainbow into the picture, but it formed a complete semicircle! Wonderful.

Two things had taken me to Workington that day. The first was to see Royal Scot on the Cumbrian Coast line, and here is the locomotive gliding towards Workington station right on time.

I had never been to Derwent Park before so wanted to see the Workington Comets in action. Enjoyed my visit and saw some good speedway action, the local side defeating Redcar Bears on the night.

But as far as speedway is concerned, my heart is at Ashfield, home of the Glasgow Tigers! I'm in danger of becoming a regular fan again. I was there yesterday to see the first of their Premier League matches, against Redcar.

And as I'm learning more about my new camera, it is fun to see what it can do, even from the terracing. Here is action from Heat 7, with Aaron Summers, the Tigers' captain, leading teammate Coty Garcia out of bend 2, on their way to a 5-1 and a 22-20 lead.

A couple of heats later, the young Argentinian rider (see his profile here) hit the dirt hard, giving rather more than 100% on an attempted overtake, but fortunately came away apparently unscathed. With his bike being driven back to the pits, he had to endure the walk back on foot, but his captain was on hand ... with words of comfort, or encouragement, or advice!

The Tigers finished 51-39 in front. The match report is here

Photos © Skip Cottage