Thursday, July 17, 2014


The last day of my 'rail roving' holiday took me to Chester, with the leg from Warrington Bank Quay on this Arriva Trains Wales Class 175 Coradia. I think this is the first time I've experienced a ride on this franchise, and on this type of DMU. Very comfortable.

Chester was looking splendid for my visit, the first time I've been in the city. It has an attractive centre, although Mickey did seem somewhat incongruous above the Disney shop in this building! Made me smile, though.

To get a feel for the city I took a tour on this London General Omnibus Company B-Type motorbus, dating - with some modifications - from around 1924. I loved it! The website is here.

Our guide, dressed for the part, and the banter was entertaining!

The Eastgate Clock, constructed to celebrate Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee. The clock is, apparently, the second most photographed timepiece in the United Kingdom after Big Ben, so I'm doing my bit to keep up this record!

A glimpse of the Cathedral.

Chester Library was once the Westminster Coach and Motor Car Works.

The impressive town hall.

The local buskers were of a higher standard than I'm used to. These two were singing a cappella, and were first class!

The Shropshire Union canal runs through the centre of the city!

All too soon I had to find the station again. Just to be different I went across country to Manchester Piccadilly, and up to Lockerbie direct from there. I suspect I will be back in Chester again. They do say first impressions are important, and I certainly was impressed on this short visit. And of course I've still to see the zoo!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A New Anorak

Last Saturday I discovered that Birkenhead has a really splendid war memorial! It is always moving to read the names, especially in this anniversary year of the beginning of WW1.

But appreciating war memorials was not the objective for the day. That was to visit the Wirral Transport Museum, and particularly to ride a tram!

But the best laid plans ... You can probably imagine my disappointment to find that the tram service from Woodside ferry pier to the Wirral museum was not operating due to an electrical problem.

Mind you, the replacement bus was special, a Bristol RELL-3 dating from 1968. But if I'm going to get excited about old buses, I'll need to get a new anorak!

The museum does have a number of trams on view, in various stages of restoration. This Wallasey tram dates from 1920 and is operational.

This would have been one of those I could have ridden on. Birkenhead (Hong Kong) 70, and its companion No 69, were built specifically for the Birkenhead Heritage Tramway by Hong Kong Tramways in 1992. They both operated in Blackpool before arriving on the Wirral and are the mainstay of the operating fleet.

As it turned out, this tram, running on the museum's model railway exhibit, was the only one I saw moving on Saturday.

The museum is well worth a visit though, with friendly volunteers. This exhibit made me smile!

This Leyland Titan PD2 was my transport back to the railway station. Read about its history here.

I enjoyed the ride. Now, what colour should my new anorak be?

Photos © Skip Cottage

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The National Media Museum

My roving adventures continued to Bradford on Friday. The itinerary saw me on the Carlisle-Settle-Leeds line on a beautiful morning, changing at Shipley into Bradford Forster Square station. A short walk took me to the National Media Museum, the objective for the day.

This was my first visit, and I confess it has been on my 'must visit' list for a while. I was blown away. This is one of the country's best kept secrets! What a fabulous place. Good as the website might be, see here, it leaves the treasures therein waiting to be discovered, and lots of surprises. The National Media Museum is more than a 'museum'. I wanted especially to visit the photography galleries, and they did not disappoint - both the history of photography and the photographic equipment exhibits were excellent.

But so were the other floors. Nostalgia? You bet, lots of it! Helpful staff, and a superb cafe too.

A good day out then? One of the best. And I look forward to another visit to Bradford soon.

I came home a different way, via Bradford Interchange, Manchester Victoria, Wigan Wallgate, and the West Coast main line back to Lockerbie.

Photo © Skip Cottage 

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

A Rover in Southport

Last year I tried out Northern Rail's 'North West Rover' ticket, and I had four great days out. Yesterday was the start of my 2014 roving adventures. An opportunity perhaps to go places I've not been before. So, after a rapid hurl by Virgin Pendolino down the West Coast Main Line, I found myself riding the track between Wigan Wallgate and Southport. It could almost be a heritage line, such is the age of this Class 142 Pacer!

Southport markets itself as a traditional seaside resort. So I headed for the pier. Once the rain had stopped, of course!

Southport's pier is the oldest iron pier and second longest in the country. It dates from 1860. Read about it here. I resisted the temptation to ride this little tractor train on the way to the end of the pier, a kilometer stroll. At the pier pavilion I found a small exhibition on Southport's history as well as traditional penny slot machines, still using old money. When I was a boy you got 240 pence to a pound note. My 2014 pound coin bought me just ten old pennies yesterday, and these soon disappeared into the various one-armed bandits!

My day at the seaside was a lot of 'side' and not too much 'sea'. I was reliably informed that the water was out there somewhere, this being the view from the end of the pier!

Also running on the rails was Southport Pier Tramways battery powered tram. I had to have a ride of course.

But there was a problem. The tractor-pulled train suffered a breakdown, and staff had to use muscle power to get it out of the way, and clear the line. Had I been a few years younger I might even have offered to help!

Southport also boasts the 'smallest pub in Britain'! Wonderful.

The town also has a curling connection! I looked in vain for a blue plaque commemorating the site where the Glaciarium existed in the 1880s. Read about the country's first artificial ice rink for skating and curling here, and imagine what it must have looked like here, with its 'Atmosphere always dry, pure, and clear'! The building which housed the rink is long gone, but it would have been around here at 184 Lord Street. That information comes thanks to helpful people I met in the library at The Atkinson.

One should always leave an attraction unvisited as a reason to return in the future. So my review of the British Lawnmower Museum will have to wait for another day!

And, in case you are wondering, I did have a fish supper before my journey home. How could I not!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Old Friends

Time for some more nostalgia. In 1980 my good friend John McFadzean suggested that we go and see Mount Everest. Well, it was to take a few years before we realised that goal, but in the interim we walked the West Highland Way, and continued to get out on the hills whenever we could. I discovered a few photos recently of one trip. That's John above. Must have been 1981, or maybe 1982.

This is where we were headed - Kinbreak bothy in Glen Kingie. I note that it still is in the care of the Mountain Bothies Association, see here.

We were with another friend, Davie Cameron. I'm not sure just what we're on top of but that is Sgurr na Ciche in the distance.

Davie took this photo of Johnnie and me at the bothy door.

And here I am with Johnnie last Monday, some thirty-four years on, the photo taken this time by May McFadzean. Less hair these days.

It was great to see old friends again!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


I had to be in Carlisle this morning by the back of eight o'clock, and with the car left at the dealership for its annual MOT test, I resolved to do some exploring. Hard to believe I'm in the centre of a city. This is where the River Caldew meets the Eden.

I found myself walking along the banks of the River Eden, on the line of the Hadrian's Wall long distance path, which crosses the country, see here.

I was excited to find that the Way goes under the old Eden Viaduct which carries the West Coast Main Line from the north into Carlisle - my usual mode of transport into the centre of Carlisle. I'd not seen it from this angle before!

Indeed, Carlisle's Citadel Station was my destination by lunch time. And it was a colourful scene today!

It's World Cup time of course, and the murals were all very jolly! A touch of Rio welcoming visitors to Carlise, see here.

My reason for being at the station was to see what was pulling the Fellsman today. This regular mid week steam charter (here) is a sellout all summer.

Galatea was looking splendid. Its history is here.

Ready to park the coaches, as a First Transpennine Express service to Manchester Airport arrives on the left.

Here Galatea and support coach head back through the station to turn round using the Upperby triangle. This was my signal to get back to pick up the car and head home. Too much excitement in any one day is not a good thing!

With a clean bill of health, my wee Mazda 2 seemed almost to be smiling when we got back to Skip. Four years old already!

The hostas in the containers reminded me that I haven't talked much about the garden recently. It's not been neglected!

The growth recently is best described as 'lush'. I don't actually remember planting these poppies in this bed though!

This Sambucus racemosa 'Plumosa Aurea' is a real star! It was 'rescued' from a sale table at a garden centre in a pretty sorry state in a tiny pot. It repays me every year.

These Livingstone Daisies only open up in full sun. Some summers it hardly seems worth planting any. They make me smile though, so last weekend I bought a tray. Hopefully this won't be the first time that they will see the sun this year!

The two big containers are coming on well. Here's one. The surfinias always do well, with the geraniums still some ways to go.

I've had the use of a friend's greenhouse this year. Mostly tomato plants, although I ate the first of my courgettes, from plants grown from seed, the other evening. Is it all worth the effort? Time will tell.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Monday, June 09, 2014

Nostalgia on Gumball Sunday

Standing on the bridge which goes over the M74 and down into Wamphray is not usually what passes for entertainment on a Sunday! Yesterday was an exception.

And I was not alone. Every vantage point along the motorway had people watching the road.

It was the Gumball 3000! This sees a variety of unusual cars, and drivers, set off from Miami Beach, destination Ibiza. Yesterday's stage was from Edinburgh to Manchester and on to London.

You don't need to be short of a bob or two to take part, and I think it helps to be completely bonkers! Lots of celebrities driving rare cars down the M74 doesn't happen every day.

Did I say interesting cars? This is a 2013 Jaguar F-type, entered by Karl and Helen Hartey.

You can read about all the entrants here.

One thing for sure was that most of the foreign participants seemed to be enjoying the support of those on the bridges, and acknowledged that accordingly, in a variety of ways! Great fun.

Standing watching the traffic hurtling down the road, brought back memories of travel south from Scotland in the 1950s. Yes, that's me above, wearing my kilt, and standing in front of my dad's Austin Devon. I'm thinking this will be around 1952.

Our annual family holiday was usually to Morecambe, and I looked forward to it immensely. We left home as early as possible on the Saturday to head south on the A74. No motorways back then. The main road went through the centre of Lockerbie, and that was often our first break. 

The biggest hurdle was getting over Shap, and if successfully accomplished without the radiator boiling over, then Kendal was usually the next stop. If we were lucky, we were driving along the front at Morecambe by late afternoon or early evening, after at least eight hours on the road. It was a major trip.

I don't remember the Devon, but I do remember my father's next car, an Austin Somerset. My box of old family photos does not have a photo of this car, but I always look out for one when I visit classic car shows.

I have a memory of seeing the sign to 'Newton Wamphray' as we passed through Annandale on the A74, along what is now the B7076, the service road for the motorway. "Strange name", I thought, "I wonder who lives there?" Its been home to me now for a while, twelve years!

I recall that we stayed at the Maxwell Hotel on Sea View Parade. As we always went on the same fortnight every year, we often met the same people. One of the traditions was to have a group photo taken of the guests. That's Mr Maxwell, the hotel proprietor, right at the back. In case of doubt, that is me, front row, third from the left, sporting a tartan tie! My mother is the middle of the row behind, and my dad is on the far right of row three.

These were happy times. This must have been a some years later. Here we are on the promenade, mum and dad on the left. Is that really a cricket bat I'm carrying!

Nostalgia over for today.

Pics © Skip Cottage