Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A touch of steam

Here are a few pics which show how I had my steam 'fix' this month.

48151 was a London Midland and Scottish Railway 8F class 2-8-0, used to haul heavy freight. It was built at Crewe in 1942, and these days it is one of the West Coast Railways' stable of locomotives certified to run on the mainline.  It was pulling Statesman Rail's 'Fellsman' service when I saw it at Carlisle earlier this month.

I made a return visit to the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway this month. Despite what it may look like, 42073 was not in steam, but was welcoming everyone arriving by car. Read all about it here.

The smoke was coming from No 3698 Hunslett 'Repulse', getting ready for a working day. It was built in Leeds in 1950. Read about it here.

Also fired up on the day of my visit was No 2682, 0-6-0ST Bagnall class, built in 1942 in Stafford, and called 'Princess'.

I did take a run along the short heritage line to Lakeside station behind 'Princess'. Very enjoyable.

Here 'Princess' runs around at Lakeside. Now, what has this locomotive to do with bananas? Find the answer here!

Back at Carlisle, The Sherwood Forrester was at the head of the penultimate 'Fellsman' tour of the season. It is a popular excursion, with every one of the tours fully booked this summer.

45231 is an old favourite, see here. It's an LMS Stanier Class 5. The 4-6-0 was built by Armstrong-Whitworth in Newcastle in 1936. Read about its life here. Above, it is off, with its support coach, to reverse direction using the Upperby triangle near Carlisle station.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Purple Walk

August 15, 2014. I had been planning this walk for a while - a circular route, beginning at Waterhead, and covering mostly forest tracks, but with a definite destination in mind. I had been holding back for a dry weather forecast, but I got off to a soggy start yesterday when I caught a heavy shower not long after the off. At least the rain was warm!

Described as a 'successful coloniser', Rosebay Willowherb, aka Chamerion angustifolium, was at its best. This website explains that it was once a scarce woodland plant in this country, and that its expansion occurred as a result of clearing large areas of forest and burning the ground in both town and country during the two World Wars - just the right conditions for this plant to thrive in. One of its common names in the south-east alludes to this takeover - 'Bombweed'. I think I'll call it that from now on. The North American name of course is 'Fireweed'.
Most of the trees planted in the 1960s in this area have been already taken out, but a few stands have been left.

The odd trunks left for wildlife make for an interesting photograph.

There's a fascinating selection of names on the map hereabouts: Wet Slack, Windybank Snout, Little Pike, Snabbies Sware, Mary's Grave (who was Mary, I wonder?), Dod Knowes, and (cue schoolboy giggles) Cockplay Hill, which has given its name to an area of the forest, above .
Yesterday, the open areas had a purple glow from the heather in bloom.

There was little wind yesterday, but here's evidence that it does get windy hereabouts!
This is from near the head of the Pothope Burn.

As a Lord of the Rings fan, I had to stop and enquire on the health of Fangorn.
Made it! Lunch time stop.

I'm at Dryfehead, now in the care of the Mountain Bothies Association. The MBA exists 'to maintain simple shelters in remote country for the use and benefit of all who love wild and lonely places'.

I was last here on May 24, 2009, see here. At that time the former shepherd's cottage was derelict and the south gable was about to collapse. That's now been rebuilt, above. I commented in 2009, "Seems a shame that this home for many families for hundreds of years will soon be no more than a ruin." More pics here.

A lot can happen in five years though. The owners of the building offered it to the Mountain Bothies Association who took it on, and several work parties have turned Dryfehead into a quite marvellous little bothy, with three rooms. Very tidy. And so pleasing to know that the building has a future! Its page on the MBA website is here.

Incidentally, I was contacted recently by Chris Halliday who had seen me mention Dryfehead, and he was able to tell me that records for Dryfehead exist back to the 1600s and many of the Halliday families that were tenants there are buried in Hutton kirkyard. 

There's still work to be done, and yesterday I found Rab and Jock, MBA volunteers, who had been working hard all week. And doing a great job. I was hospitably received!

Did I say a lot can happen in five years. Just two years ago I thought my days of being able to ramble around the countryside were gone for good. So, it was a great feeling to reach Dryfehead yesterday!

The Dryfe is contained in a pipe near the cottage.

Leaving Dryfehead for the walk out, I had planned a circuitous route again using forest tracks, and at one point I was on the main timber extraction route. Easily graded, but not necessarily the most interesting walk I've ever had. At least the weather was very pleasant.

Eventually though, I found myself on the old track into Macmaw, which I'd been on earlier this year, see here. It was very different yesterday, with a purple carpet of heather for me to stride down the Dryfe valley.


Just time for one last photo of the Dryfe ....

.... before the welcome sight of my ride home in the distance. Indeed after some 43 km (over 26 miles in old money) it was a very welcome sight. A purple day!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Garden in August

The garden is looking lush this month. It has been a good summer!

 With a little heat, and plenty water, it's great to see things grow.

Getting down to the bottom of the garden is becoming quite an adventure!

What was once an open, airy area of the garden is becoming quite shaded at this time of year.

In the sun though, a small investment in a packet of Nasturtium seeds has provided a colourful dividend.
The leaves of this Rogersia have more colour this year than I remember in the past.

Clematis tangutica is just beginning to flower.

I planted this Clematis jackmanii a few years ago to have it scramble through a quince in the border just outside the conservatory. It's not done very well ... until this year. I've been watching it this month, making a break for freedom, climbing up one of the bird feeders!

And here's one of the flowers. Simple, but effective!

The promised maintenance on the trellis, brought down by an overgrown Clematis Broughton Star, see here, has now been carried out and a replacement planted - Clematis Montana grandiflora. I've taken some cuttings of Broughton Star, and hopefully these will prosper. It was one of the first things I planted when I began improving Skip's garden, and I would like to keep the memory. Watch this space!

Photos © Skip Cottage

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