Friday, March 19, 2010

The Roaring Monster

70013 Oliver Cromwell pulled The Railway Touring Co's steam excursion, the Cumbrian Mountain Express today. The tour was diesel hauled initially from Leicester, then former BR Britannia Pacific ‘Oliver Cromwell’ took the train from Crewe to Carlisle via the West Coast Main Line over Shap. That's it arriving in Carlisle's Citadel Station on time at 12.41 today. The return journey was by the Settle - Carlisle Railway.

I just love these 'Roaring Monsters'!

As do hundreds (thousands) of others! The excursion itself was a sell out.

There was a large welcoming committee, all with cameras, awaiting.

Actually, with so many people, it takes a little skill to get a semi-decent photo. But it's just great to be able to get up close, and the station staff at Carlisle are most helpful.

Yes, my memories of the 1960s are not only of steam trains. The mini kilt is up there in the top five. These two hostesses from the excursion were happy to pose! (Apologies, I did not get their names). I asked one what she thought of all the hundreds of old men at the station, and along the lineside. Quick as a flash, she came back with, "But you're not old!"

That one was straight out of the book How to Make a Trainspotter Happy, and my step was somewhat more sprightly as I continued my Carlisle adventure today.

I wonder if in forty years time people will come out in numbers to see a heritage Voyager DMU?

Once all the passengers had disembarked to savour the delights of Carlisle for a couple of hours, the coaches were backed into a siding to free up the platform.

And the locomotive came back to the station before running round.

'I'm in charge'! Oliver Cromwell is owned by the National Railway Museum and is maintained and operated by the 5305 Locomotive Association. It was restored for main line running in 2008.

The locomotive has an interesting history. When British Rail was formed by the nationalisation of the railways on January 1, 1948, it surprised many by continuing to develop steam. The first of the new engines, including Oliver Cromwell, worked expresses between London and East Anglia. But soon BR unveiled its modernisation plan to do away with steam. Final days were in 1968.

Oliver Cromwell became the last steam locomotive to be overhauled at Crewe and soon was the very last in service. Oliver Cromwell was chosen as one of the locomotives for the final passenger steam service. The Fifteen Guinea Special ran on August 11, 1968, between Liverpool Lime Street and Carlisle.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Where are the daffs?

There's been a little warmth in the air these past couple of days. Not that spring is obvious yet, even though it is March 16. The garden is very dry. Shouldn't have said that, given the forecast for the next few days! Not surprisingly, there's no sign of frogspawn in the pond yet.

Where are the daffodils? Look at what the garden was like a year ago, on March 23, here.

The snowdrops are hanging on though.

I like crocuses, but my attempts to establish large drifts seem only to have kept the mice well fed. Still, a few have survived, tucked away in corners, here beside a couple of my rescued old stones. None is ever turned away from Skip, no matter the age or condition!

I love the rich yellow at this time of year, which is why I'm missing the daffodils.

This was a surprise, a little iris. The holly was in a container over last winter with some spring bulbs. It got planted out last summer, and one of the bulbs has flowered again.

Pics © Skip Cottage

Friday, March 12, 2010

More Annandale Way

I've talked about the Annandale Way before, here, when it was officially opened last September. It is my aim to walk as much of the Way this year as I'm fit to do. Not all at once of course! My days doing long distance routes ended in 1981 when a friend, Johnny McFadzean, and I walked the West Highland Way! No, the Annandale Way will be tackled in small stretches. Today, I joined the route near St Ann's.

The walk was through an area of private forestry, called Hazelbank Plantation. It was really very pleasant.

Easy walking.

Looking east towards Williamson Farm and over to the hills on the east side of Annandale, behind Skip Cottage.

Thrill of the day was encountering a red squirrel at close quarters. It saw me before I saw it, and scampered away before I could get the camera out. It was in the larch in the centre of the pic, which still had lots of cones. I wonder how the red squirrel population in Annandale enjoyed the cold winter this year? The place to find all about red squirrels in southern Scotland is here.

And I always thought this sign meant, 'No entry with dirty hands'!

A tree at the edge of the plantation caught my eye.

This old beech has suffered damage during the winter and is now in need of a good tree surgeon!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Training to Perth

I was walking from Glasgow Central Station to Queen Street Station this morning, immersed in my own thoughts, when I nearly bumped into a photographer with his camera in West George Street. Only then I looked up (you're supposed to look up ALL the time in Glasgow to see the architecture), and realised what he was admiring!

Anyway, I was quite taken with these large pictures on a wall on platform 1 at Perth Station. They date from 1995/96, part of a Perth Schools Public Art Project. The murals depict scenes at Perth Station over the years. They were produced by pupils from Perth Academy, Perth High School, Perth Grammar School and St Columba's High School as part of a project jointly supported by the schools through the local Education Department, and Scotrail.

I thought them all rather splendid, but my favourite is this one of LMS 6231 Duchess of Atholl. One of the LMS Coronation Class (or 'Big Lizzies'), it was scrapped in the early 1960s.

My transport back to Glasgow was this 170 class DMU. Not so exciting perhaps, but fast, comfortable and punctual.

Pics © Skip Cottage

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The approach of spring

March 4, 2010, Annandale. My favourite tree on a short after-lunch walk.

The first crocuses I've seen locally, here - not in a garden - but beside a hedgerow, and surrounded by snowdrops!

No sign yet of much colour at Skip, but the daffodils are beginning to push up. Spring cannot be far away!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Forest of Ae

Monday dawned with a perfect blue sky, and no wind. Just perfect for a walk, to rid the body of two weeks of Winter Olympics watching on television!

The question is always where to go. This is where Geograph Great Britain and Ireland can help. Where's the nearest square to Skip that no-one has yet photographed? I had had my eye on one for a while, in the Forest of Ae. That's the great thing about the website. For someone like me who always needs an aim, rather than just a wander with the camera, it provides just an incentive to get out there.

My walk started at the ruins of the Garvald Church, just off the A701, the Dumfries-Moffat road.

The old graveyard can be an eerie place, depending on just when you visit. Some graves go back to the eighteenth century. On Monday though, there were some sights which just lifted the spirits!

What a lovely day for a walk!

Looking towards Minnygap Height, over an area recently felled and replanted. The Forest of Ae is one of Scotland's largest, the first trees being planted in the 1920s. It is well known these days as one of the 7Stanes mountain biking venues (see here), although this side of the forest is less well trodden.

This was my goal, the ruins of Donkens Cottage, in the heart of the Forest of Ae. Not much left as you can see. It will be interesting to see if I can find out any more about Donkens, such as who lived there and when it was abandoned. More photos are here.

This is on the walk out. The white dot, barely visible in the distant centre, is E.ON's Biomass Power Station at Steven's Croft, Lockerbie, which burns lots of trees.

I don't know what to make of this picnic table for dwarves which I encountered just off one of the forestry roads!

Despite the snow, it's been fairly dry this past month. Not a lot was running down the Black Linn on Monday.

This whole area will be covered by wind turbines soon. Planning permission has been granted for Scottish Power's 71-turbine Harestane's windfarm within the Forest of Ae. Press reports did indicate that the first turbine would be going up this spring. But there is little sign of this as yet.

Photos © Skip Cottage