Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Touch of Yellow

How nice it is to have a run of dry days. No matter that it's cold, the blue skies fair lift the spirits. So, no excuses. The sign went on the door, and I made a start to give the garden its spring clean.

Much of the work involves clearing away last year's dead foliage, gathering up all the beech leaves and putting them on the pile to rot down into leaf mould, and getting on top of perennial weeds. Easily said, but if you have a large garden like Skip there's always plenty to do. Little and often is my mantra these days.

The Betula utilis var. 'Jacquemontii'  (or Himalayan White Birch) was planned to be the focal point of the bottom of the garden when I bought it from The Tree Shop on Loch Fyne some ten years ago.

It's grown well, is a beautiful thing, and is fulfilling its purpose. And, according to Wikipedia (here), the bark of the Himalayan birch was used centuries ago in India as paper for writing lengthy scriptures and texts in Sanskrit and other scripts, particularly in Kashmir.

The snowdrops are everywhere, but I am very fond of crocuses, and planted some of these yellow ones last autumn. It made me smile to see this splash of yellow yesterday!

I don't think that the photo does justice to the brightness of the foliage of this Erica.

I made a start to clearing the leaves out the pond. No sign of any frogspawn yet.

The winter rains and frosts had brought down a little of this retaining wall - one of the first I built, so perhaps not a surprise!

My efforts will not win any prizes, but that's it rebuilt. The huge tree heath behind started life at Skip in the smallest of pots!

And if this looks like a hand, clutching at the snowdrops, you are right. I found the gardening gloves that I lost last autumn!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Steam, steam and more steam

Seventh heaven! I had been to the East Lancashire Railway before, see here, but I made a return trip on Saturday for the first day of their Steam Weekend and Transport Collectors' Fair. What an interesting and exciting day!

Early morning at Bury's Bolton Street station. Making lots of smoke and steam is 80080, a BR Standard Class 4 2-6-4 tank, dating from the 1950s. I remember locos like this well as they served many of the suburban lines around Glasgow when I was growing up. 

Black 5 (ie LMS Stanier Class 5 4-6-0) 45407 'The Lancashire Fusilier' was built by Armstrong Whitworth in 1937. LNER Class K1 2-6-0 62005 'Lord of the Isles' was built by the North British Locomotive Company in Glasgow in 1949, and is the only one of seventy to survive in preservation. A visitor to the ELR from the North York Moors Railway. Four years ago 62005 featured in my very own 'Great Train Chase', see here. This time there was plenty opportunity to study this lovely locomotive in detail ...

... and indeed to ride behind her. Here the locomotive is running round at Heywood, one end of the ELR line. 

Here's a better photo of 45407.

There were lots of stalls on the platforms and over in the nearby Bury Transport Museum. There was a lively atmosphere - despite the cold weather. Lots of enthusiasts riding the trains and taking photographs, and friendly volunteers.

This old LNWR Class G2 is a fascinating 0-8-0 steam locomotive. Sixty of these were built at Crewe in 1921–1922. This one (49395) is the only one of the class to have survived into preservation.

LNER Class K4 61994 'The Great Marquess' with admirers at Bury. It was built in Doncaster in 1938.

Just six of the K4 class were built to work the West Highland Line in Scotland. 61994 is the only survivor.

An arrival at Rawtenstall, the northern end of the ELR line! 80080 is on the front, and there's another engine as a banker.

It's a Jinty! LMS Fowler 3F 0-6-0T. Some 422 were built between 1924 and 1930, and nine survive in preservation. This is ELR's own 47324, running as 47584.

This was another visitor to the ELR yesterday - GNR Class N2, an 0-6-2T side tank locomotive designed by Nigel Gresley. More than 100 were built, and one, No. 4744 which carried the BR number 69523, survives to preservation on the Great Central Railway. It was built at the North British Locomotive Works in Glasgow in 1920. Here it is running round at Rawtenstall.

Photos © Skip Cottage.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

February Sunshine

It's great to see all the snowdrops making their appearance at this time of year.

And how wonderful a day to be out and about in Wamphray!

I was surprised and delighted to see these crocuses smiling beside a hedgerow!

It's hard to forget just how wet the last year has been, and it will take a lot more days like today before farmers have dry field entries.

This is taken looking north from the bridge over the Wamphray Water, along the line of the Roman road which leads out of the village.

Here's the river from the bridge, rushing down from Wamphray Glen, and soon to join up with the River Annan.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Signs of Spring

I had a little walk on Sunday past, up through Auchenroddan plantation, and it was good to see some signs of Spring in these snowdrops.

I found myself on top of Newbigging Hill, where there is an old trig point. Did you know you can 'collect' trig points in the sport of 'trigpointing', see here?

The photo is looking north. It was overcast, but quite mild. Not really a day for landscape photography.

However, for a few minutes the sun did try to come out. This is looking towards the east side of Broomhillbank Hill. A special spot. I've been here before, investigating the site of the Dinwoodie Graveyard, see here. The picture belies just how wet the ground is!

Tuesday morning, outside Skip. Did I say something about Spring?

Photos © Skip Cottage

Saturday, February 02, 2013

First Steam of the Year

Here we are again at Carlisle's Citadel Station on the second day of February, 2013. The Railway Touring Company has run the Winter Cumbrian Mountain Express from London to Carlisle, via Shap, steam hauled from Carnforth.

It's not usual to see a policeman on the platform for the train's arrival. I wonder if he's a steam fan, or if he was really 'crowd control'! Actually, there's always lots of train enthusiasts to meet an excursion like this, and of course all the passengers want to see the locomotive which has been pulling them. They had enjoyed a splendid scenic journey, given the good weather today.

Leaving the coaches parked on Platform 3 for a couple of hours whilst the visitors contribute to Carlisle's economy, 60009 Union of South Africa, and its support coach, runs round using the middle line, and sets off to turn about using the Upperby loop.

Thirty-five Gresley A4 Pacific steam locomotives were built. Union of South Africa was built in Doncaster in 1937. You can read all its history here.

Some of the passengers travelled in style. This is 'Coach of the Day'!

It's difficult to explain my fascination for steam locomotives. Yes, there's a lot of nostalgia going on. But here's the loco coupled up and waiting to head off on the return leg, via the Settle line. It's panting away like a live animal!

The locomotive crew pose for a snap!

This crest is on one side of the locomotive, below the number. It is that of the Union of South Africa, which was established in 1910 and ceased in 1961 when the country became a republic, see here. The Latin motto translates as 'From Unity, Strength'!

"All aboard!"

You can hear the distinctive Crosby chime whistle in this video here.

It was magical to experience the sights, sounds and smell as the train headed south.

It will be quite something when all six surviving A4s are together later this year, see here.

Photos © Skip Cottage