Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Tornado at Severn Valley

The heritage railway at Kidderminster, the Severn Valley Railway, had been on my 'wish list' for a while. I picked the day of my visit to coincide with the appearance there of two rather special locomotives.

No 46100, Royal Scot, will soon be seen on the main line, see here. It was on the Severn Valley Line as part of its ongoing test programme. Here it is, running round at Bridgnorth. All about the Royal Scot class of locomotives here.

Royal Scot heads back to Kidderminster.

'Catch Me Who Can' is a replica of a locomotive built at Bridgnorth in 1808, see here.

There was time for me to look around Bridgnorth town, and have some lunch, before returning to the station, to await the star attraction of the day, for me anyway, Tornado.

Here it comes! All about Tornado here.

Tornado runs around at Bridgnorth.

The weather changed for the better during the run back to Kidderminster. I can say now that I've ridden behind Tornado, although at a sedate pace along the 16 miles. The railway has a great collection of carriages (more than 60, see here). This is an ex-LMS Open 3rd, dating from 1945.

Lots to watch at Kidderminster. No. D3201 is an 0-6-0 English Electric, ex-British Railways, built in Derby in 1954.

Built in 1918 at Swindon, GWR 2-8-0 No 2857, see here, was on 'footplate experience' duties on the day of my visit.

Small, but perfectly formed!

The sun came out, and a steam fix was taken!


You just have to imagine the sound, and the smells!

As Tornado headed off into the evening sunset, it was time for me to head back to my hotel, mission accomplished. I look forward to a return visit to the railway, perhaps when it is a little quieter, to see other locomotives in action, and I can explore the intermediary stations, the museum, and The Engine House.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Black Country Living Museum

It was, of course, the prospect of seeing an old tram in action that drew me towards the Black Country Living Museum, near Dudley.

I shared my ride with a party from a local school. All seemed to be enjoying their day, as was their teacher!

No 34 is a Wolverhampton District single decker tram, built in 1919. Here it is, making rapid progress up the hill.

No 49, an open topped tram from 1909, was in the shed. More info here.

Other transport was on offer for getting around the large site. The twenty six acres are certainly worth exploring. It is quite amazing that there used to be nothing here. The museum's story is here. Everything has been recreated, or brought from elsewhere and rebuilt. Staff in period costume are on hand to chat to. It is educational for the young visitors, but us oldies are not ignored.

On the museum's website it says, "If you are old enough, you may just be looking for nostalgia and that is fine. But equally, we believe that history shouldn’t be seen as a safe haven in a fast changing and challenging world, but a catalyst for thinking and reflection about our own lives."

But, for me, visiting a place like this is indeed much about nostalgia. Now, back when I was a wee boy in the 1950s, everyone skipped! Perhaps this pic should become the 'Skip Cottage' header!

Time for a little reflection in the reconstructed Methodist chapel.

The worry is that much of what was on show in this shop can still be found in my wardrobe!

There is a small car collection too, to browse over. More details here.

The boat dock is a reminder that the canals 200 years ago were quite a different prospect than they appear today.

I ventured 'down the mine' on a guided trip. Quite daunting, I must say. We were put into family groups. I have to say a big thank you to a six year old, called Holly, and her mum, who adopted me for the tour. Actually, I think Holly was braver than I was!

All the above is just a fraction of what is on offer at Dudley. The main website is here.

This ex-Cadbury works engine stands at the entrance to the museum, whose website is here. Well presented, but I wanted to see steam in action ... and that was to be the next adventure on my trip south. Coming soon.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Saturday, October 24, 2015


It had been my intention just to sit and watch the goings on by the canal side. There's a word for this, apparently. A gongoozler is a person who enjoys watching activity on the canals. The headquarters of the Dudley Canal Trust has been a shed at the side of the dock for many years. The Trust website is here.

But it was all happening in Dudley last week, with the opening of the Trust's new multi-million pound visitor centre, the Portal. That's it on the right. The Portal houses a purpose built learning suite and function room, an interactive exhibition, a gift shop, and a licenced restaurant.

Time for a trip.

The canals were constructed to facilitate the extraction of limestone.

I found the experience absolutely fascinating, if somewhat surreal at times. We stopped to watch an educational film. Then there was a sound and light show in a different gallery.

Apparently there are other canals at lower levels, now flooded.

One of a number of tableaux encountered along the way.

I now know exactly what a barge pole is, and will no doubt always remember this when "I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole" jumps to mind.

One of the passengers volunteered to demonstrate 'legging', the way of moving canal boats along narrow tunnels, with less damage than using a barge pole. A brave lass indeed! None of the men on board were tempted to volunteer.

This open space was originally an underground cavern from which limestone had been excavated, before the roof was collapsed.

It so happens that I abhor the practice of taking photos of your food and posting these on social media. But I had to show you my lunch in the new Portal's cafe (make that licensed restaurant), which is appropriately called the Gongoozler, where my cauliflower soup came on a slate. Dudley posh, is it not!

Talking about things I'm not a fan of ....

Here's a 'selfie', if only to elicit the response, "Like the hat!"

Full marks to the Dudley Canal Trust! More on my southern adventures to come soon.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


What a lovely spell of weather we've had for the past month or so! This rainbow seems to be highlighting that the trees are beginning to turn as Wamphray moves into autumn.

I like autumn colours, although this is not at Skip.

I was up early this one morning to see a colourful dawn.

And on one particularly nice day, the garden flowers were still attracting butterflies.

The beech trees surrounding Skip are just beginning to turn. And one tub of leaves has already been put on the pile. Waste not, want not.

Out and about though, some trees seem to be further on than others.

This is the road into Wamphray, from the B7076, with the Red House at the top of the hill.

Red Campion (Silene dioica) still flowering away by the roadside and making me smile.

Himalayan Balsam may look colourful, but it really is a thug. Impatiens glandulifera is a relative of Busy Lizzie, as I've just discovered, see here. It is only an annual, but spreads rapidly. Each plant produces lots of seeds which are dispersed widely. I found this out by accident one day as I was 'attacked' by the plant. The ripe seedpods can shoot their seeds many yards away. I disturbed a clump by the riverside and was peppered by seeds being fired off. One of life's experiences!

The local bus service on the Jocksthorn bridge.

Wamphray hasn't seen any significant rain for a while, and the Annan is well down.

I've never been in this position before! See here what it can be like, from just one year ago.

I wonder what the next four months have in store, weather wise? Firstly though, I plan some trainspotting adventures.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Two minutes, all four riders

Does this give a clue to where I was on Sunday past?

It all started earlier this year, when I was reminiscing with friends about happy days supporting Glasgow Tigers at the White City Stadium in the 1960s.

I discovered that the speedway team was still in existence, and I resolved to make a trip down memory lane to see if the sport had changed from 50 years ago. The track now is at Ashfield, and I found my way to Hawthorn Street on Sunday. I must admit not to having big expectations. As it turned out, it was a splendid day!

Meet Roary, the current Glasgow Tigers mascot.

It is the end of the season, and Sunday's match was the Premier League playoff quarter final second leg. The Tigers had lost the away first leg against Plymouth Devils, and needed to overcome a small two point difference with a win on Sunday, to progress in the competition.

I had forgotten just how fast the riders gate and tussle on the first bend! Standing hair on the back of the neck, after fifty years! The bikes do 0-60 mph in three seconds. Heat 2, sponsored by Ambulance Scotland!

Wheelies seemed to be appropriate when a 5-1 score was recorded.

I was just tickled that Dr Who has a role as the team manager! Fascinating to see what was going on in the pits area.

The visitors had a mascot too, here looking somewhat dejected as the match slipped away from his side.

I had just said to myself that it had been a crash free meeting. But, with the win already in the bag, Tigers' Kauko Nieminen took a nasty looking tumble, high side off his bike, and was immediately surrounded by the first aid team. Remarkably, he was soon on his feet, apparently none the worse for the experience. They make them tough.

The tapes go up.

It didn't take me long to find out who the stars of the 2015 team are. I did appreciate the maximum scored by captain Aaron Summers, and the paid maximum by Richard Lawson.

Back in 1965, I was in the Charlie Monk fan club! Read about his career here.

I was just delighted to be at Ashfield to see the Tigers win, and progress to the semifinals of the Premier League. You can read the match report on the Tigers' website here and here.

Good luck to the team against Somerset later this week.

What a nostalgia trip Sunday was. Many things the same - the great family sport, the noise, the excitement, the smells, the PA - I could almost hear Don Cumming!  

Fifty years ago this programme was bought at an outing to the White City. Perhaps some things have changed in the intervening years, and I don't mean the price of the programme.

Photos © Skip Cottage