5th December picture of the day…

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The pair of us have had a lazy Sunday here at Bigland towers. Well, if walking several miles up hill and down dale counts as ‘lazy’ so maybe I’ll rephrase that. We had a slow start to the day – as neither of us dragged our carcasses out of bed at a silly hour and when we did rise it was to relax with a coffee and a bite to eat before planning anything strenuous. Whilst Dawn sorted out various Christmassy tasks and wished her dad happy birthday (he was 87 today, but if you met him you’d never know – to say he’s ‘wearing well’ is an understatement!) I prepared cinnamon flavored porridge with fruit compote, sultanas, and toasted coconut flakes to set us up for the day.

As the weather had improved we both decided to ditch thoughts of work and get out for a walk. We’ve both been chafing at being confined to the house so much – just for different reasons. Dawn’s been full-on with work as it’s the Community Rail Awards this next week and I’ve been knocked-back by a combination of the ‘lurgi’ and my Covid booster. So today we both thought ‘bugger it’ and headed out to walk up to Norland Moor and visit one of our favourite haunts – the Moorcock Inn.

Getting there from our home involves walking down to the valley bottom before a steep climb up the other side. It’s not for the unfit or faint-hearted although the views make it more than worthwhile – and there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! Here’s what the route looks like – just under 3 miles each way which would be easy-peasy on the flat – but this ain’t flat as this image from Google maps demonstrates and walking back we took the long way home!

For once and despite the fact the weather was ideal for getting pictures I had a day off from the camera to make the day all about the pair of us – so the picture of the day shows one of the things we love about the place. The chance to sit at the bar, enjoy a drink and their fabulous smoked potatoes and home-made mayonnaise whilst chatting to staff, other regulars and watching the antics of some of the dogs that make the place their home too…

Worth walking for…

Now we’re back home and relaxing as the weekend slips away. Tomorrow I leave for London where i’ll be based for a night before heading home in time to repack and head down to Southampton for the Community Rail Awards, then return via London once more to attend a small gathering of railway folk. So, expect a few rolling blogs of very different character over the next few days! I’m looking forward to getting back on the rails to see how the latest Covid developments are affecting travel. Stay with me to find out…

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Thank you!

4th December picture of the day…

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My claims that the latest Covid booster and the ‘Lurgi’ weren’t cramping my style too much turned out to be premature – to say the least – hence my enforced absence from blogging! Yesterday I felt like death warmed up as my body became a playground for viruses and vaccines! There was little I could do other than say ‘Oh, bugger’ and stay in the warm to fester and let nature take its course. Today I’m feeling much better and almost back to my old self apart from the fact my cold has dropped my voice by so many octaves I could get a job doing voice-overs on adverts!

I might be recovering, but the weather isn’t. Today’s been the sort of day where you really wouldn’t mind just putting your feet up at home. We’ve had the lot. Heavy rain, winds, snow – you name it. Despite that, I was determined to get out and get some exercise so I donned my waterproofs and wandered down into Sowerby Bridge to pick up a bit of shopping then work my weary way back up the hill – feeling virtuous but also knackered!

I did venture out once more as Dawn needed some boots taking to the shoesmiths in the hope they could be repaired – and our local Tesco contains a Timpsons. They’re a company I’ve always been happy to support because of their policy on employing ex-offenders in order to help rehabilitate them into society. The chap whom I saw was very helpful but couldn’t do anything to cure the problems with Dee’s boots – so it looks like I’ve an extra Xmas present to add to the list – albeit one from the January sales. Sh*t – I hope Dawn’s not going to read this!

I can’t wait to shake off this cold and get back to feeling my old self as I’ve a brilliant week to look forward to with so many things happening. Tomorrow’s my last day of ‘purdah’ before I’m back on the road, so expect a variety of blogs next week. But, for tonight – I’ll end with the picture of the day – which is another old slide from the album of pictures I’m currently scanning from 1994/95.

Here’s the view from our bungalow one evening when the skies were particularly spectacular. It’s a magical landscape but no more so when the sunset provides such a fantastic backdrop.

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Thank you!

2nd December picture of the day…

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I took a day off from blogging yesterday. Mind you – I took a day off from almost everything yesterday! That’s because I came down with the ‘Lurgi’ and felt universally crap so decided to have a ‘Duvet Day’. It’s not that I came down with anything major – just a heavy cold, but as I have a busy few days ahead of me I decided discretion was the better part of valour so tried to sleep it off whilst being supercharged with Dawn’s home-made hot lemon and ginger drink. The aches I can work around. It’s the snots that get me down. Anyone who’s old enough to remember ‘The Young Ones’ on TV and the episode where Neil got such a heavy cold his flatmates bound him up in a bin-liner will know what I mean!

My other reason for taking time off was that today I was booked in for my Covid booster -and there was no way I was going to miss that!

Dawn’s tincture and a day in bed seemed to work as this morning I felt a lot more human so I rose from my bed and ‘commuted’ to the office in the backroom. I even got dressed before-hand! Having spent a few hours catching up on stuff I’d neglected and having recharged my batteries I wandered into Halifax to get my jab. Our local centre for boosters is Boots in the middle of town. As usual, it was very well organised but they weren’t offering drop-in appointments today as they only had enough vaccines for people who’d booked appointments – much to some people’s dismay. To be honest, I had mixed feelings about this. It was sad to see the having to turn people away but also reassuring that people where coming in off the street to get boosted. I was in and out within 30 minutes – with no side effects. The young lady who ‘jabbed’ me did it in such an easy fashion I never felt a thing, but then I was very relaxed about it anyway, so there was no stress. Having been handed a leaflet about the jabs on the way in I asked why it mentioned we’d get two boosters a month apart. Her reaction? “I’m glad you asked that as it shows you’ve bothered to read the leaflet! It’s an old (unrevised one) and now we only do one jab” But that’s me all over. I always read these things. It’s why I always offer the same advice to anyone who buys any new kit of any sort: R.T.F.M. (Read The Fu*cking Manual!). Jabbed, I decided to have a wander around Halifax before heading home. I felt no ill-effects at all. In fact, my 5G signal was so clear I was picking up instructions from ‘Russia Today’ perfectly…

I’m now back at home, having a quiet night in and catching up on some off the stuff I’ve let slip. Dawn’s out with friends but as a ‘Leper’ I’ve been left behind! This enforced period of Purdah is only temporary as next week life will be back in full swing – with the added knowledge that I’m boosted, cold and Covid free…

Meanwhile, here’s today’s picture which is another from the series of old slides that I’ve been scanning. This particular shot was taken in January 1995. Here’s the view from our rented bungalow in Tirtagangga in Bali, Indonesia, looking down onto the village and the Water Palace, where we’d go swimming most days in the pools of the old Royal Palace that you can see in the picture.

The area’s lush, being surrounded by paddy fields and with fantastic views across the island and down to the coast and across to the island of Nusa Penida off to the left of this picture. You can find many more images of Bali and Indonesia in this gallery on my Zenfolio website.

I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances appreciate all the help that we can get to aid us in bouncing back from lockdowns. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!

30th November picture of the day…

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The snow that blanketed the Pennines these past few days vanished in the same way it arrived – overnight. I opened the bedroom blinds to a very different world this morning. One that was darker – and soggier! A combination of rising temperatures, wind and rain did for the snow overnight, which was great. The only problem was the rain decided to outstay its welcome and hung around pretty much all day, which led me to having another long day indoors. To be fair, I’d no shortage of things to do and it wasn’t like I needed to dash to the shops to find food. We’ve a well-stocked freezer as we batch cook and there’s enough tinned stuff in the cupboards to make an American survivalist jealous, although the lack of tinned meat may cause them issues…

Instead, I resolutely waded my way through enough paperwork, emails and old slides to have another fruitful day and feel that I was getting somewhere. Well, other than out of the house obviously! In the end, that’s exactly what I did do although my timing was crap. Dawn is out with a friend this evening so I decided to stretch my legs by wandering down into Sowerby Bridge when she left as by then I’d had had more than enough ‘screen time’. The only problem was this coincided with the rain stepping up several notches, so it was a ‘moist’ trip to be sure.

It’s not often I’m in Sowerby Bridge on a Tuesday evening (unless I’m returning home) so it felt quite odd. As I’d a couple of supermarkets to visit I was curious to see how the latest regulations on wearing masks would go down as here in West Yorkshire it seems most folk seem to think they’re immune to Covid in the same way they wear shorts in December. I was pleasantly surprised to see there was a marked uptake with mask wearing in both Tesco and Lidl. The only irony was that those who were still eschewing masks were – how shall I put this – not exactly the ones who looked like they were fit enough to put up a good fight if they contracted it. Even if they were, I’d read this piece in the Guardian newspaper earlier which showed how relying on fitness wouldn’t help you anyway. It’s a tragic story of someone who fell for the anti-vaxx myths and it struck a chord with me as (like me) this person grew up in Southport but moved to London.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/aug/04/fit-and-healthy-man-42-from-southport-who-rejected-vaccine-dies-of-covid

The moral of the story? No matter how physically fit you are, you don’t know what your genetic marker weaknesses are – and they can be deadly – it’s not a nice way to go. If Covid can do this to a a sports enthusiast, what can it do to you? In short? Wear a f*cking mask! It’s no big deal you babies!

OK, rant over. I’m now back at home drying out and editing some of the slides I’ve scanned earlier whilst I wait for the missus to to get in so here’s another antidote to the autumn weather. I took this picture shortly before Christmas 1994 from the ferry returning us to the Island of Bali from Lombok as we passed another ferry heading the opposite way. The weather was stunning, the sea flat and you could see right across the Island to Mount Agung, the most sacred mountain on the island and a volcano that can be capricious – to say the least – as extinct it ain’t…

If you want to see many more pictures from Bali and Indonesia, you can find them on my Zenfolio website by following THIS link.

Oh, on another completely different note…

The 2021 Community Rail Awards will be held in Southampton on Thursday 9th December. This year (because of Covid) the event is being broadcast on the internet. It’s free to join us, so if you’d like to come along (virtually) you can sign up here.

Cheers!

I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances appreciate all the help that we can get to aid us in bouncing back from lockdowns. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!

29th November picture of the day…

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‘Tis been a cold start to a new week here in the Pennines. The snow’s stayed around all day as temperatures have never really got above freezing. I’ve not been too concerned as today was always going to be one where I was chained to the office because I had an article to finish writing for a magazine – and supply all the pictures, which kept me occupied until after early afternoon checking quotes and captions. I didn’t even manage to get out for my usual daily tour of the town in order to get some exercise. I figured I’d make up for that later in the week when conditions underfoot aren’t so treacherous. Besides, I’ve got a jaunt to London in the pipeline and needed to clear the decks of paperwork first. So, I can’t complain, I’ve had a productive, if claustrophobic day – and stayed warm, which has been a bonus!

Having finished my programme of work and with the world outside looking decidedly monotone I decided to add a splash of colour to my day by scanning a small batch of old slides from a place that’s anything but black and white: The island of Bali, which has supplied the picture of the day. This was taken in Ubud, the town widely regarded as the cultural capital of the island in December 1994.

Here’s a young woman performing the Legong dance. The dance is considered one of the island’s most revered classical pieces, known for its physically demanding postures and fast-paced movements which require a significant level of flexibility among its generally young female performers. As you can see, the costumes are incredibly rich in style and colour- an ideal subject for photography, even if it was a technical challenge with the slow-speed slide film I was using in those days!

I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances appreciate all the help that we can get to aid us in bouncing back from lockdowns. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!

28th November picture(s) of the day…

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Winter’s arrived with a vengeance here in the Pennines although we’ve been very lucky where we live as our little patch of the valley side’s normally sheltered from the brunt of the weather – and this time was no exception. Storm Arwen hit on Friday evening but we’d no idea just how bad it was as we were protected from the height of the winds. Oh, we knew it was gusty but it was only when we woke up on Saturday morning and saw that the high ground around the valley was covered in a blanket of snow we started to realise what had really occurred. Then we started seeing comments from friends on social media and the news wires that made us appreciate just how fortunate we’d been. But, it was a close run thing. Norland, on the opposite side of the valley had the electricity knocked out with places not seeing it restored until this afternoon (Sunday). There but for the grace of God…

This morning the snow returned and stayed with us nearly all of the day, giving us several fresh dustings of varying severities, all of which clung as temperatures were so low and there was hardly a breath of wind. The trees looked magical and the valley below eerie as tendrils of cloud toyed with with the town, grasping at sections whilst leaving other areas unmolested. It was so attractive that the pair of us wrapped up warm and went for a walk through our local woods, along the promenade where we could admire the vista, then circumnavigated an almost deserted Savile Park before returning home to the warm, feeling like we’d earned our evening in together where we relaxed in front of the TV, but not until I’d rustled up a Chicken Vindail curry which added some spice to keep out the cold on a day when you really did need it.

Here’s a few shots from our perambulations…

The view from our bedroom window – looking down over Sowerby Bridge with Sowerby beyond partially hidden by low clouds which slowly drifted through the valley.
Looking across to Norland, which was still suffering from a power cut caused by the storm. It looks beautiful – as long as you don’t rely on electricity for heating! The top of the valley kept disappearing as low cloud kept overwhelming it. This is one of our regular walks because there’s the wonderful Moorcock Inn as a refuge at the end of the trek.
The edge of Norland and Sowerby Bridge just at the edge of the picture on the right hand side. The row of trees in the valley bottom disguise the railway between Halifax and Manchester.
Just a few minutes walk from the house our road has this avenue of trees which look superb in this weather.
Scarr Woods looked stunning after the latest snowfall without a breath of wind to blow the dust off the branches.

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If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances appreciate all the help that we can get to aid us in bouncing back from lockdowns. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!

HS2. Work continues…

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Whilst all the recent news about HS2 has been about the Eastern leg to Leeds being mothballed it would be easy to forget that the rest of the new railway is still being built – especially Phase 1 from London to Birmingham and beyond (which contains the most impressive structures on the line) – and Phase 2a to Crewe, although that’s still in the early stages of utilities diversions and site clearances as part of the preparatory works, before full construction begins next year.

It’s often difficult to get a sense of the progress being made on the project as much of the route is in the countryside and not always visible, unless you happen to stumble across it. It’s why drone footage such as this latest one by Michael Warner is so useful.

You can really see the enormous progress being made building the route of HS2 in open country, as well as some of the ecological mitigation that’s being put in place in many locations. It’s all the stuff the opponents of HS2 deliberately ignore. Of course, much of the route looks like an open scar at the moment due to the sheer amount of landscaping work that’s being done as part of the project. HS1 looked very similar, but you’d be hard put to identify any of the sites that were used in its construction. HS2 is very much a work in the early stages of progress with the earthworks, which is why it looks this way. Once those earthworks are complete and bridges and tunnels are in place and the land’s been landscaped, this scene will look very different. It’s another reason why drone footage like this is valuable, we’ll be able to look back at in future years and see the changes as the route’s developed from a few trail bores and test pits to a completed railway.

Another useful ‘go-to’ for information on ecological work is a farmer, Penny McGregor (@Penmcgregor on Twitter). Penny used to be anti HS2 and joined the protests against it but has come to realise that campaign was based on falsehoods. Now Penny (who’s become a critical and unbiased supporter of HS2) often tweets pictures showing how the ecological planting is becoming established, and indeed even thriving. This is the antithesis of HS2 antis who always ignore these inconvenient facts and try to pretend this stuff’s been a disaster. Here’s two of Penny’s most recent tweets.

I’m hoping to spend more time looking at the work on the ecological mitigation (as well as the construction sites) myself shortly, but as you can imagine, there’s a heck of a lot of ground to cover. In the meantime, why not follow Penny on Twitter as she’s much closer to the work than I am.

One thing conspicuous by it’s absence in this drone footage (or anything else) is evidence of any protesters or genuine attempts to stop HS2. That’s because the anti HS2 campaign’s dead in the water. The eviction of the last protest camp on Phase 1 at Wendover (and the lack of publicity that received) has effectively killed it off. Add in the advent of winter and the fact there was only ever a few dozen hardcore protesters pretending they could close down over 300 active worksites spread over a huge geographical area and you can see why their claims always were laughable.

Now, the only place left where there’s any regular protests are at Swynnerton in Staffordshire on the Phase 2a route to Crewe close to the ‘Bluebell’ camp as the protesters call it. It’s the only refuge the protesters have left (not that it’ll last long). Here a continually revolving door of (normally) less than a dozen people are pretending they can stop Hs2 by trying (and failing) to block a single site access gate!

You have to laugh! ‘New’ camps? There aren’t any. Not a one, ‘bluebell’ is all that’s left and that was established ages ago. “Grows ever stronger”? Oh, my aching sides! In this picture you have a rag-bag of people who’ve been evicted from elsewhere, or are Phase 1 Nimbys, like the woman on the far left of the lower picture, the hilarious self-publicist Caroline Thompson-Smith of…Calvert, In Buckinghamshire, who pitched up in Staffs for a few hours one day. Caroline is (in)famous for this nonsense about ‘Black Alder’ trees, one of a long series of things she just can’t help making up. Interestingly, several of the old faces have never put in an appearance at Swynnerton as it’s too far from London for them to get to. Mind you, I expect many of the old bangers they drive would never make it there and back anyway!

Quite how failing to block even a single gate on a single site is going to stop Hs2 is a mystery. This seems more like a desperate effort to appear relevant in order to get more gullible people to donate (hence the ‘gofundme’ link included in the post). Sadly for the protesters, the mugs money is running out and they’re increasingly reliant on mysterious large (three figure) donations from an anonymous source. Still, you know what they say about fools and their money. No amount of cash is going to bring the anti HS2 campaign back from the dead!

Now the weather’s turning wintery I don’t expect to see many more of these pointless stunts, and in the New Year this camp will be living on borrowed time as an eviction is inevitable – and unstoppable. 2022 is going to be a huge year for HS2 as construction will be in full swing with several Tunnel-Boring Machines (TBMs) working on different sites, the Colne Valley viaduct taking shape and also major works at Euston, Birmingham Curzon St and Old Oak Common. I’m looking forward to having lots to write about!

I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances appreciate all the help that we can get to aid us in bouncing back from lockdowns. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!

26th November picture of the day…

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There’s no magnum opus when it comes to blogs from me today. After the past few days travels and the fact the weather’s very much in winter mode I’ve been happy to stay at home! There’s been plenty for me to do anyway what with getting pictures off to clients, wading through paperwork and scanning/editing old slides. Besides, I’m going to be doing a lot of travelling soon enough so days like this should be savored.

That said, it’s been an odd one. The world seems spooked by the idea of a new Covid variant from Southern Africa. So much so that the world’s financial markets have had an attack of the vapours and wiped billions off their values. Just what you want before Xmas! Meanwhile, the UK weather’s preparing to take a very definite turn for the worse, which (if it happens) could make my forthcoming travels ‘interesting’ to say the least. Never mind, as the old saying goes “shit happens” – and we’ve had plenty of that over the past 2 years…

So, this weekend is very much going to be home-based. But that’s no bad thing as I’ve more than enough to keep me occupied – and I’ve an article to compose for a magazine by Monday, so let the weather do its worst..

Which rather neatly brings me on to the picture of the day which is from somewhere where the weather was doing very much the opposite! Here’s another old slide from the island of Gili Trawangan in Indonesia which was taken in December 1994. This was the view from the verandah of our balcony at dawn as the sun rose over the island of Lombok. It was certainly worth getting up for!

I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances appreciate all the help that we can get to aid us in bouncing back from lockdowns. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!

Have sunshine, will travel…

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I hadn’t intended going anywhere today, exactly the opposite. I’d a shedload of pictures to sort out after my trip to the North-East the other day plus paperwork and all manner of gubbins. But I was up bright and early so managed to crack on with a lot of stuff, then realised that – actually – we’d been gifted a stunning day weather-wise. I didn’t want to venture too far, but the North’s railways are very much in the news at the moment due to the weapons-grade dishonesty from the Prime Minister and Grant Shapps (the Transport Minister, but don’t feel embarrassed if you’ve never heard of him before, he’s a classic Johnson appointee in that respect). So, I decided to head out to the railway between Leeds and York which is being electrified. Well, sort of – ish.

At the moment the wires are extending West from Colton Junction on the East Coast Main Line (ECML) along the route to Leeds but they peter out just before they get to the junctions East of Church Fenton. For those in the know, Church Fenton was *meant* to be where HS2’s Eastern leg joined the existing network. Well, before Johnson mothballed it anyway. Here’s the view from the footbridge at the station looking East. No, that’s not a railway bridge in the distance. That’s where the overhead masts end…

Although the day was sunny it was also bloody cold – and the existing train service isn’t exactly what you’s call ‘metro style’ either. Having arrived at Church Fenton I hung around long enough to get some useful shots and the early signs of hypothermia, then decided to move on to Ulleskelf, slightly further East. The only thing was – it was quicker to walk the two miles between them than it was to wait for the next train! OK, maybe I’m a glutton for punishment (and exercise) but the walk seemed like a good idea. Besides, this part of Yorkshire’s flat – which is why it’s so cold! Little old me was one of the few things in the way of the wind.

To be fair, there’s not a lot of reasons to hang around in this part of the world anyway. The old station building at Church Fenton’s been converted into an Indian restaurant but it’s not open until later. Neither’s the pub, but there is a very good community run shop only a few minutes walk away. It’s a friendly little place that stocks an amazing range of stuff – including some bottled real ales from local brewers.

The walk to Ulleskelf was mostly on farm tracks apart from the last mile, so it wasn’t taxing. Sadly, my timing wasn’t particularly good as I still had far more time to hang around than I’d needed to get the shots I’d planned – and the nearby pub only opened 3 minutes after my train was due to depart, so I spent a fair bit of time wondering what the hell I was doing this for. Talk about suffering for one’s art! Still, I did get the pictures I wanted – and more – as the light played ball for once.

Here’s a sample.

Remember, this line was meant to have been electrified years ago, but it was cancelled by a Tory Transport Minister. Now it’s being done piecemeal with no real plan, but this is the line Boris Johnson’s spinning as a ‘quicker’ upgrade than HS2. The fact HS2 would have acted as a bypass here and would have meant places like Ulleskelf (where this picture’s taken) could have had a far better service than the piss-poor one it has now is the last thing he’s bothered about.

I’m of the opinion George Osborne, the Tory Chancellor who championed the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ actually meant it. With Boris Johnson, what we’re left with is a (Peppa) Pig’s arse…

I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances appreciate all the help that we can get to aid us in bouncing back from lockdowns. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!

Rolling blog. Tyneside trundle…

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05:00.

It’s an unconscionably early time to be up nowadays as I’m out of practice as this – especially in the winter months, but I’m now up and preparing to head to Newcastle for a job. I’m actually rather looking forward to it as I’ll be visiting a rail system I really don’t get chance to very often – the Tyne and Wear Metro, which is about to undergo a vast change as the trainfleet is being replaced for the first time since the system opened in 1980.

Stay with me through the day to see how my travels unravel, and what I get to see…

06:20.

My stroll to the station was rather enjoyable today. I love this time of day before the town wakes up. The weather was ideal too. Cold but not freezing, still but not damp. My breath was hardly noticeable and the pavements remained dry which is just as well. Yorkshire stone may look decorative but it can become an ice rink in winter! The station was starting to spring to life with a steady flow of foot passengers and taxis arriving to drop people off.

Cobbles may be a pain in the arse underfoot, but they do make for good reflections at night…

I’m now ensconced on Northern’s 06:17 from Halifax to Hull which is a 4-car Class 150/158 lash-up. Needless to say, I’ve plumped for the rear 158 so that I can grab a table and set up the mobile office. OK, there’s no power-points, but set 849 does have USB sockets so at least my phone’s getting a boost.

06:45.

Despite the earliness of the hour and after leaving New Pudsey, this train’s filling up nicely as early morning commuters begin their journey into the city. Several more joined us at Bramley (the last stop before Leeds) so by the time we arrived in the city we’d quite respectable loadings.

07:25.

I’m now heading North on another service entirely. LNER’s 07:08 from Leeds to Aberdeen. To be honest, before I’d booked this I didn’t even know LNER ran such a train. I normally associate Aberdeen services with my old home town – London.

The 07:08 runs light from Doncaster Carr depot to Leeds before starting in passenger service. Today it’s a 9-car Azuma (106 for the number-crunchers). There’s no shortage of space at this point of the journey although there’s plenty of reservations in the system for further North. I’ve found a vacant table bay and set up for the journey to Newcastle.

07:35.

We’ve just left York after a less than stellar performance en-route. Working on diesel power as the line’s yet to see electrification completed we arrived in Yorkshire’s capital three minutes late, not that there were many passengers around to be upset. This train’s still quiet. We’re now ‘under the wires’ and working on electric so I’ll be interested to see if we make up any of that time. Either way, I’ve got a comfortable seat from which to watch the sunrise!

08:05.

Having called at Darlington where dozens of people were awaiting our arrival we’re now heading North once more. The morning’s beautiful. The sunrise over a misty Vale of York was more than enough to tear me away from the laptop to take time and stare. Unsurprisingly, the performance of the Azuma’s (plus a less than tightly-timed diagram) meant my train soon made up the deficit it accrued from Leeds.

12:30.

Pardon the gap but I’ve been busy working. Today’s job was to visit the Nexus depot at Gosforth to see a mock-up of the cab of the bew trains and enjoy a guided tour of the depot site. The depot was built by the LNER in 1920 but is about to be demolished as the site’s being rebuilt to cope with the new trains from Stadler, the first of which will be arriving this time next year.

15:30.

As is often the way in this game, the weather’s been playing silly buggers! Whilst we were at the depot we had blue skies and low sunshine – exactly the conditions I didn’t want! As soon as I left the clouds rolled in and we lost at least four stops of light. I’d decided to explore the metro’s Airport branch to scout out some photographic locations. I managed a few shots but the dark clouds that had taken over made conditions challenging. In the end, having got a few new pictures I gave up and headed tack into toon – sorry, town! Conditions weren’t any better so I cut my losses and called it a day. I’m now making my way home whilst the weather closes in more. As I approached Durham there was a series of impressive rain showers sweeping across from the coast. I was half-expecting snow now the mercury’s dropped as much as it has but the further South I go the more rain I hit.

I’m currently aboard a TPE service from Newcastle to Liverpool which is almost pre-Covid busy but at least it’s warm and cosy. I didn’t realise how cold conditions had got until I took my laptop out of my camera bag once aboard and found it was like a block of ice!

16:20.

I’ve swapped services once more as I wanted to take a short break in York to pick up a couple of books from WH Smiths on the station. As the station’s such a popular place with the railway enthusiast fraternity they stock the very useful ‘Trackmaps’, allowing me to update a couple that are well past their useful life as there’ve been so many changes in the past few years. Their ‘buy one, get the other half price’ offer was a welcome bonus! The station feels very festive right now as an enormous Xmas tree has appeared outside the stationers – and well away from the overheads! I didn’t hang around as I picked up a Northern service to Leeds to continue my journey. Worked by a 3-car 195 the 16:08’s a semi-fast service and busy, but that’s nothing unusual now that passenger numbers are really bouncing back. Earlier today Nexus informed us that their Tyne and Wear trains are already back to 80% of pre-Covid levels.

21:00.

I’m back home in the warn and slowly processing today’s pictures. You’ll be able to read about my visit to Gosforth depot and the work that’s going on there in a future edition of RAIL magazine. Meanwhile, here’s a couple of T&W metro pictures to whet your appetite.

With the depot rebuilding work going on in the background, a pair of units perform a shunt maneuvere to move between stabling roads.
Inside the 1920s depot building that was built to servixe the original Tyneside electric fleet that was withdrawn in the 1960s and replaced by diesel multiple units until the lines were converted to the Tyne and Wear metro in the late 1970s. This 13 road building will disappear as it’s no longer needed for the forthcoming Stadler trains. Instead, the site will be occupied by new stabling sidings and a much smaller, 4 road shed. The wheel lathe (seen on the right) will be replaced by a brand new Hegenscheidt machine in its own single road building.
A pair of the original units climb the bank between Bank Foot and Callerton Parkway stations heading for the Airport. Whilst the incline is exaggerated by my telephoto lens, it doesn’t actually look that different to the naked eye!

So (for now) it’s goodnight from me. Expect more pictures to appear on my Zenfolio website tomorrow. I’m off for a good sleep!

I’ve a favour to ask…
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