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Rolling blog: I love to go a wandering…

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It’s bank holiday Monday and the weather’s absolutely stonking! After spending a morning pottering around at home, picture-editing and sorting out some chores Dawn and I are preparing to walk through the Calder Valley to a favourite old haunt, the Robin Hood pub in Cragg Vale, which is a great place for a spot of lunch after a few hours walking. No doubt we’ll have time to post a few pictures and comments later, so watch this space.

15:31.

We’ve stopped for a break at the Shoulder of Mutton in Mytholmroyd after walking down the hill to Sowerby Bridge, crossed the Calder, then slogged uphill to Sowerby on a road I call ‘Lost dreams Rd’ because it’s always littered with failed lottery scratch cards! In the distance you can see our starting point under the Wainhouse Tower.

The view the other way (looking along the valley towards Mytholmroyd) isn’t bad either!

23:18

It’s the end of the day and it’s been a very active one. We made it to the Robin Hood for an excellent Sunday lunch (OK, it’s bank holiday Monday, but never mind) of succulent lamb and Yorkshire puddings, accompanied by a huge amount of vegetables (not in the picture).

For £10, it can’t be beaten. Whilst we were eating a drama was unfolding which made it feel like we were actually in an episode of ‘Emmerdale Farm’, only this wasn’t fiction. Poor Roger (the landlord) and his wife had suffered a serious arson attack and trashing of vehicles on his farm, apparently carried out by some young teenage scrotes who’re causing trouble in the area. The police had arrived to gather information whilst a number of concerned locals were popping in to see if they were alright or offer help. Meanwhile, in the bar, other locals were complaining about the outrageous prices in a nearby pub (which shall remain nameless) and a less than placid relationship between a local couple (who will also remain nameless).

We ended up having a couple of drinks in a very quiet Sowerby Bridge after walking back along the Rochdale canal. I got the impression the good weather had meant that many people had stayed at home with a barbecue and a few beers. Still, we’d had a good days exercise, as the screen for my Fitbit shows.

fitbit

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Rolling blog: the Big 6 on tour…

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10:20Today a group of friends from the Big 6 pub in Halifax, under the leadership of Tony Allan (of Phoenix Brewery fame) are having a little outing by train, over the Pennines to Rochdale to partake in the Easter ale trail, a new take on the traditional beer festival. It’s another fantastic Spring day here in the Pennines, so the weather’s ideal. Watch out for updates on our (probably unsteady) progress throughout the day!Before we go, Dawn’s been busy in the kitchen as we’re hosting her parents for dinner tomorrow. Last night she prepared a special marinade for this leg of lamb, which will now steep until tomorrow.12:09The group rendezvous at Halifax railway station.12:57.The group outside the first pub of the day – The Flying Horse hotel which has a great view of the Town Hall.Here’s the token system.15:10We’re on our third pub and it’s a cracker! It’s The Baum in Toad Lane, a conservation area. The pub is adjacent to the shop where, in 1844, the Rochdale Pioneers opened their first shop and started the co-operative movement back in 1844.This has been our lunch stop and I couldn’t resist ordering a traditional Lancashire delicacy: rag pudding with mushy peas and chips!We’ve now stepped through a door into a 5th dimension where it feels like we’re in London, or Paris, not Rochdale – and Otto’s found the piano..18:10.We’re now on what’s probably our last pub, which is opposite the Town Hall. The Old Post Office.

Good Friday? It’s been great so far!

I’m currently enjoying one of those incredibly rare things, an Easter holiday with good weather! We’ve got wall to wall sunshine here in the Calder Valley, which makes it a perfect time to be at home, catching up on various bits as well as having some time to relax. Even the Brexit madness has paled a bit.

I spent the morning catching up on some picture editing, sorting out shots from a friend’s 50th birthday.

Now we’ve headed out for a stroll in the sun along the canal into Sowerby Bridge. Master’s traditionally the start of the boating season and the local hire company, Shore cruises is busy showing new customers the ropes…

HS2: the story the BBC managed to miss.

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This morning the BBC has reported that Hs2 Ltd have spent £600m buying up properties on the route of the new railway. As is usual with a lot of BBC reporting nowadays, their superficial reporting only tells half the story. Here’s a link to the piece by the BBC’s Dan Rhodes, which has the headline “More than 900 properties worth nearly £600m have been bought by the company responsible for delivering High Speed Rail 2 (HS2), figures show.”

The piece contains all the usual predictable stuff, an interview with someone who claims “we was robbed” because their home was allegedly undervalued and a few comments from those opposed to Hs2 to satisfy the BBC’s unhealthy obsession with ‘balance’. But Rhodes fails to mention several things. One is that this process has been going on since 2011 (although that’s obvious from the chart he uses) and in that time Hs2 has actually made tens of millions for the taxpayer by renting out the properties it’s bought – as the Times reported way back in December 2016.

FT

Imagine what that figure must be now, several years on!

Another thing that Rhodes fails to mention is that many of the homes purchased aren’t scheduled for demolition, they will be resold at a later date – at a profit, to people who really aren’t bothered about living near a railway, just like all those people who buy new homes on old railway goods yards right next to railway stations!

The other thing that has escaped Rhodes attention is there’s another story here. That of a dying anti Hs2 campaign. Let’s look at the chart.

homes bought

The anti Hs2 campaign has always been strongest in the Chilterns and one or two other locations on the phase 1 route. Essentially, it’s always been a Nimby based protest (with a few political types trying to exploit the issue for their own ends). But those Nimbys have been bought out in their hundreds – and not just on phase 1. By buying them out, Hs2 has poured weedkiller on the grassroots of the campaign which is running out of people and money. As a consequence, many local Stophs2 ‘action’ groups have shut up shop. This is reflected on their social media presence as people stop Tweeting or posting on Facebook as Hs2’s no longer their concern. As each month passes, more are bought out and move on and the lifeblood of the campaign drains away, never to return…

Forget the bluster of the few remaining activists who claim opposition to Hs2 is ‘growing’, the real numbers tell a very different story!

 

Stop Hs2 petitions are like London buses, there’s none for ages, then…

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Just as the most recent doomed and daft anti Hs2 Parliamentary petition enters its final week with just 16,000 signatures someone’s gone and started yet another one! This embarrassment of riches won’t stop Hs2 in the slightest of course, but it will give me another 6 months to crunch the numbers and analyse just how weak and how local to the route the remaining opposition to Hs2 is!

The first petition was daft in that it called for Hs2 funding to be diverted to giving everyone free solar panels. This new one’s equally daft and very naive in that it calls for the following;

free vote

The idea that the Government will ditch the long-held principle of collective Cabinet responsibility is, frankly, daft. As is the idea that a free vote will result in a majority of MPs suddenly doing a volte-face to vote down building Hs2! Somehow, I can’t see many MPs deciding to deprive their constituents of the economic and transport benefits of Hs2 because of a dwindling bunch of Nimbys in the Chilterns.

The petition has been started by the Editor of the Bucks Herald, one Hayley O’ Keeffe, in what’s little more than a thinly veiled attempt to keep her declining paper relevant, and presumably to try and drum up a few new readers and provide clickbait. Like most local papers the Herald is struggling and its circulation is no longer audited by the Audited Bureau of Circulation, so ABC figures aren’t available. The petition’s not exactly getting off to a stellar start, despite the Herald and others trying to flog it to folk. At the time of writing this it had all of 153 signatures…

Ms O’ Keeffe clearly hasn’t thought this one through, or what these petitions reveal as they’re very much a double-edged sword. Perhaps she should have read my blog on an earlier doomed petition that was stated by StopHs2’s Joe Rukin which you can find here.

I’ll crunch the numbers on the first petition when it finally runs out of rope next Thursday. I’ll carry out a constituency by constituency comparison with the 2018 petition as the decline in numbers should be quite interesting. Then, when Ms O’ Keeffe’s petition  runs out of steam on the 17th October I’ll add that too! Of course, by then construction of Hs2 could already have started and many more people living along the routes will have had their properties purchased – further weakening an already tiny opposition. Watch this space!

UPDATE. 18th April.

My comments about the Bucks Herald’s pointless petition have obviously hit a nerve with the paper’s Editor, although misspelling her name seems to have attracted the greatest ire! I received this tweet this morning.

keeffe 1

Here’s some of the correspondence that ensued with a link to Ms O’ Keeffe’s valedictory piece.

keeffe 2

Ms O’ Keeffe doubles down on the costs ‘spiralling out of control’ spin, which is troubling as you’d hope that a newspaper Editor could tell the difference between fact and speculation and report accordingly. Apparently not.

The fact is – despite whatever fanciful claims a few minutes on Google might throw up – the budget envelope for HS2 hasn’t changed since 2015! It remains at £55.7bn, as detailed on page 16 in this Hs2 document from July 2017.

hs2 cost

Has anything changed since? No, the budget envelope remains exactly the same although some costs within it have changed as the designs are refined and new information (such as ground conditions) comes to light . Clearly, this is not the same as ‘costs spiralling out of control’ but that’s the difference between fact and speculation – which is what any of the other figures for the ‘true’ costs of HS2 you’ll find on the internet are.

The breakdown and allocation of costs within the overall funding envelope will be officially updated later this year. Until they are, any figures bandied around on the internet are pure speculation and/or mischief-making. Again, something you’d expect a responsible journalist to report accurately. As for “dire predictions”, so what? Any fool can bandy around numbers.

And what of Ms O’ Keeffe’s petition? It’s got off to a less than stellar start. Here’s the position at 11:15 on Thursday 18th April…

new hs2 petition

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Better late than never.

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Today’s not been a vintage one – unless you count scanning lots of old pictures from the 1990s..

This morning Dawn and I attended the funeral of a lovely chap we knew both as a neighbour and as a regular in our local pub. Sadly, a few weeks ago, he suffered a massive heart attack whilst playing tennis and passed away at the age of 66. To say that Gary was popular and respected was evidenced by the number of folk who turned out to his cremation which was standing room only. I’ve no doubt that his family will be comforted by the send-off he received and the magnitude of people from all walks of life who turned up to pay their last respects.

These events are often unsettling for a number of reasons, not least because those attending are forced to face their own mortality and remember past times. Here’s some of my past in the form of photos I took long ago in 1995. I was never one for organised rail tours, but back in the mid 1990s, as the railways were changing due to privatisation, I did a few. Here’s a couple of shots of Hertfordshire Rail tours ‘Honey Monster’ which ran from London Paddington to the MOD storage facility at Long Marston in Oxfordshire. The site was packed with stored rail vehicles of all sorts and ages.

5141. 33019. 33057. The 'Honey Monster' railtour. Paddington. 29.7.95crop

Class 33s no’s 33019 and 33057 prepare to head the ‘Honey Monster’ railtour out of Paddington on the 29th July 1995.

The weather at Long Marston was excellent. Here’s some of the stock that was stored, which included brand-new (well, a year old) Class 92 electric locos.

5160. 92003. 92007. MOD Kineton. 29.7.95crop

As Joni Mitchell sang in ‘Big Yellow Taxi’, “you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone”…

If you want to have a look at more of today’s scanned pictures, you can find which galleries they’ve been added to on my Zenfolio website by following this link.

What to say?

It’s been another of those days. Parliament is in recess over Easter whilst the country burns through Brexit and I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Yes, they’re humans who need time with their families and they’re entitled to a break like anyone else, but there happens to be a clock ticking that they chose to set in motion. The only reason it’s not struck midnight is because the European Union has agreed to reset it. But it won’t be to British summer-time…

Meanwhile, there’s no end to the Brexit shambles in sight. Oh, there’s plenty of fatigue and short attention spans. But this isn’t TV. You can’t change the channel ‘cos you don’t like the programme. We’re stuck with this and to paraphrase glam rocker band ‘The Sweet’ and their 1970s hit Blockbuster’s lyrics “we just haven’t got a clue what to do”…

Away from all this I’ve been ploughing on with work, editing pictures for various clients and also sorting out historical pictures in a drive to get the damned things on my website after all these years. Here’s one of them.

5106. 304032. 12.54 to Coventry. Wolverhampton. 28.7.95crop

Here’s a old slam-door Class 304 electric unit ready to work the return 12.54 from Wolverhampton to Coventry on the 28th July 1995. They were as old as I was as we both came into the world at the same time. Thankfully, I’ve outlived them. Their end came in 1996. Mine’s yet to be written!

Calder valley interlude

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After spending much of the week travelling the country I’m having a weekend at home in the Calder Valley. We’ve had a pretty relaxing Saturday morning, although I have done some work and set up the next batch of old slides from 1995 ready for scanning. It’s a boring process. Each pictures has to be broken out of its original plastic frame and remounted in a new Gepe glass covered mount ready to be scanned. The glass mounts ensure that the film is perfectly flat so there’s no danger of parts of it being bowed and out of focus after it’s been through my Nikon Coolscan. The Gepe mounts have to be kept dust free, which adds to the length of time the process takes. Here they are on the lightbox, all ready for scanning. The sharp-eyed might spot that the last few are of the old Dover train ferry used before the channel tunnel opened.

Right now we’re off for a walk across the valley and up to Norland Moor, no doubt we’ll pop into the Moorcock Inn whilst we’re there as it’s a chilly day here and their log fire will be a welcome sight, so expect this blog to be added to whilst we’re out. See you later!

16:16.

Not bad weather for a stroll. That’s the Calder Valley looking towards Halifax behind us.

Rolling blog: back in the groove…

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06:32

Another day, another early start. Right now I’m sat on a train to Leeds on a frosty but sunny morning that promises to be a glorious day weather-wise. Sadly I’m sans coffee as I left the house slightly later than planned. I had to power walk to Halifax station, arriving with a minute to spare. That defect will be remedied when I reach Leeds!

I’m on my way to Peterborough to meet up with an old friend and colleague from RAIL magazine to do a job for said mag. Years ago Pip and I used to do regular features for RAIL which involved travelling on new trains and seeing what they were like from a passengers perspective. The series carried on for many years and now we’re bringing it back. This time we’re going to be checking out the new (ish) Siemens built Class 700s built for Thameslink/Great Northern services. You’ll be able to read about it in RAIL soon so I won’t be blogging in detail about the trip, but you might get a few teasers!

07:52.

My connection at Leeds worked without problem and I’m now happily ensconced on LNER’s 07:15 from Leeds to Kings Cross as far as Grantham. I now have coffee and a sandwich, so all’s well with the world…

08:35.

After a rapid change of trains at Grantham I’m now on an East Midlands Trains Class 158 heading for Peterborough. According to the screens, this service is from Mansfield Woodhouse to Norwich, which is a service I never even knew existed! I’d have thought it would have originated from Sheffield. Still, you learn something new every day!

I rather like the refurbed EMT 158s. They’re a comfortable train, although I know some folk don’t like the high-back seats.v

14:13

We’re hard at work, honest! We’ve tried out 4 class 700s, two 12-car and two 8-car. Here’s Pip Dunn checking the technical details on our way to London.

14:55.

Job done, it’s time to begin the trek North from Peterborough, this time it’s on a rammed LNER service heading for Leeds. I was going to hang around and get some pictures but the weather’s changed completely from this morning full sun to being cloudy and cold, so hardly an incentive to hang around…

16:29

I decided to take a short break in Doncaster to get a couple of pictures and (as it’s Friday) visit this little gem on the station for a ‘swifty’ before heading home.

17:10.

Last train of the day now. I missed an earlier one by seconds as our platforms were too far apart. Now I’m on the 17:97 to Brighouse which is a rammed 2-car ex-Scotrail Class 158. There’s 10 of us stood in the vestibule by the toilets and aisle in the passenger saloon resembles a sardine can.

Another mixed bag…

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It’s a gorgeous day here in the Calder Valley but I’ve had no time to get out with the camera as I’ve been too busy sorting out yesterdays pictures and also stuff at home as I’m off again tomorrow. I’ll flesh this blog out shortly, but first I wanted to add a couple of pictures taken in Burnley yesterday. The first shows the view across the town seen from just above Manchester Rd station with a Northern Rail ‘Pacer’ working from Colne to Blackpool South crossing the viaduct. The second shows the power of a zoom lens as it was taken from exactly the same spot!

DG320951crop

DG320950. Northern 142 crosses the viaduct. Burnley. 10.4.19.crop

You can find the full selection by following this link to my Zenfolio website.

After sorting out yesterday’s pictures, plus the latest batch of old slides from 1995 I went for a lunchtime constitutional by walking up through Scarr Woods to a local viewpoint.

See, I told you it was a beautiful day!

Right now I’m sat in our local pub, the ‘Big 6’ as a group of us regulars are off whisky tasting this evening with the Wright wine company over in Skipton. Here’s tonight’s entertainment;