It will come as absolutely no surprise when I tell you that I’m typing this on a train. This time I’m back on Grand Central’s 07:08 from Halifax to London. Us ACoRP judges are dedicated souls, I’m off to meet fellow Judge Paul Cook in Ashford, Kent to finalise the winners of this years awards. We’d hoped to have finished the job closer to home on Friday, but events got in the way!
At least I have wifi, a power socket and coffee to keep me going for the next few hours. En-route we’ve passed through one of the stations we judged, Brighouse, which is looking splendid right now as the plethora of planters and tubs are in full bloom. Nearby Mirfield is coming on too as the local ‘in bloom’ group have been busy tidying up the massive flower bed that occupies the site of the station buildings and adding more planters and ‘bug hotels’. As my train pulled away I noticed a commuter dead-heading some of the plants as she waited for her train. I love seeing the way ordinary passengers get involved like this.
We’re currently flying along the East Coast Main Line near Huntingdon, running 6 minutes late due to trespassers on the line around Doncaster earlier. It’s the school holidays and trespass incidents always increase when they’ve broken up. It’s a serious problem for the railways as vandalism also increases. Despite every effort by the railway companies and British Transport police to educate youngsters, we see this problem every year.
I’m now in London and I’ve swapped the East Coast Main Line for High Speed 1 to get me to Ashford.
It’s always a delight to use this line. Nowadays it’s so quick and easy to get into Kent. It’s a far cry from the days when you had to get across London by tube to Victoria or Charing Cross to catch an old slam-door electric train that would then take hours to rattle and shake its way through suburban South London before arriving in Kent. Now it takes just 38 minutes! Hs1 provides a taster of what Hs2 will be like (only more luxurious, the Hitachi Javelins in Hs1 are designed for moving commuters in/out of London).
The weather here in Kent’s rather mixed, to put it mildly! We’ve just passed through a veryheavy shower that lasted a couple of minutes before we burst out of the other side. I think my trusty fold-up umbrellas going to be very useful today.
I’m now on the return trip after a successful conclusion to the ACoRP judging and a chance to mooch around Kent, rediscovering old haunts and grabbing a few photos en-route. I dodged all but one shower and even managed to get pictures in the sunshine. I can’t say I’d rush back to Ashford however. There are one or two attractive old buildings but the town centre was a bit of a disappointment. It was all rather bland and uninspiring. As I had plenty of time I took a circular tour back to London via Folkestone, Dover, Ramsgate and Canterbury along one of the very few lines in the SouthEast I’d never traversed, the route from Dover to Ramsgate via Deal and Sandwich. It’s actually a pretty little line that is still controlled by manual signalboxes and even semaphore signals – a rare beast in this part of the world nowadays. Passing through Deal it’s hard to credit that this area was once the location of the Kent coalfield. The last mine at nearby Betteshanger closed in 1989, just short of the centenary of coal mining in Kent. Coal had been discovered during test bores for an earlier attempt to build a tunnel under the channel. The area has a fascinating history as the railway cuts across the bottom of the Roman fort at Richborough, just outside Sandwich. It was from here the Roman successfully conquered Britain during the reign of the Emperor Claudius. I remember cycling around this area back In the 1990s and I’d love to have the time to scan the slides I took. One day…
After a brief stop at Ramsgate to grab some pictures I headed back into London through Canterbury, another old haunt. When I lived in the East End of London our merry band would often come to attend the beer festival which was held on a farm on the outskirts of town. Fond memories!
The weather deteriorated as I returned to the capital and I fully expected to get soaked but they were confined to Kent and London escaped their attention – as did I.
It’s now 21:07 and I’ve glanced up from my screen to realise that it’s pitch black outside! The night’s are starting to draw in again…