My early start didn’t quite happen that way. Instead I’ve been busy sorting out some stuff at home before venturing South. No, suitably prepared I’m about to sally forth on Britain’s railways to venture into the Chilterns. I’m hoping the locals won’t be all fiery torches and pitchforks at the ready if they find out they’ve a prominent HS2 supporter in the midst – maybe the mask will fool ’em! I’ll keep you updated, but first I’ve got to walk down to the station. Stay with me to see how the day goes…
With leaving later I’m able to sample Calder Valley rail travel at off-peak times for a change. I’m currently on a pair of 2-car Class 195s working the 10:23 to Chester and it’s far busier than the early peak services I’ve been using. Travellers are a mix of retired folk on a day out plus a few younger people on a jolly themselves. I’d guess the train’s about 40% full on leaving Sowerby. Looking at the attire, I’d surmise many folk are off rambling…
Sure enough, when we arrived in Todmorden several people left the train to head off hiking in the hills around town. They’ve got a lovely day to do it too as the weather’s dry and warm but not insufferably so – ideal walking conditions to enjoy the landscape and views around the area. There were few replacements joing them, but our next stop is Rochdale. Pre Covid the station had a footfall of over 1.5 million people making it the 2nd busiest station on the line after Halifax. It still provides a lot of passengers and numbers are growing all the time, so I’ll be interested to see what it’s like in July when (hopefully) all Covid restrictions are lifted.
Time to relax for a while! As usual I strolled across Manchester station to station, catching in the sights as I did. The centre was quieter than I’ve seen it but as it’s a Tuesday morning that’s hardly surprising. Even so, there’s an air of normalcy starting return, even if many people are still wearing masks whilst they walk around – which is no bad thing. I think people are starting to relax now that so many of us have been vaccinated and fears of a massive third spike are receding. That said, I’m not being complacent and carry spare masks and several hand gels with me. With swapping swapping between so many locations and transport modes It seems sensible – even though statistically the chances of contracting Covid on public transport have proved to be miniscule. Right now I’m on a Pendolino bound for London via Crewe which gives me time to catch up on some work and also indulge in a spot of window-gazing. Oh, and lunch on the hoof!
An hour into the hourney having made our final pickup at Crewe I decided to have a wander through the train to see how busy it is and I’m glad I did as this is the best loaded Pendolino I’ve been on for a long time – and the reason is? The football is on! There’s dozens of groups of guys on here in England foorball shirts who’re obviously on their way to London, either to see England play (unlikely) or just enjoy the atmosphere. For too long the railways have been deprived of traffic like this due to events being cancelled or crowds banned. Leisure travel (contrary to what opponents of HS2 claim) is the mainstay of the long-distance railway.
Mind the gap…
Sorry for the fact it’s taken me so long to do an update but I’ve been constantly on the move since arriving at Euston. The journey down flew and the football fans on the train were very well behaved. I was impressed to see the group of four young lads near me clear the table of all their rubbish and empty bottles as they got off, something many older people can’t be bothered to do.
I didn’t hang around in London. Instead I caught the Metropolitan line out to Baker St and strolled from there to Marylebone to catch a train up the Chiltern line and old territory. I’ve not spent much time on the outer section of the Met for years – an omission I really must correct. It’s an interesting system as Chiltern trains share the tracks with Met services as far as Amersham. It’s perhaps lost a bit of interest now the old trains are gone. But I have fond memories of coming here for the ‘Steam on the Met’ events back in the 1990s.
The stations are still photogenic anyway. Further out I stopped off at Wendover to have a look at the trace of HS2. The locals were up in arms about the new railway ‘despoiling’ their village, which always seemed a tad over the top as it would pass them in a tunnel and cutting with both the existing railway and noisy A413 road in between! I had a quick wander around Wendover, which is a pretty enough place that suffers from the same curse as most places around here – it’s choked with cars. Why anyone thinks they’re going to hear HS2 trains over the noise of a constant stream of SUVs is a mystery…
I’m back in my hotel and catching up on the day’s events via their wifi, plus finishing this blog. Although I’ve visited Aylesbury many times in the past this is the first time I’ve stayed here. Why would I have when I lived just an hour away in London? Now it’s a little bit different. Aylesbury’s an odd place. We hear so much about the Chilterns being an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) but to be perfectly honest I never understood how it managed to get thaty appelation. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not unattractive. Lynn and I would take day trips out from London and come walking around here – especially West of Princes Risborough around Bledlow Ridge, but it’s not particularly special (is that the sounds of locals sharpening their scythes I can hear?) and it certainly doesn’t compete with parts of Yorkshire. Or for that matter, the South Downs or Shropshire.
Aylesbury itself is a bit of a mess. It’s got some awful modern buildings and ring roads that have turned it into a town strangled by the car. All I can hear as I sit in the window of my hotel is traffic whizzing by outside on the Tring Rd. Here’s an example. This is the ‘gateway’ to Aylesbury that you’ll see just as soon as you step outside the station. Attractive, huh?
Appropriately enough, the Ceaușescu era like building that dominates the skyline is the HQ of the local district council, the same ones who’ve granted planning permission to this aesthetic shambles.
To get into the old town (what’s left of it anyway) you walk up the road and pass the multi-storey car park to the right, cross a busy inner ring road, then walk underneath a shopping centre under which is buried a dark and claustrophobic bus station full of fumes and then (and only then) do you arrive in Aylesbury proper. There’s some lovely old buildings, but what a shame about the rest of the place. Here’s another example of the architects ‘art’ that should have been stillborn.
Yup, a Waitrose cum Travelodge cum multi storey car park! And the ‘beauty’ of it? It’s been built right next to the historic canal basin and theatre (to the right)! I’m sure the local planning officers in their ‘tower of power’ opposite must gaze down upon this lovingly and think ‘didn’t we do well!’
These are the same Councillors who are objecting to the design of HS2 vent shafts because ‘they’re not in keeping with the beauty of the area’. The expression ‘extracting the urine’ springs to mind.
Tomorrow, when I’m on walkabout I’ll get some shots of the fine old buildings in Aylesbury the Council haven’t demolished or ruined. In the meantime, I’m going to call it a day as tomorrow will be busy – and long. I’ll try a rolling blog but – like Aylesbury’s historic architecture – it may contain gaps!
I’ve a favour to ask…
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Little Miss Traveller said:
Have a good trip!
Paul Bigland said:
Thank you! Hopefully I may have a little bit of time for sightseeing…