My day’s travels are having a later start than normal as I’m currently waiting for a check-up at the Royal Calderdale hospital’s Dematology department. After forty-odd years of backpacking and beach-bumming around the world in exotic, sunny places you’ll find more moles on me than on the average golf course! So far, all have proved to be benign but recently a new one’s appeared on my cheek below my left eye. My GP reckons is OK but has sent me to get it checked out by experts – just in case. Once this is done I’ll be on my way, heading North. Of course, the problem with hospitals (especially ‘cos of Covid) is that you’ve no idea how long things will take. I’m not a great fan of hanging around hospitals (after all, they’re full of sick people!) but I really can’t complain about the Royal Calderdale. Whenever I’ve been here in the past the staff have been excellent.
It’s my first visit since the pandemic broke and it’s odd to see the place quieter than usual and waiting areas stripped to the bare minimum to enable social distancing. This is a big hospital with a large catchment area so it’s normally buzzing.
Everything’s A-OK. The Dermatology nurse who examined me was a chippy and cheerful Yorkshire lass. After quizzing whsre I was going with such a large bag she waxed lyrical about a trip she’d taken along the Settle-Carlisle railway with her husband! In examining me she told me what I had under my eye was a seborrhoeic keratoses (a name that doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue!) and the good news? They’re harmless!
As my visit was mercifully short I managed to catch an earlier train. I’m now on a busy 3-car Class 195 working the 11:32 Halifax – Blackpool North. Leisure travel’s returned with a vengance. I was nearly mown down by a fleet of women with prams who were leaving the train to head the ths towns ‘Eureka’ childrens museum. Even with them disembarking the train remains busy.
We’ve just left Blackburn and the train’s packed. We’ve lots of families aboard who’re on their way to Blackpool for a holiday. I feel rather sorry for them as the weather’s not looking very promising over the next few days, but then that’s why budget holidays to Spain became so popular!
I’m now on the final leg to Carlisle after changing trains at Preston and Lancaster. All the services I’ve used today have been busy. It’s true that Preston station was quieter than I’d usually expect this time of year, but then there’s rather a dearth of foreign tourists – for obvious reasons! From Preston I caught a TPE Class 397 working a Manchester Airport – Edinburgh service, which was well loaded. If it had been on one of the old 3-car Class 185s used on the route it would have been rammed. I’ve not travelled on a 397 on the WCML before so I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the ride at linespeed – especially as I was stood over a bogie on the trailing vehicle!
I had half an hour at Lancaster, long enough to grab a couple of pictures, notice that all the station’s catering outlets had reopened (bar the WH Smiths by the ticket office) and have a quick word with an old friend who was on dispatch duty before catching Avanti West Coast’s 13:55 Northwards. Station announcements warned that it would be busy and advised those on flexible tickets to get a later train. 390104 rolled in to do the honours and it was indeed busy. I was lucky, a family of four were detraining so I managed to blag their table which is where I’m sat typing this. Having flown through a gloomy Lune Gorge we’ve hit mist and rain at Shap summit, so I’ve no idea what to expect in Carlisle…
In fact, the weather in Carlisle is changeable, but OK. The sun put in an appearence for this beastie anyway. Rail Charter Services green HST working the 15:09 to Skipton via the Settle and Carlise line.
After meeting up with Hassard at Carlisle the lair of us headed off to territory he’s never explored before – the Cumbrian Coast line as far as Whitehaven. We’d planned to walk along an old tramway from there to Parton but the rain lashed our train as it made its way to the coast, so we dicided to be flexible. The 2-car 156 we were on was really busy with a mix of locals on their way home from work and tourists. Two young couples opposite were heading to Whitehaven with their bikes to begin the popular coast to coast cycle route.
Fortunately for us (and the cyclists) the weather broke en-route. As we headed South the rain headed North so our plan came together after all. The old tramway runs parallel to and above the railway, giving excellent views of line, rocky beaches and out to sea. The route’s tarmac’d as it’s part of the national cycle network, so it’s an easy walk.