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.
Well, almost! I’ve not been blogging these past few days as Dawn and I have had a very sociable time with friends this weekend and there simply hasn’t been the time. Yesterday we were busy with household chores and shopping before popping around to visit friends and watch the Grand National together. Neither Dawn nor I are into betting and we’ve never even watched the race together before, but as Froso and Richard had invited us round we got into the spirit of things and even placed a couple of bets. I backed a rank outsider as well as the favorite so we’re now a whole £17 better off, but I promise that it won’t change our lifestyles! Afterwards we had a few drinks in Sowerby Bridge before an evening drinking far too much wine with Fro & Richard back at their home, which meant today had very much a subdued start!Originally, the weather wasn’t up to much, but then neither were we. Instead of going walking we spent time shopping for some ingredients that would allow us to do some batch cooking this evening. Admittedly, we did end up having a ‘hair of the dog’ in our local before coming home, but now we’ve got back into the swing of things. I’ve just made an old favourite – cucumber curry. No, really! It’s made with creamed coconut, cucumber, red pepper and peanuts and tastes divine.
Now Dawn’s taken over the kitchen to cook a wonderful Afghan aubergine dish whilst I’ve retreated to the office to try and catch up with scanning a few more old rail slides like this on from 1995.
This view is of Blackpool North carriage sidings when they were being used to store a variety of redundant trains, both diesel and electric.
Talking of redundant trains. Next week sees the first of the old BR built Class 313s go for scrap. They’re currently the oldest electric multiple units on the mainland, having been introduced way back in 1976 to work services from Moorgate and London Kings Cross to Hertfordshire. Hopefully, I’ll be there tomorrow to see the first one leave Hornsey on its final journey to the scrap yard. So, watch out for tomorrow’s rolling blog…
It’s been another one of those days when trying to knuckle down to work has proved to be hard due to the constant distractions provided by the political la la land the UK’s inhabiting right now. I’m still trying to get my head around Teresa May’s ridiculous TV speech last night in which she absolved herself of all blame for this shit-shower (even though her idiotic red lines formed the base of it) and instead tried to set the public against Parliament and the MPs elected to it. To say her language was both reckless and inflammatory is an understatement. To say that many MPs of all parties are outraged would be an understatement.
Now she’s gone cap in hand to the EU, who must be sick of the sight of her. Predictably, they’ve now taken control and are currently deciding what terms they’ll offer on an extension to article 50. Take back control? Don’t make me laugh! A lot of my fellow Britons seem equally unimpressed. A petition calling for the revocation of article 50 has kept crashing the Govt’s website most of the day. Started only yesterday, it now stands at 1.5 million signatures and is rising by the hour.
If you’d like to sign it, here’s the link.
Away from the madness I’ve been busy catching up on picture editing and paperwork, whilst also lining up some jobs. I’ve also been continuing to scan old slides in an effort to really start to make inroads to the collection and get unseen pictures online. Today’s small batch are from an open day at Crewe Electric depot back in May 1997. As it was an event I’ve created a new gallery for it on my website, which you can find here. These are a couple of sample pictures.
This evening I’ve turned my hand to some kitchen therapy and cooked an old favourite – Lal Batata, which is new potatoes in a hot chilli and tamarind sauce.
I’ve even found a railway themed beer to go with it! This rather quaffable delight cam from somewhere I’d never expect to find it, B&M bargains, the cut-price chain!
The back of the bottle has an interesting label as it tells the story of a heroic railwayman of Victorian times.
Dawn’s been busy too and oven cooked some salmon to accompany the Lal Batata. Yum!
We were up at 6am this morning to give ourselves time to get back into Kaikoura ready for our 08:30am trip to swim with dolphins. It’s an experience I last had 20 years ago so I was really looking forward to seeing Dawn’s face when she got into the water with what can be up to 400-500 dusky Dolphins.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be. The weather had closed in overnight, bringing rain and winds high enough to make it unsafe for boats to leave the small harbour here. All this morning’s boat trips (including whale watching) have been cancelled. These things are always in the lap of the Gods, sadly. As we’ve only a couple of nights here it’s not possible to re-arrange the trip. We’re just going to have to come back another time – just not in another 20 years…!
We consoled ourselves with a wander around the headland at Point Hearn, where we sat on the cliffs and gazed out to sea, hoping to spot a whale, or maybe a dolphin or two, but all we saw was seals and a variety of seabirds.
As we watched the planes and helicopters fly out to the area where whales had been reported we realised it was a forlorn hope. Whales may be big, but when they’re miles away and mostly hidden by the sea, you ain’t gonna see much – even with my camera’s zoom lens. The only people getting to see whales today were using one of these as they weren’t affected by high waves!
Our amble around Kaikoura also took in the railway station where we were fortunate enough to be in time to see the daily passenger train from Christchurch to Picton call. By UK standards it’s a small train as it consists of a baggage car, two seated coaches plus a buffet car and an open-sided observation coach bringing up the rear.
Because all the tours were cancelled Kaikoura was full of disconsolate people looking for something to do – which isn’t easy as the focus of the town is very much tourist tours. Many eateries in town don’t open until after midday – such as the Pier Hotel, a lovely old hotel and bar situated at the South end of town that has great views across the bay – and probably the best location in town. We ended up there for lunch and pigged out on two of our favourites – mussels and whitebait. As you can see the ‘large’ portions are just that!
We’ve now abandoned Kaikoura as the weather’s worsened. This is the first day where we’ve not been wearing shorts. Instead, we’re in long pants, fleeces and waterproofs! We’re spending the evening in a fabulous mountain retreat Airbnb some 55km South at a place called Lydford before moving on to Christchurch tomorrow. I’ll try and post some pictures tomorrow – when it’s stopped raining!
Whilst it’s been sad to miss out on the dolphin swim we’ve got many other exciting things planned during the next few weeks travels – and the money we’ll be refunded ‘cos the tour didn’t run can always be spent on something else! New Zealand’s South Island has a huge variety of outdoor experiences to offer and we’ll be sampling (and blogging about) quite a few of them whilst we’re here. One thing we haven’t done so far on this trip is travel anywhere by train, but we’ll be putting that right in the next few days…
I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading these blogs, please consider clicking on an advert – or two! You don’t have to buy anything, honest! The clicks just help me cover the cost of running this blog. Many thanks, Paul
Today, we will mostly be drinking wine! We’ve joined the ‘Bubbly Grape’ wine tasting tour where a minibus is taking us around lots of vineyards in the Marlborough region. The tour was really good fun. There was only 6 of us so it was rather intimate instead of being part of a large anonymous group. In all we visited 6 cellar doors, starting with the Brancott estate, which kicked off the Marlborough wine boom way back in 1973. You’ll have also seen their wines marketed under their original name of Montana. Without doubt, their cellar door has the best location we visited as it sits on a ridge overlooking the vineyards, giving views for miles. Here’s a couple of pictures.
The Brancott staff were very knowledgeable and we were also treated to a short video which explained about the various regions that make up the Marlborough area. I have to say, they’re not my favourite wines, but we did get to try a variety, from Sauvignons to Pinot Noirs. They’re certainly worth a visit.
Our second stop was at Villa Maria who produce wines both Dawn and I love. When we booked for the tour we’d been asked if their were specific vineyards we wanted to visit and this was one of our choices. Villa Maria produce a wide variety of wines that they don’t sell on the UK market which is a real shame as they’ve got some stunners. They’ve also won a heap of awards for them. Here’s their cellar door.
Once again, the staff were incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. We tried a wide selection of wines, including an excellent rose and dessert wine. These might not be to everyone’s tastes, but trying new ones is half the fun of these events. Several of us were so impressed that we ended up buying different bottles. Villa Maria were unusual in that many of their wines are branded specific to the vineyard the grapes come from, whilst many others use a blend. Here’s a list of the wines on offer and the awards won – as well as prices.
The next place we visited was also on our list: Cloudy Bay. When we arrived we could see that it was rather different from the others. It was very upmarket – if not a little swanky. The wines were very good but they do charge a premium price for them. It was only when we were leaving that we found out why. Cloudy Bay is owned by Louis Vuitton!
The third cellar door we visited couldn’t have been more different. It was a locally owned family winemaker called Allan Scott who produces some very good wines. Here we are at their cellar door.
We also broke for lunch here as they have a lovely outdoor restaurant that serves some excellent fish dishes. I chose these gorgeous clams.
After lunch we moved on to another locally owned and family run vineyard: Forrest (who also market their wine under ‘The Doctors’ label – as the couple who set up the vineyard were both doctors)! Here’s what we tried and the range of prices, complete with tasting notes.
Next (and last) on the list was Giesen, a vineyard run by three German bothers. The German influence on the wines was quite noticeable, many of us fond them too sweet, but they were certainly worth trying just as a contrast. They also had something unique – which several of us really enjoyed: “Pomme de Gris” – a mixture of white wine and cider! It really worked as a long, refreshing drink…
All in all it was a great day out. You get to try a real variety of wines from brands you may never of heard of before. You learn a lot about Marlborough (and Hawke’s Bay) wines and eat some lovely food. There’s even a stop at a chocolate producers at the end of the trip! Needless to say, we couldn’t resist buying something to quaff over the next few days…
A Favour to ask
If you enjoy reading these blogs, please consider clicking on an advert – or two! You don’t have to buy anything, honest! The clicks just help me cover the cost of running this blog. Many thanks, Paul
I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas day – unless you’re one of the 1000s of Network Rail engineers or contractors working over the holiday – in which case I hope you stayed safe had an easy shift! The weather here was remarkably mild for the time of the year, but then the valley was cocooned in cloud all day which kept the heat in.
We had a quiet day at home apart from a short stint at our local pub (the Big 6) at lunchtime.
It was a mix of regulars and unknown faces as people escape (or are told to bugger off out of the way) from family gatherings for a couple of hours before the real indulgences start around the dinner tables.
The rest of the afternoon and evening there was just the two of us enjoying some quality time together. Our Christmas dinner was anything but traditional. We’d bought some lamb shanks from a local farm shop which Dawn used for a 1st Class mutton (lamb) railway curry using a recipe from Rick Stein. It was divine! The mixture of spices (including cinnamon) really complements the lamb. Dawn served it with a home cooked Sambar (Indian veg curry) and red rice.
The rest of the evening was spent relaxing on the sofa and watching films whilst the cat curled up in front of the fire. Today the pace picks up considerably as we’re packing for New Zealand. Tomorrow we head down to Tilford(Surrey) to catch up with the rest of Dawn’s family for an afternoon, then head for Heathrow on Friday morning for the start of our delayed honeymoon! heading to New Zealand’s going to be a welcome break for a number of reasons. It’s an escape from the UK’s current political madness and shambles over Brexit for a start. There’s also the fact that January’s a drab month in the UK as many people are miserable because of a combination of factors, like the weather and because all the Christmas and New Year bills have come in. It also seems like a long haul to Easter and the next bank holiday!
Unlike our usual January escapes this one’s presenting an interesting logistical challenge on the packing front. Normally, we’d be going to somewhere Equatorial where the weather’s constant and we’d just need clothing for warm weather. Not so in New Zealand, where we’ll be doing a lot more walking and hiking in conditions that can mirror a UK summer. There’s quite a temperature variation too, so there’s a lot more to pack. Normally we’d only take one large suitcase between us. This time we’ve had to borrow a second one. I only hope we remember that when we’re travelling!
Jet (our cat) is most disgruntled as he’s been chucked off the bed to make way for the suitcases which currently look like they’ve been ransacked by overzealous customs Officers. The old boy (he’s 17) has been allowed on the bed recently as he’s been ill. We had to take him to the vets to get some infected teeth removed so he’s been given a lot of leeway and TLC. The problem is, he senses we’re going away, but at least he gets on well with the house-sitters who’ll be looking after him and keeping him company whilst we’re away.
Phew! Packing done, paperwork printed, instructions left. Now it’s time for a glass of wine and bed. Tomorrow’s going to be the start of a looonnng few days…
I’m preparing to head to London for an Christmas lunch with old friends and colleagues today. It’ll be a very convivial afternoon, as will this evening, as I’ve got to head back to West Yorkshire as Dawn and I are out for a Thai meal with a couple of friends – such is the fun of packed social diaries in the run-up to Christmas.
For once, the Yorkshire weather defeated me. Persistent drizzle (the sort of stuff that manages to defeat umbrellas or waterproofs) meant I abandoned attempts to walk to the station and cadged a lift off Dawn – which got me there considerably quicker and a lot drier! I’m now watching the rain from the comfort of my mobile office, otherwise known as Grand Central’s 08:10 from Halifax to London Kings Cross. Here it is pulling in to Halifax, past the old signalbox which was made redundant in October.
For once, my train’s not too busy, that’s possibly because it’s so close to Christmas, but also the fact the first service of the day (the 07:07) tends to attract most business people as it arrives in London at 10:10 whereas this one doesn’t arrive until 11:14. As I don’t need to be there so early I’m enjoying the space and relaxing atmosphere, although I’m still catching up on some work.
The path for this train is characterised by generous timings on the way to Doncaster. We’ve swung between being 1 minute late and 4 early. Having waited for a platform at Wakefield Kirkgate we’d been running early until we reached Marshgate Jn just outside Doncaster where we were held waiting time and for a platform to be free. Platform space has been at a premium here for years, which makes timekeeping difficult. We’re booked a generous 6 minutes to clog one of them up, which has meant our slightly late arrival has turned into a right – time departure. Next stop – London Kings Cross…
We’ve just passed through gloomy Grantham where the low cloud that’s dogged us all the way from Yorkshire still persists. Despite the fact these Grand Central Class 180s are capable of 125mph I doubt we’ve touched that today until now. We’ve dropped a couple of mins behind time but we’ve obviously got a clear road as the driver’s opened her up for a bit. The speed app on my phone tells me we hit 124 after Stoke Jn at the same time a rainstorm on the edge of the weather front hit us! We weathered that (literally) and now the sun’s managing to break through the momentarily fragmented clouds.
The burst of speed didn’t help us as we crawled from Werrington Jn (where Network Rail are preparing to build a new ‘dive-under’) through an empty Peterborough station and on to Holme Jn, which we passed 7 mins late. Sun and speed have both deserted us. This section of line’s very busy, with Thameslink stoppers added into the mix as Great Northern locals, so could well lose more time.
I take back my last comment, we did make up 5 mins!
Now, lunch beckons…
I’m Northbound again after an excellent lunch (if you ignore the eye-watering bill) that included one of my favourites: seared scallops.
Chatham House rules prevent me talking about the event, but there you go.
Right now I’m doing a Jeremy Corbyn – sitting on the vestibule floor of LNER’s 17:03 to Leeds. Any resemblance to ‘Magic Grandad’ is purely coincidental.
We’ve just left Peterborough so I’ve graduated from a vestibule floor to a seat.
Ho hum. Everything went well until I got to Leeds, when I found my connection (the 19:36) was cancelled. This meant I’d be 15 minutes late as my next train wasn’t until 19:51. I’ve now swapped this..
For something a little less speedy and spacious!
What a fun day! Lunch in London and Thai tapas in West Yorkshire has led to a slightly slower than usual start to the day (I blame the Tequila shots that Froso insisted we buy). Both meals were delicious but I think it’s time to give my stomach a rest today! If you’re in the area I can recommend Café Thai in West Vale. We’ve eaten here several times and never been disappointed. They have a traditional Thai restaurant on the ground floor whilst upstairs they serve a tapas style menu. Here’s one of last nights dishes.
A good time was had by all…
Last night we finally had the opportunity to sample the restaurant menu at the Moorcock Inn, Norland. We’re incredibly lucky to have this place so close to us and we walk up to the pub on a regular basis for a drink and chance to sample the bar menu, but until now, we’d never had the opportunity to sample the restaurant menu. As it’s our first wedding anniversary on Sunday we thought this would be a great start to the weekend. We weren’t disappointed. Here’s what was on the menu.
I couldn’t resist getting some pictures of the courses but as none of this was set up, these were the dishes as they came, so you’ll have to excuse the rushed nature of the shots – it was quick, get a picture and tuck in!
Bread (served with their home-made cultured butter) and the snacks, In the Foreground are sprouts in a Rosehip and Hogweed vinaigrette, ingredients that have been foraged. The sprouts were gorgeous and the dressing superb, reminiscent of a hoisin sauce but far lighter and less cloying.
Smoked Dogfish (sourced from Whitby on the Yorkshire coast and caught sustainably) with celery and horseradish.
Wood-roast pear and onion, sea herbs and walnut cider. A superb mixture of flavours and textures, salty, sweet and smoky.
Potato tart, plankton and chrysanthemum. This was a real surprise. There was an earthiness and variety of textures, from the layered potato to the crunchiness of the pastry base. – all perfectly balanced. Accompanying the tart was the fish seen below, which added yet another dimension. Aimee had done an excellent job in complimenting Alisdair’s amazing food with a range of drinks and served a NV Drie Fonteinen Geuze beer from Belgium. The sourness of the beer added yet another dimension to the dishes.
8 yr old Hebridean mutton, tomatillo and home-made feta cheese. Inside the lettuce leaf is braised mutton which had been cooked overnight in one of the smoke ovens at the rear of the pub. Dawn had never had mutton before and was blown away by the tenderness and taste.
One of the extras which I had all to myself as Dawn is allergic to cheese, so for me it’s a rare treat nowadays. I love veined cheeses and this Young Buck blue cheese from County Down was rich and full of flavour. It’s made from organic raw milk. It was served with wood-roast apple and soda bread. The balance of flavours, from the thick tangy creaminess of the cheese and the sweetness and smokiness of the apple, coupled with the texture of the soda break was a delight.
The meal was rounded off with Lavender ice cream with grapes and beetroot, served with sake from NV Kodakara Umeshu, Yamagata, Japan. The sake’s infused with plums and almonds, giving it a richness and roundness that makes it an ideal accompaniment to a dessert. Wow!
We had a wonderful evening and the food exceeded our expectations – which were already high after having eaten different items off the bar menu several times. Alisdair’s a wizard in combining tastes and textures to produce some unique and stunning food. His inventiveness is amazing. Couple that with Aimee’s talent in selecting just the right choice of wines, beers (or even sake) to accompany the food and a meal at the Moorcock’s a truly memorable experience. My wife’s no slouch when it comes to cooking (something we both enjoy doing) but Dawn was left in awe by what we had last night – and I have to agree. The food here is very, very special. We can’t wait until next time to see what the pair of them provide…
I’m having a quiet weekend at home as our busy social schedule’s been brought to an abrupt halt by friends having to cancel at the last moment. I’m going to make the most of the time by having a day with Dawn and a walk in the valley before knuckling down to sorting out a load of pictures and paperwork tomorrow, so expect to see many more shots appearing on my Zenfolio picture website. Here’s a sample of what to expect. When we were in Stamford last weekend we visited Melbourn Bros’ All Saints Brewery which was established in 1825 and owned by Sam Smith’s who’ve brought it back into use to brew their range of organic fruit beers.
When they’re not brewing you can have a tour of the premises conducted by the pub’s Landlord, which is fascinating. Here’s a few shots.
Oh, and the fruit beers are delicious. Try the apricot if you get the chance,
Well, our walk turned into more of an amble. By the time we got out the skies resembled something out of a sci-fi film. We were expecting thunder, lightning and spaceships! Discretion being the better part of valour, we drove up to the Moorcock Inn and walked on Norland moor, fully expecting a downpour any minute. You can see why in these pics.
After a rather blustery stroll we ended up in the Moorcock Inn for a warm in front of their wood fire stove and a couple of drinks. Here’s the beer selection.
Whilst we were there we couldn’t resist trying a dish off the bar menu that we’ve been desperate to try for a while. The breaded giant Puffball mushroom with egg and a yeast sauce. It was gorgeous!
Before we left we bought some of their sourdough focacia bread and cultured butter. It came packaged like this.
It immediately transported me back to my 1960s childhood and memories of going to the local butchers, when everything was wrapped like this (with the price written on it in pencil)…
So (naturally), it’s chucking it down! I feel sorry for anyone who’s organised an outdoor event this weekend. After the fabulous summer we’ve had they must have been thinking – ‘well if this keeps up’…Sadly, it hasn’t – certainly here in the Calder Valley anyway. Today’s our second where the rain has been almost continuous. Not the heavy showers that pass and you can avoid if you’re lucky, it’s that light drizzle that manages to penetrate waterproofs and blow under umbrellas. Here’s the view from our bedroom window right now.
Dawn, my wife, isn’t too unhappy about the turn of events as her plan for today was to be a domestic Goddess and spend much of it batch cooking to stock up the freezer. The project started yesterday with these two fabulous dishes. The first is Karniyarki -Turkish stuffed aubergine, served with salad and a yoghurt sauce.
The second is traditionally English – Bakewell tart!
Of course, there’s another reason Dawn’s not too upset about the weather. It means I’ve no excuse to duck work on finishing off refurbishing our bathroom, so that’s where I’m heading now…