Rolling blog. Motorway ping-pong…

10:00.

We’re just packing up here in Surrey before heading back North once more in a game of motorway ping-pong that we’ve been playing quite a bit recently. The kids have gone to school, Dawn’s brother’s waiting for his flight back from Spain, I’ve stuffed the car with our luggage, so all that’s left is to take ‘Tilly’, the family’s Cairn Terrier for a walk then we can head off.

The weather’s dry but dull so the journey shouldn’t be too onerous and we’re in no rush. The plan is to have a minor diversion in Northamptonshire to have a look at some of the High-Speed 2 construction sites, so expect some pictures later…

11:25.

We’re on the way! Driving through the centre of Farnham was interesting. The town was dead and the roads quiet. You could see from the numbers of cars parked up in people’s driveways at many folks are back working from home. Mind you, in an affluent area like this they have both the space and the type of jobs that allow that to happen.

12:00.

We’re currently bowling along the M4 which is busier than we thought it might be but nothing like normal.

15:30.

We’re now making steady progress up the M1 in Nottinghamshire after a stop at Brackley to have a look at the HS2 work. I’ll add more details and pictures later but our visit confirmed that work on this section is in its early stages compared to other parts of the route. This gave me chance to get some shots which will be an interesting contrast to what it will look like in six months time when earthmoving is in earnest. Here’s where the bridge is being built to allow HS2 to pass under a realigned A43.

We covered a loop from Brackley which took us past the old Great Central station where the street level booking office has been converted to a chip shop and poodle parlour!

9th January picture(s) of the day…

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Sorry – I took a day off from blogging yesterday as I was too busy travelling and wanted to savour the time I had exploring railway byways to enjoy the sights and concentrate on the photography rather than trying to type a commentary at the same time. There was also the added complication that I didn’t really have much idea where I was going to go at first!

As is usually the case at weekend various railway lines were closed for engineering work. In this case it was the South-Western main line around Weybridge which meant many services were being diverted via Guildford, including those from this neck of the woods. Despite the appalling weather forecast and heavy rain we’d suffered all morning I decided to venture out anyway. Dee gave me a lift to Farnham and I tootled off to Guildford on a very quiet train, then thought about where to go. A plan formed in my mind and I decided to head East towards London, stopping off on the way to grab shots in locations I’d not visited for quite some time – or not at all. My route was via Effingham Junction where I managed shots of diverted Weymouth services. It’s not a place where you’d normally find the 5-car Siemens Class 444s thundering through, so that was a bonus to add to pictures of the elderly suburban sets that normally ply the route between Waterloo and Guildford, These 1980s built Class 455s are living on borrowed time as they’re being replaced, but the new trains are late. Very late…

444041 and 444031 thunder over the junction at Effingham whilst working 1W69 the 1323 London Waterloo to Weymouth which would normally run via Woking, but that station was the terminus for services from Southampton and Salisbury, so the Weymouth line trains were run this way. The road bridge over the railway by the station provided an excellent vantage point, even if it was a wet one!
.Having terminated at Effingham and stabled in the yard to let other services past, Class 455s 5868 and 5707 run back into Effingham Junction station to work 2D40, the 1402 Effingham Junction to London Waterloo.

Having secured the shots I wanted and being fed up of the heavy showers I moved Eastwards, having decided to visit one line I’d always missed off travelling on. En-route I passed through several stations which would be worth exploring at a later date as they still retain many of their old buildings and character, Leatherhead a good example. My next stop was Epsom where I switched from Southwestern Railways to Southern for a trip to Sutton on the edge of London. On the way I passed through Cheam (a name made famous by comedian Tony Hancock) where the station once boasted two fast lines running through the centre which were provided in the the days when freight was an important part of the railway. Nowadays it’s a rarity as the old Southern is overwhelmingly a passenger railway. I left the train at Sutton. It’s a busy junction served by both Southern and Thameslink services (via the Sutton loop). Although substantial, the four platform station’s looking a bit run-down nowadays, despite a series of refurbishments through the 2000s. The problem with it became obvious when I arrived in the middle of a torrential downpour. The roof leaks like a sieve! The platforms were awash with water and the covered footbridge between the four platforms wasn’t much better although to be fair, contractors are on site refurbishing the whole structure at the moment, which means there’s lots of scaffolding poles that need to be negotiated as well as puddles.

I was here to catch a train on the 6km line to Epsom Downs. Despite living in London for 25 years I’d never made it down the branch for one reason or another, so today seemed like a good time to put that right. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the old Class 455s I was expecting to find had been replaced with dual-voltage, 100mph class 377s – not that either of these features would be needed on this route!

The Epsom Downs line is an oddity. For the first Kilometer it’s double track, after that it’s a single-track branch line – essentially it’s a long siding. It has two single platform intermediate stations at Belmont and Banstead before reaching Epsom Downs, another basic station. But it wasn’t always like this. In its heyday it was a double-track railway and Epsom Downs was a station with nine platforms, most of which were only used on race days! Here’s a great article and old pictures taken over the years on the ‘disused stations’ website (link). Having been reduced in size over decades the old station finally closed in 1989 and this is what’s replaced it.

Units 377458 and 377211 sit at Epsom Downs before working 2B79, the 1508 Epsom Downs to Selhurst. Normally Epsom trains run to Victoria but the lines from Balham to Victoria have been closed since Christmas Eve as the route is being resignalled. To ease congestion Epsom services shuttle between the town and Selhurst in South London.
This is Belmont, one of the intermediate stations on the line. As you can see, much of the old station land has been taken over by new housing. Here’s 377207 and 377215 calling with 2B72, the 1459 Selhurst to Epsom Downs. The remains of the stations second platform can be seen by the rear of the train.

Time and the light ran out before I could explore more, so I had to retrace my steps home, stopping to get a few more shots on the way. You can find them in these different galleries on my website, one dedicated to the Southern franchise, this one to SWR and this one to Thameslink.

Tomorrow we head home to Yorkshire once more. Weather permitting we’ll be taking a slight detour to have a look at some more of the High-Speed 2 railway construction work in Northamptonshire so keep an eye out for a rolling blog…

I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances appreciate all the help that we can get to aid us in bouncing back from lockdowns. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!

 

Rolling blog. More travels and travails…

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09:45.

We’re putting the finishing touches to packing before loading the car ready for Dee to drive down to Farnham. Just to make it ‘interesting’ the Gods decided to dump some snow on us overnight! Here’s the view from the house right now.

Thankfully, it’s not heavy, although the leaden skies keep teasing us with more flurries. The forecast is crap across most of the Western side of the country this weekend, including the ‘sunny’ South so I many have to be inventive with the camera as I was hoping to have a day out tomorrow. We shall see…

I’ll blog about our journey down as it happens, so feel free to pop back and see what we get up to…

11:30.

We’re on the M1 and heading South now after avoiding the M62 by cutting across country along the A637. It’s a country road that takes us from Elland to Junction 38. The roads windy and narrow but it traverses the hills South of Wakefied and affords some wonderful views of Castle Hill at Huddersfield to the South. To the North you have views as far as the power stations such as Drax. We dipped in and out of the snowline which gradually petered out the further East we got – all in glorious sunshine. En-route we passed this interesting new house. Imagine the 360 degree views this affords you!

The weather here on the M1 is awful. It’s a combination of rain and sleet. The spray’s making visibility difficult so I’m going to finish for now to give Dee (who’s doing the driving) an extra pair of eyes…

14:30.

We’re off the M1 now which is a relief. Although the traffic wasn’t too heavy the changeable weather certainly made driving challenging.

One oddity was that we discovered a humbug shortage. Neither of us are great sweet eaters – except on long car journeys when we do enjoy boiled sweets with humbugs being a favourite. Normally motorway services and petrol stations are stuffed with ’em, but not today despite us trying several outlets. Oh, the irony, England suffering from a humbug shortage in this day and age…

We’re currently cutting across country via several A roads including the A43. We had a brief pitstop at Brackley to top up with fuel and allow me to have a look at early work on building the HS2 rail line which will pass under a diverted section of the A43, building the new dual carriageway has only recently started.

The Brackley roundabout. The new A43 will come off this roundabout in the centre of the picture. The ‘old’ road behind the HGV will be closed. HS2 will cross the picture from Left to Right in a cutting a few hundred meters North.

15:30.

We’re on the last leg nowhaving left the M4 at a humongous and complex roundabout by Reading to head South on the A33.

The roads have been surprisingly quiet for a Friday. Even the A34 which is normally congested around Oxford. Even the M4 was pleasant – not a word I’d normally use to describe the Thames Valley racetrack! I’m assuming a combination of folk isolating or working from home are the culprits. But it’s been to our advantage.

Sadly, the weather’s still crap, consisting of dull skies, rain and sleet. For the benefit of my many overseas readers who may find my seeming obsession with the weather odd – I’ll explain in another chapter of this blog after we’ve arrived…

18:55.

And relax! We’re now sitting by a wood fire here in Tilford, relaxing after the journey down. The weather deteriorated after my last post, the sleet turned into proper snow just before we hit Farnham but the ground was far too wet for it to stick even if it had persisted. Instead we’re in a very soggy Surrey, which isn’t what we’re normally used to, although there’s a certain feeling of festive deja vu as this is just how it was when we were here at Christmas.

But right now the weather’s behind us as we’ve a quite night in. Dawn’s planning on cooking so soon the house will be filled with the delicious aromas of chicken Korma and Bakewell tart to compliment the whiff of wood-smoke from the fire. Me? I’ve some picture editing to do…

I mentioned earlier about why the British seem to always be talking about the weather. For me that’s partly because it can have such a major impact of my job. I’m an outdoor, not a studio photographer so I’m often at the mercy of the elements. Sure, I do indoor jobs too, but the outdoors is a huge part of my work so I’m always keeping one eye on the weather map. I also live in the Pennines which is renowned for its micro-climates. We can have glorious weather in the Calder Valley whilst it could be blowing a blizzard in the Colne valley next door.

The British Isles benefit from the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, but this – and the islands location means that our weather patterns are unpredictable to say the least – and even more so now that the climate’s changing. It’s getting warmer, and wetter. I sometimes envy countries with more stable seasons, which is why I always love travelling in tropical SE Asia where there’s not the same variations and you don’t need to pack to cope with extremes. In the UK we can have snow in Summer! I shouldn’t really complain too much as the variety we experience can make for some dramatic skies and pictures – if you happen to be in the right place at the right time. Sadly, the law of Sod means that often, the opposite happens to me! However, it does teach you patience (and a certain amount of fatalism) to be stood out in the landscape in beautiful sunshine waiting for a certain train to arrive only for the event to coincide with a large, dark cloud muscling in to block the sun at exactly the wrong moment, then to clear just as the bloody train’s passed! Not a problem I encounter in Asia. I sometime joke that in the UK we don’t have climate, we have weather. Whether it’s snowing, rainy or sunny, it’s always whether! So this is why you may notice my keenness in noting the conditions outside.

Talking of the weather (sorry!) my plans for heading out tomorrow are looking dicey as nowhere seems to escape from the band of rain that’s due to sweep across the country which is making deciding where to go rather a challenge. Scenic shots are looking like they’re going to be out of the question, so I may have to decide my plans first thing tomorrow. Maybe a day indoors beckons…

I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances appreciate all the help that we can get to aid us in bouncing back from lockdowns. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!

6th January picture of the day…

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After all yesterday’s glorious sunshine the weather’s reverted back to type here in the Pennines. We’ve had gloomy skies, persistent rain and sleet throughout most of the day. Even so, I managed to keep up my new exercise regime and hit all my targets by nipping down into Sowerby Bridge with food shopping as the excuse. But then carrying a rucsac full of heavy shopping back up the valley is a pretty good workout!

I’d intended to be busy at home the next few days but plans have changed all of a sudden as now I find myself heading back down to Surrey tomorrow due to a last-minute request from Dawn who wants me down there for her own nefarious purposes! Who am I to say no? After all, have laptop, will travel, and besides, there’s a little photographic project that I have in mind if the weather’s up to it…

As another short Surrey sojourn beckons there’s not much of a blog from me tonight – I’ve other things to sort out. I’d planned to write about two social media dishonest disasters from two very different sources (the Dept of Transport, and Greenpeace) but that’ll have to wait until the weekend). Instead there’ll be a rolling blog of travels tomorrow whilst tonight I’m leaving you with another old picture from Denmark with a similar light-hearted theme as the last one. Well, unless you’re an irresponsible dog owner that is!

I found this sign on the side of the block where our friend lived in Copenhagen. Clearly, someone had got fed up with dog-shit being left outside their apartment door and decided to make a point!

I can sympathise. Our local woods can sometimes be a mine-field thanks to dog owners who can’t be arsed to clean up after their pooches. Then there’s the one’s who really get my goat. The one’s who bag it up – and then hang the bag on the nearest available tree branch, as if a poo-fairy will magically carry it away! A bullet’s too good for them…

See you tomorrow!

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If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances appreciate all the help that we can get to aid us in bouncing back from lockdowns. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!

5th January picture(s) of the day…

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Finally! The pair of us escaped the confines of the house and the Calder Valley on a day when we were blessed with glorious sunshine – although that did dictate where we ended up. Originally, we’d planned to drive over to the East coast and visit Robin Hood’s bay in North Yorkshire as Dawn was keen for some fresh sea air, but on checking the forecast this morning we found the area was covered in cloud which led to a rethink. The Met Office website showed parts of the West coast were graced with clear blue skies so we changed our plans at the last minute and headed to somewhere I’ve not visited for Donkey’s years – Formby Point between Liverpool and Southport.

Despite the round trip involving a triumvirate of motorways (M62, M57 and M6) it wasn’t a bad journey as traffic was mercifully light which meant we arrived at the National Trust car-park at Formby point just in time for high-tide which left a narrow strip of sand available to walk along if you didn’t fancy the strenuous trudge up and down the sandhills. With the wind whipping up muddy waves and ships slipping out of the Mersey estuary past wind turbines it was quite a sight.

Try as I might by flicking through various websites and lists I can’t identify this ship leaving the Mersey today…

Walking Northwards we headed up the beach as far as Freshfield, which is famous for its pinewoods which are a refuge for the Red Squirrel. Last time I was here the woods were full of the critters but they’ve suffered from the devastating impact of the squirrel pox virus. An outbreak in 2008 saw 80% of the population wiped out. Apparently, the population has now increased to almost 90% of the pre-pox numbers but the little buggers must have been having a day off today as we didn’t see a single one – which means I’m having to use an old picture I took on my last visit in 1994 to show you what you *could* see…

By the time we got fought our way up and down the sandhills back to the beach the tide had receded at a pace. The beach is shallow so it doesn’t take long for large patches of sand to be exposed – as you can see from this picture.

The pair of us really enjoyed being back at the seaside, getting the cobwebs blown away. Lovely as it is living up in the Pennines there’s something about beaches – even when they’re bloody freezing!

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Thank you!

4th January picture of the day…

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No blog from me yesterday I’m afraid. One of my new year resolutions is to reboot my exercise levels which took a dive in December. In order to do that something has to give sometime and yesterday that was blogging.

The reboot’s going well. I covered over 10 miles in 21,000 steps yesterday and hit all my targets except one as I was well below my calorie count – which will help burn off some of the Christmas excess! It’s not that I’m overweight, it’s just that I’m near the top end of the scale at which I’m comfortable with and I want to get back to where I feel happiest. After all, I’m not getting any younger and I’d prefer to be an active pensioner rather than a sedentary one!

As if to offer me encouragement the weather’s changed. We’ve lost the rain – and the mild temperatures. They’ve been replaced with colder, sunnier days. In fact, when I opened the bedroom blinds this morning I found there was snow right across the valley tops. It didn’t last long as the sun soon disposed of it, although it was amusing this evening watching cars go past that were still covered in snow. It was almost a weather vane to show how high up the valley side these people lived.

As well as my physical activity I have managed to get some work done, although I’m easing myself back into the swing of things as Dawn’s still on holiday as she’s a mountain of untaken leave to use up. As well as getting some pictures off to a couple of clients and wading through paperwork I managed to finish off scanning yet another album of old slides and begin the next in the series, which will be the final images from 1995-96 but they won’t start to arrive on my Zenfolio website until the weekend. In the queue are shots from Denmark, various points around the UK compass and India, so there should be something of interest for most people and a ready source of pictures of the day. Today’s is one of the series from Denmark.

Lynn and I used to visit Copenhagen on a regular basis as we’d met a Danish woman and her daughter out in Bali a year earlier. ‘Didi’ was a 60s ‘wild child’ who’d mellowed but still had her character. Her daughter, Amalie was a young teenager and quite a famous TV and film star in Denmark. We used to have some fantastic times when we visited them in Christianshavn in Copenhagen or they came over to stay with us in London. Sadly, neither Didi or Lynn are still with us and Amalie now has her own family and lives in Sweden, so I’ve not been back for many years. But, I still have some fabulous memories of those times. The picture I’m using is a great example of how what sounds great in one language doesn’t always translate well. This was a Chinese restaurant in Copenhagen city centre. I had to do a double-take when I saw the name…

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If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances appreciate all the help that we can get to aid us in bouncing back from lockdowns. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!

 

2nd January picture of the day…

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2022 has started in a relaxed fashion here in Bigland Towers, mainly because the weather’s been so wet neither of us have ventured out since New Year’s Eve! On the plus side – it’s been unseasonably mild, which has worrying long-term implications, but as there’s nothing I can do to change that right now I may as well enjoy it.

This lack of activity (although not idleness) means there’s not much of a blog from me today. I’ve kept myself occupied by writing and tidying up my picture filing by clearing away stuff from 2021 in readiness for opening 2022’s photographic account just as soon the weather improves.

Whatever the weather I’ll be sallying forth tomorrow if for no other reason than getting some exercise and working off some of the Christmas largesse. Neither of us really over-indulged, but we certainly ate more than we would normally – and multiple courses too so I’m looking forward to cooking some simpler but no less tasty food this month and cutting back on the meat dishes.

Right, I’m off to watch a film with Dawn so here’s the picture of the day. Another of today’s tasks was to polish off editing the scanned slides I’d amassed before Christmas. The last of the shots from Indonesia in 1994-95 have been added to this gallery and the British travel pictures have been added here. Next in the queue are travel shots from Anglesey, like this view of Red Wharf Bay which was taken on the 6th May 1995…

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If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances appreciate all the help that we can get to aid us in bouncing back from lockdowns. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!

Another Christmas pantomime from anti HS2 protesters…

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Welcome to my first blog of 2022! I’m opening the year with a light-hearted look at an old subject which is unlikely to feature much this year as the anti HS2 ‘campaign’ (and I use that word very loosely indeed) now resembles Monty Python’s famous parrot!

With all the protest camps on phase 1 of HS2 having been evicted or abandoned (despite what the @hs2rebellion website claims) there’s just a solitary camp in Staffordshire remaining – although that’s living on borrowed time. The tiny handful of regular occupants are good at bluster (claiming their campaign is growing) and wringing Crowdfunded money from mugs who fall for their spin, but what they’re not good at is doing anything to impede – never mind stop – HS2, as their latest pantomime demonstrated.

Their normal stunt is to turn up at a local HS2 compound, film themselves failing to stop any work, then buggering off back to camp before they get arrested. Their gullible followers on social media fall for this and throw money into the bucket to keep them in food and fags for another few days.

Over the Christmas holiday they tried a different stunt which went woefully wrong!

The M42 motorway was closed between Xmas eve and New Year’s eve in order to prepare groundworks for the ‘Marston box’, a bridge which will carry HS2 over the M42.

The protesters decided it would be a cunning plan to try and disrupt this work, so a few Bluebell occupants, a well-known but equally useless Extinction Rebellion activist from Nottinghamshire and a couple of youngsters from who knows where headed over to the work on the 29th. Quite how this one man and his dog operation (there was only about 6-7 of them) was meant to stop such a huge project is a mystery, but most of their actions are purely for the sake of the cameras nowadays anyway.

It went badly. Three of them ended up getting arrested, including the gobby but hopeless character who calls himself ‘run away Jim’ who was nicked for sitting atop a wagon for a little while. Their friend from Notts, Karen Wildin* also got nicked for breaching her bail conditions. The video’s were farcical as they showed just how useless the protest had been, and also how small. One young protester hadn’t even got a clue where she was and kept claiming she was blocking the ‘M25 North’!

Wildin was seen on film protesting that the police refused to tell her why she was being arrested, despite the fact it’s clear from her commentary (and subtitles) they’d told her it was because she’d breached her bail conditions – conditions which would have been clearly explained to her at the time. But then Wildin isn’t the sharpest tool in the box. In another video she can be heard unthinkingly spouting the usual XR propaganda, including the claim that HS2 is merely a ‘shuttle service’ between airports. Any enquiring mind might ask, “why on earth do you need a shuttle service between airports? Who flies in to Heathrow to fly out of Birmingham, or vice versa”? It’s one of the most intellectually vacuous of all the anti HS2 claims, but enquiring minds are as rare as rocking-horse sh*t when it comes to these protesters.

Oh dear, poor Karen, your own words show you knew exactly why you were being arrested (again).

So, how much disruption was caused by this laughable protest. The sum total of zilch! The M42 was meant to reopen by 21:00 on New Years Eve, but as the local paper, the Coventry Telegraph reported, the work finished early – by 16:00! In fact, torrential rain caused more disruption to the work than the protesters!

After being released on bail the hapless protesters returned to their camp (or Notts, as Wildin’s bail conditions ban her from land owned by HS2) but they won’t be there for long as the camp is living on borrowed time and HS2 bailiffs and security will soon be arriving to take possession. Like all the other camps it won’t be much of a fight.. Soon all that’ll be left is another woodland full of crap and detritus left behind by the hopeless protesters. This will bring to an end the pathetic tale of the protest camps, none of which stopped a thing.

As for the claims that their campaign is ‘growing’, their own social media accounts belie these claims. Time and time again they carry tales of protesters who’ve given up and moved on elsewhere, often to other hopeless causes. Their final acts are often to try and bum more money in the process…

The support they get in some of their new protests is in marked contrast to their claims. “Digger Down” was one of the occupants of the pointless Euston tunnels, now he’s protesting about trees in London, with the same levels of success and support!

The @hs2rebellion pantomine has had its last season. Most of the actors in this tiny troupe are now ‘resting’ (one way or another) and don’t expect a summer performance either! With the rate things have gone they’ll be lucky to fill a phone box in 2022. The only appearances they’ll be getting booked for are those in Court…

Happy New Year!

*Wildin has a track record of failure as Extinction Rebellion ‘cannon-fodder’ Having sat up trees on the HS2 route only to be turfed out toot-suite she tried her hand at sitting atop a biomass train at Drax power station. That went as well as expected! She also ignored ‘lockdown’ to pitch up in Euston to film herself at the tunnel protest. The expression ‘rebel without a clue’ springs to mind…

I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances need all the help that we can get. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!

It’s goodbye 2021…

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Another year that I won’t be sad to see the back of to be honest, despite the fact it wasn’t all bad – although did any of us expect the year to end in the way it has? After the year beginning in a lockdown did we seriously think we’d be be seeing the year out with record numbers of Covid cases, even if it does seem that Omicron is less lethal a strain? The amount of my social media friends and real relations that I’ve seen report contracting Covid has been sobering to say the least, but at least Dawn and I have managed to dodge infection so far – and plan to stay that way!

I’d hoped 2021 would see me finally being able to escape the clutches of ‘Brexit island’ and head back into Asia. I’d planned to do so early in 2022 but Omicron looks like it’s put the mockers on such dreams for now at least. Instead, I’ll be stuck here, watching the UK’s international reputation continue to disintegrate as Johnson and his Government lurch from farce to scandal and back again on what looks like an endless loop. A year on from leaving the EU the realities are becoming obvious. Far from getting Brexit ‘done’ Johnson’s embroiled us in a protracted blame war with the EU in order to detract from the fact the Brexit unicorns and ‘sunny uplands’ were always a fantasy. Covid’s helped him in that but he can’t hide from the reality forever and it seems (according to polls) even many Leave voters have come to realise what “Caveat Emptor” means. Sadly, far too late and the shambles will continue for years to come…

We may have the ‘fun’ of the Tories ditching Johnson in 2022 in order to save their skins in the 2024 election, but let’s face it – the field to replace him is hardly attractive. I mean, Liz Truss? Seriously?

Workwise, 2021 has been enjoyable. The gradual wind-down of restrictions meant that press trips and events resumed so there was plenty for me to photo or write about and the COP26 Climate Change conference in Glasgow in November kept me very busy indeed. I also added a mixture of 7,924 new pictures and old slid scans to my Zenfolio website, the most I’ve ever achieved in one year which beat last year’s previous best of 6200 plus so Covid’s proved to have some benefits. I’m now well on course to have all my old slides scanned in 2022 a mere 33 years after I first switched to that medium! 2022 promises to be an exciting year on the photographic and journalistic front as the construction of the HS2 high-speed railway will be in full swing. Over 20,000 people are working on the line at the moment and next year will see work start in earnest on the section from Birmingham to Crewe. Phase 1 is already well underway with three tunnel boring machines in action, the huge Colne Valley Viaduct under construction and work started on the stations at Euston, Old Oak Common and Birmingham Curzon St. There’s far too many landmarks to mention but HS2 Ltd have put out this helpful video which showcases much of what’s happening.

We’re ending the year as we began it – at home. We’re having a quiet one just to ourselves, enjoying good food, a drink and time to relax – ready to hit the ground running in 2022 as we’ve both got a lot of things we want to achieve next year. Let’s see how that shapes up.

In the meantime, thank you to all the people who either keep popping in to read my rambles in these blogs or who visit my Zenfolio picture website. I’ll be keeping both well-stocked in in 2022.

All that remains is for me to wish you all a very happy and prosperous new year and let’s all look forward to one where we finally cast off the madness and tragedies of Covid and return to a much more normal life. Onwards to the next challenge – whatever that may be….

Happy New Year!

The Rover returns…

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The festive season’s rather put a damper on blogging these past few days, as has family commitments but today such things end as I’m finally heading home after my Surrey sojourn. Whilst Dawn and her parents have driven back I’ve headed North by train as I had to make a detour for both business and pleasure.

I’ve had a long lens in for repair at Fixation in London since the end of August but a lack of spare parts has meant it wasn’t fixed until just before Christmas. As I had to pop in to Vauxhall to pick it up, and I have an old friend who lives in Clapham – and the Southern main line between London Victoria and Balham was closed for resignalling work it seemed like the ideal opportunity to kill three birds with one stone!

The family dropped me off in Farnham where I caught a train into London. The weather was still as crap as ever but at least it’d stopped raining. That said, temperatures are ridiculously mild for this time of year. Double figures in December? Sheesh!

My train through to the capital was quiet, because of Omicron many people are either choosing to work from home or have extended their holidays to avoid having to travel. Apart from a few souls like me heading home after being with family the majority of my felloe passengers seemed to be folk heading into London for a day out shopping or sightseeing whilst the city’s quiet.

Having picked up my lends I met Hassard in Clapham where the two of us explored photographic avenues that allowed us to capture pictures of the resignalling work. As this sort of stuff (engineering possessions) is Hass’s day job at Network Rail it could be called a busmens holiday for him, but that’s what happens when hobbies and work collide!

Afterwards we spent a convivial hour at a pub enjoying a pint and a light lunch before I traipsed across London to get to Kings Cross and home. The Underground was surprisingly busy but mask wearing was adhered to by the vast majority of people, which was reassuring. Unfortunately, the East Coast Main line was suffering from a common malaise – overhead wire problems – this time around Stevenage. I’d visions of being heavily delayed as the train that was meant to be working my service to Leeds was over 40 minutes late on its inbound trip. Fortunately, LNER control stepped up sets and ran a Class 800 that was already platformed in its place. Even so, we were caught up in the congestion the issue caused, leaving us 20 minutes down by Grantham. My connection in Leeds was now out of the window, but at least I was getting home.

We were still 20 down on arrival at Leeds but having over half an hour to wander round was no problem as a large part of the station was under an engineering possession which made for some interesting photo opportunities, plus one rather surreal one – but only folk with railway experience will understand why it’s not as mad as it first seems.

Now I’m back at home as Dee picked me up at the station in order to save getting a soaking as the weather’s wet and windy back in the bosom of West Yorkshire. Still, it’s good to be home. Today’s excursions are my last train journey’s of 2021 as the pair of us are going to kick back and relax tomorrow with only each other for company. Oh, expect a year end blog even so. After all, it would be rude not to…

I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances appreciate all the help that we can get to aid us in bouncing back from lockdowns. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!