The sunshine, that is. Yesterday’s glorious weather appears to have been a flash in the pan. Today dawned in the traditional pattern with low cloud and haze obscuring the view of the valley. Remarkably, considering the thunderous grey clouds that clung to the horizon like an invading army, we didn’t get any rain until just before dusk. Then, the heavens opened! I wouldn’t have minded so much if we hadn’t been out food shopping, so we got caught in the downpour. It’s remarkable just how wet you can get when you’re making a 100 metre dash with shopping bags!
Having got home neither of us have any intention of venturing out again. Instead, I’m happy in the kitchen, trying out a new curry recipe from Rick Stein’s Indian book. Right now the chicken’s cooking slowly and there’s a wonderful smell of cinnamon, star anise fenugreek and garlic permeating to house – with just that tang of chilli catching your nose and throat when I open the kitchen door.
Whilst Dawn was visiting friends this morning I’ve not been idle. I managed to get through editing all yesterdays pictures, so here’s a couple more samples. You can find the full collection on my Zenfolio website if you follow this link.
Here’s the changing face of the railways in the North. One of Trans-Pennine Express new ‘Nova’ 2 5-car bi-mode trains leaves Leeds bound for Liverpool Lime St. It’s passing one of the new CAF built 3-car diesel trains built for Northern. Despite what you hear about a lack of investment in trains in the North these two train orders come to over a billion pounds. Both reflect an increase in train lengths and the number of seats on offer, as well as free wifi, plug sockets and more.
Of course it’s not just TPE and Northern that have brought new trains to Yorkshire, so has LNER. their new ‘Azuma’ fleet has already taken over the majority of services From Leeds Harrogate, Skipton and Wakefield to London.
Sadly, looking at the weather forecast for the week I’m going to be lucky to find such good weather anywhere near to home. Even further afield is looking iffy, so I you may be treated to more old slide scans until the weather picks up.
Right, it’s time to eat. Whilst I’ve been scribbling this the chicken curry has cooked – and it’s looking good…
It’s the penultimate day of the year and the weather’s been glorious here in the Calder Valley. We’ve had wall to wall sunshine for most of the day and temperatures that would shame the South. Sadly, I’ve not had the time to enjoy the climactic conditions in the way I’d have liked as I’m too busy playing catch-up after a week away ‘down South’ and the imminent new year. That said, I’m also determined to up my exercise levels as the Surrey sojourn did little for me in that respect so I’ve enjoyed an afternoon constitutional by strolling up hill and down dale whilst shopping. The masochist in me secretly enjoys the fact that I’ve got to yomp uphill from the Sowerby Bridge shops. It certainly beats paying to use a gym!
The fact that we’re at the end of another decade has only just started to sink in as the last one’s been tumultuous to say the least. I’ll blog more about that as soon as I have the time, because for me, there’s a huge amount to look back and reflect upon.
Shopping aside, most of my day’s been spent immersed in swapping between paperwork and computer screens but this evening I have had chance to experiment on the culinary front and try a new dahl recipe from the Dishoom book that Darren (my brother-in-law) bought me for Christmas. It’s the ‘house black dahl’. Despite the fact it takes hours to cook it’s looking pretty good…
I do love cooking. I see it as a form of relaxation and therapy as well as the chance to always try something new. I’d certainly try this recipe again as it was a hearty dahl that was ideal for a winter’s night. Admittedly, I might tinker with it next time by adding a bit more chilli to suit our tastes, but otherwise it’s a lovely dish.
Whilst I was preparing this and keeping a watchful eye on its progress Dawn’s also been busy in the kitchen, preparing the ingredients for tomorrow’s meal. Whilst we’ll be nipping out for a few drinks with friends in the afternoon we’ve decided to flag the traditional New Year’s piss-up and spend the night at home together instead. The theory is that we’ll be entering the new decade bright-eyed and bushy tailed, ready to take on whatever the next ten years throws at us. I’ll let you know how we get on with that!
We’ve been up since 07:00 having breakfast and finishing packing up the chalet to begin the drive back to Yorkshire later today. This could be interesting as Dawn and her parents may have left a lot of presents behind, but they’ve gained a load too and now there’s me and my camera bag to fit into the vehicle! This could get cosy!
Fortunately, the weather’s looking OK. We’ve a mild but cloudy day to look forward to with no rain forecast anywhere on the 4 hour drive back to West Yorkshire – although as we’ll be stopping off on the way for coffee and lunch we’ll be on the road for longer than that. Let’s see how this goes…
It all fits! Mind you, you should see what’s in with the rest of us in the passenger saloon…
So, it’s goodbye to the chalet that’s been our home for the past week.
Next stop, coffee with Darren & the kids in Farnham…
Fuelled – up on coffee, pain au raison and having bid adieu to the Surrey branch of Dawn’s family it’s time to hit the road, thankful that we’ve dodged the elderly idiot in a Bentley who nealy caused a crash in the Waitrose car park! Well, it would be, wouldn’t it?
We’ve just come off the M4 at Junction 13 to head cross-country on the A34. Apart from the ever-busy M4 the roads have been surprisingly quiet allowing us to make good time.
Well, the A34’s lived down to expectations! Despite the general lack of HGV traffic on the roads this route is a main freight artery to/from the busy port of Southampton. Add in the fact Oxford’s saturated with cars and the A34’s the town’s by-pass we’ve now got snarled up in heavy traffic.
We made it through the traffic before flitting along an equally congested M40 for one junction then headed up a less busy A43 to reach the M1 where traffic was heavy Southbound but reasonable (for the M1) heading North.
We’re now having a pit-stop at Watford Gap services. The busiest of the eateries here is the one I never use anyway – McDonald’s, where folk tap in their orders to touchscreens before queuing for their burgers. Whilst Dawn and her folks relaxed in the adjacent Costa coffee I went for a wander and took this shot looking North up the M1.
Home! The rest of the journey wasn’t bad at all. Traffic thinned out the further North we got and the only surprise was when we passed above the car parks of the Meadowhall Shopping Centre outside of Sheffield. They were absolutely rammed!
Leaving the M1 at Junction 35a we headed over to Huddersfield to drop off ‘the folks’ and their bags, then (considerably lighter) we drove cross-country back to home. Despite it being Saturday night, life in West Yorkshire seems quite subdued. Most of the restaurants and pubs we passed were mostly empty. Presumably people are hording what money they’ve got left from the Christmas excesses for New Year. I can’t say either of us are going to be painting the town red tonight either. The moggie needs some TLC and there’s plenty to sort out before year (and decade) end…
The second day of the new rail timetable’s not going well, so I’m glad I’ve been at home catching up on paperwork and chores. Sadly I missed another batch of Pacers heading for storage as I didn’t check Real Time Trains until too late! The number of Pacers in service is declining rapidly, so if you’re that way inclined – catch ’em whilst you can! Here’s a previous blog looking back over their lives and times.
To be honest, today’s weather’s hardly been conducive to photography either as we’ve had sunshine atop the valley whilst the bottom’s been surrounded by haze. I did venture out to get some shopping at get my daily miles in but I didn’t bother taking the camera as it seemed like a waste of time.
This evening I’ve been watching live train schedules on RTT and feeling sorry for the poor buggers trying to get home from places like Huddersfield, where the Trans-Pennine service appears to have gone into free-fall with many trains cancelled and the ones working in from Leeds or Manchester already rammed by the time they arrive.
Mind you, it’s not just TPE. I saw this on RTT earlier which amused/bemused me. Northern’s new Halifax-Hull service is having its own problems too!
Well, you can’t get much slower than a cancelled train!
I’ve remarked before that TPE always seemed to get off lightly when it came to complaints about rail services. It was always Northern Rail getting it in the neck, but this looks to have changed as I saw this tweet from Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham earlier. Of course, he stuck the boot into Northern first!
How stripping either of their franchise and leaving the services to be run from a desk in the Department of Transport by an ‘operator of last resort’ is going to make things better is anyone’s guess. But at least you can keep the problem at arms length then…
My plans for the rest of the week keep changing as jobs keep changing. I did have a job in Wales pencilled in for Thursday but this has been cancelled. Instead I’m going to be heading back to London for this annual event;
We’ve had a chilly weekend in West Yorkshire, very much four seasons in one day sort of weather where there’s bright sunshine one minute, then you’re getting pelted with hailstones before being soaked by heavy rain.
Yesterday afternoon we went to see my Father-in-Law perform with the Honley Male voice choir at Huddersfield Town hall. They were supported by the excellent Carlton Frickley Colliery Band and also a local female choir from nearby Rastrick. It was a lovely, joyous event in a stunning setting. Here’s a shot from the end of the event when everyone was in the festive spirit, including the audience who were joining hands and swaying along to the songs!
Afterwards Dawn treated me to a belated birthday present, an excellent meal at Café Thai in West Vale, where we had the tapas menu in their upstairs restaurant. Thai food lends itself to the tapas format extremely well. We ordered three dishes each, which was plenty as the portion sizes are generous. Among the dishes we ordered was this, Pla Goong. Grilled prawns with a salad of red onions, coriander and garlic, along with a typically Thai spicy dressing that was the perfect fiery accompaniment.
We also sampled duck in a red curry sauce, steamed mussels with Thai Basil and a marinated Tofu dish, ‘Pad Char’ – none of which could be faulted.
Today’s been much more a home-based event. This is the view we woke up to from our bedroom window this morning, with the first snow of the season on the high hills and dark skies threatening more…
Yesterday was our second wedding anniversary, but it didn’t go entirely to plan due to the fact Dawn’s gone down with the lurgi. Of course, this follows straight on from a fantastic weekend with friends where we (belatedly) celebrated my 60th birthday, which was last month. 15 of us congregated in London at Café Spice Namaste for what was a lovely evening.
On Sunday we made our way back from London to Yorkshire. Sadly, it was all a bit of a rush, but that’s because a few of us had a lie-in after staying up until 02.30. We were staying in a hotel in London’s Eastern Docklands and the weather was so good on the Sunday Morning we couldn’t resist taking a minor detour on the Emirates Airlines cable-car across the Thames to North Greenwich. This left us with little time to get the train our friends had booked from Kings Cross to Yorkshire, so I ended up doing my best London travel guide impression, using my knowledge as a former Londoner to navigate our way across the city’s public transport system. Here’s how things looked from the cable car.
Our trip back home was made easy by a straight-through trip on Grand Central to Halifax, where we caught up with our friends for a last drink in the Big 6 before home. Yesterday was far more relaxed as, apart from slipping out to get some shopping, we stayed in all day. Dawn wasn’t feeling 100% and the weather was filthy, so there was no incentive to venture out apart from me having a dental appointment to pick up a shield. It seems I’ve started grinding my teeth in my sleep. After nearly four years of the shambles that is Brexit I can’t say that I’m entirely surprised. Biting my tongue during the day and grinding my teeth at night seems entirely normal behaviour under the circumstances! To prevent excessive wear and tear I’ve now got a shield for my lower teeth which is to be worn at night. If only a solution to the Brexitshambles was that simple…
So, instead of the pair of us venturing out we spent the evening cooking. Dawn prepared a Flemish beef stew with beer before retiring to her sick bed, leaving me to take over and prepare all the veg and finish the cooking. I have to say, the stew was delicious!
We fell in love with this rich dish when we were in Bruges last month. With the weather being so miserable it seemed like the ideal comforting food to prepare, although we eschewed the traditional chips for a mixture of roast potato’s and red cabbage as an accompaniment.
Today I’ve been on nursing and shopping duties as well as working from home. There’s been plenty of news to catch up on, hence this blog on HS2 I penned this morning. I even managed to venture out for an afternoon constitutional, although I’ve not been breaking any records today! Hopefully tomorrow the weather (and Dawn) will begin to pick up…
Yesterday’s torrential rains are causing ripples (if you’ll pardon the pun) today as rail services in the Calder valley are still disrupted. For once the line didn’t flood at Walsden but over in Lancashire. It finally reopened earlier this afternoon, but services are still chaotic with many trains cancelled. This morning, trains from Leeds were being terminated at either Hebden Bridge or Todmorden and nothing was running at all East of Manchester Victoria. This screen at Todmorden says it all…
I’ve ventured out as far as Walsden to have a look and get a few pictures (which I’ll add later). We’ve had very little rain so far today although the skies are constantly changing and threatening another deluge. Sadly, Valley folk are having to become accustomed to floods nowadays. Climate change is here and it’s real, and local human activity up on the moors is exacerbating it by allowing the rain to run off much more quickly.
Trying to protect our Victorian rail network from Climate Change is a huge task. What were once considered once in a century events are now happening with monotonous regularity – and there are no quick fixes or easy solutions as land around railways has been buried under roads or encroached on by housing and commercial developments. This is one of the reasons I’m such an advocate for building HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. We cannot expect to rely on Victorian infrastructure forever.
OK, as promised, here’s a few pictures from today.
It’s been a wet and miserable day here in the Calder Valley, the leaden skies have been unloading on us since early this morning. If I had plans for an Ark I’d be tempted to dust them off, but then we live high up on the valley side, so if the flood waters ever reached us an ark is exactly what we’d need!
Earlier, I donned my waterproofs and took a stroll down into Sowerby Bridge in order to pick up some shopping and also to get some exercise. I try and walk 5 miles most days in order to keep fit and get away from staring at a computer screen. Today it gave me the excuse to check on the River Calder which runs through the centre of the town. It’s not at Boxing Day 2015 flood levels but it’s way above normal. Here’s the view from the bridge across the river looking East.
This is a still from 2014 showing how this stretch of river normally looks like!
Here’s another view taken from the left hand side of the first video clip, looking towards the railway. The river that joins the Calder under the railway bridge is the Ryburn. It was just the other side of the railway that the 2015 floods happened due to the sheer volume of water being pushed back from the Ryburn by a flooded Calder – just where Sowerby Bridge is at its lowest level.
Apparently, the railway line is closed due to flooding at a familiar weakpoint today, Walsden, to the West of Todmorden, where a culvert passes under the line, so the pair of Pacers you see in the video were the last train to make it through. I also hear that the road between Sowerby Bridge and Todmorden is closed due to flooding!
I’m now back at home in the warm, hoping that the Amber flood warning the Met Office has issued won’t cause us any more problems, but more rain is something we certainly don’t need.
I was up before sparrow fart this morning as I have to be in London for a commission with Network Rail at Euston at 09:00, then in Birmingham in the afternoon for the ACoRP AGM.
Right now I’m walking down to Halifax station to potentially catch the second train of the day – if it’s running to time. My connections are tight if I’m going to be punctual and punctuality isn’t great in the leaf-fall season. There’s no rain this morning, which is a bonus. Instead it’s clear and frosty. The gritting lorries have been busy overnight and as it’s quiet this time of morning i’m walking on the roads rather than the leaf-strewn pavements. Yorkshire stone slabs may look pretty, but in the autumn they’re as slippery and untrustworthy as Boris Johnson!
I’m taking a chance and this could all go horribly wrong, but I’m now on the 05:50 from Halifax to Manchester Victoria, which is being worked by one of Northern’s new Class 195s. It was 3 mins late arriving from Bradford and it’s the first service of the day through the Calder Valley across the Pennines, so I’m taking a risk! I’m sat in the front car and it’s freezing! There’s no heating on and the information screens aren’t working either. The Conductor’s apologiesed and explained that the units come straight off Neville Hill depot and “hasn’t got going yet”!
We’ve just left Sowerby Bridge, where I could have caught the train from (and had an extra 15m in bed) but i’d have been without a plan B (going via the East Coast) if the train had been late or cancelled. To be fair, we’re not doing badly. The driver took it easy leaving the station but the railhead conditions musn’t be too bad as he’s making the most of the unit’s superior acceleration and braking.
We’re now leaving Hebden Bridge and I’ve noticed another thing about this unit (195109) which is there’s a real whistling sound at speed. The unit feels very draughty and I suspect it’s coming from the driver’s door!
The whistling and draughts were annoying enough to make me move into the centre car. It’s still freezing in here but it’s not as draughty! Our timekeeping’s not bad. We’re only 2 mins down departing from Todmorden so I’m cautiously optimistic. In the bay of seats behind me are two men complaining about the service Northern Rail have been providing. To say the TOC has an image problem is an understatement!
We’ve left Rochdale 5 mins late. I can feel the wheels slipping here but the driver’s done well. My connection time in Manchester is going to be very tight, but I might just make it. I’ll let you know if I do afterwards! I’m looking forward to sitting on a nice warm Pendolino with a steaming cup of coffee in my frozen hands…
Bugger – missed it! A 5 minute late arrival into platform 6, the furthest away from the barriers that involves a scrum on the footbridge, meant that – despite a heroic sprint across the city centre – I missed the 07:00 Euston train by 2 minutes! I’m now thawing out in coach C on the 07:15 Pendolino which gets me into Euston 20 mins late. I’m sure my Network Rail colleagues will understand!
Another calamity has befallen me. The coffee machine’s kaput! This could have been an absolute disaster were it not for the fact the chap in the shop had a stash of coffee bags, so I managed to get a brew after all…
We’ve just left Stoke-On-Trent and the few seats keft unoccupied after leaving Stockport have filled up. This is a peak service so tickets aren’t cheap, but that’s not deterred the many business travellers who’re heading down to London for the day. This train’s now fast to Milton Keynes, so I’ll be interested to see how many alight there.
Weatherwise, we had a cracking sunrise around Stockport but now the mist has settled, marring visibility despite the thin, high cloud. I don’t travel the WCML anywhere near as much as I used to, so I’m going to sit back and enjoy the journey for a while.
We’ve just called at Milton Keynes, which became a bit of a scrum because of the passenger churn. Many left us, but many more joined and this train’s now standing room only. Outside, the weather’s changed too. The sky is clear blue whilst the mist has mistly burned off, leaving a lot of the country and lineside steaming in the warm sunshine.
Phew! part 1 of the day’s been done and I now have portraits of 20 members of Network Rail staff in the can after a busy morning at Eversholt St. Despite arriving 25 mins late we managed to catch up time and get through all the pictures that were needed. I even had a bit of time spare to check out progress on the HS2 demolition work around Euston station and the Regent’s Park estate.
Right now I’m on another Virgin Pendolino, this time a 9-car set working the 13:03 from Euston to Birmingham New St in order to get to the ACoRP AGM.
Sadly, the wonderful autumn sunshine I had on the way down and in London has given away to more typical gloomy weather.
Keeping busy at the ACoRP AGM…
The AGM finished at 16:00 but Dawn and I resisted the opportunity to hang around for a drink as we’d seats booked on the 16:57 Cross-Country service to Manchester Piccadilly. These trains are always packed, so it was worth making use of the reservations.
True to form, there was an absolute scrum to get on the train at New St, then the scramble as people (including us) tried to get to their reserved seats. If there’s one train I actively dislike, it’s these. It’s neither fish nor fowl, neither a proper intercity train nor an adequate local one. The sooner these services are replaced by HS2 the better.
15 mins late, but we’re finally in sight of Manchester Piccadilly where we can abandon this train, get some fresh air and clear our ears of the management bollocks being spouted by the guy sat opposite who’s insisting on having a loud (but ultimately pointless as it’s devoid of any real content) conversation on his mobile!
Having traversed Manchester from Piccadilly to Victoria we arrived to find our train home had been cancelled! We’d have been quicker staying at Picc & coming home via Huddersfield. Adjourning to a local history to drown our sorrows and eat crisps we ended up catching the 19:37 instead. We’re now bouncing our way back to Yorkshire on a Pacer (142018 to be precise).
The end of a looong day! I’ve been up since 04:30, travelled hundreds of miles (and walked nearly 11, burning 3.5k calories), visited three of our biggest cities and taken hundreds of photos, so it’s time for a little relaxation and the chance to enjoy a soak in a bath with some of Islay’s finest whisky as a nightcap. Goodnight!
– well, sort of! I was actually up early as our cat insists that on a weekend it has the right to sleep on the bed. How it knows it’s the weekend we’ve never been able to work out, but the moggy can. This meant I was given an early morning alarm call when Jet decided he needed to be fed. As I’d given in to him and Dawn was happily sleeping I sloped off into the office to scan some more old slides I’d prepped.
With such an early Sunday start we both decided to ‘carpe diem’ and make the most of the day by having an early breakfast and going for a long walk through along the canal into Sowerby Bridge, then up through our local woodland (Scarr woods) which is looking superb at this time of year. What was lovely to see was the way some people place Halloween pumpkins in the woods, which can either delight – or scare the shit out of you!
Back at home we continued our productive time as Dawn got into ‘domestic Goddess’ mode in the kitchen to produce a fiery Thai Green Curry from scratch (no pre-prepared pastes here) plus a gorgeous Lemon Drizzle Cake. I spent my time on household DIY (yes, I know – the bathroom) before ploughing on with the never ending job of mounting and scanning more old slides. I’m currently doing an album from 2003 which contains a lot of stuff from Virgin Trains days. I’m looking forward to having them done now that the franchise is about to come to an end as it will be an appropriate tribute to a company that really did a lot to improve the image of the railways in the publics perception.
In the meantime, here’s one of the other slides I’ve been scanning. This is a view across London Waterloo taken from the London Eye back in 2003. The city’s skyline has changed a bit since then, as have the rail services. In those days the old BR built slam door stock was still in use and Waterloo International would be in use by Eurostar for another 4 years.