Thursday, 1 August 2019

Nowhere to Hyde

Yesterday I did something that most of you probably do all the time, but which I've never done before - I bought a train ticket and downloaded it to my 'phone!  Up until now I've always been afraid that I'd run out of battery at the crucial moment when a ticket inspector asked to see it.  Strangely enough that's just what happened now when I went to take a picture of the ticket on the phone screen for this blog and found the battery was indeed flat.

Fortunately, Virgin Trains allow you to print off the ticket as well (although they make it clear that they think you belong in the stone age if you do so). I'd done that as an insurance policy so  I can at least show you a picture of the printed version of the ticket that would have appeared on my phone screen if I hadn't flattened the battery!

Why Stockport?  Well, the West Coast Main Line is closed south of Wigan at the moment with trains from Scotland (and Lancaster) to London being diverted via Manchester. This gives a rare opportunity to travel this way in relative comfort on an 11-coach Pendolino, rather than being crammed into a 4-carriage Trans Pennine Express with several hundred other unfortunate souls. Not only that, but it gives an equally rare opportunity to travel across Manchester without changing trains.

My train arriving at Lancaster
When I found that Virgin was offering cheap 1st class Advance tickets to Stockport at a premium over standard about equal to the free coffee and bacon roll you usually get on mid-morning trains it was a no-brainer.  The only drawback would have been having to collect the advance purchase ticket at the station in the morning - from one of only two ticket machines at Lancaster station, one of which has been out of order recently.

In the event, I needn't have worried about battery power.  There are no barriers at Lancaster and although my ticket was checked on the train on the way there, Stockport's barriers had been left open and there was no on-train check on the way home.  The only problem was the bacon roll, which didn't arrive until we were nearly at Stockport, meaning I had to eat half of it on the platform!

Onward by bus

The plan was a circular tour by bus, visiting Marple, Glossop and Hyde before returning to Stockport in time for a few pints and a bite to eat before the train home.  There are frequent buses to Marple from the main road at the end of the station approach in Stockport, so the first stage should have been easy. But the A6 here is a four lane road and the nearside lane of the southbound side of the road was coned off as far as the eye could see, leaving the bus stops stranded and out of use. I ended up having to walk to the bus station and start the journey from there.

I know Marple well from multiple visits over the years on various boats, including Starcross, so having alighted in the town centre I walked up the last few locks of the flight to the junction to take this obligatory shot.
The junction at Marple
A hire boat came along from the Macclesfield direction and I waited to see how well the steerer would handle the turn and whether they might need some assistance down the locks. But they carried straight on, heading for Whaley Bridge spoiling  the fun. (As I write I'm hearing on the radio that the dam feeding the Peak Forest Canal situated above the town is in danger of at least partial collapse following heavy rain causing part of the town to be evacuated - I hope it hasn't spolit their holiday).

I went to get a sandwich for lunch and ate it waiting for my next bus, which arrived a few minutes before I expected it, forcing me to abandon the remains of my cup of Gregg's tea and rush to the stop. Of course, the driver had realised he was a few minutes early and we waited until the scheduled departure time before leaving, but you can never be sure of these things.

My next destination was the town of New Mills, on the edge of the Peak District, where I arrived at the town's minimalist bus station, which effectively has only one stand and no other facilities.
New Mills bus station and the bus I'd arrived on from Marple
I had seventeen minutes to wait for my next bus - an awkward amount of time: not long enough to do anything useful but too long to just hang around and wait. I settled from a stroll along Market Street and back, which took about 5 of those minutes, before returning to wait for service 61 to Glossop.

Things almost went wrong at this point.  Travelling with a bus pass means you have minimum interaction with the bus driver. Usually, you just plonk your pass on the card reader and wait for the "bleep" that tells you it's been accepted, after which you may - or may not - get a ticket without a word being spoken. So if I had boarded service 61 when it arrived, on time, at 13.30 I would have made a big mistake.
Service 61 to Glossop  Buxton!
Fortunately, I noticed at the last minute that this was the 61 in the other direction - bound for Buxton and running late. "My" 61 - to Glossop -  turned up a few minutes later and if I had boarded the Buxton bus I'd have been well on my way before I'd realised and certainly too late to catch the Glossop bus.


I'd allowed an hour in Glossop.  Long enough for a stroll through the town centre, followed by a visit to the market hall, where I expected to find somewhere for a cup of tea and a bun before getting my next bus from the stop outside. Easy!

Except that shortly after my walk around the town began it started to rain, so I changed plan and headed for the market first. I was somewhat disconcerted to find the building covered in scaffolding and feared that it had closed down and was being transformed into a Wetherspoons or something (in Lancaster it would become student accommodation) but then relieved to see this sign:

But then unrelieved to see that the market was only open between Thursday and Saturday!

By now the rain had become a veritable storm and I spent most of the remainder on my time in Glossop watching it from the shelter of the scaffolding platforms at the Market entrance.

And on to Hyde

Stott's bus to Hyde
Service 341 to Hyde is not, it has to be said, one of the most scenic routes in Derbyshire. For the most part it trundles round the Manchester overspill estates of Gamesley and Hattersley, being something of a "Heineken" bus in reaching the parts that other buses don't.

But it was a friendly sort of a bus with the driver obviously known to the regular passengers who engaged him in banter, until the last of them had alighted, when he struck up a conversation with me.

Image result for buses on broadbottom bridge
An old shot of a bus crossing the bridge about 40 years ago.
Highlight of the route however was the crossing of the River Etherow at Broadbottom Bridge. You come across it unexpectedly when, at the bottom of a steep descent the bus makes a sudden left turn onto the bridge.  I'd have liked to get a photo of my own, but the 341 only runs once an hour and although I'm sure the driver would have been happy to "pose" the bus and wait for me to get a photo I wasn't prepared and by the time I'd thought of it we were over the bridge and away, so here's one I borrowed from Flickr.

Modern buses are actually a few mm wider than the one in this historic shot!

I'd included Hyde in this tour mainly to take a few photos that I was prepared for. Regular readers may not be surprised to hear that the subject was a bus shelter - although in my defence it is actually a listed building!
The listed bus shelter in Hyde.
Wikipedia says that it was originally a tram shelter and no doubt it's elaborate design was influenced by the fact it is situated outside the Town Hall. It goes on to say that:

Originally a tram shelter, the bus shelter is opposite the Town Hall. It has four main cast ironcolumns with crocket capitals and decorative pierced spandrels, and in between are intermediate columns with ball finials supporting a timber and glass screen. On the top is a glazed canopy with rounded ends, and elaborate cast iron finials.[39]

Mind you, Wikipedia also says that it dates from "The 18th or early 19th Century", which given that Hyde's trams only started running in 1899 is about one hundred years out, so you can treat the above information with a pinch of salt.

Still, I was pleased to see it and even took another photo, this time with a bus on it!

After that, I caught the next 330 to Stockport for a couple of pints of Robinson's Bitter and the a first-class train ride home.

Friday, 19 July 2019

Two Signs

Like most people I imagine, I don't make a habit of taking photographs in public toilets (!), but the gents at Chelmsley Wood bus station was otherwise unoccupied when I paid a necessary visit recently and I couldn't resist:

It's not just the misspelling, or even the fact that someone has obviously found it necessary to correct it, but my theory of signage is that signs which prohibit an activity are only put up where the activity in question has been taking place.  Maybe I've led a sheltered life. If I have, no doubt someone more worldly-wise than me will leave a comment to explain!

I was in Chelmsley Wood on the latest leg of my bus trip Around the County Towns of England and spent a whole twenty minutes there (not all of them in the gents). The day's ride ended in Warwick where I found this sign on the methodist church door even more baffling!

Friday, 14 June 2019

It's Grand Up North

The highlight of a recent visit to Cheetham Hill, one of the - shall we say - less salubrious suburbs of the fair city of Manchester.  A bus heading to Salford, where I first developed my love for the north-west and a Joseph Holt pub - still one of my favourite brewers.

Strangely, despite being a city of considerable size and with its own large council-owned bus fleet, Salford's buses never showed "Salford" as a destination as this number 53 is doing today. But Joseph Holt has made its money through resisting change and sticking to what it knows best - no nonsense beer sold in no nonsense pubs like the Egerton Inn, which is every bit as traditional inside as it looks from the outside.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Dreaming. . . .

I was pleasantly surprised when this arrived through the letterbox today. It only comes out once every six months and I'd forgotten I'd ordered it in advance when I bought last winter's edition.

It's the prelude to a summer of travel throughout Europe. From Aachen to Zywiec via Johanngeorgenstadt and Unterammargau (which the footnote tells me is 4 to 7 minutes away from its better-known almost namesake) or Bacharach to Ybbs an der Donau (or even Ystradgynlais, which is in Wales).  There are timetables for all the main lines and most of the minor ones as well as maps, details of Interrail and other passes and information on currencies, local holidays and time zones. Everything a traveller needs.

And it's not just trains. There are timetables for the North Sea ferry network (now much depleted following the Channel Tunnel and the rise of low-cost airlines).

Whilst the "beyond Europe" section gives you the train times for Tokyo to Matsumoto, Shanghai to Wuhan and Addis Abeba to Dijbouti on the "Chemins de Fer Dijbouti Ethiopien" railway.

I'll no doubt be spending hours planning journeys to my favourite European places as well as places I haven't been to yet. Unfortunately, personal circumstances dictate that the only likely journey I will actually be making this year is the one on Table 2035 : Heysham to the Isle of Man!

Oh well, at least I can dream!