Tag Archives: train journey

A Ride along the Regent’s Canal

water-canalside-w1

This  building was new to me: photo by Chris Dyczek at Agnellusmirror.

I’m not sure why this posting has taken three months to get published!

A fine day, a trusty Brompton, an appointment in Ealing, a detraining at St Pancras: why not ride a London bike along London’s canal? The towpath goes almost all the way and will surely be in better nick than when last I rode it in 1980.

Yes, and no. At the very start of the ride, behind King’s Cross station, it was good to see a terrace stepping down to the water from street level and people enjoying the sun between trains (judging by the luggage they had put down). I, however, was on a pontoon floating on the water, as the path itself was a building site.

A little further West  there were more residential moorings than I remember, two or three abreast where the canal was wide enough. If I hadn’t met Mrs T when I did, I might well have gone for that way of living in London. But she and Kent beckoned; I see more big ships in the Channel these days than narrow boats on the cut. The zoo – I’d forgotten that the bird house is cantilevered almost over the water – it has lasted well for such a delicate looking structure.

After Regents Park there was a stretch where I lost the canal, then miles of railway on one side and cemeteries or buildings across the water. Even the industrial buildings were not as I remembered them, but I got to my destination ready for an afternoon’s research,having lungs full of as fresh air as Central London has to offer. Maybe next time I could try another part of the Thames path I followed to Richmond at the beginning of September.

The Grand Army and the Orange Army

Bang!

There is a hint of France on the horizon in this picture!

Speeding along the Channel Coast – yes speeding – I fancied I could see the monument to Napoleon’s Grand Army on the ridge of hills behind Ambleteuse. That fine, hot summer two centuries ago did not raise a wind to get the men, horses, artillery, supplies and camp followers across to Kent, so back to barracks they had to go. Enterprising oarsmen from ports like Broadstairs and Dover are said to have taken tourists across to see the enemy ships; from a safe distance of course. No doubt the fishermen used the tides and currents to help speed them back and forth.

The Orange Army of engineering workers worked in all seasons to reinstate the track between Folkestone and Dover and enable us to speed along this afternoon. Well done them!

Read about the work here.

 

 

From our Hotel Windows

Mrs Turnstone and I spent a few days in Scotland on the occasion of our son’s graduation. All our hotels were booked in advance from home. I’m sure you’ll be able to work out which ones were part of a nationwide chain and which were independent, if you join me in looking out of the bedroom windows.

You’ll also get an idea of the weather: we did enjoy sunshine each day. But then it did rain every day.  ‘What did you expect?’ said the first Scot I met once we were back home. ‘What did you expect?’ said the second Scot I met when we got back home.’ ‘Terrible bad summer’, said the people of the Highlands and Islands.

Edinburgh Park

Edinburgh Park

West Highland Hotel, Mallaig

West Highland Hotel, Mallaig

King's Arms, Kyleakin

King’s Arms, Kyleakin

Inverness City

Inverness City

Edinburgh

Edinburgh Airport

A moment observed

I can forgive myself for not recalling Edward Thomas in the small hours last night, but here he is, a century ago in Adlestrop, with blackbirds in the foreground and way away into the background. The birds’ greeting to the sun when the new dawn breaks here in Kent will be echoed, some 8 minutes later, by all the birds of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, as the sun’s rays reach out to them.

Edward Thomas’s Adlestrop

Yes, I remember Adlestrop —
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop — only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

Channel Weather

lettuce.redlettuce.greenFrom high on the hill I could see the dark curtain of rain butting up the Channel. Would I reach the station in time to avoid a soaking?

I had just been reading in Wood Avenue Library how, in August 1917, an engine driver had ‘sagaciously’ reduced his speed when a formation of Gotha bombers flew over his train. Sagaciously indeed, since the railway was a target of this raid and the unexploded bomb that hit the track might well have been detonated by a passing train.

As for me – I escaped that squall but its sisters raced our train along the South and East Coasts. You can see them here behind the fields of red and green lettuce that have grown visibly in the last week.

I got my soaking a couple of hours later, when thunder and lightning, wind, rain and hail descended on my daughter’s back garden. Mrs Turnstone had hers yesterday, walking the White Cliffs, her breath taken away by the wind. Hold onto your hats!

That word ‘butting’, implying stubborn progress, comes from John Masefield’s Cargoes, verse 3:

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,

Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,

With a cargo of Tyne coal,Road-rails, pig-lead,

Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

Mayflower and more

Riding across the marsh it was mayflower, mayflower, all the way, creamy white, with the odd pink flowered bush: the hawthorn has occupied the nomansland between railway and rough grazing, even veiling the derelict coal sidings.

The blackthorn’s flowering over, it is putting on growth, with just a hint of pink in the bright green leaves.

Once on the Isle we come to market gardens – long, straight, raised beds, tended by narrow tractors, watered by self-propelled sprinklers. Stripes of burgundy and bright green lettuce contrast against the mustard yellow of the oil seed rape (colza) behind.

Before the air-conditioned trains rolled in, there were days when the traveller would be blessed with the penetrating aroma of newly harvested onion. Progress has its price!

Over the Menai Bridges to Anglesey

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We crossed the Britannia Bridge to stay near the Menai Straits, with views across to Snowdonia: well named on our arrival as the tops were white. We enjoyed four seasons in a week. The first weather to impose itself was the wind, sweeping across the island from East to West, blowing NAIB into my arms as we climbed the steps to Our Lady Star of the Sea in Amlwch. Later in the week rain did not prevent her joining the old folks across the Menai Bridge in Caernarfon while G studied. IMGP5106Telford’s Menai Suspension Bridge is older, built in 1826 for the Irish Mail Coaches to Holyhead, and strengthened since to take modern traffic. Stephenson’s Britannia Bridge was built in 1850 for the Railway, but vandals destroyed the track and the iron tubes carrying it. The piers remain, with a new road and rail bridge built between them in 1970. We were pleased to cross them both!

The evening sun shone when these pictures were taken, full on the Menai Bridge but, seen from the East, shining through to emphasise the grace of the 1970 structure between the Britannia’s piers.