Saturday, 13 June 2015

2015 - Day Out 05: Tenby

Date: Saturday 06 June 2015

We are back on the coach again and with us returning to Whittles, we decide to visit Tenby and Saundersfoot, a place that I love and after 7 years since I was on holiday in this area, I am looking forward to the day ahead.

Tenby Harbour
We are the first pick up and I make my way to Wollaston, just as Mr UKBuses arrives on the first National Express West Midlands Service 276 of the day. We make a beeline to the Post office where we purchase liquid refreshments for the journey ahead and make our way back to the bus stop, our pick up point, with other passengers waiting, where at 07:10am, our Whittles coach makes it way from Stourbridge and pulls up at our stop, where we board. We make ourselves comfortable ready to pick up the other passengers before heading to our final destination, we make our way to Franche, Kidderminster, Bewdley, The Whittles Depot and Stourport and just before 08.00am we make our way to Tenby, but before that our coach drivers of the day, Gary and Cecilia read out the mandatory health and safety information before Gary puts his foot down.

We make our way onto the M5 and onto the M50, stopping off for a refreshment break at Cardiff Gate services, making our way into the services via the tradesman's entrance, after a "fresh air" break of course. We do go to purchase breakfast from Burger King, but with the slow service and queue ahead of us, we decide to get a sandwich from Waitrose, both of us opting for the Chicken and Bacon. We take our seats and start eating and find out that there is no bacon on our pre-made sandwiches! We head back to the coach having some more "fresh air" before boarding, See picture below.

Our Whittles Coach
It's Cecilia's turn to take the wheel and we leave the services and head towards Tenby, along the way we pass through Port Talbot, Llanelli and Swansea, on the M4, before heading into Carmarthen. We make our way through Carmarthen, with Cecilia trying to get past a horse box before heading into St Clears. From Carmarthen, I'm back on known territory as I know the route that will be taken, so we head along the dual carriageway and arrive at St Clears heading straight over the island and then I get confused as, since my last visit 7 years ago, they have constructed a new road, which actually improves the journey by chopping some mileage off the route and will enable us to get us to Tenby quicker. After our brief journey along the new road, we are back on familiar roads and we are not too far away from Tenby and as we pass the Stepaside and Kilgetty turn off, a place where I stay when coming on holiday in these parts and where I will also be staying again in a couple of months, we head along the main road to Tenby, with Gary telling us some facts about Tenby, half of them which I already knew and a welcoming view is seen when I see the Tenby viaduct, which we pass under and head up to the hill, where just after 12 midday we arrive at our destination of Tenby and alight our coach on South Parade.

Cheers! From The Three Mariners
"Fresh Air" is had before entering the town via the Five Arches entrance in the town's medieval walls and we decide to have some liquid refreshment in "The Three Mariners", see picture left. After getting our breath back and recovering from the journey down we look at the plan and notice we can get an extra hour in Saundersfoot, so we drink up and make our way to Upper Park Road, where our bus can be seen at the stop, luckily we make it on time and we board our Silcox Coaches Service 352, and we make our way out of Tenby and towards Saundersfoot, passing New Hedges along the way. We arrive in Saundersfoot and before having a look around, we are after food and decide to make a visit to my favourite chip shop in Saundersfoot, "The Argosy" - fish and chips are purchased and we take the short walk to the harbour front where, luckily, a bench becomes available just as we arrive and we sit down overlooking the sea eating our fish and chips, which I nearly drop when a low flying seagull decides to annoy us. It is a clear day and Mr UKBuses points out some land in the distance which I tell him that it is Devon, Ilfracombe to be exact. I feel disappointed at The Argosy, even though the chips were to the normal, beautiful standard, they let us down with the fish as it was full of bones.

The new Coppet Hall carpark and Coast Restaurant

Mr UKBuses leaves The Hean Castle
Dinner finished, I want to make a visit to Coppet Hall, so Mr UKBuses decides to stay on the bench whilst I investigate. I make my way half a mile up The Strand and through the little old railway tunnel where upon leaving, I arrive at Coppet Hall and am shocked of the difference. I heard that they had redeveloped the area, which was once just a sandy car park, but it has been transformed into a landscaped, tarmac covered car park and also a brand new building has been constructed which plays host to the "Coast" restaurant, see picture above. A few photographs are taken and I make my way back through the tunnel and back along The Strand to the seafront, passing what was once the "Coal" office building, which was later converted into a Fish and Chip shop and latterly played host to the Tourist Information Centre. The Tourist Information Centre has been moved to The Regency Hall and this once grand building has now been deserted and is sad to see what it looks like now, compared to what it once was. I meet up with Mr UKBuses and we decide to pay a visit to "The Hean Castle" where a pint of "Doombar" is purchased, see picture left (with Mr UKBuses leaving The Hean Castle last!). Mr UKBuses spots the pool table so we decide to have a game. Mr UKBuses wins the first round after I pocketed the black in the wrong pocket, I take the second round, so a decider needs to be played which I take the victory after a surprising comeback. After my victory, we finish our drinks and decide to make our way back to Tenby to take a boat ride to Caldey Island, as we pass the old hotel, we turn the corner and see a Silcox Coaches Service 351 at the bus stop, so we board the "Coach" which has come from Pendine, Amroth and Wiseman's Bridge and take our seats for the return journey to Tenby.

We arrive back in Tenby and alight at South Parade and I take a short cut though an entrance in the town wall, which brings us out by the church in the town and make our way towards the harbour. We make our way down a narrow road where I point out to Mr UKBuses where the harbour webcam is located and carry on down to the harbour where we can book our boat trip, as we arrive there are no boat trips today as there is a sign saying "Sea Not Nice!", so we decide to have a short walk to the South Beach, after a quick look at the old and new lifeboat stations,  where Mr UKBuses has an ice-cream and takes a seat looking out towards St Catherine's Island, an old fort and also we can see Caldey Island where we planned to visit and the sea looks nice! Ice cream finished we make our way back to the harbour and into the town. Along the way we decide to have a pit stop and head into "The Hope and Anchor" where we have a pint of Felinfoel Brewery's "Double Dragon" with Mr UKBuses upsetting a fellow coach passenger by grabbing the only free table outside. After we finish our drinks we make our way further into the town, where we make a visit to "Dales", an old fashioned music shop owned by the older brother of Actor Charles Dale, with my knowledge confirmed by showing Mr UKBuses a signed picture of him on display in the shop. On previous holidays I always enter this shop and always come out with a T-Shirt and this visit is no difference with a Metallica "And Justice For All" T-Shirt purchased.

Cheers! From The Cove Inn
After my impulse purchase, we still have time in Tenby before catching the coach back, so we decide to sample a couple of more hostelries, the first being  "The Cove Inn", see picture right, which looks like it has recently undergone a refurbishment, it is Mr UKBuses turn to get this round and out of all of the rounds purchased today, he has had the two lowest priced ones, must be a "Doombar" thing as they were both pints of "Doombar". With the pints finished we head out and go down the passageway by the church again, where upon spotting a fish and chip shop, we decide to sample a portion of chips from The Ocean Fish and Chip Shop, filling us up for the journey back home. We carry on down one of the old town streets eating our chips and whilst Mr UKBuses finishes his, I take the opportunity to visit the nearby sweet shop so that I can get some sticks of rock for people back home. Mr UKBuses finishes his chips, so we have time for a final pint in Tenby before catching the coach, so we head opposite and enter "The Five Arches Tavern" and ordered the "Brains SA". This was a nice traditional pub and must be an old building in the town as the walls were made of stone.

Drinks finished we leave the Five Arches Tavern and walk through the Five Arches in the town wall bringing us out on South Parade where we have only a few minutes to wait for our coach to turn up. Due to a couple of buses being at the bus stop, our coach had to drive around the corner and onto Upper Park Road to pick us up, so all the passengers made their way to the coach and we all boarded promptly and took our seats for the journey back. Bang on time at 5.00pm we depart and say goodbye to Tenby (only for a couple of months for me), and make our way back through New Hedges and onto the main road towards St Clears and Carmarthen. We get back onto the motorway and pass Swansea and Cardiff and we take a slightly different route seeing as we don't have to pay on the return journey, we go across the Severn Bridge and leave Wales behind and enter England. Not long after being in England, we stop off at Michael Wood's Services for a break and some "Fresh Air" and everyone boards promptly ready for the final leg of the journey, with Cecilia taking over the driving duties and Gary acting as DJ by putting some cryptic music on.

We head up the M5 and just after Worcester we leave the motorway and make our way to Stourport for the first drop off point and then it is a return trip to the depot, but unless I didn't say anything, Cecilia would have missed it out and gone to Bewdley. After we visit the depot, we head into Bewdley, Kidderminster and then Franche. Upon leaving Franche, Cecilia takes a different route and heads onto the Norton Road and Mr UKBuses sees an opportunity and asks to be dropped off at the bus stop in Norton Road, so we bid goodbye to Mr UKBuses. I stay on board and we head into Stourbridge first and the final drop off is my stop at Wollaston arriving at 09.50pm, where I bid farewell and say thanks to Cecilia and Gary. Before I head home I do decide have a nightcap at "The Unicorn" and a pint of Bathams before going home and resting my legs.

Yet another good trip was had with Whittles, with memories flooding back of my past holidays in the area and also a big thanks must go to our Drivers, Cecilia and Gary and also to Mr UKBuses for choosing Tenby as one of our coaching destinations, speaking of Mr UKBuses, here are his bald spots:

Bald Spot 1

Bald Spot 1: The Bald Spot looks out to sea towards Amroth and Pendine Sands.

Bald Spot 2

Bald Spot 2: The Bald Spot outside The Hean Castle, Saundersfoot.

Bald Spot 3

Bald Spot 3: The Bald Spot decides to hide at Tenby Harbour.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

2015 - Day Out 04: Llandudno

Date: Saturday 23 May 2015

Its time for another coach trip, but instead of our usual operator, we are giving Greenline Coaches, based in Stourbridge a trial and book a trip back to Wales and to the seaside resort of Llandudno.

I make my way into Wollaston, so that I can catch National Express West Midlands service 276 into Stourbridge, picking up Mr UKBuses along the way. The bus arrives at 07.05am and makes it way into Stourbridge where we arrive at Stourbridge Interchange at 07.19am, which means we have about twenty minutes before we have to catch our coach. We make the short walk from the Interchange to the bus stop in Birmingham Street, where just after 07.30am, a Greenline coach pulls up. Mr UKBuses tries to board, but it is not our coach and the one he was trying to catch was going on a mystery tour. Not long after, our coach turns up and we board and make ourselves comfortable for the journey ahead. We do have some pick ups first before going on the motorway and after nearly an hour and a half and picking up in Halesowen, Blackheath, Bilston and Dudley (plus a few more inbetween!), we finally make our way on the open road, where our coach driver Mark informs us that there is an air show taking place in Llandudno today.

Our Greenline Coach
After travelling through Wolverhampton, we make our way onto the M6 heading north to our destination. Along the way we do stop off at the Sandbach Services (along with the Mystery Coach Tour vehicle), so we have chance to get a bite to eat. Mr UKBuses decides on a McDonalds breakfast, but seeing the queue, I decide to get a sandwich from next door, which was a nice Chicken, Bacon and stuffing affair. Mr UKBuses finally joins me as I'm halfway through my food. With our bellies filled, we head outside where I get a "Fresh Air" break before we board our coach (not the mystery tour one again!) and continue on our journey to Llandudno. We do get off to a good start from the services and after we pass Chester, disaster strikes, there is a traffic jam on the road ahead. We put this down to Bank Holiday Weekend traffic, but I do think the air show at Llandudno has something to do with it. After a couple of hours in the traffic jam, we finally arrive in Llandudno just shy of 01.30pm, see picture right. The driver does give us an extra half an hour in Llandudno to make up for our late arrival, but due to driving laws, he couldn't give us any more time after that. We alight the coach at the coach park and whilst Mr UKBuses gets a few photographs, I opt for an overdue "Fresh Air" break.

JD Wetherspoons - The Paladium
We take to the streets of Llandudno now, and due to the Air Show taking place, the streets are very very busy. We make our way down Moyston Street, passing Gerrard's The Bakers which impressed Mr UKBuses and turn left into Market Street, where we decide to get some refreshments at J D Wetherspoons, "The Palladium", see picture left,. Mr UKBuses decides to get the first round in (Ah yes, it's a Wetherspoons!), so whilst he was waiting to get served at the bar, I try to find a table. Because the Air Show is on the pub is jam packed and after doing a couple of laps, I do eventually find a table. Mr UKBuses returns with the drinks and he must have been thirsty as it only takes one big gulp and about 5 - 10 seconds for him to finish. Before I get a sip of mine I have to go back to the bar to get another round in and whilst waiting at the bar, the couple next to me were ordering food and the barman informed them that there is a 45 minute wait for food to be served. Once I return to the table and inform Mr UKBuses about the wait we decide to look for food elsewhere. With drinks finished we make our way back into the main street of Llandudno and we look for a Fish and Chip Shop.

The Red Arrows

Mr UKBuses enjoys his ice cream!
After passing a few with big queues, we do find the "Pebbles" Fish and Chip Shop and decide to wait in the queue, that is until we find out that they do a restaurant service and we take a seat and get served straight away and tuck into our food whilst the people in the queue are still waiting. We tuck in and the fish and chips were beautiful. Once consumed, we decide to stay a while to let our dinners go down properly, that is until we look at the time and find out that the Red Arrows are coming on in a couple of minutes. We quickly jump out of our seats and make our way out of the restaurant and onto the sea front, just in time to see the aerial display being put on by the pilots of The Red Arrows, see picture above. With the display over, Mr UKBuses fancies a trip to The Great Orme. Considering that the crowds are making there way towards us, we decide not to go with the flow and walk in the opposite direction, so after about ten minutes of jostling with the oncoming crowds, we reach the North Parade and The Grand Hotel, where we have a walk up the hill to where the cable cars are. We make our way to the back of the queue, and seeing how slow the cable car queue is moving and realise that when we get to The Great Orme, we will have to wait roughly the same time when we want to get back down. We decide not to pursue the cable cars, so we head back down by the cliff, where Mr UKBuses has an ice cream, see picture right, and we take a seat and admire the views.

After having a break and overlooking the pier, we decide to make our way back downhill and we get by The Grand Hotel and Mr UKBuses decides to use his map allowance (well it his phone), and we decide to look for a pub that was recommended by Phil Tonks. With the phone giving us orders about where to go, we do eventually end up in Madoc Street and arrive at our destination, "The Albert". Mr UKBuses dodges the round, even though it is his turn and takes a seat outside. Whilst I wait inside at the bar, I do eventually get served and once the drinks have been poured, I join Mr UKBuses outside and soak up the sun and sea air and enjoy a rest whilst having a sup. With the pints finished, we still have a bit of time to kill before we have to get our coach back, so we decide to have a walk a few streets away and head back into "The Palladium".

Inside The Paladium
We arrive back and "The Palladium" , see picture left, is still as busy as it was when we first arrived. Mr UKBuses says he will get this round (Now I know why he skipped that last round!), and I do a couple of circuits of the pub again and spot someone leaving their table so quickly go in for the kill and grab the seats. Mr UKBuses does eventually return and we have a slow drink to pass the time, and it is nearly our pick up time, so we make our way out of "The Palladium" and back onto the main street of Llandudno, where after ten minutes we arrive back at the Coach Park. We still have a few minutes left so I grab some "Fresh Air", whilst Mr UKBuses takes the opportunity to take some more photographs of the coaches parked up. We board and with everyone on board we set off back to the Midlands. About five minutes into the journey, Mr UKBuses does have to make use of the facilities on board after realising that he must have loaned the use of Mr D9's bladder that day!

The traffic isn't so bad now and we are moving along at more than a snails pace. We head back along the same route as we came and we do get a break again at Sandbach Services before carrying on along our way and Mr UKBuses having a snooze. We do arrive back in the Midlands and as we are heading towards Dudley we realise that we will have to go on a tour of the Black Country to drop every one else off first. That is until we arrive back in Dudley when a few of us are told to alight and get on the Greenline coach in front of us, which enabled those who were picked up first thing this morning to be dropped off quicker. So we are greeted by our driver Andy, who takes us to back to Stourbridge and we are dropped off in Birmingham Street. We walk back up to Stourbridge Interchange, where upon discovering that we have just missed a National Express West Midlands Service 276, we decide to pop over the road and get a taxi back home. I get dropped off at "The Gigmill" where I say my goodbyes to Mr UKBuses as he decides to stay aboard and get a lift straight to his door. I do have a nightcap in "The Gigmill" before heading home and resting my feet.

Another good day out was had with thanks to Mark, Andy and Greenline Coaches (especially splitting the drop offs on the return journey) and also Mr UKBuses for the company, speaking of Mr UKBuses, here are his bald spots:

Bald Spot 1

Bald Spot 1: The Bald Spot enjoys the Red Arrows!

Bald Spot 2

Bald Spot 2: The Bald Spot makes his way back to The Paladium.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

2015 - Day Out 03 - Chester

Date: Saturday 04 April 2015

Following on from a couple of successful coach trips last year it was decided to try a couple more this year, our first coach trip of 2015 takes us to the beautiful town of Chester.

Our transport for the day.
I make my way from home on the long walk up to Wollaston (took 5 minutes!) village where Mr UKBuses gets dropped off at 08.25am and we wait by the bus stop on Wollaston Island for our Whittles Coach which is due to arrive and pick us up at 08.40am. At 08.50am the coach still hasn't turned up and we look up Bridgnorth Road to keep an eye out for our coach. At 09.00 the coach arrives from the opposite direction and must have picked up passengers from Stourbridge Ring Road before coming to us. We dash across the road to the other bus stop and we board and are greeted by our driver today, Graham. Graham puts us at ease when he says he has never driven to Chester before so we could end up anywhere apart from our original destination. We make our way from Wollaston, through Stourton, Enville and Bridgnorth before speeding through Telford and Whitchurch and arriving in Chester just before 11.00am, see picture left. Mr UKBuses decides he is going to stay on the coach all day and visit Chester Zoo with some of the other passengers as he cant undo his seat belt. We arrive at Chester Bus Exchange and Mr UKBuses frees himself and we alight and straight away the cameras are out at our drop off point.

Arriva Wales Chester Depot.
The drinks we had to keep us hydrated on the coach have started to work their way through so we go in search of public toilets and after Mr UKBuses mistakes a electricity sub-station for the public loos, we have a walk around the block and eventually find some located in the Chester Market Hall but as we make our way to the Gents, they are locked as they are being refurbished, so we make our way out to the bus exchange again and notice that there are a few portaloo's situated opposite, so I make use of them whilst Mr UKBuses takes great delight in taking a photograph of the loo! Toilet break over, we have time for another break, a "Fresh air break" and Mr UKBuses consults the information board at the bus exchange and gets confused. We do find out which stand that Service 12 departs from which is the bus we have to catch, service 12 goes to Connah's Quay (or Quarry as Mr UKBuses kept referring it to!) and we make our way to the stand. At 11.34am our Arriva Wales bus arrives and we board and get our Deeside Day Ticket. The bus will take approximately 19 minutes to get us to our destination with Mr UKBuses informing me to keep a look out Gardners as this is where we will have to get off. We know we are nearby as we spot the Airbus factory and as we come to a traffic island, I still cant see any men with spades doing any gardening and we have to get up quickly as we pass the "Gardners" factory and arrive in the opposite direction. We alight and have a few steps to take, to take some photographs of Arriva's depot at Broughton, see picture right. After photographs are taken of the depot and nearby Airbus factory we make our way back to the bus stop (with Mr UKBuses taking a picture of the welsh "Safle Bws") where we don't have to wait long as our returning Service 12 bus arrives at 11.35am and takes us back towards Chester. We know when we are near Chester as we can see the Chester Racecourse, which is quite busy as there is a music festival taking place.

Cheers from The Forest House!
After a bit of a wait close to the bus exchange due to traffic building up trying to get onto the car park, we arrive back at the bus exchange and alight and we are getting hungry now, so we make our way to J D Wetherspoons. We pass the Cathedral and arrive by the Grosvenor Shopping Centre. Mr UKBuses must invest in a compass, as we head in the opposite direction. We are lost now and there are some "Romans" re-enacting something at Chester Cross, so it would be rude to interrupt them and ask for directions, so we head off down another street. With no sign of the Wetherspoons we head into the Grosvenor Shopping Centre and as we are getting lost indoors, Mr UKBuses comes up with a plan, he uses the map on his phone and we head back outdoors where we come back to where we started from and head in the proper direction this time and after a few minutes walk we find our Wetherspoons. Due to the lack of chips on our last visit to Chester, we visit the second J D Wetherspoons, "The Forest House", see picture left. I nearly faint when Mr UKBuses says he will get the first round in and whilst he waits at the bar I do a couple of circuits of the pub to find a table. Luckily someone leaves their table and we quickly grab it and have a look at the menu. Mr UKBuses opts for his usual BBQ Chicken Melt (without the cheese!) with an extra portion of chips! I opt for the Chicken Burger and it only costs me a pound seeing as Mr UKBuses still owes me the money for his day ticket.

Dinner over and pints supped, we make our way out into Chester and we don't have to far to walk as Mr UKBuses takes us in the right direction this time and virtually opposite the pub is our bus stop for our next destination. We wait about 5 minutes and our Arriva Sapphire Service 1 arrives and takes us past Chester racecourse once again in the direction of Wrexham. As we enter the Chester Business Park, the bus pulls over and then the driver gets out of her cab. She comes up the stairs and informs us that we have to get off or buy another ticket as our day ticket was only valid until this bus stop. We make our way downstairs and purchase a Arriva North West Day Ticket so that we can carry on our journey. We leave Chester Business Park behind and after a journey time of approximately 40 minutes, we arrive at our destination and pull into Wrexham Bus Station, where we alight and photographs are taken, the scene in this bus station is different to Chester's as there is more of a variety of bus operators including D Jones and Son and GHA Coaches. With the photographs taken, we decide that a refreshment is in order so we leave Wrexham Bus Station behind.

Cheers From The Elihu Yale!
We head into Wrexham Town Centre and go in search of our second J D Wetherspoons of the day. Mr UKBuses decides to re-enact the proceedings from Chester and takes us in the wrong direction again before doing a U-turn and going back in the right direction. We find the J D Wetherspoons and head inside "The Elihu Yale", see picture right. Its my turn to get this round in so I head to the bar and Mr UKBuses finds us a table to rest our feet and have a chat about our upcoming coach trip to Tenby in June. Mr UKBuses had better start saving as he is stunned that there are no Wetherspoons in the area. With our drinks supped and feet rested we head back into the streets of Wrexham where I get hassled for a light as soon as I have lit up myself. We head towards Wrexham Bus Station which is only a couple of minutes walk away and the Wetherspoons we have just been in is virtually around the corner! As we make our way inside it looks like we have only just missed a bus so we head outside to take some more photographs and luckily I spot that our bus hasn't left and is just boarding, so we make a quick sprint down to the other side of the bus station and we board our Arriva Sapphire Service 1 bus which will take us back to Chester.

Cheers from The Coach House!
We pass the racecourse again and after 45 minutes we arrive back in Chester town centre. The drinks we had at Wrexham have caught up with us and we recognise the street where we alight and remember that there are toilets close by. After our unplanned visit, we walk back through Grosvenor Shopping Centre and back past the cathedral where we spot a McDonald's. Mr UKBuses makes use of the offer printed on the back of his day ticket which means he saves more money. We take a seat outside of McDonald's to eat our food and the pigeons seemed to want to grab some as they came around us and started to pester us. With our food finished, we still have half an hour before our coach picks us back up from the Chester bus exchange. We spot a pub close by and we enter the appropriately named  "The Coach House" and somehow I ended up buying the round and nearly fainted when I was told that it would cost me £7.20. Mr UKBuses had found a table in the sunshine outside so we relax and sup our drinks in the cool spring breeze and it also meant I could have a "fresh air" break, see picture left. We have about ten minutes left so we make our way around the corner and back to the bus exchange where some final photographs and "fresh air" is had before our coach arrives and picks us up. We board and take our seats and Mr UKBuses belts up ready for the journey ahead. As soon as we sit down the coach departs and Graham tells us we are going to go a different way back.

We leave Chester behind and travel back via Whitchurch and Wolverhampton, with Mr UKBuses having a nap along the way and as we pass Wordsley a passenger who boarded in Stourbridge in the morning asks the driver if he can be dropped off by the Glass Cone. As he alights he says goodbye to us all and shows us where he lives, at least we know where to go to for a cup of tea when in Wordsley next. Our stop is next and we head up Wollaston High Street and alight in the village, arriving at 07.00pm. Mr UKBuses has a while to wait for his next bus, so we pop into "The Unicorn" for a cheeky quick pint before making our way to the bus stop where Mr UKBuses boards his National Express West Midlands service 276 back to Norton, I wave goodbye as he departs and head into "Grahams Place" for a cheeky pint before visiting the Chinese to get my supper.

Another good coach trip was had with excellent sunny weather and there are already two further coach trips planned to Llandudno and Tenby in the next couple of months. A big thanks goes to "Graham" our coach driver for a pleasant journey and also Mr UKBuses for his company, speaking of Mr UKBuses, here are the bald spots:

Bald Spot 1

Bald Spot 1: The bald spot makes his first appearance straight off the coach at Chester Bus Exchange.

Bald Spot 2

Bald Spot 2: The bald spot is on its way to Arriva Wales Chester Depot.

Bald Spot 3

Bald Spot 3: The bald spot tries to hide itself by making itself blurred!

Bald Spot 4

Bald Spot 4: The Bald Spot gets an airing at Wrexham Bus Station.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

2015 - Day Out 02: Kingswinford and Wordsley

Date: Saturday 14 March 2015

It has been nearly a year since I last met up with Mr WME. After a long gap we finally met up again to visit a few hostelries in Wordsley, or so we thought.

It was arranged that we would meet at the Red House Glass Cone in Wordsley and visit a few of the public houses around that area, so I make my way up to Wollaston to catch National Express West Midlands Service X96 into Stourbridge before interchanging onto Hanson's Service 267 bus which dropped me off at the bus stop virtually opposite the previously mentioned Wordsley's Red House Glass Cone, a local landmark. I arrive with a few minutes ahead of the prearranged time and wait at the Glass Cone. Mr WME seems to be running late and after a couple of Stourbridge bound buses go past, I send a text to Mr WME, a couple of minutes after I receive a phone call (with a lot of hyperactive sounding children in the background) and Mr WME says he is just getting off a bus in Kingswinford as the Service 256 he originally planned to catch had been taken out of service. Luckily I spot a Kingswinford bound National Express West Midlands service 257 bus coming along from Stourbridge and I make a mad dash across the road and sprint towards the next bus stop and luckily with a second to spare board the bus and catch my breath back as the bus makes its way to Kingswinford.

Nearly recovered I arrive in Kingswinford and alight just opposite The Cross where Mr WME is waiting and after saying our hello's and me still a little bit out of breath we make our way for some much need refreshment. We walk along Summer Hill and make a left turn along Cot Lane, where we arrive at "The Park Tavern", a pub that I have visited on several occasions before, its here that we have a catch up and a look ahead to this seasons Formula One over a pint of Enville Ale.

A pint of Ma Pardoes Bumblehole!

A pint of Ma Pardoes Bumblehole!

After leaving The Park Tavern a short walk was taken Barnett Lane and then Barnett Street to "The Glass Cutters Arms" where a pint of Ma Pardoes Bumblehole was sampled, see picture above. After sampling this pub we left and came back out on Barnett Street, I was lost and as we literally around the corner, I knew where we were, up until now, I didn't realise that The Glassmakers Arms was there, I'm pretty sure I have heard about it over the years, so know I know where it is situated.

As we turn the corner from The Glassmakers, we are at the back of "The Queens Head" in High Street Wordsley, which is now part of the Black Country Ales Brewery Portfolio. We enter via the tradesman's entrance and Mr WME had a pork pie, with loads of mustard, he calmed his taste buds down with a pint of Lancashire Stout. I went all strange whilst sampling a pint of Voodoo Dawn. After snacks and drinks were finished, we went past The New Inn, somehow resisting the urge of a pint of Bathams and then it was all downhill literally as we walk past the church to sample our next public house.

Cheers from The Rose and Crown!

Cheers from The Rose and Crown!

We stop by the traffic lights and turn left into the bar area of "The Rose and Crown" and whilst watching a bit of Six Nations Rugby Mr WME samples another Enville Ale, see picture above. I decide to watch something else instead, the barmaid who served me my pint of Holden's Golden Glow, I'm sure she could look after me, see picture below. After drinks are finished, we reluctantly leave and have a short walk up Brierley Hill Road and sample another pub that I have never been in before and visit Marston's "The Samson and Lion", both of us sampling a good old fashioned pint of Banks's Mild. We gatecrash a party before it has even started, we were allowed to stay though as they were only setting up the room for the festivities later that evening.

The Rose and Crown offer a crèche service!

The Rose and Crown offer a crèche service!

After The Samson and Lion we retrace our steps and head back down Brierley Hill Road and head towards Stourbridge along the main road. We are getting a bit peckish now, so we decide to pop into "The Vine", or what was once The Vine, but is now Ocean Basket, a Chip Shop / Fish and Chip Restaurant where we sample a cone of chips. I opt for the good old fashioned style whilst Mr WME decides to have a battering with the battered chips. We carry on our walk to Amblecote eating our chips along the way and up Brettell Lane to a newly refurbished "Red Lion".

I have been in since the refurbishment and this is Mr WME's first visit since the refurbishment. From what was once a run down dark public house with not too many customers, it was nice to see the pub regenerated into a bright airy and actually full public house. Here we have to stand to drink our pints as there are no tables left, we both opt for the Salopian Brewery's Lemon Dream and after finishing them we have time for one more public house to visit. We make our way back down the short distance down Brettell Lane.

Our last pub and drink of the day is an old favourite, "The Maverick", now early evening, the pub, as The Red Lion is starting to get busy and we get a spot in the Wild West Saloon where Mr WME decides to go all Mexican, even though we are having a typically British named pint of "Dodgy Banker" to round off our day. After we finish our pints we leave the pub and say our goodbyes, with Mr WME heading in one direction for his National Express West Midlands service 256 and myself back up Brettell Lane to catch my National Express West Midlands service 246 buses back home.
A good afternoon was had and a couple of new hostelries were visited, a meeting should not have as long a gap next time.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

2015 - Day Out 01: Worcestershire

Date: Saturday 28 February 2015

Its our first outing of the year and we are staying relatively local to the Midlands and having a tour of Worcestershire.

First Worcesteshire bus in Midland Red Livery
I make my way up to Norton to meet up with Mr UKBuses and it must be a New Years Resolution as he turns up ahead of the planned time. We walk from the Broadway shops, our meeting point, to Norton Road stopping at the bus stop just up the road from what was once Brewers General Store. We do get offered a lift but we wait for the bus as it would be cheaper for a return fare. At 9:18am, Central Buses service 125 turns up on time and we board and purchase our return ticket to Kidderminster. Central Buses have recently took over operation of this service after the collapse of Whittle's buses and upon arrival at Kidderminster we alight outside the Kidderminster Railway Station where I have time to have a "fresh air" break before our next bus arrives which is Diamond's service X3 and we board purchasing our day tickets, the County Connecta.

First Worcestershire bus in Midland Red Livery
We head in the direction of Bromsgrove, with an hour upon arrival so that photo's of First's two heritage liveried buses can be spotted, but before arriving we go past Chaddersley Corbett with Mr UKBuses saying hello to his turkeys as we pass. Twenty minutes after leaving Kidderminster, we arrive in Bromsgrove and upon arrival, Mr UKBuses sprints down to the last stand of the bus station (another New Year's Resolution?), where he has spotted one of the heritage liveried buses on service 147, see picture right, that we are after. It is not on the route that it was supposed to be as the buses have been painted into Retro Midland Red Livery to celebrate 100 years of operation of Route 144. Not long after the 147 departs, a bus on route 144 pulls into the bus station, see picture top left, at Bromsgrove so within a matter of minutes of arrival pictures of both buses have been taken. We have time to spare so we have a walk down Bromsgrove High Street and have our first drink of the day at J D Wetherspoons, "The Golden Cross" with Mr UKBuses purchasing the first round (another New Year's Resolution?). After finishing our drinks we make our way back to the bus station and I make a visit to use the facilities where a lady cleaner just waltzes in without a care in the world and carries on doing her job whilst a load of gentleman carry on with their business.

At The Bar in The Westcroft
We have a while to wait for our next bus so we hang around the bus station for some photo taking opportunities, the before mentioned cleaner does a bin emptying around the bus station and gives me a smile as she passes me, I don't know if that is a good thing or bad thing. I have some "fresh air" and stand close to our next departure point, Mr UKBuses joins me and whilst waiting we spot a certain Mr Phil Tonks (with no bacon roll / sandwich in hand), he is travelling up and down along the route today as part of research for an article he is writing on the history of Route 144. We decide to go off plan and catch the earlier journey and have a catch up with Mr Tonks on the journey. Along the way we pass through and stop at Webbs of Wychbold Garden Centre and after another 20 minutes on the bus we arrive at our next destination ahead of schedule, Droitwich Spa. As we are ahead of schedule we decide to have a rest and after alighting and saying our goodbyes to Mr Tonks, we walk a few yards to "The Westcroft", see picture left, I can remember the last time we visited this establishment, on a cold dark wintry evening, it was virtually the same today apart from being dark. After having a little warm and rest, we sup up and make our way to Victoria Square, where we have a short wait and I have some more "fresh air", before our next bus arrives.

Cheers from the Boat and Railway!
At 11.45am, iGo's service 145 pulls up so we board showing our Connecta tickets and it takes just under fifteen minutes before we arrive and alight at our next destination of Stoke Prior. We don't have a lot of time here so we head straight into "The Boat and Railway", see picture right, a nice pub situated alongside the canal, this would be a nice little rest in the middle of summer under the blazing sun. Its Mr UKBuses turn to purchase the drinks and whilst he is being served I take the opportunity to use the facilities (It's either because it is icy cold or Mr D9 has lent me his bladder for the day). We have a warm and a rest again and ready ourselves to go back into the cold and make our way to the bus stop to catch our next bus from. Luckily it is only a few steps as it is situated right outside of the pub and we don't have to wait long before our iGo service 145 arrives to take us on our return journey back to Droitwich Spa. The return journey only takes ten minutes to get back to Droitwich Spa, which means that we have just under ten minutes wait and time for some "Fresh air" before our next journey to our next destination.

It's 12:49pm and we board First's 147, not the heritage liveried bus unfortunately and after twenty-five minutes we alight in Worcester by Worcester Foregate Street Railway Station and decide it is time for lunch, so we visit J D Wetherspoon's "The Postal Order". Mr UKBuses finds a table and after an agonising long wait (looks like the locals / regulars get preferential treatment) I finally get served and join Mr UKBuses at the table and peruse the menu. I have a change and opt for the gammon and chips whilst Mr UKBuses sticks with tradition and opts for his usual BBQ Chicken Melt (without the melt) but as my legs are aching from my wait at the bar previously, Mr UKBuses is forced to order the meals. The food eventually arrives and we tuck in. Even though the service was poor the food was good and we rest for a few minutes to let our stomachs settle before making our way back into Worcester. As we were delayed at lunch we have to go off the plan and miss out the First Depot in Padmore Street, Worcester, so we head straight back to Worcester Bus Station, with a bit of time to take some photographs and also a visit to "Andy's News" to get some supplies for our journey ahead.

Mr UKBuses has a nap!
We wait for our next bus and at the time of arrival due to be 2:53pm the bus is running late and we are worried that we may have to go onto the emergency plan, but Diamond's service 295 does eventually turn up at Worcester Bus Station and we promptly board and depart, there is a screaming child sitting on the bus which thwarts Mr UKBuses plans, but as soon as the bus carries on along its journey, there seems to be a vibrating sound coming from the engine, but upon closer inspection, Mr UKBuses is in fact having a nap, see picture right. We are not too far from our destination as we pass through Stourport, the driver is back on time and we arrive back at our planned time of 15:53 at Kidderminster Bus Station. After a few photographs are taken we decide to get out of the cold and have a warmth and a rest by walking around to J D Wetherspoons "The Penny Black" where we enjoy a pint, or in Mr UKBuses case, a double whiskey and we take our seats looking out onto The Bull Ring which was once a hive of activity and full of Midland Red buses and clay bus stops. It is nearly time to return back to the West Midlands, so we walk back around to the bus station to wait for our final journey of the day.

We plan to catch the 4:52pm Central Buses service 125 back to Norton, this is the last journey back to Norton of the day and we wait and wait and think we may have to walk to the railway station to get the train back. Just under half an hour later Central Buses service 125 towards Stourbridge finally arrives and we have to undergo a driver change which delays us a bit more, luckily it is Geoff who was driving to Kidderminster so we cant have a go at him especially when he informs us he was late because of football match day parking at Bridgnorth was holding him up. We do board and take our seats and get warm passing through the Broadwaters and on to the main Stourbridge / Norton Road towards Stourbridge. We are nearing Marston's "The Greyhound" in Norton and after politely asking the driver he lets us alight just outside of The Greyhound, where we have a warm and a final pint before saying our goodbyes and making our way back home.

A good day out was had with Mr UKbuses devising a good plan yet again and here are his bald spots:

Bald Spot 1

Bald Spot 1: The bald spot is seen in Bromsgrove Bus Station.

Bald Spot 2

Bald Spot 2: The bald spot is seen trying to hide as it enters Worcester Bus Station.

Bald Spot 3

Bald Spot 3: The bald spot can clearly be seen at Worcester Bus Station.

Monday, 10 November 2014

2014 - Day Out 12: The Return from London

Date: Monday 10 November 2014

Our last few hours in London, before we have to begrudgingly make our way back to the West Midlands.

A Heritage RouteMaster
I wake up quite earlier than planned of meeting up with Mr UKBuses, so I make my way outside to the front of the hotel for some "fresh air" before going back to my room to have a shower and make sure that everything is packed before we have to check out of the hotel. With everything packed and me ready for breakfast, I make my way down to reception and wait for Mr UKBuses to appear and he appears on time, so he must have purchased a watch before he came to London. We make our way for our final breakfast in London and after a mountainous supply of bacon and a few pots of yogurt, we have five minutes to let our food (and Mr UKBuses to have a last cup of coffee) go down before making our way back to our rooms for the final time. Luckily for me, it is just a case of entering the room and picking up my bags and making my way down to reception to check out. Whilst I'm waiting for Mr UKBuses, I have time for some "fresh air" before Mr UKBuses makes an appearance. We bid farewell to the Travelodge Docklands hotel and make our way to East India DLR station, where at 09:25 we board our first mode of transport for the day and we are already off the plan.

Mr UKBuses should have gone to SpecSavers as instead of going to Bank, which was planned, we are on the wrong DLR train and end up at Tower Gateway. Not to worry, we make our way to the bus stop at the back of the Tower Of London and we catch a Stagecoach operated Heritage Routemaster Service 15 to Charing Cross, similar to the one pictured above left. We don't get too far whilst on the route before we are stuck in a traffic jam due to high volumes of traffic caused by roadworks along the route, we decide to alight, but with Mr UKBuses being in charge of the map allowance, we have no idea where we are and after a nice hike around the streets of London (Mr UKBuses is the old man!), we finally come across an underground station so we get our OysterCards ready and board the underground at Chancery Lane and get the Central Line to Tottenham Court Road where we change onto the Northern Line and arrive at our final destination of the day in London at Euston.

We have a bit of time to spare, so we head to The Doric Arch situated at the bus station, but find out that the pub isn't open and we wouldn't have time to have a final pint in London, so we head inside the station to have a final pint in The Britannia, but this is also closed whilst the station is undergoing redevelopment works. Luckily we know about another pub situated opposite the station and luckily we do get a final pint in London and we rest our legs for a while at "The Royal George". With the final pint supped, we make our way back across the road to London Euston Station, having a last "fresh air" break in London and as soon as we discover which platform we are departing from, we board our train and at 12:03 our Virgin Train takes us from London Euston to Birmingham New Street, stopping at Rugby and Coventry along the way.

We arrive at Birmingham New Street and we only have a couple of minutes to get to Platform 5b, where we board the London Midland train to Smethwick Galton Bridge, there is no time for a "fresh air" break as we have to rush up two flights of stairs to get to the platform where another London Midland train turns up to take us to Stourbridge Junction. This is where I say my goodbyes as I have to go into Stourbridge Town to visit the bank (Mr UKBuses wiped me out when it came to the rounds!!!) and also seeing as we have arrived back home to Stourbridge I do have a commiseration pint at J D Wetherspoons "The Chequers Inn" before getting National Express West Midlands Service 276 back home.

Another cracking weekend was had in London, big thanks goes to Mr UKBuses who made the plans for a superb weekend away. Speaking of Mr UKBuses, here is his bald spot:

Bald Spot 1!

Bald Spot 1: The bald spot is seen lurking around Canning Town Bus Station.

Bald Spot 2!

Bald Spot 2: The Bald Spot is seen lurking around another bus station, this time at Aldgate.

Bald Spot 3!

Bald Spot 3: What a black horse, The Bald Spot makes an appearance at The Lords Mayor Show.

Bald Spot 4!

Bald Spot 4: The Bald Spot is trying to make an appearance on the BBC at The Lords Mayor Show.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

2014 - Day Out 11: Remembrance Sunday Parade

Date: Sunday 9 November 2014

Out last full day in the capital, which will see us attend the Remembrance Sunday Parade taking place at Whitehall.

The Cenotaph, Whitehall
Its our third day in London and we have an early wake up call this morning as we decide to have breakfast early, I meet up with Mr UKBuses in reception and he is on time again, and we make our way to the breakfast room (otherwise known as the bar) where after a problem where the hotel staff were thinking we were trying to get a free breakfast, we fill up with loads of bacon, washed down with a load of yogurt (and coffee in Mr UKBuses case), giving five minutes to let the food go down before I go back to my room to get my scout uniform on ready for the Remembrance service at Whitehall. With me suited and booted, we meet up at reception with Mr UKBuses on time again and take the short walk to the East India DLR Station where we catch the DLR one stop to Canning Town, where we change the mode of transport and go underground onto the Jubilee Line to Westminster, where we alight and make our way to ground level and are opposite Big Ben.

The bands paradaing before the Remembrance Sunday Service
We make our way to Whitehall and the queue seems quite long, this is because this service commemorates 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War, we soon get past security with no problems (Mr UKBuses did have a problem lifting his wallet back into his coat pocket) and we make our way to a good viewpoint close to the Cenotaph, see picture above left, or so we thought. We get near to the corner opposite The Red Lion in Whitehall and there seems to be a blockage due to some people not wanting to let people get past so they don't lose their place in the crowd. Mr UKBuses soon advances to his spot outside The Red Lion by following a policewoman getting through the crowds, I'm not so lucky and am stuck in the crowds being pushed and shoved from behind by other people trying to get past, eventually nearly 30 minutes later I do get to join Mr UKBuses, that is after some "fresh air", in which a policewoman asked if "I needed that?", my response was a resounding "Yes". Luckily, I get to our spot just before the bands come out and take their place, see picture right, and the music starts just before the service takes place. Where we are standing, we can see the cameraman in front of us, who we were standing behind yesterday at the Lords Mayor Show, I bet he was thinking that we were stalking him!

The Red Lion, Whitehall
The service is started by a two minute silence with the cannon being fired and the chimes of Big Ben starting it off, followed by another cannon shot being fired to mark the end of the two minute silence, the service takes place with the Queen and Heads of State and political party leader's laying down wreaths on the Cenotaph, the service is finished with "God Save The Queen" being sung. After the service is finished, we take a couple of steps and head into "The Red Lion", see picture left, where we rest our legs for a bit, we have half an hour to wait before we can have a pint, so a coke is purchased to sup whilst we wait until 12pm. Luckily we get a seat as the pub is now becoming near full as other people have the same idea. At 12pm, we are at the bar and have a pint of "Sea Farers", and after that one is supped we know we have no chance of escape yet as the veterans march is still taking place which is weird as we are watching it on TV even though they are directly outside, so we decide to have another pint with Mr UKBuses shouting at me to get him another pint of "Seaman", in which he gets a few funny looks from the other patrons in the pub. It is just before 13:00 and after a wait outside the pub, we are finally released and we make our way as fast as we can before the crowds to Westminster Tube Station and onto the Circle and District Line to Tower Hill where we alight to a big crowd.

The Poppies at The Tower Of London

The Poppies on display at The Tower Of London.

Cheers from The Blind Beggar
After getting close we decide not to wait in the queue to see the porcelain poppies that have been planted around the tower, we do get a glimpse of them over a hedge just about, so we decide to leave the crowds behind and catch a Stagecoach operated Heritage Routemaster on Service 15 from Tower Hill to Charing Cross. We alight at Charing Cross and head straight underground onto the Bakerloo Line for one stop, alighting at Embankment to change to the Circle and District Line from Embankment to Whitechapel for our first joint visit to our London regular (second visit of 2014 for me!) "The Blind Beggar", see picture right, where we give our legs a rest for a while whilst supping a pint. With the drinks finished we cross the road and catch Stagecoach London Service 25 to Aldgate Bus Station where we take a few photographs in the fading light and then board Stagecoach London Service 115 back to the Travelodge Docklands Hotel for a rest.

After just over an hours rest, we meet back down in reception and head to the East India DLR Station where we catch the 17:45 DLR journey one stop to Canning Town interchanging onto the Jubilee Line and catching the underground to Green Park, where upon arrival we alight and change on to the Victoria Line to catch the underground to Victoria. Hunger is starting to kick in now and we decide to go to a J D Wetherspoons that we use quite often at Victoria, "The Willow Walk", where drinks are ordered and eventually we find a table to sit at so that we can order food. Food is ordered but we have waited a long time, so when the waiter passes by I state that we have been waiting nearly 30 minutes for our food, fair play to the waiter who was on his own in a packed pub with everyone ordering food, he soon came out with our meals. With our meals finally eaten and washed down by a pint, we head back to Victoria Bus Station where we catch a BorisMaster Service 38 to Green Park, where we alight so we can catch a bus to Trafalgar Square, the one we thought of does not turn up so we instead catch London Generals Service 19 to Picadilly Circus.

When we alight at Picadilly Circus, the extra pint we had at The Willow Walk has caught up on us so we go on a search for a toilet. After passing Planet Hollywood and Her Majesty's Theatre, we come across a sports bar called "Riley's", we decide to make use of the facilities first before ordering and after using the toilet, Mr UKBuses turned down the opportunity to have his nails done in the loo, we decide not to stay and we head back out onto the streets and we head towards Trafalgar Square and decide to pop into Fullers "The Admiralty" where we have a pint of Fullers "Sea Farer", Mr UKBuses gets the name right this time. We take a seat and rest our legs for a bit and am surprised that the place is so quiet considering it is right opposite Nelson's Column.

We decide to make our way back to the hotel so we have a little walk to Charing Cross where we get on the Bakerloo Line to Oxford Circus, but Mr UKBuses still needs his eyes tested as we discover that we are going in the wrong direction. A quick change and we end up back at East India DLR Station at 21:15 and head straight to the hotel bar for a nightcap.  The day has taken its toll on Mr UKBuses so he decides to retire whilst I stay up a little longer and have a couple more pints of Budweiser (on draught!) before I retire to bed.

Another superb day was had especially with the serene service at Whitehall and our visit to The Blind Beggar which has changed hands since we last visited in 2014!