Sunday, 4 December 2011

2011 - Day Out 34: Worcestershire - The Christmas Trip

Date: Saturday 03 December 2011

It is time for the last trip of 2011, and it has been decided to mark the event with an ARMS trip around Worcestershire and that can only mean one thing too - it is the Christmas trip!

We travelled around Worcestershire using First Buses
First off, I have to meet up with Mr UKBuses, so I head out from home and luckily this year the sun is starting to shine and there is no sign of snow this year and hopefully no chance of getting stranded as we nearly did on last year's Christmas outing. I make my way across Swan Pool Park and up The Broadway in Norton, where just after 0805am I meet up with Mr UKBuses by The Broadway Shops. We take a short walk up to Norton Round by the junction of Norton Road and Osmaston Road and wait for our first bus of the day. It is 0820am and our bus arrives which is Whittle's service 125 which will take us to Kidderminster. Mr UKBuses lets a couple of people on first and as he hears how much a return ticket will cost, he opts for it which means that he will save 70p when we catch the bus back later on in the day. Mr UKBuses is now happy as he has saved some money, he is always happy even when he saves a few pence. We take our seats and we make our way down Norton Road, passing through Iverley and Broadwaters near Kidderminster on a bus that is carrying quite a few passengers for the time of the journey on a Saturday morning. We pass the Kidderminster railway station, keeping an eye out for Mr D9 along the way. We arrive at the bus station in Kidderminster at 0840am, and I have my first "fresh air" break of the day whilst we wait for the arrival of Mr D9. He hasn't shown up, so to save waiting in the cold we make our way to the Cafe Nero nearby where Mr UKBuses has a cup of coffee to wake him up and seeing as Mr UKBuses doesn't like my Blackberry phone, he opts for a Blackberry Muffin for his breakfast, I opt for the diet Pepsi and Lemon Cupcake to keep me going. We get a seat by the window so that we may be able to spot Mr D9 in the bus station, but as we get comfortable, Mr D9 rings Mr UKBuses asking where we are, he has decided to go to the J D Wetherspoons, "The Penny Black" in Kidderminster for his coffee and bacon roll, he was expecting us to get off the bus at The Swan Centre stop. We all finish our breakfasts off in both locations and as we head outside of the Cafe Nero, Mr D9 can be spotted at the end of the alley from us.

The ARMs team is now complete ready for our traditional Worcestershire Christmas trip and we make our way around to the bus station where we will catch our first First Worcestershire bus of the day. We have a few minutes to wait before our bus is due, so we spend a bit of time to take a few photographs around the bus station, mainly Whittles buses as they seem to be the main operator around Kidderminster nowadays. Our first First bus of the day arrives and we board the 0915am First Worcestershire 303 service purchasing our FirstWyvern day ticket to use on the buses we catch throughout the day. We make our way from Kidderminster, passing through Hartlebury and Ombersley before we arrive at Worcester alighting at the bus station dead on 1000am. I am the first person to make a toilet stop and I dash to the toilets located in the station whilst Mr D9 and Mr UKBuses take a few photographs around the station. We then make our way through the city of Worcester, with Mr UKBuses leading the way, and we get confused when he stops ahead of us outside a "Private Shop", is he waiting for us or was he going to go in, it turns out that he was waiting for us to catch him up but I did have the phone ready to pre-order an ambulance if he stepped inside. We carry on and arrive at First Worcestershire's depot at Worcester which is located in Padmore Street. When we arrive the yard is empty except for a couple of School buses and one service bus, Mr D9 has a sneaky look inside the engineering bays from the pavement. After our brief tour looking around the depot, we head around the corner where we wait at a bus stop and we don't wait long as a bus arrives and takes us back to the bus station in Worcester. Time for a few more photographs and we head to our stand where our bus is waiting and we wait for the driver to come from the canteen where he has been keeping himself warm whilst we wait in the cold. The bus driver eventually turns up and we are ready to get out of the cold and catch our next bus.

We board First Worcestershire's service 144 where after getting out of the Christmas traffic in Worcester we pass through Droitwich Spa and Wychbold before arriving at Bromsgrove bus station after a journey time of forty minutes. Bromsgrove bus station will be our "hub" of the day as we will be visiting this place the most times today as it seems to link all the destinations that we visit today. We have a bit of time to kill in Bromsgrove before our next bus arrives so we decide to get out of the cold and visit our first pub of the day. We use the tradesman's entrance and visit The Red Lion where Mr D9 and myself are shocked as Mr UKBuses buys the first round of the day. After Mr D9 and myself come around from the shock, we pick ourselves up off the floor and find a table to rest and get warm whilst listening to some Christmas music in a packed pub which is filling up with some more Christmas shoppers from the High Street entrance. Mr UKBuses nearly downs his drink on his first sip, which means one of two things, he was either thirsty or he was in shock of having to buy the first round of the day. After finishing our drinks we make our way back out into the cold to get our next bus. We are back in Bromsgrove bus station and our next bus arrives and we board the First Worcestershire service X3 which will take us to our now traditional Christmas trip location of Redditch.

Its Cheers from The Royal Enfield, Redditch!
It only takes us about fifteen to twenty minutes before we arrive in Redditch, and we alight in the bus station. It is now time for lunch, so we head to J D Wetherspoons "The Royal Enfield", this was previously the Chicago Rock Cafe which were taken over by J D Wetherspoons when the Chicago Rock Cafe company fell into administration, so this means that like Stourbridge, Redditch now has two Wetherspoons in the town. The Royal Enfield is an old cinema / bingo hall which is located a couple of minutes walk from the bus station, and seeing as it is an ex-Chicago Rock Cafe, we thought we may get the same treatment as we did two weeks previously when we visited the ex-Chicago Rock Cafe Wetherspoons in Tamworth, it was totally the opposite, we were served quickly after we arrived and politely by the Assistant Manageress. Mr D9 and myself set up a little bet between us regarding Mr UKBuses choice of dinner, Mr D9 opted for the BBQ Chicken Melt and I was left with the Chicken Tikka option. We take our seats to have a little rest before we choose what we eat, and Mr UKBuses seems to have got us a table which is in the middle of the dance floor, as can be seen right. It was time to look at the menu and I opted for the Beer and Burger deal, with Mr D9 opting for the simple steak, but he wouldn't be getting the eggs of me this week as I'm not having the gammon. It was now time for Mr UKBuses choice and he was undecided, but I think he knew that Mr D9 and myself had a bet going between us when I was trying to steer him towards the Chicken Tikka Masala. He did, in then end, opt for the BBQ Chicken Melt without the cheese which obviously means it was simply a BBQ Chicken!, I gave my pound stake to Mr D9. After about ten minutes, our meals arrive and we tuck in, we had a good portion of chips on the plate, and as the meal arrived whilst Mr D9 was taking a toilet break, we teased him about the chips, especially considering I had a few more than him, which bought back memories from our trip to Chester a few years ago. After finishing lunch we decide to have a walk around to Diamond bus depot located in Church Road which is only a couple of minutes away from The Royal Enfield, the bus depot was originally the Midland Red built depot. After walking back down Adelaide Street, we find a path that brings us out in front of The Royal Enfield, thus saving some shoe leather if we had used this path to get there. We make our way past the bus station which is located under The Kingfisher shopping centre, and just around the corner from the bus station is First Worcestershire's Redditch bus depot located just off Plymouth Road, which had a few vehicles parked up at the back of the depot. After a few photographs, we head back around the corner to the bus station and we have time to visit the toilets, or should that be toilet, located inside the entrance to the main shopping centre. There is still the problem that you have to queue for the toilets. Mr UKBuses pushes his way to the front of the queue and with himself standing outside the gents, and a lady outside the ladies, we wait a few minutes before the gent's becomes free, when a woman comes out stating that "it stinks in there as a bloke must have had a good dump in there before I went in", little did she realise that we must have been waiting outside for five minutes. As Mr UKBuses went in, the smell from the woman wafted outside and we could hear a few coughs from Mr UKBuses inside. Mr D9 was next to go in and I opted out of using the toilet as I think I can hold on until we get to the next location and also avoided the smell.

We board First Worcestershire's service 143 which takes us back to our hub, Bromsgrove bus station taking us through the dreaded Aston Fields, located a couple of miles from Bromsgrove, this is where the railway station for Bromsgrove is situated as I found out with aching feet a few years ago. We also pass through Charford an estate on the edge of Bromsgrove before we finally arrive at the bus station. Whilst en route, Mr D9 and Mr UKBuses are keeping there eyes out for clay bus stops, they spot quite a few despite us being on a bus which has an all over advert and hampers our view to the outside world. As we alight in Bromsgrove, the first thing we do is visit the toilets as the drinks we had in Redditch are getting through our systems. Mr D9 and myself wait outside for Mr UKBuses who is nearly wiped out as he exits the toilets when Mr D9 decides to do a little mopping right by his feet after he finds the cleaners mop in the entrance to the toilets. We have a few minutes before our bus is due and so we have time for a few photographs, with Mr D9 doing his now standard pose outside of the 24 hour emergency toilet in Bromsgrove bus station, I decide to get in the shot this time as I pretend to be doing some business against the wall. We make our way down to our stand and as our bus is due, a Central Buses vehicle turns up at our stop ready to take the Aston Villa fans to the match being played at home today at Villa Park. Our bus has to pull up behind and after nearly tripping over an old lady who is picking up her bags to get onto the bus even though she is getting the one that goes the other way, we board First Worcestershire's service X3.

Cheers from The Kings Head at Areley Kings!
We take our seats on the X3 and we are off to Areley Kings, a place located near to Stourport and also a place that I have never visited before. On the way we pass through Chaddersley Corbett where Mr UKBuses informs us that there is a farm nearby where he is having his Christmas Day chicken from and he has hand picked it, so if you see a chicken wandering around the area of Chaddersley Corbett with the initials MW painted on it, please return it so that Mr UKBuses does not go without on Christmas Day. After Chaddersley Corbett we pass through Kidderminster, pointing out to Mr D9 the location of the now demolished Midland Red garage, and we then pass through Birchen Coppice before we get to our destination, Areley Kings. After riding around the estate, we finally alight at the bus stop just outside of The Kings Arms, the pub looks okay from the outside, Mr D9 and Mr UKBuses head in before me so that I can finish off my "fresh air" break. I finally get inside and Mr D9 and Mr UKBuses are already at a table, see picture left. We have a rest in the pub that is nice and cosy with the regulars looking a friendly bunch. You can tell that it is near Christmas as the landlord or landlady already has the Christmas decorations up. After finishing our drinks we decide that we have to brave the cold by putting our coats on and leaving the pub. A few doors down the road is another pub that we have time for a quick visit and so we enter the Astley Cross, where I get my money out for the next round. As I write this blog entry I realise that Mr UKBuses has saved a bit of money again as it was in fact his round and he forgot to correct me as I got my wallet out, a good job that we only have time for halves. It looks as we won't be having a drink in this pub, as we are waiting in the lounge, there are a load of people waiting in the bar to be served, luckily another member of bar staff appears and we do have time for a very quick drink. We sit by the window but we hear a bus coming so we quickly finish our drinks and head outside. The bus stop is a little bit up the road opposite The Astley Cross, and the bus is actually at the side of the pub waiting to cross the road. Luckily the driver spots me trying to get to the bus stop and he signals that he will stop. We rush to get on the bus and thank the driver for waiting for us.

The Christmas trip is nearly over and our First Worcestershire service 3 bus is the last journey that we will use our FirstWyvern day ticket on. It has gone dark now and as we pass through Stourport, we spot The Treasure Island arcade on the riverside still operating and quite colourful it is too as the lights blare out onto the winter sky. It takes us just under half an hour to get back into Kidderminster from Areley Kings and we pass through the Birchen Coppice Estate before passing the First Worcestershire depot in Kidderminster, which is now located in the middle of a big roundabout. We arrive at Kidderminster at 1745pm, but Mr UKBuses and myself both need the toilet desperately, luckily I know where there are some public toilets nearby. We make our way to the entrance of the Rowland Hill shopping centre in Vicar Street and located under the escalators are public toilets. Mr UKBuses and myself make use of them, and as we make our way back onto Vicar Street, we cannot see Mr D9, we were too quick for him and after he contacted us by phone, he actually went up the escalators into the main shopping centre. We are all reunited, and we make our way back to Kidderminster bus station. This is where we say goodbye to Mr D9 as he has brought a return train ticket this morning, so he gets one last use of his FirstWyvern day ticket to get a bus to the railway station. He boards the bus and it seems an eternity for his bus to depart and Mr D9 says goodbye to us by him frantically waving to us through the back window - See you in 2012 Mr D9. Mr UKBuses and myself have a further ten minutes to wait, and thankfully our bus turns up on time, even though a passenger nearly gets on the wrong bus as both Whittles service 125 buses use this stand in either direction of the route, which confuses passengers more as they turn up within a minute of each other in either direction to Stourbridge and Bridgnorth. Our bus is behind the Bridgnorth bound bus, and we board and make use of the heaters to get some warmth back into our bodies. We make our last journey of the day by showing our return tickets purchased this morning to the driver, and after passing through Broadwaters, where there seems to be some kind of Christmas Fayre taking place, we head up a very dark Stourbridge Road before we arrive in Norton and alight at our stop in Norton Road. We make a short walk down Whittington Road back down to The Broadway shops. I can now barely walk now as I desperately need to use the toilet, but as there are none nearby, I have to go behind the back of some garages opposite the shops to have an unplanned toilet break. Whilst I am emptying my bladder, Mr UKBuses pops into "The Broadway Chippy" to get his tea, I walk with him back past his house where I say my goodbyes to him and walk just around the corner where I get my final bus of the day, National Express West Midlands service 276 to Wollaston, where I get my tea from the "Lucky House" Chinese takeaway, before getting back home where I eat my takeaway and rest my feet for the rest of the evening enjoying the heating to get my blood back to temperature again.

Another fantastic day out was had, and what a trip to end the year on, this was due to the good company, good weather and good planning from Mr UKBuses, if it wasn't for the effort put in by Mr UKBuses with his plans, there wouldn't be no trips making an appearance on this blog, so a special big thanks go out to him for his spotless (well most of the time) planning throughout the year, it is very much appreciated..

I've enjoyed all the days out this year, but I think that the trips in the last quarter of the year have been better than those earlier on in the year, a few new locations have been visited this year. We have also ventured out for a few weekends this year, out of the three weekend trips, I think London in November ranked at the top, with Torquay second, and Weymouth third. London and Torquay fared better due to not stopping over at London on our visits before and not having visited Torquay before, and I can definitely say that I have not "tossed it all away" this year. 

Andy's Bald Cranium (ABC)

Bald Spot Picture One

Bald Spot One: This was taken outside the First bus depot at Worcester, I managed to get this whilst Mr D9 was having a look inside the garage from the pavement opposite.

Bald Spot Picture Two

Bald Spot Two: This was taken in the glorious winter sunshine whilst waiting for a bus at Bromsgrove Bus Station.

Bald Spot Picture Three

Bald Spot Three: This was taken whilst in Redditch Bus Station. I think Mr D9's mind was on other things as he needed to go for a toilet break, enabling me to get this shot.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

2011 - Day Out 33: 246 Charity Walk - The Hard Way

Date: Sunday 27 November

Pensnett Garage Driver Daniel Meanock has organised a Charity Walk along the 246 route in honour of two year old Louie Pumphrey who has Cerebral Palsy. Because of his condition Louie is unable to walk, so the walk that has been planned for today will raise money that will go towards a £19,000 adapted wheelchair and standing frame, which his family will hope will give Louie the same independence as other children his age.

The support bus!
Following on from a charity walk, organised by Dave Gerrard in August, Mr UKBuses was approached by Daniel to see if he could help with the marshaling along the route as we did previously for this walk today. Mr UKBuses asked me to help, and I duly agreed. With the last walk being from Dudley Bus Station to Stourbridge Birmingham Street, it was decided that this walk will go "The Hard Way", from Stourbridge Birmingham Street to Dudley Bus Station, what makes it harder is that the fact that this will be walking uphill to get to the dizzy heights of Dudley rather than downhill toward Stourbridge.

First of all I walk up to Norton and meet up with Mr UKBuses at the shops along The Broadway at approximately 1115am, it is here that he has arranged for the support vehicle driver for the day, "Shuttle" Steve, to pick us up. We head down towards South Road / The Gigmill, and as we reach the bottom of Westwood Avenue, we see a National Express West Midlands Alexander Dennis Enviro 400 coming our way, the first time that a double decker has been this way for years. Once we are picked up, I become an honorary National Express West Midlands Employee for the day as I put on my National Express Hi-Vis and Steve heads up towards Whittington Road, before following the 276 route to Birmingham Street in Stourbridge, pulling up just before the start at Stand C. Before the walk gets under way at 1200pm, it is time for the Express and Star to take a picture, I play a cunning plan by staying on the bus and looking out of the front windscreen, I shall see how it turns out when I purchase the Express and Star when we are in it. My plan was not good in the end, I am barely visible in the windscrren, see picture below (click on it to enlarge the report). Time for a quick "fresh air break" before we head off, but everyone has already arrived and so at approximately 1150, Daniel leads the way.

Our appearence in the Express & Star
Mr UKBuses and myself take a short cut to get to the first crossing point at Church Street / Hagley Road by walking across Foster Street and past the new Stourbridge Interchange, which is nearing completion. We get in front of the walkers as we see them behind us as we come out of Foster Street and we carry on along the ring road ready to do some crossing. I start the crossing off as I get the walkers safely across Church Street, whilst Mr UKBuses does the honours as he gets them safely across Hagley Road, with me following behind. As the walkers are back walking alongside the ring road, I run ahead to Worcester Street with Mr UKBuses not far behind. He leads the walkers as they come towards Worcester Street, and I get in place to stop the traffic coming off the ring road, whilst Mr UKBuses stops the traffic coming down towards the ring road. Greenfield Avenue next, and it is not a busy road so the walkers get across safely. Next up is the split junctions of Enville Street, I keep an eye out on the ring road, slowing the traffic down whilst Mr UKBuses crosses them, and it is easy for the second part of Enville Street as we have the traffic lights helping us. The first crossing points are over, so Mr UKBuses and myself walk back to the bus stop located on the ring road and back onto the support bus, where "Shuttle" Steve picks us up and takes us to the Collis Street / Wollaston Road traffic lights (otherwise known to the bus drivers as "The Fish", a timing point named after the pub which is now "The Ruby Cantonese" Restaurant). As I get off the support bus to get to the traffic lights junction, a passenger is walking down towards the bus where I tell her that this bus is not in service, but the next 246 is only six minutes away. She seemed happy about that, I make my way to the corner, Mr UKBuses is in the middle of the road, ready for the walkers to come, and it is not too long to wait, they cross as I keeps my eyes left, ahead and right all at the same time as my side of the road is where they are aiming to get to continue on to Wollaston, Mr UKBuses has the traffic lights to help him. With the Fish traffic lights completed, we make our way up Amblecote High Street where with the help of the pelican crossing, the walkers are across safely, a quick crossing over King William Street ensues and we are into Brettell Lane. Another pelican crossing gives us a helping hand to get the walkers across safely. At this point, Steve comes around the corner, and picks Mr UKBuses up to get him ahead, I carry on up Brettell Lane, getting the walkers across the small side roads safely. I catch up with Mr UKBuses as we get to the Hawbush Road junction with Brettell Lane, both of us getting the walkers across this busy estate road safely. 

We both jump onto the support bus and Steve takes us the short journey to Bull Street at Silver End, Steve pulls up at the stop and gets off to get a drink from the shop, whilst we wait to keep an eye on the bus. We have a little time before the walkers get to us, so I use this time to get my breath back after the walk up Brettell Lane to Hawbush Road as taken its toll on me. The walkers are nearly here so we make our way to Bull Street, with Mr UKBuses keeping an eye out for traffic coming onto Brettell Lane, and myself keeping an eye on the traffic coming off Brettell Lane. As I'm in the middle of the road keeping an eye on traffic coming from Stourbridge and from Brierley Hill, this people carrier slows down, and dreading the worst and some abuse, it turns out not to be that bad, it is Mr D9, who shouts across the road to me, "I'm off to the pub!!!!", he drives off before I get the chance to jump in the back and join him! Back to the main object of the day and the crossing duty, the first problem of the day is about to ensue as a woman comes speeding round the corner off Brettell Lane, and she doesn't seem to want to stop, she goes straight past me, and luckily there is a gap between the walkers as she makes her way slowly through the gap. Luckily ninety-nine percent of the traffic is obeying our signals, it is just the one percent that seem to think that they own the road and it does put a downer on the events that is taking place today. I'm determined that nothing will ruin today and this crazy driver won't ruin the good things that will happen to the charity walk. Despite this ignorant driver all walkers have safely managed to get across the road, so Mr UKBuses and myself get back on the bus where we avoid walking up the hill to Brierley Hill. We arrive in Brierley Hill where Steve drops us off just before the five ways junction, we have a while for the walkers to catch us up, so I get a chance to have a fresh air break before they arrive.

The walkers eventually arrive and we attempt to get them across Moor Street, I have the task of getting them across the "inroad", keeping an eye out for traffic approaching from High Street and Mill Street, while Mr UKBuses keeps an eye on the traffic from Moor Street, this junction isn't as bad traffic wise since the by-pass road has been built and opened. We carry on up Brierley Hill High Street with the walkers, walking that little bit faster to get ahead of them and we now reach another main traffic junction, Mr UKBuses keeps an eye on the Bank Street traffic, whilst I keep an eye out on the High Street / Level Street traffic, we get the walkers across here safely despite this junction being a bit busier with all Merry Hill inbound and outbound traffic coming this way. We now needed to get onto the support vehicle to take us the short distance to get ahead to the Waterfront island, but we had to wait for someone, and I noticed that half of the walkers were nearly there, so I made a mad dash sprint from outside the bingo hall down to the island, and as the walkers were reaching John Street, I get there with about a millisecond to spare and get them safely across the road, after getting them across, Mr UKBuses was way behind and had stayed on the support vehicle as he wouldn't have managed to get down to us without having a heart attack due to the distance the walkers were ahead, I had to sprint ahead again to get the walkers across Wallows Road. After Wallows Road, it was planned that we would get ahead to Holly Hall, but the next two roads which we weren't expecting to be giving help crossing were quite busy, the road to Aldi and B&M shops near to Harts Hill Garage, which has now been sadly flattened and also Fens Pool Avenue which seems to attract the boy racers, some of them were reluctant to stop as the were racing around the corners, this junction was worse than the Bull Street junction in Silver End. Steve and the support bus was parked opposite where Harts Hill Garage was once stood, so I jumped on the bus to get my breath back after my mad sprint whilst Steve took Mr UKBuses and myself past the walkers and to Holly Hall.

As we approach Holly Hall junction the lights are on red as we arrive so Steve opens the doors, before his scheduled stop so that Mr UKBuses and myself can jump off and get into position early. After about five minutes the walkers arrive and even though this is one busy junction which is another exit route from the nearby Merry Hill Centre, we don't have too many problems. After this junction we get ahead to Holly Hall School, where with the help of a pelican crossing, we get the walkers over two main dual carriageways. Steve has parked up around the corner, and Mr UKBuses and myself jump on once more so we can get ahead again where we alight at Queen's Cross. A couple of the younger walkers have boarded the bus to give their legs a rest and also to avoid the hill from Holly Hall to Queen's Cross, they are forgiven as they have done well to get this far unaided. Back to Queen's Cross, where Mr UKBuses and myself have a look at the traffic lights sequence so we know how we are going to get people across. There is also a run off the main road into Wellington Road from the Brierley Hill direction, so it is decided that I stop the traffic that rushes around this corner whilst Mr UKBuses gets the walkers across the main traffic lights. We are nearly in Dudley and we are about to board the support bus and Daniel has come up with a good suggestion, that is for me to run ahead and tell Steve to go straight to Dudley Bus Station so that Mr UKBuses has to walk the final part of the route. As I run ahead, Mr UKBuses actually does something that I have never seen before, he runs after me and is actually keeping up with me, but he does get on board and I carry on up Stourbridge Road towards Dudley, Mr UKBuses decides to use a two finger wave as he passes me on the bus.

We are on the final leg of the walk now and I make my way to the next crossing destination with Mr UKBuses already in place. The next junction is Stafford Street, where Mr UKBuses and myself take a lane each whilst getting the walkers across safely, I get ahead and stop the traffic from entering Dudley High Street whilst the walkers make there way on the final corners of the route. We have one more junction to get the walkers across and that is Union Street, so we make our way to get ahead using High Street as a short cut to just get ahead of the walkers. As we reach the Union Street junction, the walkers appear so we get them across and it is just about a quarter of a mile to go before they reach Dudley Bus Station. We walk the final bit of the route with them and after 2 hours and 20 minutes, we finally reach the end, and as we all walk through the stand at where the 246 picks up the passengers, we make our way to the layover area at Dudley Bus Station where Steve is waiting to give the walkers a well deserved rest by driving them all back to Stourbridge. On the way back we do go via the 246 route to Holly Hall, and then down Pedmore Road towards Lye and back into Stourbridge, dropping off walkers along the way. For our efforts we are rewarded by Mrs Meanock with a Mars Bar to replenish the sugar we have lost in our bodies along the route. Steve finally pulls up in Birmingham Street in Stourbridge, where we all alight, with the younger walkers winding up Steve by keeping their fingers on the bell as we all get off. The walkers go back to their cars to soak their feet, but Mr UKBuses and myself decide to have a little ride around before we finally make our way back home.

We make our way to the nearest pub, so we walk up through Foster Street past the new Interchange, with Mr UKBuses stopping to take a few photographs, before we walk around the edge of the ring road to our first crossing point earlier and going into J D Wetherspoons, "The Chequers Inn" where we have a good old rest and a well deserved pint. After finishing our drinks, we head down the High Street towards the bus stop on Stourbridge ring road, and as we arrive, the bus that we intended to catch, National Express West Midlands service 256, just pulls out of the stop, so after a few minutes, we catch National Express West Midlands service 246, a route that we have already seen today on our feet, and we head to Dudley again. We arrive in Dudley and we spot an old Volvo Ailsa in WMPTE livery, so we head to the layover area where it is parked to take some photographs. We need to get to Wordsley, so our next bus is Diamond Buses service 226 which takes us past Russell's Hall Hospital where we spot Phil Tonks behind the reception desk. After passing through Bromley and Kingswinford, we alight outside of The Lawnswood. The road is busy but Mr UKBuses won't put his Hi-Vis back on to get me across the road safely. After finally crossing the road we spend an hour or so inside having a rest and well deserved drinks with Mr UKBuses parents. Mr UKBuses senior does stand up for me when I keep checking the Blackberry for the Brazilian Grand Prix results, only as he wants to know how the race is getting on. We leave The Lawnswood and after a lift back home courtesy of Mr UKBuses senior, I get back home and have a rest and a nap on the sofa.

A thoroughly good day was had by myself and the walkers who took part deserve a round of applause after completing the seven mile journey that they achieved on foot today, it was all for a good cause, and donations for Louie Pumphrey can be made on a Justgiving page that has been set up for him by clicking here.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

2011 - Day Out 32: Staffordshire

Date: Saturday 19 November

Having recovered from our fantastic London weekend, it is time for a meeting of the ARMS, where we will be invading Staffordshire.

Mr UKBuses carriage awaits!
This is the penultimate meeting of the ARMS this year, so to get the day out under way, I make my way to my nearest bus stop in Wollaston, so that I can catch the National Express West Midlands Service 276 at 0806am. The winter has definitely arrived as it is just before 0800am and it is still dark. My bus arrives on time, and I send the usual text to ensure that the first ARM member is out of bed, and by the time I get to Norton, Mr UKBuses is at the stop wide awake, the bus carries onto Stourbridge, where we just miss out on seeing how the construction of the bus station, sorry, Interchange is going as we alight at the stop on Stourbridge ring road. We are only at the bus stop for about two or three minutes when our next bus arrives, National Express West Midlands Service 246, which will take us to Dudley, I look at the side roads en route preparing myself for traffic marshaling in next weekend's 246 Charity Walk - The Hard Way. Upon arrival we have to wait about ten minutes so that we can catch our next bus, National Express West Midlands service 311, which takes us to Walsall, via Wednesbury, as we get near to Walsall Mr UKBuses gets a phone call, which means that the final ARM member has arrived in Walsall, as our bus arrives in Bradford Place, we see him, so as we alight, the group are together and its a hello to Mr D9, who points out that Mr UKBuses transport to Walsall's bus station has arrived, see picture, left. Whilst Mr UKBuses is taking some pictures in Bradford Place, Mr D9 and myself make a bet, lets hope that my wager wins. After Mr UKBuses denies that the carriage has nothing to do with him, we make our way to Walsall Bus Station, keeping an eye for Mr D9 and Mr UKBuses work colleague, Raymondo who is lurking around the town somewhere.

We arrive at Walsall Bus Station (St Paul's), and there has been no sign of Raymondo. We have to walk just opposite the bus station, and we walk to our stop in Hatherton Road, Mr D9 takes a different route to us and goes via the bus station and the station toilets before the bus journey ahead. We are all at the bus stop and before our bus arrives, Raymondo makes a surprise appearance, he is just about to go to M&S and he has his bag for life to prove it. As we are chatting to Raymondo, our bus arrives and we board Arriva Midlands service 2 to Cannock. After purchasing our Arriva Daysavers, the bus makes its way through Bloxwich and Cheslyn Hay before we arrive at our first planned destination. Mr UKBuses carries on from where he left off last week, and he presses the bell too early, about five stops too early. We have about a ten minute walk before we arrive at our first destination and as we don't fully know where we are, we are pleased to find a road sign saying "Delta Way", we cross the road and enter the Arriva Midlands Cannock garage, we have only a few minutes to take some photographs. After Mr UKBuses finishes taking his photographs, he asks how long we have left, I tell him  that we have about two minutes left, so we make our way back to the correct bus stop, as we turn the corner, the bus is already there, so we have a mad dash across the grass and board Arriva Midlands service 70, despite running to get the bus, the driver stays at the bus stop for a few minutes before heading on towards our next destination. We have been on the bus for just over five minutes, and we arrive at Cannock, alighting at the bus station. We have about twenty minutes to wait, so we have a walk around the bus station taking photographs along the way. Our next bus arrives, so we catch Arriva Midlands service X60, which will take us to Lichfield, taking us through Heath Hayes and Burntwood along the way.

Mr D9 cops a feel
The journey takes approximately forty minutes and just after 12 midday, we arrive at Lichfield, and as we arrive I think I have gone back in time thanks to the old WMPTE style bus station from the seventies, I think that most of the bus shelters are still from that time period, Mr UKBuses and myself get off the bus all right, Mr D9 must have had his foot on the D9 pedal too much, as his foot has gone to sleep. As Mr UKBuses dashes around the bus station to take some photographs, Mr D9 and myself talk to our service X60 driver whilst waiting. Not long after Mr UKBuses is ready and he is also hungry so I have to dig into my memory banks so that I can get us to our planned pub to eat. Luckily I remember and we make our way out of the back of the bus station, past the theatre, and down an alley way where there are a couple of statues, Mr D9 thinks that these statues are cold, and as the sheet has fallen, he decides to help the statue lady get warm again by helping to cover her, see picture right, that's his excuse anyway but I think the woman in the shop may think it could be something different judging by her look. We carry on along the alley way where we catch up with Mr UKBuses and are in Lichfield High Street, we carry on up the street and we arrive at our first watering hole of the day, and that is J D Wetherspoons, "The Acorn Inn". We are glad to get out of the cold, and as Mr D9 makes his way to the toilets, Mr UKBuses finds a table, which means that it must be me that has to go to the bar and order the first round of the day.

In the warmth of The Acorn Inn
The round has been brought, so now it is time to stop our stomachs from rumbling and order food. Luckily Mr UKBuses has the menu in hand, and now Mr D9 and myself have our hands rubbing together, the bet will be won by one of us in a couple of minutes, or it could be the charity box on the bar that may gain from both of us. Mr UKBuses is thinking to have something different than usual, which means the charity box on the bar could be the winner, but Mr UKBuses finally decides and he is going to opt for his usual BBQ Chicken Melt without the cheese - just what I wanted to hear, I have just won our bet and Andy gives me the pound stake after I wake the pub up with my celebrations. With my win I decide to splash out and try something different, and I opt for the gammon, whilst Mr D9 opts for the simple steak, he will gain a couple of eggs from my meal when his arrives. After about ten minutes, our food arrives, so after passing on my eggs to Mr D9, we all tuck in, and I polish the plate clean, I must have been hungry. We spend a few minutes to let our dinner go down, see picture left, and Mr D9 and Mr UKBuses talk about work, I don't feel left out though as I am an honorary member of National Express staff, as I have had my name and picture appear in the National Express newsletter even though I don't work for them. The food has gone down, and we make our way back to the bus station to catch the bus to our next destination. As we make our way back, I do have to ensure that Mr D9 doesn't feel a right tit again by standing inbetween the statues and himself so he doesn't have a grope. Mr UKBuses decides to get his own back on Mr D9 for the next journey, and he asks him if he needs to use the bus station facilities as the next journey will be for one and a half hours. We don't have to wait long as our next bus is already in the station.

The Old Man Takes A Nap!
Our next destination is Tamworth, and we board Arriva Midlands service 765 which takes us through Whittington. About fifteen minutes into the journey, Mr UKBuses asks Mr D9 if his bladder is holding up as we have another hour and fifteen minutes before we arrive, at this point his legs are nearly in the crossed position, another ten minutes pass, and Mr UKBuses asks the question again, but the joke is about to backfire as we all need to make a visit as soon as the bus pulls up, luckily we don't have long to go, Mr D9 thinks otherwise. Five minutes pass by and we arrive at Tamworth, and Mr D9 is releived, and we all are as he spots the nearest toilets and we all pile in to make use of the facilities. After we do our business, we make our way a couple of minutes walk up the road and we arrive outside the Arriva Midlands Tamworth garage. We all take a few shots, even though we are having dead eye looks from the local chav fraternity, and as we make our way towards the end of the garage, Mr UKBuses spots a vehicle depart from inside the station, and he quickly runs down towards the open door to take a few shots (from the pavement!) of the interior of the garage, as soon as his camera is put away, the doors also close. Time for a drink, so we go to the nearest J D Wetherspoons, "The Silk Kite", for some liquid refreshment. As we arrive, there are a lot of people waiting to be served, so Mr D9 has a walk around the other side of the bar to see what real ales are available, with a member of bar staff abruptly telling him that "You have to be served the other side!", so as he makes his way back to us, the barmaid thinks we are invisible and serves a people who have not been waiting as long as us. When it is our turn she is rude and sureley has an attitude problem, at this point we decide to leave, making this one Wetherspoons that we will not be returning to due to the rudeness of both members of bar staff on duty. We have a little time to kill, so instead of waiting in a place where the local community seem to be ignorant, we decide to get ahead of the plan and catch the 1425pm Arriva Midlands 765 service back to Lichfield. As we make our way back to Lichfield, the day must surely be taking its toll on Mr UKBuses, who decides to have a nap, see picture right, with Mr D9 and myself sitting either side of him, we could have taken a bet on whose shoulder his head would be landing on. He does wake up in time to alight the bus when it pulls back into Lichfield bus station. We have about ten minutes before we catch the earlier than planned Arriva Midland service 825 to Rugeley, enough time for Mr D9 to make use of the facilities again at Lichfield bus station.

Cheers! At The Plaza, Rugeley
Our service 825 turns up on time and we board for a short journey to Rugeley, a place that I visited about two or three years ago, it may have been longer as they years go by so quick, we hope that the natives, when we arrive, will be better than the Tamworth natives. After a journey of approximately thirty-five minutes, we see the big chimney stacks at Rugeley power station, or "The Cloud Machines" as Mr D9 likes to call them, and we alight at Rugeley Bus Station. Mr UKBuses is getting hungry, so he decides to go on a hunt for chips. After visiting W H Smiths where I get a couple bars of chocolate to keep me going and we get a free copy of The Sun with our magazines (where to confuse you even more, they charge you for it then take £1 off the total cost, even though the paper is only 60p), Mr UKBuses spots a chip shop that Mr WME used when we visited previously. Mr UKBuses decides not to use that one, I cannot blame him, it didn't look very clean, we make our way to the main road leading back to the bus station and he finds Henry's, a rather more clean looking chip shop. After a little wait he buys a cone of chips, even though they are in a tray, and Mr D9 helps himself to a few as we sit outside, whilst Mr UKBuses eats them, it may have been a bit warmer, not a lot, by eating them in a bus shelter. After the chips have been consumed, we take a couple of steps and we are in J D Wetherspoons, "The Plaza", and as Mr D9 buys the round, with the staff loads more friendlier than the Tamworth staff, I find a seat, and to make sure that Mr D9 is okay, the table I find is right next to the gents toilets. We rest our feet for a few minutes, see picture left, before we head back to the bus station to catch the bus to our next destination, but before we leave, we all make a visit ensuring that we will be comfortable for the journey ahead. As we are right next to the gents, Mr D9 heads into the ladies, but he is saved embarassment as Mr UKBuses points out his mistake. Feeling refreshed, we head to Rugeley bus station to catch our bus, it is just after half past four, and the photographs have been stopped for the rest of the day due to the fact that it is absolutely pitch black outside.

It's the end of the day at The Wheatsheaf, Cheers!
We only have to wait a few minutes and our bus arrives, we did see the our bus go around on a different service to a local estate and back in what seemed one minute, before morphing into our Arriva Midlands service 33 taking us back to Cannock. We rest our feet for the journey which takes us about twenty five minutes before arriving at a cold and dark Cannock Bus Station just before 1700pm. We decide to skip Cannock and board our next bus, an earlier than planned Arriva Midlands service 70, it is now 1705, and our bus departs from Cannock. Whilst on board, we are approached from a market survey official acting on behalf of Bus Users UK, and gives us a survey to fill in and post back, I have duly completed and posted it back to them giving them my say on the service caught. As we near Wolverhampton, the bus driver thinks he is the next Jenson Button, speeding and driving with out care so as we arrive in Wolverhampton, we gladly alight in Stafford Street. We have extra time in Wolverhampton, so we can visit two pubs before leaving for home. We are on the corner of Lichfield Street and we don't know which pub to go to, but the decision is made easier as Mr D9's legs are becoming crossed, so we head to the nearest, which is J D Wetherspoons "The Moon Under Water". It is Mr UKBuses round, so as Mr D9 pops to use the facilities, I find a table in a pub packed with Wolves fans. We spend a while resting our legs, but as we finish our drinks we move onto the second Wolverhampton pub, one of our favourites, "The Wheatsheaf". We head round to the lounge or is it the snug, at the back of the building, and we are presented with the barmaid who serves us our round, the view gets better when I find a mirror above the bar, this pleases Mr D9 and myself. We rest our legs again and reflect on today's proceedings, see picture right. After a nice rest, we have to leave to catch our bus home, we leave Mr D9 to finish his pint and we say goodbye.

We make our way around to the new Wolverhampton bus station, and Mr UKBuses is walking so slow that a snail and his tortoise mate overtake him on the pavement. As we turn the corner, we see National Express West Midlands service 256, pull out of its stop. To make sure we are in a chance of catching this bus, we hurry around to Cleveland Street, but as we arrive we see the service 256 ahead turning into Summer Row, so we decide to walk around to Victoria Street, where we head to two pubs in quick succession. The first one we visit is The Giffard Arms, one of my favourite Wolverhampton pubs, but we use the facilities first, and as we come back to the bar, there is quite a queue, so we head opposite and visit The Litten Tree, where we have a quick drink before catching National Express West Midlands service 255. We board service 255 when it turns up a few minutes late, and after passing through Wombourne and Wall Heath, we alight at Kingswinford cross, where we walk up the High Street and after a few minutes National Express West Midlands service 256 takes us back to Stourbridge. We alight in Birmingham Street and by the time we have walked from Stand F to Stand C, our final bus of the day arrives and it is Black Diamond's service 276C which takes us back home dropping off Mr UKBuses first and I alight in Wollaston. I get my supper from Lucky House and take my Chinese takeaway home in time to watch this year's ITV I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.

Another good day out, good laughs with good people, there is one final ARMS day out in 2011, which means only one thing, it is the Christmas outing - Anything can happen, it did last year!

Andy's Bald Cranium (ABC)

The Bald Spot at Cannock Bus Station.

Bald Spot One: This was captured in a cold Cannock Bus Station, whilst waiting to get our bus to Lichfield. Considering the low temperature, there is a lot of cranium showing, I was expecting the hair to be long, enabling the bald spot to be kept warm.

Thanks Mrs D9 for supply the distraction.

Bald Spot Two: This was captured in Mr D9's favourite place, Tamworth, outside of the old Midland Red garage, which is now run by Arriva Midlands. This picture was caught whilst Mr D9 was reporting in, so a big thank you goes to Mrs D9, who kept him talking, enabling me to get the shot.

The bald spot by moonlight!

Bald Spot Three: This is the first night time shot I have ever got of the cranium as you can see the reflection from the station lightning, the picture is a bit blurred as the cranium moved. The location of this picture was in Rugeley Bus Station whilst waiting to return to Cannock.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

2011 - Day Out 31: London - Rememberance Day

Date: Sunday 13 November 2011

It is the last day of our weekend visit to London. We will be visiting the Cenotaph to pay our respects and observe the main Remembrance service held at Westminster, with Her Majesty The Queen taking part.

The Cenotaph, respecting our War dead
I wake up at 0715am after a well deserved sleep following yesterday's busy day and night out. I pop out for my morning "fresh air" break. Being in the fresh air also wakens me up a bit more. I make my way back to my room where I have a refreshing shower and get ready for the day ahead. We are checking out this morning, so I ensure that I have everything packed in my bag and before I make my way down to reception, I have one final check to ensure that I have left nothing behind. I pick up my bag, and make my way down to reception where I hand in my key card for the final time. I now have to wait for Mr UKBuses now, and while I do I can smell the breakfast in the breakfast room / bar. We don't have time this morning to help ourselves to an "all we can eat" breakfast as we need to get to Westminster so that we can get a good spot to watch the Remembrance service. Mr UKBuses gets his own back on me for meeting up with him late, last night before we hit the town, as I am down in the reception area for about fifteen to twenty minutes before he turns up. He hands his key card in and we leave the hotel for the final time as we make our way round the corner to the East India DLR station to get our DLR railway replacement bus to Canning Town Interchange. We don't have to wait long before a bus turns up and after boarding, it only takes a few minutes before we are at Canning Town ready to catch the tube to Westminster. As we make our way to the tube station, we are checking in all the shops along the way as Mr UKBuses needs to get a replacement poppy. This is his third this weekend, the first one he had, he lost it somewhere in Birmingham on the way to New Street Station. He purchased a replacement one yesterday from a lady during the Lord Mayor's Parade, and lost it shortly after on the tube. He is bound to get one when we arrive at Westminster, I wonder how long he will be wearing it?

We make our way to the platform at Canning Town and we are lucky as we only have to catch this tube to get us to Westminster. A tube arrives and we make our way along the Jubilee Line to get to us to our main destination for today, Westminster. It takes us just under twenty minutes and we arrive at Westminster. We only have a short walk to get to Whitehall, and along the way, Mr UKBuses is able to get a poppy to wear from a newsagent along the street, I get one too which replaces one that I have been wearing all weekend and has been battered about a bit, at least I have a crisp looking poppy to wear just in case we make an appearance on the television coverage. We are at Whitehall, and we are passed clear plastic bags to put our personal belongings in from our pockets as we have to have our bags checked and walk through a scanner before we can take our places. Mr UKBuses gets through okay, after having my bag checked, it is my turn to walk through the scanner and it goes off, I am ordered to one side where I have to have a body scan with a portable detector. It turns out that I left my inhaler in my pocket which contains metal, but I am allowed in and I am reunited with my bag. As I get my belongings (phone, camera, keys, etc) out of my bag, I find out that my policeman has left my packed clothes in a state, Mr UKBuses gets the personal touch as the WPC who checked his bag, helped him put his clothes back into his bag by folding them for him. We now have to find a place to stand so that we can watch the service.

We make it onto the BBC!
It looks as we arrived at the right time as the crowds are starting to gather, we make our way up towards Downing Street, and we find a spot just up from the Cenotaph and a good view as The Queen will be standing virtually in front of us. We take our places and put down our bags, it is just before 0930am so we have to wait another hour before the service starts, we get here this early so that we can ensure we get a good place, but it looks like we will have to be even earlier next time, as people have had similar ideas and they are right at the front. Even before the service has begun, it feels strange to be here, even though there are hundreds of people here, there is no running around trying to get anywhere, the area is quiet considering the number of the crowds. After an hour, the bands / troops start to arrive, they make there way down Whitehall and as they take their spots on each side of the road, our view is restricted now as they stand in front of us, this doesn't worry Mr UKBuses as he still gets his pictures and videos by holding his camera in the air. The main service starts, and after another half hour, The Queen, Prince Charles and Prime Ministers past and present take their places by the Cenotaph. It is now eleven o'clock and as Big Ben tolls, the two minute silence starts, and it is surreal as you can hear a pin drop, the two minutes pass by with no problems apart from one person who decides to shout at the top of his voice "No More War". The last post is played which sends a shiver down my spine, The Queen and Prime Minister lays wreaths onto the Cenotaph, and a hymn is sung by all who attend followed by The Lords Prayer, and finally the national anthem, God Save The Queen. The current and ex-service men will make there way down Whitehall and to the Cenotaph to lay there wreaths, we leave at this point as we need to make our way across London to get a bite to eat and to catch our train back home. I'm glad that I have stayed in London so that I can experience this and pay my respects to those who lost their lives during the wars to protect our country.

When we get back home, we find out that we do make it onto the BBC coverage, a still from the coverage is shown above right, can you spot us. Video footage can be seen below.

We make our way back to Westminster tube station but we do find it hard going as we do get stuck a few times through the crowds along Whitehall, we have to squeeze through some very tight spots along the way. We finally make it past the security area and I do need a "fresh air break" after making my way through the crowd. Nerves calmed we make our way underground and we head onto the District Line and make our way to Victoria. Upon arrival we make our way to our last London J D Wetherspoons of the weekend, instead of using the pub in the station as we did yesterday, we head to where we would have gone yesterday for lunch, "The Willow Walk" and as Mr UKBuses finds a seat, I get the round in. We see the tail end of the coverage of the Remembrance Sunday on the pubs television, and it seems strange that we have just come from where the TV pictures are being filmed. Back to lunch, and Mr UKBuses and myself opt for our usual Wetherspoons fayre. After finishing our lunches, our main priority is to get to London Euston, where we need to catch our train back home, so we make our way back to Victoria tube station, and we jump onto the Victoria Line which will take us straight back to London Euston, or so we thought. There are problems up ahead on the Victoria Line with signals, and the tube services are being held up. As we make our way along the line, the train is being held at each station for about five minutes each time before moving again. We are starting to get tight for time, and as we arrive at Warren Street tube station, the driver informs us that we may be here for some time, so we decide that we will change onto the Northern Line at this station after the driver's announcement, so we make our way to the Northern Line, as we start to walk away from the platform, the tube closes its door and promptly makes its way to the next station, London Euston. We run to the Northern Line platforms at Warren Street, we didn't realise that it is a bit of a walk. As we arrive on the Northern Line platform, luckily a train arrives and we jump on to get us to London Euston. It is a last minute dash through the ticket barriers and into the main London Euston railway station. As we make our way up the escalators we find that our 1318pm Virgin Train will be departing from platform five. We can calm down now though as we have just over five minutes to get onto the platform and our train.

No time for a "fresh air" break, we make our way to platform five, and board our train, I do notice on our coach door that the service is leaving Euston at "1418" and think nothing of it, as we take our seats, we get a table seat as it is available, the time is 1318pm, and we pull off and start making our way towards Birmingham, as we pull out of London Euston, Mr UKBuses notices that he has lost his poppy, next year he will be stapling it to himself so he doesn't lose it. This should be a fast train as we are only stopping at Coventry and Birmingham International before we reach Birmingham New Street, but we are making a brief stop at Watford Junction states Mark, our Train Manager. After we pass Watford, I go to the shop to get refreshments and as I come back to Coach A, I utter the words "Tickets and passes, please", Mr UKBuses doesn't fall for it this time, but a passenger on the table opposite thought it was funny. After we stop at Coventry, Mark, our Train Manager informs us of the time that we will be arriving at our stations, it turns out that we will be back an hour later than the printed timetable, I then notice that the times on the display screens are an hour behind - I think Virgin Trains have forgot to put their clocks back a few weeks ago and are still operating to British Summer Time (BST). We arrive back in Birmingham New Street and have to wait about twenty minutes for our train to Smethwick Galton Bridge, luckily it is already on the platform opposite, so we take our seats and rest our legs. After twenty minutes we pull out of Birmingham New Street and head towards Smethwick Galton Bridge, where we change to the Snow Hill Line. We have another twenty minute wait at Smethwick Galton Bridge, but as it arrives we get on a "shiny new train", back to Stourbridge Junction where we change onto the Stourbridge Town Shuttle otherwise known as "The Parry's People Mover". As we arrive at Stourbridge Town, we head towards Birmingham Street and Stand C to get Black Diamond's service 276C back home to rest after an action packed weekend.

I've had a fantastic weekend in London, with a fantastic hotel and fantastic company. I cannot wait until we go down London again as I want to try out my Oyster card and be classed as a proper Londoner!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

2011 - Day Out 30: London - Lord's Mayor Parade

Date: Saturday 12 November 2011

Continuing our weekend in the Capital, we plan to visit the Lord's Mayor Parade which will be taking to the streets of London, and we also explore new places in the city.

We finally make it to Stratford!
After a sleepless night, I decide to get up just after 0715am and first on the agenda is a "fresh air" break, so I get myself to the front of the hotel. As I light up, I decide to have a little excursion whilst I smoke, and I decide to have a walk around to the back of the building which is opposite the hotel, after a couple of minutes I am at the back of the building and I am shocked at what I see before me, I see the East India DLR Station, I think that Mr UKBuses needs to learn to read a map after he took us the long way around to the hotel last night. After finishing my "fresh air" break, I go back to my hotel room to freshen up before breakfast. After my shower, I head down to reception where I meet up with Mr UKBuses so that we can have our breakfast before the day ahead. After a big helping of sausages and bacon, I decide to have a yoghurt, and another, and whilst Mr UKBuses is up I ask him to bring me another one, well it is an "all you can eat" breakfast. Breakfast finished, we head up to our rooms to freshen up before we start the day and meet back in reception ten minutes later. As there is no DLR in operation today, we have to make our way to Canning Town, we walk around the corner from the hotel so that we can catch our first bus of the weekend for the short journey to the Canning Town interchange. As we make our way past the hotel, we come to a crossroads, and Mr UKBuses is up to his old tricks again as he carries straight carries on. We turn back and turn right to where the bus stop really is, we only have to wait five minutes for First London Service 309 to turn up and take us to Canning Town.

The amazing Stratford Interchange
As we arrive at Canning Town, we take a few photographs of the buses in the station before we make our way down to the tube to get us to our first destination of the day. We decide to visit Stratford, a place we have been trying to get to on previous visits but due to various reasons we have never got there. We make our way to the tube station where we get onto the Jubilee Line, and six minutes later we arrive at Stratford, I decide to get a photograph taken (above left) as a memento of our visit and to say that I have finally got there. We make our way out of the Stratford Interchange and it is one of the best interchanges I have ever visited, the bus, rail, tube and DLR services all meet in one place. The place is spotlessly clean, easy to navigate and all round passenger friendly. The bus station is currently being redeveloped, but from what I can see from the works that have already taken place, the bus station will be up to the same standard of the combined tube and railway station (see picture, right). At least one of the features of the new Stratford bus station will be exactly the same as the Stourbridge Interchange back home, and that is what I now call "The upside down umbrella", Stratford will have more when finished. We have a quick look around Stratford before we head back to the tube station. We arrive on our platform just as a tube train pulls in, we now make our way on the Central Line to Bank, or so we thought as the tube train is having problems with shutting it's doors, and after several attempts, the driver announces that the train will have to be taken out of service. As we wait a National Express train pulls in on the adjacent platform, but as we make our way to catch it, a tube train pulls up, so we get on board and we finally make our way to Bank.

Relaxing at Victoria
We leave Bank Station and as we arrive outside of the entrance to the station, the crowds have already gathered along Poultry ready for The Lord Mayor's Parade. A man walks past selling flags and whistles, so I purchase a whistle as insurance for any "fracas" music that may be played over the rest of the weekend. We stay in Poultry to watch the parade take place. There are over 150 participants taking part in the parade, Mr UKBuses has taken video footage of mostly half of the floats that have passed. Whilst in the crowd, I am a sitting target for a couple of the floats. The first float that decides to throw something at me is a bean bag, it hits me right on the brow of my head. About ten minutes later another passing float decides to throw something at me, but this time I can forgive them as about half a dozen chocolate sweets decide to bounce of my noggin, Mr UKBuses is busy taking some video footage, so I grab the opportunity to pick up his share of the sweets and eat them while the rest of the parade goes by. During the parade, we see TV presenter Claire Balding go back and forth in front of us a few times as she interviewed people taking part in the parade. After an hour from the start of the parade, the final float goes past. We quickly make our way to the Bank tube station, before the rest of the crowds, and it is back onto the Central Line to Oxford Circus where we change onto the Victoria Line to take us to Victoria Station. We had planned to have lunch at Victoria but we were still a bit full from our big breakfast, so after taking a few photographs in the bus station, we decide to try out a new J D Wetherspoons in London (see picture, left) and it is situated in Victoria Station. It is a small Wetherspoons due to its location, but it is also a nice place to relax with a drink whilst waiting for a train. After we finish our drinks, we decide to deviate from the plan, as we are ahead of schedule.

We make our way to Victoria bus station, but on our way we decide to become proper Londoners, and we visit the London Transport Ticket Office at Victoria railway station and purchase an Oyster card for future trips to London, we pay £5 deposit for the cards and £5 for the first top up. This will save us the hassle of buying a one day travel card when we arrive in London each time, and we can top up our Oyster card online before we arrive in London. The card takes a standard fare off your card each time you scan it as you board a bus or tube, but as you reach the level of the one day travel card on the day of travel in London, no more fares will be taken off, unless you travel to the next zone and the same will happen. We get back to our day in London using our standard travel card and we deviate from the plan by having a ride on the buses of London as we are ahead of time. First off we catch the Go-Ahead London 436 from Victoria to Vauxhall. As we arrive in Vauxhall, we promptly catch the Go-Ahead London service 87 from Vauxhall to Trafalgar Square. At Trafalger Square we catch Go-Ahead London service 12 to Oxford Circus, and we get back onto the original plan. We have a walk down the busy Oxford Street through all of the shoppers doing their Christmas shopping. We get to our stop and wait for the next bus we are going to catch, as we are waiting I have to help a distraught French woman who is desperately trying to pay for her bus fare using the on-street ticket machines. The bus driver is getting irate too as he is starting to beep his horn, which makes her panic more. Whilst this is going on, our planned  First London service 25 arrives and as Mr UKBuses boards, I nearly miss the bus, but I do get on....just.

We plan to go to Mile End, and en route we are diverted due to the Lords Mayor Parade and after about half an hour Mr UKBuses is up to his old tricks and gets off the bus early, very early as we get off at Aldgate and decide to take our last photographs of the day in Aldgate bus station, a great place to take photographs as we found out on our last trip to London. After taking our photographs, we cross the road to Aldgate tube station and use the tube to get to our originally planned destination of Mile End. I also get the opportunity to video my favourite thing about the tube - that is when the train comes out of the tunnel into the station, this can be seen in the video below (the lady starting to take her clothes off was an added bonus). We leave the station for a couple of minutes to see what the area is like, I think we may have been before on one of our previous visits, but we go back on the plan and we get back on the tube and onto the District Line to Temple. We make our way out onto ground level and there are quite a lot of people there already waiting for the Lord Mayors Parade fireworks, which are due to take place at 1700pm. A trip to the toilet is needed desperately by me, but we can not find any in the area, we decide to have a walk around the corner, and hidden away is a pub, which we enter straight away to use the facilities. Mr UKBuses leaves the toilets before me and decides to use a different entrance, I spend a few minutes searching for him, and notice the other entrance, and as he spots from across the road, he frantically waves his arms to get my attention. Once I catch up with him he asks me where have I been, I cannot print my response publicly.

It is decided that we won't stay and watch the fireworks, so we have a walk past the tube station and eventually we end up at a bus stop outside the Royal Courts of Justice. We wait a few minutes when Metroline London service 4 turns up and takes us to Waterloo station. We decide to have a bite to eat and we use McDonald's and we both order large meals, which also means that we are entitled to a limited edition Coca Cola glass. We spend a few minutes at our table to let our food settle, and we stay in the station and we use the Jubilee Line which takes us straight to Canning Town. We walk from the tube station to the bus station and we get our DLR rail replacement bus back to East India DLR station, where we walk the correct route back to the hotel, we arrive at 1845pm, so we head to our rooms so that we can freshen up and arrange to meet back at reception in an hour so that we can visit a few pubs on the evening.

It is 1945, and I head down to reception as planned and find Mr UKBuses already sitting there waiting for me, he informs me that he has been there for some time, so we head straight out and back to the East India DLR station to catch our rail replacement bus back to Canning Town Interchange. From there we head back onto the Jubilee Line to West Ham, where we change onto the District Line where we alight at one of our favourite places in London, Whitechapel. We are on the lookout for a new pub in the area, The Kray's local, "The Grave Maurice". From previous research on its location, we turn right as we head out of Whitechapel tube station, instead of our normal left, and walk down towards Aldgate. On the way I stop to get some cigarettes from a newsagent whilst Mr UKBuses stands outside. We carry on down the road, and Mr UKBuses thinks its the other way, so we catch a First London service 25, back up to our London regular, The Blind Beggar. This is Mr UKBuses first time in this pub on a night time, and it is a different atmosphere to our normal daytime experience, but the company in the pub is still good. Whilst we have our drinks, I get the Blackberry out and try and do some research on The Grave Maurice, and later find out that the pub has closed and is now a "Paddy Power" betting shop. The crazy thing about this was that Mr UKBuses was standing outside of it as I visited the newsagents as it was next door, and we ended carrying on towards Aldgate without realising. Drinks finished in the Blind Beggar, we walk to the nearest bus stop to catch our bus to the next drinking location.

We wait about ten minutes and a First London service 25 bus turns up, which takes us on the short journey down Whitechapel to Aldgate East tube station, from here we try to retrace our steps from a couple of years ago down Commercial Street, after a ten minute walk, we arrive at The Ten Bells, a pub which is supposed to have been the regular haunt for Jack The Ripper. We arrive and there are a load of people outside and that is because this pub is popular, but the pub is too small to accommodate these people. Since our last visit a couple of years ago, they have moved the bar from its original location to the centre of the pub, which has also made less space available for customers, a crazy idea if you ask me as the pub had capacity problems before the change. For me, the movement of the bar has also ruined this pub for me, as it has ruined the atmosphere of the pub and also it means that the pub doesn't have the original "Jack The Ripper" days feel to it. As we are getting cold as we are with the crowds outside, we drink up and make our way to the bus stop, in which First London service 67 arrives to take us the short distance to the Aldgate East tube station. We jump onto the District Line, where we change onto the Central Line to Stratford.

We arrive in Stratford for the second time in one day (probably because we enjoyed the visit earlier and we simply had to come back) and as we walk through the shopping centre, opposite the interchange, it takes us to the main High Street area of the town and we decide to have a drink in "The Longthorne", previously a Yates pub. A trip to the toilet is needed first before purchasing any drinks as we are finding it difficult to walk as we are bursting to go. We choose a seat by the window, to rest our feet for a while. Drinks finished we make our way back to the interchange, and find out where we need to get our DLR rail replacement buses to get back to the hotel. We see a few pulled up at one stop and upon closer inspection these are the buses that we need to catch. We catch the bus to Canary Wharf, passing through many DLR stations, I do get excited when we pass Devon's Road, this was the DLR station I had to use when I had to visit the offices of my work when we had a presence in the London area.

We arrive at Canary Wharf where we have a little walk to get to the Canary Wharf tube station. From here we get onto the Jubilee Line, but before we catch our train, Mr UKBuses has to visit the toilet, which I tease him about as he was stating that I was the person who has the bladder trouble, revenge is sweet! We get on to the tube and shortly after we arrive at Canning Town, where we catch the DLR replacement bus to East India DLR station and finally arrive back at the hotel. Mr UKBuses goes to bed, whilst I have a drink in the hotel bar where I catch up with emails on my Blackberry, before finally climbing into bed myself.

An action packed day was had by both with new locations visited. Mr UKBuses finally had a night time experience in The Blind Beggar. We look forward to our last day in London, and hope it will be as enjoyable as today's activities.