Sunday, 24 April 2011

2011 - Day Out 8: London

Date: Saturday 23 April 2011

Day Out 8 - London
It's the Easter weekend, and Mr UK Buses and myself decide a visit to London is in order. Preparations have been made in the weeks running up to today's visit to the big city, with myself booking the rail tickets in advance which gives us big savings and reserved seats, and Mr UK Buses using his Good Friday to get the travel cards needed for our transport in London.

It is an early start and I catch National Express West Midlands Service 276 from Wollaston, which is already waiting for its 0706 departure, I let Mr UK Buses know that I'm on the bus and send him a text, at which he panics that the bus is leaving early and phones me. To make sure that he catches this bus, I text him again to say that the bus has left Wollaston when we depart. Mr UK buses joins me when he gets on the bus at Norton, and it is a quick journey through Stourbridge to Stourbridge Junction where we catch our first train to Birmingham.

We catch the 0735 London Midland train which gets us into Birmingham Snow Hill for 0810, and after a quick walk through Birmingham, we have our bacon roll breakfast from McDonald's, and we make our way to New Street Station. There is no platform for our Virgin Train to London yet, so we go outside so that I can have a cigarette, and as all the smokers are outside, a lady comes to have one herself and as she is bending down to get something out of her case, we see the moon in the glorious sunshine, but out of all the men in the smoking area, Mr UK Buses is the one who gets caught looking! Cigarette break over, we go back inside to look at which platform our 0850 Virgin train is departing from, only to find out our journey has been cancelled, so we have to wait an extra 20 minutes on Platform 4b and get onto the 0910 journey, and due to the extra passengers expected on board we make a dash to find seats.

After a journey time of just over 1 hour and 20 minutes, we arrive in London just over twenty minutes later than expected, so we head out of Euston and onto onto the main Euston Road, to get our first London bus of the day, Service 73 operated by Arriva London, and this journey takes us from London Euston to Victoria Bus Station. Upon arrival a few photographs are taken and we wait for our next bus, Service 211, operated by Abellio London, which will take us to Westminster, but we decide to get the tube for the short journey which will enable us to get back on track with our plan, and we get onto the Circle and District Line where we pass St. James Park Station before we arrive at Westminster Station, and we come back out of the underground to a splendid view of Big Ben in the glorious sunny weather. We walk past Parliament, and head to Westminster Abbey, ahead of the Royal Wedding, which Mr UK Buses takes a few photographs but before I get chance to, I'm stopped and have some "Lucky Heather" thrust upon me, which I have to pay for, "For the kids" I'm told. 

Cheers! The Lord Moon of The Mall
After this, we head up Whitehall and after a walk of about 10 minutes, we arrive at JD Wetherspoons "Lord Moon of The Mall", which we stop off at for a refreshing drink and a bite to eat. Table found, Mr UK Buses gets the drinks, and we peruse the menu for our dinner, and the menu is not needed as we opt for the regular lunch, with Mr UK Buses opting for his Chicken Tikka Masala, and the Beer and Burger for myself, so it is time to pop to the bar to order, and get the condiments. I return to our table and for some reason Mr UK Buses tells me to put the horseradish sauce back, so I do, and after a wait of about 10 minutes our food arrives. We tuck in but I'm sure that I've been given "Chester Portions" with my chips, so I finish before Mr UK Buses. We let our dinner settle and time for a "Cheers" photo, right, and we make our way to the next destination, so we head out onto Whitehall and a short walk past Trafalgar Square, we arrive at Charring Cross where we get onto the Northern line to Waterloo.

Sun Hill taken in April 2011, nearly a year after filming of The Bill had stopped
We make our way from the tube and into the main Waterloo railway station, where we have a discussion about whether this was where Del met Raquel in Only Fools and Horses. We think it is, and as of writing this, I've found out that it is infact correct. We make our way across the platforms looking for our train, and we arrive at Platform 3 where our South West Trains service is in the station ready to take us to Wimbledon Station. On the way we pass Battersea Power Station, where Mr UK Buses states that is where Helen Skelton did a tightrope walk across there for Blue Peter, he knew this even though he does not watch Blue Peter, or does he? We also pass through Clapham Junction, Britain's busiest railway station. We arrive at Wimbledon and make our way across the station so that we can catch the Croydon Tram Link from Wimbledon to the Morden Road Stop, which is only a couple of stops away from the Wimbledon Terminus. We arrive at Morden Road, and a short walk is made from the tram stop and walk up Lombard Road and onto Deer Park Road, where we are at South Wimbledon Studios, which was where ITV's The Bill was filmed. We walk to the front of the studios into Windsor Avenue and we are surprised to see that "Sun Hill" is still standing, see left, nearly a year after filming had stopped on the series. We make our way back towards the Morden Road Tram Stop, but instead of catching the Croydon Tramlink, we decide to catch service 93 to Putney Bridge Station, which is operated by Go-Ahead London, whilst on journey we pass through scenic parts of London with Wimbledon Common acting as the backdrop. We saw no Wombles though!

We arrive at Putney Bridge, and it turns out to be a good location for a few photographs, with the bus drivers being a friendly bunch whilst doing so. It is time to get to our next destination, so we head onto the underground again (even though you have to climb up stairs to get to Putney Bridge tube station) and onto the District Line where we head towards Whitechapel. On the way we pass through quite a few tube stations including Earls Court, Embankment, Monument and Tower Hill. We arrive at Whitechapel and make our way onto the main street and we notice that since our last visit to this station, the Overground has been opened, even though the station is still undergoing decoration works. A quick walk up Whitechapel Road, where we make our way to our London regular, The Blind Beggar, and we both opt for a refreshing Coke to whet our thirsts. The pub seems to be quiet since our last visit, with a patron asleep in the corner, even though the barman wakes him up, he does seems to walk up the main street with a bit of a wobble. 

We are ahead of schedule and we decide to catch a bus, and we opt for service 25 from Whitechapel, and we arrive at Oxford Circus. It is busy so we decide to head onto the underground for a short trip to St Paul's, where back outside the tube station, where we wait for our next bus service 100, which is on diversion, so have to make a quick walk to get onto Service 15, which takes us to Tower Hill.

We have a bit of time to spend at Tower Hill for our Heritage Routemaster on Service 15, so we decide to have a drink from the ice cream mean outside the Tower of London. Whilst waiting there is another Routemaster at the stop, a pink one, and after a few minutes the passengers disembark and it seems that it is a hen party, so despite the view of the Tower of London, we are treated to some more views, of which Mr UK Buses is closest to and he tries to get into the view of the photograph being taken of the party. After a few more minutes, the hen party makes it way back onto the pink bus after a little help from a "passing" fireman, which must have been the stripper as the pink bus makes its way and he is still on the top deck amidst the sounds of screams and laughter! It is a few minutes and our Heritage Routemaster on Service 15, operated by Stagecoach East London, turns up taking us from Tower Hill through London and ends up at Charing Cross.

Upon arrival at Charing Cross, we make our way back onto the tube for our last underground journey of the day, and in the nick of time to as rain starts to come down with a bit of thunder and lighting added in, and so we go onto the Northern Line for our short ride back to London Euston. As we make our way to the railway station we are passed by a few West Bromwich Albion fans, who have made their journey to the capital to see their team against Tottenham Hotspur, so we make a dash to "The Britannia" at the station for our final drink of the day. After a cigarette before our train journey back, we check for our train and discover that the trains aren't working in our favour today as ours is late, but once the platform is announced, a mad dash is made to the train to enable us to beat the WBA fans to our reserved seats. We get our seats and we relax for our journey back, that is after we have our sandwiches to re-energise ourselves.

We arrive back in Birmingham, but due to the train being late, we are held up whilst a spot becomes free at New Street, but finally we get into the station where we make our way to Snow Hill. We have a bit of time to kill before our train is due to Stourbridge Junction, so we try out a pub which is located down the side of Snow Hill, The Old Contemptibles, a place which I have spotted a couple of times from the train and now I have visited this establishment, which seems to be a real ale pub hidden away, but there are a few people who know where this place is and looks quite used with the company in the pub being friendly. Drink over, we head to Snow Hill and catch our train into Stourbridge Junction, where upon arrival, we swap platforms before getting onto to the Parry's People Mover back into Stourbridge Town.

A final journey of the day, and it is Black Diamond's Service 276 giving us the honours, taking us back home after a brilliant day out at the Capital. The weather was fantastic, sunny all day apart from the thunder just before we left Euston, and it also a day in which Mr UK Buses has to walk around carrying his coat, yes hard to believe! I cannot wait for our next visit to London, which will be in November for the Lord Mayor's Parade.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

2011 - Day Out 7: Shropshire

Date: Saturday 09 April 2011

Mr UK Buses gets cash out of a machine shocker!
Time for the WARP's to meet up again for our first trip in British Summertime and this time we head to Shropshire. First up, I catch the 08:06 National Express West Midlands Service 276 from Wollaston on which a One Day NBus ticket is purchased for the first and leg of our journey today, and Mr UK Buses boards during the journey into Stourbridge. We arrive in Stourbridge, where we change onto National Express West Midlands Service 257 to Kingswinford and we change onto National Express West Midlands Service 255 to get us into Wolverhampton, on which we pass through Swindon and Wombourne along the way. We arrive in Wolverhampton at about 09:15 where we meet up with Mr Lunn. After Mr Lunn gets his breakfast from Gregg's, and Mr UK Buses actually gets cash out of an ATM, see picture evidence left, the gang is complete when we meet up with Mr WME, who throughout the day have many conversations about Mr UK Buses actually carrying cash on him (we are all getting over the shock of the ATM and Mr UK Buses using it, the Stafford Road "Hub" and bikes.

Time to get to our first destination and we join the big queue in Lichfield Street for our journey on Arriva Midlands 09:45 891 Service to Bridgnorth and we manage to squeeze into our midi bus and it is standing room only where, along the way, we pass many people waiting at bus stops for this hourly service, with the driver not letting anyone on because there is "no room", but just before we arrive in Bridgnorth, we head onto the Stanmore Industrial Estate to pick up a couple of Arriva drivers from the Bridgnorth outstation, so the health and safety rules DO NOT apply to drivers then! We arrive in Bridgnorth shortly after where the sardines, sorry passengers, alight at Bridgnorth High Town.

We have an hour before our next journey, so we head to the local JD Wetherspoons, "Jewel of the Severn", where we have a well deserved drink after our journey from Wolverhampton. It is also a place where we chat about "Book-A-Banga" with Mr WME, could this be part of the upcoming Wolverhampton Transport Review? I also check the latest F1 news and find out who qualified where for the Malaysian Grand Prix - no surprises to find out that Sebastian Vettel is pole, with Hamilton second, Webber third and Button fourth. Chats and checking over, and bladder stops out of the way, we head to the bus stop in the glowing sun to catch our next bus, Arriva Midlands 11:37 437 Service to Shrewsbury. We wait and wait, and it is now midday so it is decided that we head back to the Wetherspoons and as we do, the law of sods kicks in and the bus appears so it is a quick dash back to the bus stop to catch our late Service 437. We head through the Shropshire countryside on a bus with plenty of room for this journey, and despite the bus turning up nearly half an hour late, the driver has managed to catch up time and we arrive in Shrewsbury a few minutes later than planned.

Cheers! The Three Fishes, Shrewsbury
It is nearly time for lunch, so we spend a few minutes taking photographs at the bus station, while Mr Lunn spends a penny, and we then make our way to our second Wetherspoons of the day, "The Shrewsbury Hotel" and since Mr UK Buses and myself visit to this establishment a couple of years ago, we find out that the speed of service has not vastly improved. After a near 10 minute wait at the bar to purchase our drinks, we finally take a seat and study the menu for lunch, but it is the usual meals, with Mr UK Buses opting for the curry, Mr Lunn and Mr WME opting for the gourmet burger and beer meal, and myself opting for the standard beer and burger meal deal. Meals ordered, and we find out that the kitchen staff are beating the bar staff for speed of service and it is not long before our meals are on the table and being demolished by us. We spend a few more minutes to let our grub go down with Mr Lunn spending a penny before we decide to have a brisk walk in the summer sunshine through the town centre where Mr WME's pub radar is in top working order and we head up by the church and pay a visit to "The Three Fishes", a splendid little pub with friendly staff, so a "cheers" photo, see picture right, is required. It is now time to go back to the bus station to catch our next bus, so we have another walk through the town centre and arrive at the station where it is not long before our bus arrives and also a chance for Mr Lunn to spend a penny before we board.

Mr UK Buses takes a nap on the 519!
We board the Arriva Midlands 519 Service to our next destination and we make our way again through the Shropshire countryside and also with the countryside smells making there way through the open windows into the bus, I hope it was the country air and not the curry air from Mr UK Buses. This journey takes about an hour to get to Newport passing through places such as Roden, High Ercall, Tiberton and Edgmond. This route seems to be taking its toll on Mr UK Buses, see picture left, and he has a little nap during the journey, which means that we have a quiet journey except for the murmuring sounds coming from the direction of Mr UK Buses. We arrive in Newport, and we get off our bus at the bus station, which is just off the main High Street, and it is time for a bladder stop, and also a time for Mr Lunn to point out that there are new bladder facilities being built opposite, so we know where to go on our next visit to the town of Newport. We make our way to the next drinking establishment, and we go to The Barley, which is situated on Stafford Street and it is time for the Grand National, but we don't get to see which horse has won as we need to leave to get our next bus, so Mr UK Buses finds out that he has not won anything when we get on the bus.

We catch our next bus at Newport Bus Station and it is the Arriva Midlands 16:30 Service 481 journey which takes us out of Shropshire and into Staffordshire, where it is only a thirty minute journey to Stafford. As we pass Stafford railway station, we get ready to get off our bus and it is a little stroll to take us on our drinking establishment and we head to "The Lamb Inn", where we have a chat about our day whilst also watching the news to confirm who has won the Grand National, something that Mr UK Buses wanted to avoid. we spend just under half an hour in the lamb before we make our way to the nearest bus stop in Chell Road to get the gang back into Wolverhampton, but Mr Lunn has to make a dash back into The Lamb Inn to spend a penny before we catch the bus.

We board the 17:40 journey to Wolverhampton on Arriva Midlands 76 Service, which will take approximately one hour, passing through Penkridge along the way. As we arrive in Wolverhampton, we say goodbye to Mr WME who gets off close to home, but Mr UK Buses, Mr Lunn and myself stay on the bus into the City, and we get off at Broad Street, with a short walk, which Mr Lunn is finding hard and desperate to empty his bladder, so we go to Wetherspoons "The Moon Under Water" for the required bladder stop and a quick drink before we head back home. After a quick drink, Mr UK Buses and myself say our goodbyes to Mr Lunn, and we head around the corner into Queen Street, to catch our 19:15 National Express West Midlands 256 Service back to Stourbridge.

It takes us just under an hour before we arrive back in Stourbridge, and it is our turn for a bladder stop, so we make a quick detour and use the facilities at Wetherspoons "The Chequers Inn" to relieve our bladders and a final drink before we catch our bus home, the 0835 Service 276A operated by Black Diamond. I say my goodbyes to Mr UK Buses and make a visit to "Happy House" in Wollaston for a Chinese take away tea when I get back home.

Another good trip, with the sun shining all day for us on our first trip of British Summertime. Let's hope the sun stays with us for our trips during the rest of 2011, with the next trip for Mr UK Buses and myself planned in a couple of weeks, where we make our first trip of the year to London.