Tuesday, 31 May 2011

2011 - Day Out 13: Two Museums Days

Date: 30 May 2011

Two Museums Day 2011
It is Bank Holiday, and the last trip of the action packed day out month of May. The WRP's decide to meet up and visit our first bus rally of 2011, The Two Museums Day at Aston Manor Road Transport Museum and The Transport Museum at Wythall, both situated in Birmingham.

First I meet up with Mr UKBuses, at the temporary stands in Stourbridge. We arrange to meet up at 0930 and I get there in time, albeit a bit (sorry make that a lot) wet. As you expect from a typical Bank Holiday, it is teeming with rain, and looking at the clouds it seems that this rain is going to be around all day. Mr UKBuses turns up in time, and we wait to catch National Express West Midlands Service 9 to Birmingham. The bus has arrived waiting for the beginning of the journey, but the bus driver takes pity on us (or it could be that the Pensnett garage driver recognised his colleague Mr UKBuses), so he lets us on and it gives us the chance to get the best seats on the bus upstairs at the front. We are on our way, and as we turn around at Parkfield Road, we get a nice view from the top deck of the interchange redevelopment as we go past. We are on our way and we head through Lye, Colley Gate, Halesowen (and it's brilliant bus station!) and Quinton. We head towards Bearwood, but we are diverted due to a building fire in Hagley Road, so I text Mr WME to let him know that we may be a little late arriving in Birmingham. Mr WME duly rings me to tell me that he will be late as he realised that his local bus service didn't start until 1000 and is just about to get the train, he decides to catch the train through to Witton and we will meet up with him at Aston Manor instead. Our journey carries on and we are not held up as much as we thought in Bearwood, so we venture further up Hagley Road, and as we arrive in Birmingham, we choose to alight at Broad Street.

We make our way into the city centre, but I make a quick visit to the nearest J D Wetherspoons at Paradise Place to make use of their toilet, and we now have to find our stop for the bus to take us to the Aston Manor Museum. With the rain still coming down, we make our way to Suffolk Street Queensway, where after a little wait, our first vintage bus of the day, a Birmingham Corporation Daimler CVG6 arrives to take us on our way. We decide to play a little joke on Mr WME and send him a text asking where he is, as we are at Wythall. He takes the bait and rings us and I tell him to stay at Aston Manor - we didn't want him to catch the bus to Wythall and further delay our day, so the joke sort of backfired! After about 15 minutes we arrive at The Aston Manor Transport Museum, and we also meet up with Mr WME, who is walking to the museum as we pass him on the bus. So our gang of today is complete and the WRP's venture inside.

Problems at Aston Manor
After meticulous ticket checking, we have a little wander around the museum and check out the stalls, where I grab a few pictures of Hanson's buses, and with the rain still teeming outside we decide to have a look around the museums shop at the back of the building. With Mr UKBuses knee still on the mend, I am polite and ask him if he wants me to call and operate the stair-lift that is available for use. He declines, I'm not sure he trusts me with these mobility aids. A browse around the shop over, we make our way back downstairs to the main museum, with Mr UKBuses still refusing to use the stair-lift, and as we are back on the ground, we walk past the big doors at the side of the museum, and notice that the rain has stopped, so we take our chance and have a look at the vehicles on display and take a few photographs, but these strange people always end up getting in the way, see right. The break in rain is short lived, and we make our way back indoors to shelter, that is until we notice that one of the museum bus rides is about to depart, so we jump aboard the AEC Routemaster providing the journey and have a ride around Erdington and Gravelly Hill before arriving back at Aston Manor Transport Museum. With the rain still coming down, and our stomachs starting to rumble, we decide to head back into Birmingham and have some lunch. A museum shuttle bus to Birmingham is about to depart, but everyone else has the same idea and there is no room left for us, so we have a damp walk around Witton to catch our normal service bus back into Birmingham, kindly supplied by National Express West Midlands Service 7.

It is not long before we arrive back in the city and we head to J D Wetherspoons "The Briar Rose" where we dry off and sup a couple of pints with our dinner. After ordering our dinner, we have a rare view of Mr UKBuses wallet, and Mr WME has timed it right to get a picture of this rare occurrence. The gang has their usual with Mr WME and myself opting for the usual "Beer and Burger", and Mr UKBuses opting for his usual Chicken Tikka Masala. As we dry off we chat about our upcoming break in June and what we have planned, but our food is eaten and we still have another museum to visit, so we make our way back through Birmingham, with the rain calming down for a bit and back to Suffolk Street Queensway, where we see another Birmingham Corporation Daimler heading towards the stop, so we make a run for it, well Mr UKBuses makes a hop for it, and the bus is about to pull away from the stop without us, until a passer by taps the drivers cab window and alerts the driver that we are waiting to get on the bus. At this point, as the conductor is upstairs, I take over his conducting skills, and undo the safety rail, thus allowing the others on, before I board and reattach the safety rail. At this point the "real" conductor makes his way back downstairs and nearly catches me in the act. We find seats and this allows Mr UKBuses to rest his knee after his impromptu run down the street, and the bus pulls off taking us past the cricket ground and through Kings Heath to The Transport Museum in Wythall.

Vandal, I always thought that Mr WME was guilty of grafitti
We pass the "50" terminus at Maypole which means that we will shortly be arriving. We arrive at The Transport Museum, and whilst on our journey the rain has started to come down faster. We are asked politely to show our tickets, which we oblige, and the first port of call for me is the toilets. This is a chance for Mr WME to get his own back on me for the trick I played on him earlier, and after my toilet stop, I search for the pair, and search. Even thought I was wondering where they had got to, they were just inches away from me and were hiding in the cab of the milk floats on display at the museum. I eventually spotted them. I did think that the milk float contained waxwork dummies, and I was infact correct, a pair of dummies were found in the milk float!! We were situated by one of the sheds that house the many buses that the museum has, and so we went to have a look around the stalls situated there. This shed was home to model exhibitions and stalls, there was even one model display that closely resembled "Coronation Street". After looking around the models, we head into the museum's shop. I think Mr UKBuses preferred this museum shop as there was no flight of stairs to climb. Scouting round the shop over and we head to the other shed to have a look at the stalls set up there, this shed was home to photographs, timetables and other bus memorabilia. The rain was still coming down, so we see the "baseball bat" on the car park, which was operating on the event day car park shuttle, so we had a ride on this converted Leyland Fleetline to stay dry, where we have found the culprit - GUILTY as charged, see left. Whilst on "the baseball bat", Mr UKBuses was reminiscing about this bus being used on Services 242, 294 and 295 around Stourbridge in the late '90's. After a brief ride to the event car park (which was half flooded) and back, we decide to try and dodge the rain, and we had an ice cream to cool us down on this wet day, taking shelter in the doorway of the new exhibition hall, whilst having a lick or two of a Mr Whippy. There is a brief respite in the rain, so it time to take a few photographs, but as the camera is out, it is not long before it is put away again as the rain starts pouring again.

With the rain stopping play again, we decide to cut our losses and catch the next shuttle back to Birmingham, and our bus to take us back is pulling up on the car park, a BMMO D9, so we are the first on, and we get prime seats on the lower deck, at the front. I think I grab the best view as I can see where I'm going and also see the driver manoeuvring the vehicle back to Birmingham. After about ten minutes, the bus pulls out of The Transport Museum, and we are on our way back to Birmingham, back through Maypole, Kings Heath and past the cricket ground, one of Mr WME's favourite places, back to Suffolk Street Queensway where we are dropped off. Where I was seated on the bus, I could see the actions that the driver was making whilst driving the bus and I must say the Mr Lunn has got his D9 driving down to a tee, which is quite scary! Luckily, a National Express West Midlands 87 is right on cue, and we jump aboard to take us to Corporation Street where we decide to have a pint in our second Wetherspoons of the Day, "The Square Peg", one of our regular pubs when we visit Birmingham. Mr WME and Mr UKBuses try and get to the bar first to get the round, but Mr WME is kind to let Mr UKBuses save a bit of money (he likes saving money where possible) and have the cheap round and Mr WME will get the more expensive round at the next pub. We have a chat again about Weymouth and after finishing our drinks it is off to the next and final pub.

We head out to Corporation Street, but our normal door has been changed to an emergency exit / disabled access, so we head through the only entrance to The Square Peg now, and walk past the disabled access door, which we then realise that Mr UKBuses is currently classed as disabled - we could have saved a bit of a walk there! We head up to Colmore Row and onwards to Bennett's Hill, to a pub that we have visited before, and one of Mr WME's favourites, "The Wellington". I find a table while Mr WME gets this round in, and they order a number (the pumps are numbered with the corresponding choices listed on a TV screen), and we have our final chat about how the day has gone. Pints supped, we head to Colmore Row, via the back entrance which turns out to be a short cut and to our stand ready to catch our bus. Mr WME's bus turns up first, National Express West Midlands Service 126 to Wolverhampton, and driving it is a colleague of Mr UKBuses, so a brief conversation ensues. Mr WME departs and we wave him off and virtually behind is our National Express West Midlands Service 9, which takes us back to Stourbridge. After a journey of approximately forty-five minutes, we arrive back in Stourbridge, where the sun has decided to make an appearance (typical now that we are heading back home), but we have a while to wait, so make a diversion to the Lloyd's bar "The Edward Rutland", to sneak in and have a crafty toilet break. We sneak in the front door, and use the front toilets which Mr UKBuses didn't know about, but unfortunately for him, there are a couple of flight of stairs to climb. Toilet break over, we head back to Stand F in Birmingham Street to wait for our bus back home, and after five minutes of waiting, our Black Diamond Service 276C arrives to take us back home. I alight at Wollaston for a well deserved chinese from my regular chinese takeaway, a perfect end to the day.

Another brilliant day out with good company, apart from the rain, and a good start to the 2011 rally season. Out of the two museums, The Transport Museum at Wythall pulled out all the stops and made a good effort for The Two Museums Day, and as always makes me feel welcome wanting to return. Less can be said about Aston Manor, a visit that was not a lot of difference from my last visit. It is my personal opinion, that as it was Two Museums Day, they could have made a bit more of an effort and after my visit today, it did not really make me want to go back for a return visit this year. The first rally out of the way, and another one in just under two weeks....

Sunday, 29 May 2011

2011 - Day Out 12: The Black Country

Date: 28 May 2011

May has been a busy month for days out, it is time for my third out of four planned trips, and it is a local trip with Mr UKBuses, who has nearly recovered from his troubled knee. I still offered to push him in a wheelchair, but for some strange reason he still doesn't want me to. So taking it steady he comes out today, and I catch my usual 0856 journey of National Express West Midlands 276 Service, where arriving in Norton, Mr UKBuses boards with a slight limp, and he takes the weight off his feet until we arrive at the bus stop on Stourbridge Ring Road where we alight. We have no plan and try and make the day out based on a "turn-up and go" service where the first bus that turns up, we go on it. Our first bus to turn up is a Hansons, Service 267 to Kingswinford, where we have a venture round the side streets of Amblecote and Wordsley before arriving in Kingswinford.

We alight the bus opposite the Kingswinford Co-Op, where as we walk to The Cross, we turn into Market Street and a Hanson's 226 pulls away from the bus stop, we only have to wait a few minutes where another 226 turns up, this time operated by Diamond. It is not long before we end up at Russell's Hall Hospital, where Mr UKBuses attempts to hide himself from a Pensnett Garage driver on NXWM's Service 246, but as we head up towards Dudley at Queen's Cross, Mr UKBuses work colleague spots him and looks at him in disgust at catching a competitors bus, especially a Diamond 226! It is not long before we arrive in Dudley, and I can say that Hanson's 226 service was carrying a heavy load when spotted in Kingswinford, as we traveled the entire way into Dudley on Diamond's service there were only a handful of passengers on this journey, it looks as if Hanson's have currently got the upper hand on the "226 Bus War". We arrive in Dudley, and our next bus of choice is NXWM's 87 service, which we decide to catch to Oldbury, as Mr UKBuses believes that a new J D Wetherspoons is open in the town. After about 20 minutes, we arrive in Oldbury and we alight just outside the new library building, where Mr UKBuses tests his new camera out and gets a few bus photographs. Coincidently, the new Wetherspoons pub is supposed to be in the old library building, but we don't know where the old library was in Oldbury and after about ten minutes and a bit of search down the main streets in Oldbury, we ditch the search and make our way back to the bus stops where we see what turns up and make our mind on what to catch. (Research on the Wetherspoons website whilst writing this blog post points out that there is no new Wetherspoons pub in the Oldbury area!!!)

We catch Service 404 into West Bromwich, but just before we arrive in West Bromwich, Mr UKBuses texts a work colleague, and I text Mr D9, to see if they want to meet up for a drink at a pub called "The Windmill", and on our short journey, Mr UKbuses receives a text to say that the pub doesn't open until midday, so we decide to make our way across to Wednesbury to meet up with Mr UKBuses colleague there, a second text is sent to Mr D9 to tell him about the change of plan, and we hear nothing until about twenty minutes later as just arriving in Wednesbury bus station, Mr D9 makes contact and says he is unable to meet up with us, but thanks us for the thought. We make our way through Wednesbury town centre and hit our first Wetherspoon's of the day, "The Bellwether", where with just after having a conversation with Mr D9, I catch the bladder problem and have to rush to the toilet as soon as I get there, but at least it confirms one thing, Mr UKBuses has to get the first round of the day. Toilet break over, I make my way downstairs and Pete greets me. Pete works in the office with Mr UKBuses at Pensnett, and we have a chat whilst Mr UKBuses waits to get served - My only gripe about Wetherspoons is sometimes the service, the pubs are mainly busy, but they don't have the right amount of staff behind the bar. Finally Mr UKBuses returns to the table with the drinks and before we chat to Pete, I send a text to another member of the WARP's, Mr WME, as we decide to head across to Wolverhampton and see if he is available to meet us during his lunch break. We have a chat with Pete, and he tells us a couple of stories about his time with West Midlands Travel. Unfortunately, Pete can't stay long, and he says his goodbyes, and it is not long after we make our way to the bus stop outside The Bellwether, to make a short hop to the bus station, where we change over to the NXWM Service 311, to make another short hop to the Wednesbury Metro stop. As we make the short walk to the platform, a Metro turns up straight away, and it is time to go to Wolverhampton, via Bilston Central and Priestfields, and as we pass the old WMPTE / West Midlands Travel Cleveland Road Garage, we arrive at Wolverhampton St George's Metro terminus. The rain has started to make an appearance, and as we still have no response from Mr WME, we decide to quickly pop round the corner to Wolverhampton Central Library, where we make our way to the Learning Centre to see if he is available. We have just missed Mr WME by about five minutes. We make our way out of the library and  the rain has started to come down real fast.

Cheers! from The Moon Under Water, Wolbverhampton
We find ourselves jumping into a doorway to let the rain calm down before moving further, and after about five minutes, the rain has stopped, so we make our way down Market Street, past The Wheatsheaf, and down Princess Street before turning right into Lichfield Street and our usual JD Wetherspoon's, "The Moon Under Water", where we decide to have lunch. Drinks ordered and Mr D9's barmaid is working, Mr UKBuses has found a table and we are sitting down towards the back, and it is time to peruse the menu. Mr UKBuses decides to have his usual Chicken Tikka Masala, but I break with tradition and opt for the Gammon Steak and Chips. We wait for our food, and decide whilst waiting, to take a "cheers" photo, but it seems difficult as we are sitting in the middle of the room, so we place our camera's at the end of the next table and just manage to take a photograph, see left, apologies for the table taking main stage, but it is the best we could do in the circumstances. After about a further ten minutes, our food arrives, and boy oh boy, I find I nearly have two gammon steaks on the plate (note to self, I must ask for no eggs again in future, as it seems you get extra gammon). We dig in, and consume our food, after my first half of the gammon, I sense to myself that I will be quite full for the rest of the day, but I make sure that both pieces are finished off, and we wait a few minutes to let our food go down. We decide to get our money's worth out of the DayTrippers purchased and catch a train, so we head to Wolverhampton's railway station, passing the near complete Wolverhampton Interchange along the way. As we arrive at the station, we find we need to get to Platform 3 for our train, and as we make our way across Platform 1, we spot it arrive, so we try and get to Platform 3 as quick as Mr UKBuses can, but as we make our way down the stairs, our train pulls out, at least we made a good attempt. We look at the information boards and after numerous visits to the railway station, I find out that there are two more platforms never seen before, Platforms 5 and 6. We need to get to Platform 5, which is close to the entrance just of Platform 1, this confuses me as I thought there were only 4 platforms!! We arrive on Platform 5, and catch a local London Midland service, where we decide to get off at the Sandwell and Dudley station.

Cheers from The Plough and Harrow, Kinver
Upon arrival, we make our way to the street and as we turn up at the bus stop, our next service arrives, this time 404A, which takes us quickly and we arrive in Blackheath. We alight our bus and make our way to the bus stop opposite so that we can get to Cradley Heath, we do this by catching Central Connects' Service 123, which after bypassing The Waterfall in Old Hill, we make our way through Codsall estate and into Cradley Heath, alighting at Cradley Heath Interchange, where our next "turn up and go" service is Midlands' Service 240 to Stourbridge. After leaving late we make our way towards Stourbridge, and hope that the journey catches up time to make our connection for our next bus. After passing though Timbertree, and through Colley Gate and Lye, we pass Stourbridge Junction and arrive in Parkfield Road, we have about three minutes to get to our connection in Birmingham Street. We must be in luck today, as we make the connection by catching the Stourbridge shuttle, where Mr UKBuses tries to wind up the driver on the minutes journey, and we make our arrival in Birmingham Street with a couple of minutes spare and Mr UKBuses unscathed. Our next service is Hanson's Service 228, which takes us to Kinver, a place not visited for a couple of years, and as we make our way through Wollaston and Stewponey, with quite a few passengers aboard, we spot signs for the Kinver County Fayre, which was the last time we actually made a visit. We arrive in Kinver High Street and find out that, after the numerous roadworks that Kinver has had to put up with over the last few years, a new high street system is in place. We alight outside "The Old Carthorse", as Mr UKBuses calls it, and head into "The White Harte" for a thirst quenching coke. The sun has come out to play now, so we sit outside overlooking the high street. Coke's finished, we make our way to our next pub, "The Plough and Harrow", and after friendly service we take our seats, see picture above. I comment that this was a good pub a few years ago, with quite a trade, but there are just a handful of customers using the pub on a Saturday afternoon. I also notice the opening times, quoting a Tuesday "4 till 10pm, depending on custom". Let's hope the fortunes turn around for The Plough and Harrow, a once cracking pub for Bathams, this may be the knock on effect resulting from the previously mentioned roadworks that have hit Kinver in recent years. It is now time to make our way back into Stourbridge, and we decide to be cheeky as we are at the bus stop early, and decide to catch the bus around and back to Stourbridge via the White Hill terminus.

We make our way back through Kinver village and Wollaston, and arrive back at the Parkfield Road stop. It is now Mr UKBuses turn with bladder problems and we decide to have a quick drink in The Old Crispin, to alleviate his problem. Cokes nearly downed in record time, but now it is my turn to visit the toilet before our next bus, we make our way back to Parkfield Road, where we decide to catch a return trip on Service 240. With the same driver nodding at our tickets again, we make our way back through Lye, where upon arrival at Lye Cross, the driver makes his own meanings of traffic signs and decides to do a right hand turn in the shadow of a "No Right Turn" sign and we then make our way to Colley Gate and through Timbertree, before arriving at Cradley Heath Interchange again. From Cradley Heath, we decide to make our way to Halesowen, and to do this we catch NXWM's Service 141, boarding a busy bus, making our way through Cradley Heath and Old Hill and it is not soon before we arrive in Halesowen.

Cheers from The Bell, Stourbridge
We both suffer again from Mr D9's catching bladder problem, and after making a visit to the toilets, courtesy of Halesowen's Cornbow Centre, we make our way back to Halesowen bus station. We make our only glitch of the day on our "turn up and go" services and have to wait around twenty minutes for our bus back to Stourbridge. As we find the right stand, we realise a flaw in the bus station design, and notice that the utility cupboards and office at Halesowen have been built on the wrong side as we can't actually see if our bus is coming until it actually pulls up at the automatic stand door! We both agree and decide that Halesowen's bus station isn't one of the best CENTRO's redevelopments and that we did actually prefer the original station. Our bus arrives and we head back to Stourbridge, courtesy of Diamond's Service 142, a service that will take us via Hayley Green, Colley Gate, Wynall (past the newly opened Hare and Hound's - one to note for a future local day out) and Pedmore Fields. We arrive at the main island at the top of Chawn Hill and answers our question we pose towards the island - Does this bus go down Grange Lane or Chawn Hill? I said Grange Lane, whilst Mr UKBuses opts for Chawn Hill. I win this one and we turn right into Grange Lane. Past Stourbridge Junction and back to our stop at Parkfield Road. Upon arrival in Stourbridge, we decide to head down Memory Lane and go back to our old haunt, The Bell. We walk past the police station and try and work out when this part of the ring road turned from a two lane road into three lanes, and what use to stand in the place of the old B&Q (now Aldi) store. Both questions remain unanswered. We arrive in at The Bell, and decide to give our conservatory seats a miss and try and reminisce about our times at the pub, in what was the bar. Before we do this, we take a "cheers" photo, (in hindsight, I think I should have used the zoom!!), and we talk about our old times and how busy the pub was on a Saturday afternoon. Drinks supped and we decide to head to Wetherspoon's "The Chequers Inn" at the top of Stourbridge. Upon arrival, we order our drinks and as we find a table we decide to have some more food. Will Mr UKBuses have a second Masala of the day? Surprisingly not, he opts for a chicken wrap, whilst I opt for my old favourite this time, a beer and burger. It is surprisingly quick and our food arrives. We tuck in and halfway through the meal we decided that we have opted with our stomach's rather than our brains and struggle to finish.

We let our food go down and it is time to make our way back home, so a quick walk to Birmingham Street, and under the subway, where we stop for a minute and look at how the redevelopment of the bus station is going. The subway's are nearing completion now, and it will soon be a start for phase two, the station buildings. The bus station is only about seven to eight months before it is due to be finished, hopefully the winter weather won't cause disruption. We carry on our walk and arrive in Birmingham Street and Stand F, where after about ten minutes our final bus journey turns up, Diamond's Service 276C to take us back to Norton and Wollaston, and our DayTripper tickets have certainly had their use in money today, with quite a few services caught. We pass through Norton first, so Mr UKBuses gives his goodbyes after another brilliant local day out, with the rain not ruining our day for us with its brief visit whilst in Wolverhampton. There is one more day out to do in May and only a couple of days away, where the WRP's (Mr D9 can't make it) meet up, considering it is a Bank Holiday Monday visit, lets hope the rain stays away.......

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

2011 - Day Out 11: Liverpool

Date: Saturday 21 May 2011

The Albert Docks, Liverpool
It was time to venture further afield, so Mr UKBuses and myself are off to Liverpool, then disaster strikes before we even start the trip. Mr UKBuses lets me know that he can't walk as his knee has become inflamed, I even offered to push him in a wheelchair around Liverpool, but for some reason he declined, I don't think he liked the words "River Mersey" in the same sentence. The tickets had been booked, so as not to waste them, I go for an exploration around Liverpool, a place that I have wanted to visit for a few years, and now the summer is with us, it is a good time to visit places further afield.

An early start to my Saturday, I catch National Express West Midlands Service 276 into Stourbridge, alighting at the ring road to catch my next bus to get me to Wolverhampton. As there are only two straight through buses to Wolverhampton before normal service on a Saturday Morning (0635 and 0835), I have to catch a couple of buses, so I catch my first bus, National Express West Midlands Service 257, where a changeover and a little wait ensues at Kingswinford, where I catch a short working Service 256 (Starting at Kingswinford), into Wolverhampton. I arrive in Wolverhampton, with just under an hour to wait for my train, so I buy a newspaper and sit and read it outside Wolverhampton Railway Station. I make my way onto Platform 1, where I catch London Midland's 0919 journey to Liverpool Lime Street. I am on the train for just under an hour and a half, with nice views, especially at Runcorn where I think I am further down the River Mersey. Arriving on time at 1044, I arrive at Liverpool Lime Street, a station which I like on my first visit, it is spacious, clean and a lovely building.

After a quick visit outside, I go to the ticket office, where I get my day ticket for the local area transport, and I make my first trip of the day, by going underground, and I catch the train from Lime Street to Moorfields on the Wirral Line, changing at James Street along the way. Apart from the train, I am surprised at how this looks like a mini London Underground. It is a very quick journey, and upon arrival, I make my way back to the outside world, and follow the signs to Pierhead, but I also spot another landmark, so divert and after a walk of about 10 minutes, I arrive at the famous Albert Docks. I have a walk around and find myself a few years too late, as "This Morning" have moved south, and Fred Talbot's Weather Map has long gone. I have done a full lap of the docks, and find myself heading towards Pier Head, a short walk past the memorials, I arrive, and have about ten minutes to wait.

The Ferry 'Cross The Mersey
It is just before twelve o'clock, and a trip to Liverpool must mean a trip on a Mersey Ferry, so even though I'm not a fan of the water, the ferry is arriving and I decide to go aboard, I even sit outside on the top deck, even though it does look like it may rain. We head out towards the sea, but we eventually turn around and cross the Mersey and after nearly half an hour we arrive at Seacombe. I make my way back onto dry land, and can say that I would go on "The Ferry Across The Mersey" again, but I will make sure that I wont sing the famous song, as I wouldn't want people on board to get wet. I make my way to the bus stop, where after a little wait, I catch the 409 to my next destination, Birkenhead. The bus journey takes just under ten minutes before we arrive in Lily Savage's stomping ground, and it is nearly time for the Spanish Grand Prix qualifying, so I have to find somewhere to see it. My first port of call is J.D. Wetherspoons, "The John Laird" but as they are not showing it, I have to quickly find another place to watch. As I look right and in the distance, I think I see a pub, so walking down Claughton Road, I find "The Mackenzie", and I am glad to see several large screen televisions, all showing the qualifying. I get a drink and find a seat, Q3 takes its usual suspects, with Rubens Barrichello surprisingly going no further. Q2 is about to start and there is a crowd building up, all offering their thoughts on Qualifying as it happens, and Q2 takes the usual suspects, and Schumacher makes it through. All that is left is Q1, and it is a strange session as most drivers are now leaving it late and making only one lap time to save their tyres for the race, Schumacher doesn't even leave the garage, and the usual takes pole, Red Bull, with Mark Webber taking the spot for the team, Button is in 5th. The Mackenzie is a nice pub with very friendly people, but I have to make a move and I make my way to explore.

I'm on the over side of the Mersey, and I have a little walk around Birkenhead, the main centre is like a shopping centre and reminds me of Redditch. I find the local Gregg's and decide to have a couple of pasties for my lunch. I sit down and eat my dinner, and now I have the task of finding the bus station, I do nearly get lost in the maze of shopping centres, but after about 15 minutes, I find it, now I have to find the stand for my next bus, and it is stand 7 for my next journey. I need to get back to the main city centre, so I have come across the Mersey, there is one other way back, and that is under the Mersey. My bus arrives and I catch the 407 to Liverpool and the bus does take me there in ten minutes, but first I have my encounter with The Mersey Tunnel (or the exact name is The Queensway Tunnel). When Mr UKBuses told me about the tunnel, I thought you would be in and out within seconds, but I didn't realise how long the tunnel was. After doing a bit of research, I found out that the tunnel is 2 miles long, and it is a surreal experience on your first journey through there. The bus has to stay in the far lane (middle of the tunnel) due to the size, but it is like something out of Grand Turismo, with no central carriageway, cars seem to be coming at you. I arrive back in Liverpool, in Whitechapel, (not London!) and after my encounter, I soon find a JD Wetherspoons, or more precise, A Lloyds Bar, "The Fall Well", which is situated under a shopping centre. A quick coke in a pleasant Lloyds Bar, a place in the main Liverpool centre, and a pub that is not choc-a-bloc equals an ideal pub.

The original entrance to The Cavern Club
Break over, and now I am going to explore Liverpool City Centre, I enter a shopping centre above the Lloyds Bar, and for the next hour I walk around and all I see are pedestrianised streets of shops, and the city is a busy place with loads of shops, so I decide to turn down a side street to avoid the crowds and I find myself in another shopping centre and even more busy crowds. I see a another side street, and what a discovery, I'm in the birthplace of The Beatles, and I've turned into a street called Matthew Street, I only find out what is located in this street by chance, but I see a sign for "The Cavern Club", a famous venue, where Brian Epstein first saw the performance of a band called "The Beatles". The original club is still here, but the original and famous entrance has not survived due to redevelopment of the area. It has made my day to find The Cavern Club, a place I didn't plan to visit, but am glad that to avoid the crowds, I chose to walk down Matthew Street. I had done a fair bit of walking around the city, so a break was in order, and I find a pub to rest my weary feet, "The Williams Gladstone", a popular pub, and from the outside looks like a Wetherspoons, but is in fact a traditional real ale pub. After my quick break, I need to get my bearings, and I spot a sign for Moorfields station, so I go back underground for a brief trip back to Liverpool Lime Street.

I make my way back into Lime Street and have just over an hour to kill, so I try and find the JD Wetherspoons "The Richard John Blackler" where as I leave the station, find out that Whitechapel is virtually around the corner, how far did I walk from here to begin with and end up at Moorfields? No wonder my feet were aching. A brief walk and I do find "The Richard John Blackler", where I plan to have some tea, but as I walk into the pub, it is jam packed, so I walk around the corner and find a McDonalds to fill my stomach. Since I spent less time having tea, I make my way back towards the station, and decide to have a bottle or two of "Becks Blue" in "The Crown Hotel", opposite Lime Street. I have fifteen minutes before my train is due, so after a cigarette outside the station, I find out which platform my return train is on, and it is already at the station, so I climb aboard, where I rest my feet ready for the journey back.

Liverpool Lime Street Station
The train leaves Lime Street, a bit busier on the way back than the journey this morning, but it seems that everybody else has tired themselves out, I was joined by a mother and her two daughters that had hit the shops, and as she was showing her kids what she had bought, instead of grabbing her bags, she seem to keep grabbing my knee. She did apologise, so I quickly replied "Carry On!", for some reason, the table was laughing away. As we stopped at the stations along the way, the train was emptying, with my carriage virtually empty when we arrived at Crewe. Two more stops to go and we were back in Wolverhampton, where just before arrival a lady decided that she needed to change her top, so she did in front of everyone, a pleasant surprise to end the journey which seemed to wake everyone up nearly asleep in the carriage. Upon arrival in Wolverhampton, it wasn't long to wait where I catch National Express West Midlands 256 back into Stourbridge and after missing my usual Black Diamond bus by seconds, I catch my final journey of the day, Midland's X96 back home, where I go and relax my now aching feet.

I'm glad I went for a visit to Liverpool, this being my first time there, I spent the day looking around the city so that I could get my bearings for future visits here. Overall it was a good day out, and now I did find my way around Liverpool and how the transport operates, I hope to make a return visit soon. My highlight of the day was the ferry crossing and returning back under the river. I'm glad I used this opportunity to get a bit more confidence when visiting new places alone, and I think you need to use your first visit to explore the place and get used to surroundings. Hopefully normal service will be resumed and Mr UKBuses makes his appearance with me on the next visit to Liverpool.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

2011 - Website 01: Website Revamp Phase 1

I am pleased to announce that Phase One of the Stourbridge Bus Information website revamp has been completed, the SBI Timetables section of SBI is now online - http://www.sbitimetables.co.uk 

Unlike any website revamps that have taken place over the years, this one has been more involved as, just after the new year, I decided that the whole website needed a much needed revamp, this also included the management system, which is how the website gets updated. Past revamps have not included the management system, so the redesigns did not take that long. This time the management system has been involved and it also meant that as I was doing this, I would effectively start the website from scratch and also updated the database structures that the website information is stored, this also meant that I could learn new ways of asp coding, which has also / will make the updating of the whole website when finished easier to update and maintain.

When I set the task of revamping, I said to myself that I wouldn't rush to get it completed, and I have stuck to this clause, it has meant that I have learnt new ways to write pages and in effect, it has meant that my updating has / will become easier as working on a new management system, I can now update things differently and instead of updating three different options at a time, all three now update at the same time. I have managed to update the actual content, when I click submit, code is taking place so that the "Last Updated" section on the main front page will automatically update itself, rather than myself having to go into a few tasks at a time like I have in the past, one click will now do three jobs.

I have also learnt new code whilst creating web pages for the website, ones that you the visitors will see. I have learnt a new way to display the site information, which has also meant that I can include html in my database which will enable new ways of getting information across to the end user and have more flexibility in information functions on the website.

It feels that I am working backwards when I started to redesign the websites of SBI, with phase one being the SBI Timetables section. I really wanted to get rid of the old website as I wasn't happy with the layout, and patience has paid off, I am happy with the way the website looks, it doesn't look messy, which even though I created it myself, the old timetables section did look messy. I may make a couple of minor tweaks over the coming weeks to ensure that I am happy with the way it looks / works, but I'm glad I started with this section first. The patience has paid off and it is unbelievable how it is now, the way it works is completely different to the way the old SBI timetables used to work!

Really this is phase one A, because when I first designed the website layout, I quickly diverted and made the changes to the layout (the best I could) of the blog, so really you should be used to the new layout of the website!

With the new layout, I have increased the size of the page, looking at statistics on the old website, the old 800 by 600 size visitors viewed was decreasing and I have now expanded the page size to 1024 x 768, which seems to be the new least size screen width that many people are looking at nowadays, this being the advent of new LCD monitors, which means that I haven't got to squeeze the information into a small space as I did with previous designs.

I will carry this into phase two, the main part of Stourbridge Bus Information. I am still going to take my time when redesigning the website, even though I do want to get rid of the current SBI website now that I have released SBI Timetables. This is why over the coming months, work will take place with the management system and data and then I can work on the front pages that visitors see. Instead of trying to rush and perhaps make mistakes trying to get the website up and running quickly, I have decided and made the decision that I will use phase two and and gradually make sections available bits at a time, for example, Street search, get the back end complete and then the visitors pages and release it onto the world wide web, then followed by the links section, and so on. It may make the website look strange with two different layouts in the coming months, but the end product will look better once complete.

Please accept my apologies whilst the revamp takes place and you may jump from one layout to another, the old layout to the new layout, but I think this needs to happen to make the website better. In the long run, new sections will appear gradually, but at the end of the day the website will look fresher and be better in presentation and how the data reaches you once the website is complete.

A new way of contacting myself is now available, a "contact form" is available on the website. I don't want to stop you emailing me directly, if you have my email address it can still be used to get in touch, but the amount of spam I receive due to my email address being available on the world wide web is unbelievable, and this is one of the ways of stopping that spam, through a contact form. I can now link this option to the current website, so perhaps my dream of not receiving spam is closer. You can try the form out now to let me know what you think of the new website sections when they become available, and perhaps send me suggestions for the website.

So here goes, phase one is complete, and now to start phase two, the main website. Once this is complete, phase three will start and see me revamp the SBI Past section. It doesn't end there, and I can not rest so easily, due to Fotopic ceasing trading a couple of months ago, the website work will carry on, as I will start a new phase, previously unplanned, phase four, and find a new way of getting my pictures on-line, but lets not runaway just yet, lets get the main websites up and running first. I will have a few days break before starting phase two, I am exhausted with how my spare time has decreased due to website work taking place, and I will use the next few days to refresh my batteries and reignite the spark of writing asp code.

Please bear with me over the coming months, whilst the revamps take place, but once finished it will hopefully be better for my visitors - sorry can't stop and chat all day, I have work to do (albeit a few days grace!) ......

Monday, 9 May 2011

2011 - Day Out 10: Solihull and Birmingham

Date: Saturday 07 May 2011 

Another trip and it is just the RP's, so I catch the 08:39 National Express West Midlands Service 276 to Stourbridge Junction, where I jump on the local London Midland Service to get to Smethwick Galton Bridge, where just after 09:30 I meet up with Mr WME who catches the train form Wolverhampton. After meeting up and saying our hello's, we make our way to Platform 4 and get aboard the next London Midland train which takes us to our first destination of the day, Solihull. Upon arrival in Solihull, the good weather we have recently had decides to hide and we are treated to a deluge of rain. Whilst trying to avoid the huge raindrops, we make our way to the bus station outside the railway station, and find out that the bus we have to catch, the S3, doesn't actually depart from the railway station so Mr WME decides we have to get into the town centre, walk to the town centre in this rain - no way, we are catching the bus, so we duly catch National Express West Midlands Service 76 for a short ride into Solihull Town Centre.

After a couple of minutes aboard the 76, we arrive in Solihull where we get off the bus and find our stop for the S3. We have a little time to wait for our next journey, so Mr WME decides to find a Barclay's and after a few minutes of searching, he has to use the machine at the HSBC. I've decided to wait in the dry and wait in the shelter, but I did pop in the National Express West Midlands travel shop and pick up the latest version of the Sandwell and Dudley map, even though I had to navigate my way through the waterfall that is in place above the doorway to the shop. It is not long to go before our Central Connect S3 turns up, this is supposed to be operated by an Optare Solo with a branding for the "Signature" network, but we are presented with a "Bus2work" bus. We make our way from Solihull and it takes just over half an hour and we end up at our second destination of the day, Hockley Heath. We alight just before the terminus, and make our way to the village centre, with Mr WME taking pictures of "The Barn", a Beefeater establishment and The Harvester along the way. After crossing the road numerous times to avoid getting soaked by passing cars and big puddles we arrive by the canal and next to "The Wharf Tavern", a pub that we were supposed to be visiting and enabling us to watch the F1 Qualifying for the Turkey Grand Prix, but this was shut. We walk up towards the village centre again, and with the rain still pouring down upon us, we have to abandon a planned canal walk and it is decided to catch the X20 to Shirley, so that we can find somewhere to watch the qualifying which Mr WME had planned for viewing to watch at 13:00, I should have informed him beforehand that the qualifying was on at 12:00 this week, but he knows a possible pub in Shirley to watch it.

Not long to wait as our Johnson's Service X20 turns up and it isn't long before we arrive at Shirley. It is just before 12:00 and Mr WME knows finds the pub that we can go into and hopefully watch the qualifying. It is just a short walk past the shops and we arrive at The Red Lion, from the outside it doesn't look like it will be a nice pub to visit, but we enter and I am surprised to find a splendid decorated pub with the appearance much much better than the outside. We order our drinks and find a table which happens to be in front of one of the many televisions situated in the pub. A quick word with one of the barmaids and she duly comes by our television and turns it over to BBC2 and we are just in time for Q3. The usual suspects go out in the first round, and between qualifying sessions, we decide to order lunch and we both go for the home made curry. Q2 starts and Schumacher finally makes it through to Q3 and our dinner turns up in time for Q3, but one of the regulars, Brian, pipes up "Who cooked this? It's flamin' hard!" Good timing Brian as we are just about to tuck into our dinner. Brian gets a replacement, I think he opted for the turkey, and we tuck into our dinner. Q3 and home made curry, with no complaints from me, and Vettel takes his fourth pole of the season with Webber second and Rosberg makes an unusual appearance in fourth, Hamilton is fourth and Button a lowly sixth, a bit of work for him to do in the race. Qualifying over, and looking out of the window it seems to have stopped raining, even though the cloud is lurking about ready to drop some more later in the day.We make our way back into the main street's of Shirley, where we decide to catch National Express West Midlands Service 5 to Widney Manor. It is not long before we arrive and as we alight by the railway station, we decide to take a few photographs. We are on the platforms and our train to Dorridge is making its way into the station, but we are on the wrong platform, a very quick dash across the footbridge, and luckily we both make it onto the London Midland train but we miss first class, which everyone else has also decided to do on this train, and we catch our breath for the short journey to Dorridge.

Cheers! At The Railway, Berkswell
A few photographs are taken around Dorridge station by Mr WME, and after the photographs are taken we make our way to the front of the station where we see our usual bar in Dorridge, "The Forest Hotel". I had bought the last round so this one would fall to Mr WME, and an expensive one it would be too, we make our way indoors and a wedding party had just turned up and the bar was choc-a-bloc, so with a while before our bus was due it was time for a little walk around Dorridge (and hopefully, our next visit to Dorridge it will be someone else's round at the hotel). After our little walk, we make our way to the bus stop for our next bus, we are due to catch the S2A, but it is a little confusing that this service in both directions serve the same stop. Our bus turns up and after making sure we have the correct bus, it is another service operated by Central Connect and the "Signature" brand. Our signature branded bus turns up this time and we board and make our way to the back, the bus clean and complete with leather seats, giving us a comfortable ride, even though the seats were a little slippy. Service S2A is a nice little service using country roads, giving us splendid country views. We arrive at our next destination, Balsall Common, a place that Mr WME and myself have visited before, so we know where we are heading and it is a 10 minute walk through the village and we head down towards Berkswell railway station. Situated close to the station are two pubs, and we pass "The Brickmakers Arms", a pub we visited on our last visit, and give the other pub a try, one right next to the railway station, aptly titled "The Railway". After Mr WME's escape from the Dorridge round, he gets this one and we take a seat and update our notes and the barmaid flicks through the sports channels to find one of the many football matches taking place today, but she has no joy and has to contact somebody to find out which channel it is on. Time for a cheers photo, see left. After a little rest it is time to make a move and we walk a few steps to the Berkswell railway station where there is currently new platform buildings being erected, replacing the old station house and we are timing things right today, as it is not long before our London Midland train turns up, at least we haven't got to dash to get to the other platform. We only have to stay on the train briefly as the next station is our next destination, Hampton-in-Arden.

Cheers! At The White Lion, Hampton-In-Arden
We have an hour before the next train is due, so we have a little walk around the village and we arrive at "The White Lion", a pub that we have visited before with Mr UKBuses, where after we order our drinks, we make our way into the long room and take our place by the window, where the clouds have given way to reveal a blue sky. Mr WME takes a seat and I then take mine, with my chair deciding to swallow me up as I rest my behind on the very soft cushion. I manage to escape and take my seat properly, remembering to take note of what happened when it is time for our cheers photo. We enjoy our time in the pub with some very nice background music, we then realise that the music is being sung in French, with the singer at one point saying "Allo", I respond back and the music must have been a live track as the audience decide to respond to me with cheers! Time for another cheers photo, see right. Mr WME makes a visit to the toilet ready for our walk back to the railway station, whilst he is doing this, the singer decides to sing in English. It is only five minutes before we arrive at the station and we have about just over ten minutes to wait for our next train to take us into Birmingham. The ten minutes flash by and our London Midland Train arrives, and we head off into Birmingham, via Birmingham International and Marston Green along the way. We have a minute or so to wait before a slot becomes available at New Street Station, so it is a good job that Mr UKBuses isn't on board, and we arrive at the station. We make our way into Birmingham going past The Shakespeare in New Street Station, and as we make our way up to Victoria Square, we pass another pub called "The Shakespeare". We make our way through Victoria Square, and head to Cambridge Street, the location of our next public house, but as we make our way there, we pass another pub called "The Shakespeare", which is located next to the Birmingham College of Food (at this point we decide to make sure that we never meet up in Birmingham in a pub called "The Shakespeare", as it may cause confusion). We have a little walk down Cambridge Street, and just behind the Birmingham ICC is "The Prince Of Wales", a splendid looking pub from the outside, but as we enter we realise the pub is quite small on the inside. Whilst Mr WME orders the drinks, I head for a bladder stop, wishing that I followed Mr WME's example in Hampton-in-Arden. We have a quick drink here, and after we finish we make our way to Broad Street to get our next bus.

Cheers! At The Hawne Taver, Halesowen
We arrive in Broad Street, and we don't have to wait long before our next bus turns up, a National Express West Midlands Service 9, which will take us just past Halesowen to get us to our next public house. There are a few people on the bus, so we make our way upstairs and luckily find a seat and we head under the five ways underpass, and down the Hagley Road, spotting that they have demolished the old Five Ways Shopping Precinct. We carry on down Hagley Road, and we find out that The New Talbot has been shut down, and we pass through Bearwood, where as we head into Quinton, The Dog has been refurbished. We are halfway along on our journey and it is not long before we end up in Halesowen, and we get off the bus just after Halesowen to make our way to our next pub. As soon as we get off our bus and head down the road, a passing car toots me, and pulls up. It is my big brother who asks us if we want a lift anywhere, I think it would be cheeky to ask him to drop us off around the corner, so we have a short walk and end up at our next pub, The Hawne Tavern, a pub that Mr WME and myself have been to a couple of times in the past, but it was never open for me to sample, but at last I actually make it inside. A pub that was well worth the wait and unlike The Prince of Wales, The Hawne Tavern looks small from the outside, but it turns out to be a TARDIS, as it looks quite roomy on the inside. Drinks ordered and we make our way into the lounge and rest our legs. This pub has appeared in The Good Beer Guide a number of times and the company is quite pleasant, with a gentleman on the table next to us joining us to talk about the local beer festivals, as Mr WME has been to a few festivals in his time, I leave it for him to have most of the conversation. Time for a quick cheers photo, see left, before we leave, it is time to make our way.

A short walk is taken to the main road, and we turn up at our stop, with a few minutes to wait for our next journey. It is a shame that my brother doesn't make an appearance now and we could get a lift into Lye, our next destination for a visit to one of the local pubs. Our NXWM Service 9 appears and it is only a short journey of about ten minutes and we arrive in Lye, and we alight on the main High Street, where we decide to take a short cut to our next pub, and just as we pass "Jim's Gym", we cross the road where opposite is "The Holly Bush", and we have timed it right, as Mr Rain decides to make another appearance. We opt for a quick drink in The Holly Bush, and as we sup our halves, we watch a bit of Doctor Who Confidential, and it is time to make our way to the bus stop, located just after the Lye Cross, so a short walk is required and the rain is still coming down, albeit slower than the downpour this morning. As we approach the cross, we spot a NXWM Service 9 bus, so a quick sprint to the stop is required, but thanks to the red light, we don't miss this one, and within five minutes we arrive back in Stourbridge, where we decide to end the day with a drink inside "The Duke William", not far from the temporary stands in Birmingham Street. Between catching the bus in Lye and arriving back in Stourbridge, the rain is coming down faster, so we run all the way from Birmingham Street to Duke Street and arrive a little damp in The Duke. This pub has only been open under its new guise for just over a year, but since opening, I've never really seen this pub empty and luckily we find a spare table (just), to rest our feet and end the day. It seems that The Duke is one pub that Stourbridge people enjoy and the pub has recently opened a small brewery at the back of the premises, a good story and this pub is bucking the trend of the moment and is actually wanted and is avoiding the ever increasing number of local pubs to close, long may it survive. We end the day chatting about the trip and it seems that we have the same taste in our usual awards of the day. We both agree that the "pub of the day" goes to The Hawne Tavern, whilst the "barmaid(s) of the day" goes to a late runner and is working behind the bar of The Duke.

It is time to make our way to Stand F in Birmingham Street, where both of our buses will arrive to take us both home. The rain is coming down heavier since we have been in The Duke, so it is a sprint, rather than a jog, to get to Birmingham Street, and Mr WME's NXWM Service 256 turns up first to take him back to the land of Wolverhampton, and not long after my Black Diamond's Service 276A arrives to take me back home to dry off (a sprint across the park is required before I have the chance to get dry). Overall another good day out, with the rain not dampening our spirits, it was due after our recent long spell of sun, but it could have waited another day or so. Despite the wet start and finish, I think Mr WME will agree that this day out was another good day out.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

2011 - Day Out 9: Wolverhampton

Date: Saturday 30 April 2011

Our first port of call - DudleyIt's the end of a glorious April and the sun keeps shining for the last trip in April this year. I catch the 08:56 National Express West Midlands Service 276, where I purchase a NBus One Day ticket for our trip today, from Wollaston, and the bus picks up Mr UKBuses along the route. We arrange to meet Mr D9 in Dudley, so we decide to be lazy and stay on the bus for a full journey of the 276 into Dudley. After a journey time of just over 1 hour and 10 minutes, we arrive at Dudley bus station and have about 20 minutes to wait for Mr D9, so I make a visit to the station toilets, only to find that they are shut, and Mr UKBuses and myself have a walk round to the market place so that I can empty the bladder (in the market place toilets I assure you). We walk back to the bus station so that we are there to meet up with Mr D9 at 10:30, but we get a phone call to say he is running late.

Mr D9 at the cashpoint!
After another 15 minutes, Mr D9 turns up after getting off his National Express West Midlands Service 74, and with the gang for today together, the WAR's (The P will make a brief appearance later in the day) make their way through the stands to catch their next bus. We catch National Express West Midlands Service 527 to Wolverhampton, a long route that travels through Wren's Nest, Gornal Wood and Sedgley. We arrive in Wolverhampton where we get off the bus just before the Central Library, to see if the rumours are true and that "P", Mr WME, does do some work. We are in the library and Mr WME's main place of work, the reference section, is closed for refurbishment, so after looking in a couple of broom cupboards to see if he is shirking, we find him in the Learning Centre - actually doing some work, but we don't want to distract him from his job, so we decide to head to Wolverhampton's JD Wetherspoons, "The Moon Under Water" for lunch, but Mr D9 shocks us and actually pays a visit to the ATM on the way, where Mr UK Buses states that it must be his round first!

The WARP's at The Moon Under Water
After a short walk through Wolverhampton, we are in Lichfield Street and at the location of lunch, so we head to the bar to get our first drink of the day and Mr D9 recognises that barmaid from his visit's to McDonald's near home. Drinks purchased, Mr D9 and myself have a search around the pub, to find Mr UKBuses who has got us a table. After a couple of minutes we find him. It is time for lunch, and seeing as we are in Wetherspoons we decide to have a look what is on the menu. What shall we have? Looks like the usual!! Mr WME is on his lunch break and pops in to see the WAR's and so for just under an hour, the WARP's are complete. Mr WME turns up in time and we all order lunch, and he has his usual too. Mr D9 does the honours and orders for us, and after the food is ordered, Mr D9 decides to chat up the barmaid, with the classic chat-up line - "Didn't you used to work in McDonald's?" I don't think that worked but it did offer some amusement. Whilst waiting, we have a chat and catch up with Mr WME, and Mr UKBuses does the enforcements by taking the horseradish sauce off me and the salad cream off Mr WME. Dinner arrives and it all goes quiet as we eat up all our nosh. Plates cleared and it is nearly time for Mr WME to head back off to work, so before he pop's back, it is time for a photo, left, - Cheers!

The War's at The Robin Hood, Willenhall
Dinner over and it is time for our next destination, and Mr D9 makes a quick phone call, and the next destination is established, we walk to the nearest 529 stop which is located at the back of The Wheatsheaf, and after a few minutes of waiting, the National Express West Midlands service 529 turns up and driving us is the brother-in-law of the person who we are going to meet up with in Willenhall. We take our seats at the front of the bus, upper deck, and we make our way out of Wolverhampton, and after a short ride which is held up by some temporary traffic lights, we arrive in Willenhall town centre. We have a little further to travel, and Mr UKBuses spots the car of the person we are going to meet. The bus pulls out of the bus stop and we travel around the corner, where the bus is held up by said car, so we rush down stairs where we alight and climb into the car, and after a minute we arrive at our next pub. We clamber out of the car and head into "The Robin Hood", a pub which I think has just been reopened and is owned by Black Country Ales. The pub is situated on Willenhall Road, a couple of minutes from the town centre. We order our drinks and we have a drink with Ray, a work colleague of Mr D9 and Mr UKBuses, and Mr UKBuses comes with another quote of the day after he says to Ray that he has brought his mom a new iron, when asked why, he replies with the classic, "Well, I don't want to stop her from doing her weekend job". Ray finishes his drink off and makes his way to the football match at Bescot, and we finish off our drinks to make our way back to Wolverhampton, as can be seen right, - Cheers!

We make our way from The Robin Hood and to the nearest bus stop, which is a couple of minutes walk away, and along the way Mr UKBuses spots something that Network West Midlands have missed, a WMPTE bus stop, which is no longer used. We turn up at our bus stop and after a minute or so, our NXWM 529 turns up to take us back to the city, and our driver is the same as before, Ray's brother-in-law, we weren't expecting that! After making our way back into Wolverhampton, through the roadworks and temporary traffic lights, it is not long when we are back by The Wheatsheaf, and we need to have a little walk to Queens Street to get our next bus. We walk back by the new bus station in Wolverhampton, which is, having a few last finishing touches being made before opening to the public, which I believe will be in June or July. On the way, Mr UKBuses spots a place for Mr D9, a portaloo, so it is a photo opportunity for the D9'ster, it is a pity that Mr UKBuses didn't spot the post behind him, but he does when he turns around and begins to walk! We make our way to the Queens Street, and after Mr UKBuses is moaning about his knee, but Mr D9 and myself cannot stop laughing about it, we get on our next bus, NXWM service 255 which will take us to our next destination, Swindon.

The WAR's first visit to The Greyhound, Swindon
We make our way from Wolverhampton and we pass through Penn, down the main Penn Road, and we head through to Wombourne. After a ride through the village centre, we spend the next 5 to 10 minutes on the bus going through the Wombourne estates and through a couple of country lanes, which is quite nice in the sunshine, and we arrive in Swindon. The bus stop is situated right outside Marston's "The Greyhound", which a pub I have been past a few times but never visited, so we make our way inside and it is time for our third drink of the day. The pub seems to be a good local to have, with friendly staff and regulars. It is my round and Mr UKBuses pipes up "And don't forget the scratchings" just before I'm due to pay, a trick he has done several times before. We have a chat whilst supping our drinks and chew on the scratchings, and it is time for another photo, left, - Cheers! After our drinks have been supped we still have a bit of time left in Swindon, so we make our way through the village and decide to have a drink in another pub. Virtually opposite is "The Old Bush", but we decide to walk a bit further, down past the canal and we come to an old terminus which brings back memories to Mr D9. A few photographs are taken by Mr UKBuses of the terminus, and upon closer inspection we actually find a bus stop in the undergrowth, and it looks like that this terminus was used quite recently, with a "Travel West Midlands" sticker on the bus stop.

Opposite the terminus, is our second pub stop in Swindon, "The Green Man", a pub that I have visited before with Mr WME, and there has not been a lot of change to the pub since my last visit, which is quite good as it doesn't ruin the atmosphere of the pub, which was quite good the first time round. The sun is shining brightly now so we decide to sit on the bench outside the front of the pub, and opposite the old terminus which starts Mr D9 off with stories about the previous life of Mr UKBuses, and questions of "Can't you remember popping in this pub in the olden days before you were run over outside The Vauxhall". Mr UKBuses can't remember, but we have to sup up so that we can catch our next bus, and we walk back into the village where we are by The Old Bush, and we spot our bus, which despite the many attempts of getting the bus drivers attention, it goes flying past, so we have to kill another half hour in Swindon, so we make another visit to The Greyhound. To ensure that we don't miss the next bus, we sit on the bench outside the front so that we can see the next bus coming down the main road. We bask in the afternoon sun and it is time to make our way to the bus stop opposite ensuring that we catch this bus, and after a few minutes wait our next NXWM service 255 pulls up and lets us on.

We leave Swindon behind and we pass through a couple of country lanes, before the bus pulls up at the back end of Wallheath and spends a few minutes at the Blaze Park terminus before venturing on. After our brief stop in Wallheath, we spend another few minutes on the 255 and we arrive in Kingswinford, where we alight at the stop at the back of The Cross public house. We walk up Market Street and down a side street where we have our pub stop in Kingswinford and we sample a pint in "The Leopard", a pub down a side street but there are a few people in the pub, so it must be well known. Mr D9 and myself sample the toilets where we make it back into the room after sticking to the floor. A brief chat about the old times on the buses courtesy of Mr D9, we sup our drinks and make our way back to Market Street, where we catch our next bus. It is only a few minutes wait and we make our way back into Stourbridge, courtesy of NXWM's Service 256, which takes us through Dudley and Amblecote, where Mr UKBuses spots a few pubs along the way which he has never visited, looks like a local Stourbridge trip may be in order.

We arrive back in Stourbridge, where we decide to pay a visit to The Bell, so that Mr UKBuses and myself can do a Mr D9 and reminisce about the times that we worked in the pub, "back in the day", we do this whilst sitting in the conservatory and after finishing our drinks and getting nostalgic, we make our way up Stourbridge High Street and visit our last pub of the day, JD Wetherspoons' "The Chequers Inn", although we briefly pass through "The Edward Rutland" along the way without stopping. A table is found by the bar and Mr UKBuses spots Mr Tonks in the pub, who has himself spent a day in Bridgnorth before going on to host the "Saturday Nite Disco" on The Bridge later in the evening. We spend our last half hour together talking about our day out and how well it had gone.

It is now time to say our goodbyes, Mr D9 has bagged a lift and is waiting for his "taxi", whilst Mr UKBuses and myself make our way to Birmingham Street to catch our bus home, Black Diamond's Service 276C. Another good day out for the WAR's (P had a nice lunch hour), the weather held out for us and let;s hope the good weather continues for future trips.