Wednesday, 17 August 2011

2011 - Day Out 19: London

Date: Saturday 13 August 2011

It is halfway through August, and with Mr WME away, Mr UKBuses and myself decide to take a visit to the capital of England, and we are off to London. It is an early start and after waking up at 05:30am, I make my way into Wollaston at 06:30 for the first journey on a Saturday morning of National Express West Midlands Service 276, so upon arrival at the terminus, I board the bus and at 06:36 I am on my way. A quick text is sent to Mr UKBuses to let him know that the bus is on the move and for him to get to the bus stop in Norton on time (This plan does work most of the time). Upon arrival in Norton, Mr UKBuses has received my text and is waiting at the bus stop ready to board. With the WARP's complete for this trip, the WR's are on their way to Stourbridge Junction to get their train. After a quick trip through Stourbridge, we arrive at our stop outside The Labour In Vain in Oldswinford, and we make a quick walk up to the station. Upon arrival we save time when we arrive in London, and get our London Transport One Day Travel Card Zones 1-2 from the ticket office at the station. Tickets bought for our day in London, even though the staff at the junction asked if we were going on the Chiltern!, we make our way to Platform 2, and after a short wait, our Chiltern Railway train arrives and we head to Birmingham Snow Hill.

Mr UKBuses has a nap, and we have only just started the journey.
We arrive in Birmingham, disaster strikes already, we make our way to the ticket barriers at Snow Hill Station, and the barriers do not like our tickets, so we are stuck station side, luckily an attendant is nearby, and lets us through onto the streets of Birmingham. We make our way to The Pallisades and we pass the shops that were looted by yobs in the week, which are boarded up, but with the British spirit, there are signs up saying "Open as Normal". After walking down Corporation Street, we arrive at The Pallisades and we have time for breakfast before our train is due, so we head into McDonalds, where we both have our usual Bacon Rolls to keep us going through the day. Bacon Rolls devoured, we make our way through The Pallisades and into Birmingham New Street station, where upon arrival we check out the departures board and see that our train will be on Platform 2 at 0830. With a little time to spare, I pop outside for a fresh air break, and before we make our way to the platform, we head into WH Smith to purchase liquid refreshments for the journey. We are now on Platform 2, where on time our Virgin Train arrives on time and we board coach B to find our seats, but we head further up the carriage and we find an available table seat. We are off to the Capital, and we make our way to Birmingham International. After leaving Birmingham International, it seems that the carriages seem to be creaking, or that there was a strange noise coming from somewhere. I work out that the noise is coming from Mr UKBuses, and he has decided to have a nap. It is a shame that the other passengers couldn't do the same but they were being kept awake by his snoring - evidence is shown above left. Just before we reach Milton Keynes, Mr UKBuses wakes up and the snoring stops, which means that the passengers can have a short nap before reaching London. We make our way past Wembley Stadium and just before 09:55, we arrive in the Capital and at London Euston Railway Station.

We've arrived at London Euston!
We make our way from Coach B, which is at the back, so we have a way to walk to get out of the station. We are off the platform and we now make our way across the concourse, and outside to the front of the station. It is time for me to light up, whilst we make our way to the bus station which is located at the front of the station where Mr UKBuses starts the photograph taking, getting a head start while I finish my cigarette. We spend a few minutes at the bus station, and then make our way towards Euston Road, and stand at bus stop H, so that we can get our first London bus of the day, and after a few minutes waiting Arriva London's Route 73 turns up and we board. Half hour passes and we arrive at Victoria Bus Station, where we spend a few minutes walking around the station taking photographs. We now make our way down to Victoria Underground Station, where we make our way onto the Victoria Line and catch our first tube of the day. The tube arrives, and it is quite busy, so we cram ourselves in and we haven't got far to travel, well the next station to be precise, and after a journey time of just 2 minutes, we arrive at Green Park Underground Station.

The back yard of The Blackwall Fire Station
We need to get to Bermondsey, to get to a new filming location, so at Green Park, we change from the Victoria Line and onto the Jubilee Line where we go five stations along and the south of the river and arrive at Bermondsey. We are now looking for a fire station, and as we exit Bermondsey Underground Station we turn right and start walking along Jamaica Road for a street called Parker's Row, after a few minutes we cannot find it, and we realise that we are walking in the wrong direction, so we turn around and walk back along Jamaica Road and we pass the underground station and continue walking along. After a few minutes we still haven't found Parker's Row, but with Mr UKBuses checking out his phone we soon find out that we are walking in the right direction, who needs a map allowance! We find Parker's Row, and we turn the corner and we find a fire station - The Dockhead fire station to be exact, otherwise known as Blackwall in the ITV Series London Burning. After taking a few photographs, we have a look around the back, and take a few more photographs, seen above left. I remember the back yard more than the front entrance, but after checking out YouTube, the front entrance was used quite a lot when the fire engines were called into action. After visiting "Blackwall", we make our way back onto Jamaica Road, and await our bus to take us for a dining location, and after 5 minutes, we catch Abellio London's Service 188, and we go for a short hop literally as we get off at the next bus stop, where we walk around the corner into Druid Street and a new Wetherspoons to sample, "The Pommelers Rest", situated virtually on the entrance to Tower Bridge. After getting our drinks, we find a table and peruse the menu. I opt for the usual Beer and Burger offering, and Mr UKBuses now opts for his now standard BBQ Chicken Melt without the melt (Cheese). After ordering the food, I gather the condiments (with no horseradish sauce to be seen), and take a seat. After a few minutes our food arrives and we find out that the chip portions are near the Chester side, but we still appreciate the food and wolf it down us. Food consumed we make it to the bus stop to get to our next destination. So after walking around in circles in Druid Street, we find our bus stop, which is located just outside the Wetherspoons!

Watch out for strange people!
Arriva London's Service 78 arrives and it takes us across Tower Bridge, and through the streets of London, where after about fifteen minutes, we arrive at Aldgate and another photographing location - Aldgate bus station. We hang around the bus station for a while getting as many photographs as we can. Considering that this bus station is in the middle of busy London, this station is a very good location for bus photography, and seriously puts several West Midland's bus stations to shame. As I stated that this bus station is a good location for photographs, be very careful that people don't get in the way, such as this strange character on the photograph seen left. Photographs over, we wait at Stand L in the bus station when our next bus arrives, Arriva London's Service 254. We take our seats and it is a short ride and we arrive at our stop along Whitechapel Road, and we alight outside the underground station and have a short walk to our London regular, The Blind Beggar, pictured below, right. After a quick drink, we make our way back along Whitechapel Road, and down to the Whitechapel Underground Station, and we go onto the District Line to get to our next destination, or so we thought. We happen to catch the wrong train, and we are on the Hammersmith and City Line and arrive at Liverpool Street Underground Station, the maps on Mr UKBuses phone didn't work properly on this little journey. From Liverpool Street we jump on the Central Line which takes us to Bank Underground Station, and then we have to walk to Monument Underground Station, to get back on track and back onto the District Line, where we catch our tube to take us to our next destination (the correct one this time!!).

At our regular, The Blind Beggar!
We arrive at Tower Hill Underground Station, and after going around in circles outside the tube station, we are now waiting for the Heritage Route 15 Routemaster, which is operated by Stagecoach London, we have taken our seats at the back end of the lower deck, and we have a cheery chappy conducting who entertains us all the way to Charing Cross. Upon arrival, we take a couple of photo's of the Routemaster before we walk around the corner past Trafalgar Square, and we catch the Abellio London service 3, which takes us a short ride down to Parliament Square. After having a little walk and a break around the square, we walk past The Houses of Parliament and we are ahead of schedule, nearly two hours, so we go off the plan, and first we catch Go Ahead London General service 87, which takes us to Vauxhall Bus Station. From here we decide to jump back onto the tube, and so we go underground and back onto the Victoria Line and after a bit of time underground, we arrive for the second time of the day at Green Park. We make it to the open air again, and make our way to the bus stops where we decide to catch another Routemaster Heritage Route, Service 9 operated by First London, but we nearly didn't catch it as we are waiting at the bus stop, the bus pulls up a bit away from the stop due to another bus parked up. We make our way up to the bus and it decides to drive off and we see it heading down the road. It doesn't get far, it is stopped by the traffic lights, so we make a quick dash and the conductress kindly lets us on and apologises as we board about driving off from the stop because she had already pressed the bell. It doesn't take us long on the Routemaster before we arrive at Trafalgar Square.

In the tobacconists, sorry The Bear and Staff
Upon arrival we decide where to go next and we have a little walk from Trafalgar Square to another Square, this time Leicester Square. When we arrive at Leicester Square we make a return visit to a public house that we have visited in the past, The Bear and Staff, seen left. At the bar I ask for a Becks Blue, so the barman decides to ask a stupid question "I've never tried this, does it taste like Becks'?" I reply "yes", but I was tempted to say "No, it tastes like Budweiser". Mr UKBuses has already found a seat, and after a while from relaxing his feet, he decides to join in with the barman and asks "This bit must have been a shop?", I point out to him that there is a sign right behind him stating that this bit used to be a tobacconists shop until the '90's when the pub underwent a refurb and the shop became part of the pub, I wander then why there are tobacco pictures on the wall in this part! We have had a rest and it is now time to carry on "off plan", so we decide to visit the tube for the last time today, and we make our way to Leicester Square Underground Station, and we opt for the Piccadilly Line, and make our way to King's Cross. We pass through Covent Garden, Holburn and Russell Square before we arrive at Kings Cross St Pancreas Underground Station. We make our way to the open air, and we come out of the station and start walking, but the map's on Mr UKBuses phone must be playing up again as we decide to walk around the back of St Pancreas Railway Station, it takes us about ten minutes before we make our way around the other side and back onto the main road before eventually catching our last London bus of the day.

A First Class Picture in First Class
We wait in Euston Road, and it is not long to wait before a Stagecoach London Service 205 appears to take us on the short journey to London Euston Railway Station. Before making our way into the station, we grab a few more shots in the bus station outside, and we have a bit of time to kill, so we decide to have a Burger King, which is situated off the main concourse of the station. I have time to pop outside for some "fresh air" before catching our train back, and after that we make our way onto the concourse for the usual "less than five minutes to board" platform announcement, but we look and our train is being prepared and not long after it is announced that our train will be leaving from Platform 1. With the early announcement, we don't have to walk far, as we are in Coach J, the first carriage on the train and "First Class", we board and find our seats, so with about ten minutes before we are due off we take our seats and relax for a bit in our first class seats, seen above right. We are on the move and get even more comfortable as I recline my seat, something that I have never been able to do in standard class. On our journey back we sample the complimentary drinks that are available, and I also opt for the complimentary short breads and crisps. The journey seems quicker in the quiet first class and it doesn't seem that long before we arrive in Coventry, followed by Birmingham International and arrive at our last destination of Birmingham New Street, we alight our first class carriage and we switch across to Platform 4 where a London Midland train takes us to Smethwick Galton Bridge.

We arrive at Smethwick Galton Bridge, and we have a little time before our train arrives, so we visit the front of the station for a quick "break", and we make our way back to the platform where we board our London Midland train which takes us back to Stourbridge Junction. For this time of night, it is virtually standing room only, and we just about get a seat to rest in whilst on our journey. We arrive at the junction and swap over to Platform 1 for our "Dodger" to take us down to Stourbridge Town, we board the train first before everyone else and get a seat and as the passengers from our Smethwick train board the Dodger, it is also standing room only for the three minute journey. We arrive at Stourbridge Town, where we make a dash and there is a Black Diamond Service 276C parked up. We ask the driver if we can board here (most drivers let us on), but this driver seems to be a jobsworth, and makes us walk to Birmingham Street and Stand F. As we make our way he passes us, and even though he knew we and another passenger wanted the bus, he drives straight past the stand and doesn't even have the courtesy to wait for us, so with another half hour we wait and finally board Black Diamond's Service 276A to take us both home after another brilliant day out, "First Class" I would say!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

2011 - Day Out 18: The 246 Route by foot

Date: Tuesday 02 August 2011

There I was walking down Market Street in Stourbridge after a hard day's work when someone shouts my name, it was a colleague of Mr UKBuses, a driver from National Express West Midlands Pensnett Garage called David Gerrard. I know of him as I used to work with his wife Carol years ago. 

A few months ago, Dave raised money for Help for Heroes by giving up telling jokes for a month, and fair play to Dave, a hard task for a man who is constantly a joker. His latest fund-raising scheme is to walk the service 246 route, and it was happening this Sunday. After a little gentle persuasion, I gave in and said that I may see him Sunday. 

I wasn't going to do this alone, so I roped in Mr UKBuses to help with the walkers along the way. 

Date: Sunday 07 August 2011

Just before we head off
The day of the walk had come. I arranged to meet Mr UKBuses at 10.45, but at 10.30, the doorbell rang and the dog went into his usual barking mode. After escaping the dog's antics, we walked it into Stourbridge to get to Dudley. Mr UKBuses had arranged for transport to take us into Dudley to meet the other walkers. We were being picked up from the stop at Stourbridge Ring Road, so as we stood there, National Express West Midlands Service 246, the route we will be walking later, had pulled up. We wouldn't be catching this one. At about 11.25, our transport had arrived, one of National Express West Midlands Pensnett Garage Enviro 400 buses (which are used on the 246 route), which was on "Private Charter". Our driver, "Shuttle" Steve, who is driving the bus back to Stourbridge whilst we walk and he will be stopping along the way to help us cross busy junctions, pulled up to let us on, and we were on our way to Dudley, with Steve, Mr UKBuses and myself having the luxury of the bus all to ourselves. We were nearly at Dudley, so I became a honorary bus driver for the day, and put my Hi-Viz vest on ready for our walk.

Steve pulls up at the layover area in our "Chartered" bus, where we alight and meet the rest of the drivers all raring to go. As we pulled in to the layover, I'm sure that I could lipread and Dave said "Oh, look there's Roger on the bus". As we got off the bus, we were met by Dave Gerrard, the organiser of this event, and after shaking hands, we mingle with the other drivers. It is nearly midday, and time for us to go, but before we depart, a photographer has arrived to take a photograph for the local evening paper, The Express and Star. We assemble in front of the bus and have our photograph taken. After our photo shoot, it is now time to limber up as we are about to walk the 246 route.

Mr Wood, The Traffic Stopper!
We start our walk, and make our way past the 246 stand at Dudley bus station, at this point I shout to Dave and ask "Is it the 246 route we ware walking or the 246E to Brierley Hill?", a reply of "We are walking the whole way" answers my question and so we have seven miles ahead of us. As we leave the bus station, and head towards the bus mall, Steve and his helper, Mr UKBuses pass us, sounding the bandit alarm as they go, and we head towards King Street, where we pass the back of J D Wetherspoons, "The Full Moon", and as the back entrance is a fire door, there is no way in and so we have to carry on. We reach the end of King Street, and at the junction of King Street and High Street, Mr UKBuses makes an appearance and is standing in the middle of the road to help us cross safely. We carry on down towards Queens Cross, where Mr UKBuses has got ahead of us thanks to Steve's driving, and Steve and Mr UKBuses are on hand to get us safely across the traffic lights. After this we carry on towards Russell's Hall Hospital, walking down Stourbridge Road. On the way, Dave says that we haven't got long to go till we get to the hospital. He mentioned this at a very memorable point along the Stourbridge Road, and he wouldn't believe me when I replied that where we were standing was where the 1 mile marker had been when I did my Action Heart run in February. We make our way down Stourbridge Road, where we are met yet again by Mr UKBuses at the main island to help us across the road, and we are now on the main Kingswinford Road and on our way towards the hospital. It doesn't take us that long for us to walk to Russell's Hall Hospital.

It is now just before 12.40pm, and we are now about one-third of a way into our route. We have a little break outside main reception where we have a photograph taken. The original plan was for Mr UKBuses to arrive early with Steve, and for him to apprehend some nurses to appear in the photograph, but at  the main reception area, there were no nurses to be found, something that may have made Mr UKBuses unhappy. Photographs over, this was also an opportunity for us to have a quick bladder stop, which was a good idea as there was still some way to go. With our mini break over, we make our way to Kingswinford Road to carry on our journey, and with no need for Mr UKBuses, we use the pedestrian crossing outside the hospital so that we can carry on up towards Holly Hall via the Pensnett Road. As we arrive at the end of Pensnett Road, we arrive at Holly Hall, which we turn right into Stourbridge Road, and head towards Brierley Hill. There are no main roads to cross along this stretch of the route, so Steve and Mr UKBuses go ahead and have a well deserved break and stop off at a good photograph opportunity. After about ten minutes, we arrive at the photograph opportunity, and we stop for a couple of minutes to get our breath back, and also for the competitors to have their photograph taken outside the old Harts Hill Garage, a location where some of the buses used on the 246 route used to rest overnight, in the Midland Red and WMPTE days.

With the photograph taken, we make our way towards Brierley Hill., Mr UKBuses makes his way to the roundabout, to help us cross the road, and then swiftly onto the next set of traffic lights. After crossing us over the beginning of the Brierley Hill by-pass, Mr UKBuses makes his way to the main junction by the Civic Hall with myself helping out the walkers across the road. At this point Mr UKBuses realises that he has gone off Brierley Hill as there are two more crossings in the town centre for him to help us across. As we walk down Brierley Hill High Street, Dave pesters the passengers waiting for the 246, by asking them to walk with us, understandably no passengers joined in. We now make our way to the Five Ways junction and with three lanes to cover for us to get across, I help Steve and Mr UKBuses with the marshaling and at this point of the journey to Stourbridge, this is the only place along the walk so far that we have a problem with the traffic, with one ignorant driver who didn't want to wait for us to cross and virtually is on top of us as we cross. We now make our way to the end of Brierley Hill's High Street and we now have to cross the other end of the town's by-pass. This is an easy one for Mr UKBuses as there is a pelican crossing which helps with the crossing.

After Brierley Hill, we have a good stretch of the route that is downhill, and we make our way to Silver End, which Steve and Mr UKBuses have already made there way down there ready for us to get across. As we cross, a police car goes by and it is nice for the local constabulary to stop and help us, ay you may tell I was being sarcastic as they don't stop and carry on along Brettell Lane. We are safely across Delph Road, so Mr UKBuses gets back on the bus to get to our  next crossing point, I ask him to get us a pint ready at The Starving Rascal - I'm unsure what his reply was!. As we continue I ask Dave "Which is the next walk, the number 9 route?", he replies, "No, it is going to be the 120 a nice route with Cape Hill thrown in for good measure." I just hope that the reply was one of his jokes. As we are going along Brettell Lane, we are not far off from the Collis Street junction, so this also means that we are two-thirds along the route, so we are on the home straight. We arrive at Collis Street, and Mr UKBuses is there waiting for us, so we cross the road, but he also makes sure none of us cheat and use the short cut and he makes us continue along Brettell Lane and into Amblecote - There was no sign of the pint from the Starving Rasccal!

From Collis Street, we have a nice descent and it is not long before we arrive in Amblecote, and without stopping at The Maverick, we turn left at the end of Brettell Lane, and we walk down Amblecote High Street and arrive at The Fish, the name that people still call the junction at the end of Collis Street, even though The Fish Inn closed several years ago - It is now a a Cantonese restaurant. Mr UKBuses is waiting for us to stop the traffic at the bottom of Collis Street, and he makes his way back onto the bus to get him to the next junction. After Collis Street we head towards Stourbridge, and even though we have had a long descent, we have to climb a slight hill. After a ten minute climb, we arrive at The Royal Oak, and with Mr UKBuses not getting us a pint again, he duly crosses us over safely, and I agree with him when he says this is one of the busy junctions that we have had to cross due to the fact that you have traffic turning into Vicarage Road from two directions as well as a feeder lane turning left to get to Stourbridge. After Vicarage Road, Stourbridge Ring Road is in sight, and we make a short work of the downhill descent and arrive on the last road before we get to our final destination. As we turn onto the ring road we have a short climb before the walkers make it into Birmingham Street, and with Mr UKBuses and myself having one last go at the marshaling, we arrive at the terminus. 

The 246 route has been walked!
We arrive at Stand F, and we have achieved the 246 route in just over two hours (only one and a half hours late from the published timetable). As we have a breather, organiser Dave Gerrard thanks everyone who took part, and also to Steve, Mr UK Buses and myself for giving up our time and helping out with the traffic marshaling (I think I had the rough part of the bargain as I walked all the way - Mr UKBuses had assistance from a Enviro 400 along the way - but if he didn't he wouldn't have been able to get to the next junction to cross us safely.). With £500 coming from National Express West Midlands, and with the sponsor money for all those who took part, it is hoped that over £1,000 will have been raised for the purchase of overnight beds for parents to use at The Children's Unit at Russell's Hall Hospital. Everyone who took part truly deserves a pat on the back for what they achieved. - To view the report that appeared in The Express and Star, click on the picture below.

The report that eppeared in the Express and Star
With a few minutes for us to get our breath back, all those who took part, board our "Private Chartered" bus and "Shuttle" Steve undertakes his last duty for the day by taking all of us walkers back to Dudley along the 246 route that we have just walked. May I personally thank Steve for giving up his time and picking Mr UKBuses and myself up in the morning to take us to Dudley and also for driving the walkers back after their trek. Also may I thank the drivers who passed us whilst in service on the 246, by showing their support along the way and using the bandit alarms to top up our spirits along the way.  As we rest our weary feet, I finalise the details for Dave, as I have organised for him to tell the residents of Stourbridge about the walk on the following Saturday and he is due to make an appearance on The Bridge Radio (102.5 FM), and appear with fellow bus enthusiast Phil Tonks' on his Saturday "Bridge Brunch" show on the radio station. Good luck to Dave for the appearance and also a big big thank you needs to go to Dave for organising this fund-raiser for the Children's Unit.

We arrive in Dudley and after saying goodbye to the rest of the people who took part, and a thank you from Dave for us turning up, Steve takes the bus back to the depot, and Mr UKBuses and myself have a little time to spare, so we catch a National Express West Midlands Service 126 that is waiting in the bus station, to take us to Wolverhampton, where we decide to check out the new Wolverhampton bus station. We make our way along the Birmingham New Road, and it is not long before we arrive in Wolverhampton and we make our way onto the Ring Road, and into the new bus station entrance for the first time. As we arrive at our stand, we notice that a National Express West Midlands service 256 is waiting at its stand, so we quickly make our way around the new station to get to the stand, as we didn't want to wait another hour for the next bus. Our first visit is also a short visit, but we board our 256 before exiting the station as quick as we entered it, and make our way back to Stourbridge. I'm not impressed with the station on my first visit to the new facility, but seeing as it was only a brief glimpse, future visits may change my mind.

We make our way through Penn, and this is the first time since our last memorable journey on the route, and as we arrive at the dreaded bus stop, the door seems to behave and doesn't drop off. After another half hour we arrive back in Stourbridge, and since we sat down on the bus in Wolverhampton, the walk is beginning to take effect with my feet now starting to ache. Upon arrival, we make our way to J D Wetherspoons, "The Chequers Inn", for a well deserved drink, and before making our way back home, we also visit The Longlands Tavern and finally The Gigmill and then back to our respective homes to rest our feet.

I'm glad that I went along and supported Dave on his fund-raising, and I can truly say, and also on behalf of Mr UKBuses, that I feel proud on what we achieved today, oh and also Mr UKBuses is quite handy at stopping the traffic!! 

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

2011 - Day Out 17: Warwickshire

Date: Saturday 30 July 2011

Hyacinth's Bungalow from Keeping Up Appearances
It's the last Saturday of July, and how can we celebrate it, the WARP's get together. So the first bus of the day is National Express West Midlands Service 276, on which Mr UKBuses boards (he was at the stop at the right time this trip!), and we make our way to Stourbridge Junction, where we have to wait to get on the train as the conductor had to sort out his cup of coffee first. Eventually we board and shortly we arrive at Smethwick Galton Bridge, where we change platforms so that we catch the London Midland Wolverhampton to Birmingham service. We wait on Platform 4 towards where the front of the train will be. The train arrives and as predicted, Mr WME is in the first carriage. Mr UKBuses and myself board and say our hello's to Mr WME. The gang is nearly complete, and Mr D9 had text us to say he is in Birmingham New Street, so upon arrival, I make my way to the smoking area, whilst Mr UKBuses and Mr WME search for a D9. I finish my break and rejoin the search, and he is then spotted the other side of the ticket barriers. The gang is now complete and we can make our way to Warwickshire, our area for the day.

First off, we make our way to Coventry, so we catch the 0930 Virgin Train service. We try and find a seat, but the carriage is a bit packed so Mr WME and Mr D9 sit further down the carriage. Mr UKBuses decides it is a perfect opportunity to take a bald spot photo, so he sneaks down the carriage with his camera ready and he would have got away with it, except that the flash went off and Mr D9 noticed! We arrive in Coventry and as we get off the train I take the mickey out of Mr D9's bald spot without realising that the bloke in front of me is bald - oops!! We make a bald, sorry, bold move to the front of the railway station at Coventry, and walk straight onto the National Express Coventry Service 27 "Bendibus", which will take us to Coventry's Pool Meadow bus station. The journey is going okay on the back of the bendibus, until Mr D9 sees the front of the bus turn, which makes him feel a little bit sick. Luckily, its not that far and we soon arrive in Pool Meadow, and as we make our way through the bus station, we head up Trinity Street to catch our bus to take us to our next location, Stagecoach Warwickshire's Service 86 to Binley Woods.

We make our way out to Coventry, and we arrive shortly after at Binley Woods and we alight our bus at Heather Road. We walk down the street, and on our left hand side is the residence of the bucket household, or more accurately Hyacinths from Keeping Up Appearances. We walk past taking a sly shot or two of the house ready to run down the road just in case she apprehends us. After visiting the bucket residence we make our way to the main road and at the 86 bus stop to take us on a short journey. We have a little bit to wait and Mr D9's bladder is kicking in, I do offer to stand in front of the bin, but then realise it would not be a good idea as there is another hole in the side of the bin and I'd have wet legs!!! The 86 arrives, and we make our way up to Binley and alight just outside Morrison's. We have to wait just over ten minutes so this gives Mr D9 a chance to visit the toilet in the store, and as he makes his way back, he decides to have a race with an old woman riding a mobility scooter, he overtakes her on the crossing and arrives back at the stop refreshed. Our next bus is NXC's Service 4 which will take us to Stoke Aldermoor. We are on the lookout for Mitchell Close, it is a good job that I am in the seat travelling backwards, as we make our way through the estate, we pull up at a bus stop, and with the rest of the WARP's looking out, I notice that we have just passed it, so we all make a dash to the door and alight.

The Onslow Residence
We have a few steps to make and we are standing at the end of Mitchell Close, looking up the road and a few houses up on the left, we spot Onslow's house. We walk up the street, and we all sneak our camera's out to take a picture and we are prepared to run as this estate doesn't look to friendly. We walk to the top of the street and have a look at Pinley Gardens, a park that is for use of residents of the estate. After a quick look round we walk back down Mitchell Close and back to our bus stop. It is just before midday, and our NXC Service 3A arrives and takes us back to Coventry. We soon arrive back in the city and decide it is time for lunch, so a quick walk up Trinity Street takes us to J D Wetherspoons "The Royal Standard", drinks ordered we find a table to peruse the menu's, which there was no point of looking at them as we all opt for our usual meals. Mr WME and Mr D9 do the honours of ordering the meals, and when they came back Mr D9 had no room to eat as all the menus ended up on his side of the table for a meeting, even though he did try and make a bit of space by taking to wearing them, or was this a ruse to stop bald spot photo's being taken. Food finished, and a quick visit for everyone to the loo, we head out of the Wetherspoons and have a bit of time to spare, so we have a little walk around to the Cathedral, where Mr D9 and myself reported in to our other halves. After a walk around the cathedral ruins, in which Mr WME decided the bald spot was exclusively for him by knocking people out of the way whilst trying to take a photo of the polished bald spot, we walk back to Trinity Street and our bus stop, with Mr D9 transforming into a "Cone Head", pleasing the local natives along the way. It was now time to get to our next destination, Warwick.

Cheers! In the Punchbowl, Warwick
We board our bus, Stagecoach Warwickshire's Service X18, which took us through Leamington Spa, a place we would be visiting later in the day. After a journey of 40 minutes, we arrive in Warwick, so we have a walk through the town and through the market, and take a little time to visit "The Warwick Museum", where after a walk around, we find Bruce's big brother, and on our way out of the museum, we bump into Mr UKBuses, oh sorry I was mistaken, it was a collection of old fossils. We have a further walk around the town, and we pass a plastic cow along the way before arriving at a pub that Mr WME picked up on his pub radar, so we head into "The Punch Bowl", Mr UKBuses doesn't take this opportunity to buy a round as this was also a cheap place, with a pint of bitter priced under £2. So far today, we have had very sunny weather, but the rest of the day's weather could turn bleak as Mr D9 decides to give us a rendition of Tom Jone's "Delilah", but at least Mr WME decided to take this distraction and use it to his advantage by swapping pints with Mr D9 (unbeknown to him) having a few sips before swapping the pints back over. With Mr D9 singing and finishing his pint (or what's left of it!), we decide to leave the pub before the landlord chucks us out and head back to the bus station. We arrive and find out that the G1, which was our next bus we had to catch, can not serve the bus station due to roadworks in the area, so I ask a driver on the X17 where we catch the G1 from, and after explaining to me, Mr UKBuses decides to catch the X17 to Leamington Spa, so after boarding the bus and showing my ticket, I get a response from the driver - "I thought you wanted the G1!", I quickly make my way to the back of the bus.

Lounging in a darkened Jug and Jester!
We make our way to Leamington Spa on Stagecoach Warwickshire's X17, and after a ride of just over twenty minutes, we arrive in Leamington Spa, and we sample the newly opened JD Wetherspoons, "Jug and Jester", where as we wait at the bar, Mr WME walks in and goes directly to another bar and gets served straight away, Mr D9 and myself have the same idea, with Mr UKBuses still waiting and then nearly getting into an argument as he is accused by one of the local natives of pushing the queue. Whilst the fracas is nearly taking place, the rest of the WARP's take rest in an area by the window, with Mr WME and myself taking advantage of some very high backed chairs. After a couple of minutes, Mr UKBuses escapes from the fracas that he nearly caused at the bar, and as he takes his seat he decides to start a fresh fracas by having a wrestle with the artificial plants. I can assure all readers that no artificial plants were harmed on this trip, but Mr UKBuses is now having counselling. After a rest we finish our drinks, and have a little wander around Leamington Spa, before heading back to the bus stop and we use Stagecoach Warwickshire's X17 service again, which takes us back into Coventry.

Winding down in The Windmill.
After a brief ride through Kenilworth along the way, we arrive back in Coventry, Mr WME's pub radar has picked something up, so as we get off the bus, Mr WME is nearly nowhere to be seen as he is virtually around the corner, and we catch up with him for a short walk, where we arrive at The Windmill, a medieval looking pub with a biker atmosphere. After a quick visit for a bladder stop, drinks are ordered and we find a seat. There are little cubby holes in The Windmill and it turns out that the pub could actually be a maze as there seems to be a load of little rooms all over the place. After our visit to The Windmill, we duly leave after our pints are supped and we return to the bus stop, where Mr WME and Mr D9 decide to have a walk through the centre of Coventry. Mr UK Buses and myself decide to wait and catch Stagecoach Warwickshire's X16 back to Pool Meadow, which only takes a couple of minutes after boarding. We get off the bus at Trinity Street, where Mr WME is already there, and soon after we see Mr D9 who appears to be a little out of breath. We have a short walk back to Pool Meadow Bus Station to catch our last bus of the day.

It is just after 18:15 and our Central Connect "Signature" turned up to take us to Solihull on Service 82, but instead of the Signature, we end up with a "Bus2Work", something that all of us don't really want to catch as it is a Saturday and our day off work! We are on our way to Solihull, and we pass through a favourite village of mine, Meriden and pass through Hampton in Arden, a place that Mr WME and myself visited a couple of months previously. Not long after Hampton, we arrive back at Solihull and we are dropped off just outside the railway station. Arriving a couple of minutes earlier than planned, a few photographs are taken in a hectic looking station, with all the evening buses arriving at what it seems the same time before they make there way back to the depot. We all make our way to the platform where our London Midland train arrives to take us back home. Before Mr D9 leaves us at The Hawthorns, Mr WME manages to set up his camera on timer to take a sneak shot of the bald spot in what I can only describe as a classic move. After saying goodbye to Mr D9, it is now time to say goodbye to Mr WME at Smethwick Galton Bridge, with Mr UKBuses and myself staying on the train to Stourbridge Junction.

After arriving at the junction, we change platforms where we catch "The Dodger" back to Stourbridge Town and then our last bus of the day, Black Diamond's Service 276A back home. It has been another cracking day out with Mr WME on top form for sneaking the bald spot pictures throughout the day. Good weather throughout with good company, thanks for the excellent day fellow WARP's.

The "D9" Bald Spot Pictures:

The first sneaky shot of the day taken on the Virgin Train to Coventry.

The second sneaky shot of the day, taken outside The Warwick Museum.

The third sneaky shot of the day taken on the X17 between Leamington Spa and Coventry. The sun had been out all day and gives a nice glow to the bald spot of Mr D9.