Monday, 24 October 2011

2011 - Day Out 26: Liverpool

Date: Saturday 22 October 2011

It is our second trip of October, and whilst we still have the natural daylight to go further afield, we have decided to go back up north to one of our favourite destinations, the city of Liverpool.

The Liver Building, Liverpool
It is an early start, and I walk into Stourbridge, where I will meet Mr UKBuses, who is catching the bus to the ring road stop. As I make my way into Stourbridge, it is still very dark, the British Summertime is fading, and so is the temperature, I button my coat to keep my body heat in, and finally make my way to the bus stop located on Stourbridge Ring Road. I wait a few minutes, and Mr UKBuses bus is running early and just after 07:15, he turns up. We have to wait a while for our next bus, so we take a seat in the bus shelter and just after ten minutes, our National Express West Midlands Service 246 turns up and we are on our way to Dudley to make our way to Wolverhampton as there is no direct bus to Wolverhampton from Stourbridge until 08:35. After passing through Brierley Hill and Russell's Hall Hospital, we arrive at Dudley Bus Station, and we make a change to the plan already as we catch National Express West Midlands Service 1 which will take us into Wolverhampton. 

After making our way through Sedgley we arrive in Wolverhampton, and we alight outside of the Central Library, and we walk past The Midland Metro terminus and past the new bus station. We have a while before our train arrives, and we head to our first J D Wetherspoons of the day, "The Moon Under Water", where we have breakfast, and a few minutes after ordering our bacon rolls arrive and we fuel ourselves up for the journey ahead. We let our breakfast go down for a few minutes before heading out into the autumn cold air and a quick walk down Railway Drive, we arrive at Wolverhampton Railway Station ready for our service to arrive at 09:19. Our train is on time and we board our London Midland train. We make our way through the carriages where we find a table seat to relax in, but after we take our seats, a gang of woman board and from the noise, it seems that they are going to Liverpool for a hen do. Even though the hens make a bit of noise on our journey, Mr UKBuses is able to rest his eyes for half of the journey, and despite the hens noise and Mr UKBuses snoring, I am able to catch forty winks as well. After nearly one and a half hours, we arrive in Liverpool and we alight our train at Liverpool Lime Street. Whilst at the station, we get our All Areas Saveaway tickets for use on the bus and ferry around Liverpool today. 

We make our way out onto the Liverpool streets and we pass our usual boarding place, The Hood Street "Hub", and make our way around the corner to St Thomas Street, where we will catch our first bus of the day. We have a few minutes to wait, so we decide to get a few photographs. Our first bus arrives, Arriva North West's Service 433, which will take us under the River Mersey to New Brighton. We take our seats, and we head towards The Kingway Tunnel, and this is our first time in using this tunnel. This is the newer of the Mersey Tunnels, and was opened in 1971. We are only under the tunnel for a few minutes and then after a journey of just under thirty minutes, we arrive at our destination, New Brighton. A few photographs are taken before we decide to pop into Morrison's to get ourselves a drink. I introduce Mr UKBuses to self service by using the self-service tills to pay for our drinks. We take a walk around the back of the supermarket and sit on the banks of the Mersey and have a rest whilst supping our drinks. After enjoying the views we decide to make our way out of the wind and back to the bus stop. Our Arriva North West Service 411 turns up to take us to our next destination, Seacombe, where will catch the ferry back into the city. En route and Mr UKBuses is panicking as the bus is running slightly late due to traffic. We arrive at the Seacombe ferry terminal and as we make our way to the bus stops area I can see the ferry making its way to moor and load, we alight and walk fast to the terminal building where we get our tickets and make our way down to the loading area. We make it in time and board.

Dinner at The Fall Well, Cheers!
Mr UKBuses has to make a bladder stop and after pointing him in the wrong direction nearly making him go down below to the engine area, he finally finds the correct area and after making his visit, we make our way to the top of the ferry and take our seats. Within a minute of sitting on top deck, the wind obliterates Mr UKBuses hair, obviously he did not use the string hold Brylcreem this morning. A first for me again today, as this is my first time of catching the ferry this way round, and after we make a visit to the Woodside / Birkenhead ferry terminal, we eventually are on the ferry 'cross the Mersey back to the main city. We arrive on the right side of the Mersey, and we make our way out of the Pier Head terminal a different way from previous visits and luckily at the entrance is a bus stop in which our next bus will visit, so after a couple of minutes wait, our Cumfybus Service C2 arrives and takes us back to main shopping area, where we will stop for lunch. We alight, and Mr UKBuses gets the wrong stop, so we have to follow the C2 on foot, but it is too quick and we are searching for our Wetherspoons. We pass The Cavern Club, and luckily it is a Wetherspoons that I tried before and we find "The Welkin", we enter the building and before purchasing our drinks we try and find a table, but the pub is jam packed, upstairs and downstairs, so we vacate the premises and I get my bearings and we decide to go to another Wetherspoons, "The Fall Well", see picture right. It seems that we may have the same problem, but I order the drinks and Mr UKBuses does find a table, he pounces on a table whilst the previous occupants are just getting up! We have a little rest before ordering, and after perusing the menu, Mr UKBuses opts for his BBQ Chicken Melt "without the cheese", and I opt for my usual Beer and Burger. It doesn't take long before the food arrives and we consume the food. We let the food settle and after vacating our table for the next customers to use straight away, we make our way towards the bus stop, which we have to pass the Hood Street "Hub" again and we eventually find Victoria Street, where we wait for a couple of minutes before our Arriva North West Service 464 arrives to take us to Birkenhead.

We board and we make our way through the streets to go under water again, but this time we are using the older Mersey Tunnel, The Queensway Tunnel, which was opened in 1934. This is also a first again on this trip, as this is the first time that I have used the tunnel in this direction. After a few minutes underground we arrive in Birkenhead and we alight at the bus station. After a few photographs, we take a walk down Claughton Road and past the new Asda which I have seen being built on all my visits to Liverpool, it looks like it will be ready for business soon. After we pass the new Asda, we arrive at our now Birkenhead regular pub, The Mackenzie, see picture left. It is Mr UKBuses round, and after our drinks are purchased we take a seat at our normal table. I must say that this is one of my favourite pubs in the Liverpool area, the visits to this place made more pleasant with the friendly staff and customers. Time for a quick cheers photo, see right, and we make our way back to the bus station. We make our way back, and we make our way round to Stand 7, and we deviate from the plan and we catch our first First bus, with First in Chester & Wirral service 72 doing the honours of taking us back to Liverpool through The Queensway Tunnel. It is not long before we are back Liverpool side of the Mersey, and we alight at Whitechapel, and take a short walk to Elliot Street, nearly getting lost along the way as we decide to take a short cut, but we don't get lost as we find our stop and we take a short ride on Arriva North West's service 86, to sample a couple of pubs that were spotted on our last visit.

Cheers from The Fly in The Loaf.
We are only on the bus for a few minutes before we arrive in Hardman Street, and we alight the bus just outside our next refreshment stop, a place called "The Flute". We make our way indoors and whilst Mr UKBuses finds a table, I wait at the bar and wait and wait. The service in this pub is poor, with the woman who is serving being overtaken by a snail as she serves other customers, and a man who thinks it is more important to restock the fridges, despite looking around a couple of times to see people waiting. I do eventually get served and it looks like I make in time as when I get to Mr UKBuses he looks like he is about to pass out from a dry throat. The pub looks like it used mainly by students, as can be seen by the age of the people using this pub. It is time to take a cheers photo and disaster strikes, the battery in my camera has gone, and I forgot to charge my spare battery. I think it is time to move on, and we decide to take a few steps closer towards the city and visit the pub virtually next door, "The Fly in the Loaf". The pub looks amazing before we have set foot inside due to the exterior decor, which gives the pub a traditional feel. We step inside and you can tell that this is one of the real ale connoisseur favourites, and the pub seems so much better than The Flute, with loads of space due to the large sized of the pub. Mr UKBuses comes to the rescue and lends me his camera so that I can take a cheers photo, he simply pops my memory card into his camera so I can make this possible, as can be seen right, - cheers! After supping our drinks it is time to catch the bus back into the city, and it is quite a few minutes we have to wait before one turns up. We jump back on service 86, and decide to go to the Liverpool One Bus Station, remembering to alight at the bus stop rather than being dropped off in the staff only lay by area, like we did on our last visit. Photographs are taken around the station, and we make our way to stand 10, where our Arriva North West Service 82 bus takes us back into the main city. 

We have about forty five minutes left before we have to catch our train and we are back at the station, so Mr UKBuses opts for a Burger King, whilst I visit Marks and Spencer's to eat on the train back. Mr UKBuses finishes his burger and we head outside so that I can have some "fresh air" before boarding our train. It is starting to get cold now, so we head back indoors and to Platform 7, where our Virgin Train is waiting. We find our seats and we get comfortable for the journey back, with the train heating warming us up. We depart Liverpool Lime Street and make our way back to the West Midlands. Mr UKBuses decides to have a nap and I tuck into my food. We pass through Crewe, and it isn't long before we arrive at Stafford where we have to alight so that we can catch our London Midland train to take us back to Wolverhampton. We move over to Platform 4, and we only have to wait a few minutes before our train arrives. Whilst we wait, we notice that Stafford Railway Station does not have a Platform 2.

We only have a short journey to make and it doesn't take long before we arrive back in Wolverhampton. We make our way from the Wolverhampton Railway Station and across the new footbridge to take us to the new Wolverhampton Bus Station. We arrive at our stand and the bus turns up early, with the driver kindly letting us on so that we can warm up, and it isn't long before we slowly make our way back to Stourbridge passing through Wombourne and Kingswinford along the way. We arrive back in Stourbridge just a few minutes late to catch our bus back home, so we kill a bit of time by walking past the building site of the new Stourbridge Interchange to see how it is progressing and back to our stop where Black Diamond's Service 276C will take us back home and into the warmth.

I've had another fun day out, and have noticed that I have really enjoyed the last couple of outings, which is a good way to see the end of the year out. I am sure that our last few trips in 2011 will be to the same standard of today's trip to Liverpool. A big thank you to Mr UKBuses for making the day a success.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

2011 - Day Out 25: West Midlands

Date: Saturday 01 October 2011

It is the first day of October, but it doesn't feel like it, with leaves on the ground it looks as if it is autumn, but the temperature is 29 degrees celcius, and the sun is shining with no sign of cloud or wind, it looks like it is going to be a good day out, and today we will be having a local trip around the West Midlands.

Wolverhampton's new Bus Station
As it is so hot, I decide not to put a coat on, so I walk from Wollaston in just a t-shirt, and make my way to Norton to meet up with Mr UKBuses. After about ten minutes, I end up on the junction of Shenstone Avenue and Westwood Avenue, and it is not long before Mr UKBuses makes an appearance. Mr UKBuses had purchased our DayTripper tickets yesterday, so I briskly pay my debts, and I receive my ticket, and just in time too, as from around the corner our first bus of the day arrives, a National Express West Midlands service 276. We board and we make our way through Stourbridge, passing the new interchange which is looking like it won't be too long before it will be finished, and along Red Hill where we alight outside The Labour In Vain public house, and it is just a short walk to Stourbridge Junction. One of Mr UKBuses aims today is to catch a #shinynewtrain (as Mr Phil Tonks puts it on Twitter), and we make our way to the Birmingham platform to see if one will turn up. On Platform 3 (The Kidderminster/Worcester Platform), there is a Class 150 waiting, and upon inspection of the departure board it turns out that the #dulloldtrain on Platform 3 is our first train of the day, bad luck Mr UKBUses. We make our way to the other platform, and we soon depart after boarding. So London Midland is running our first train, and we make our way through Cradley Heath and Rowley Regis, before alighting at Smethwick Galton Bridge.

We make our way to the lower platforms where we wait for our next train, there seems to be a hold up towards Birmingham on the line as there is a problem with one of the trains, this also seems to be holding up the Walsall train, the one that we could do with catching as we are on our way to Aston and this will go straight through Birmingham New Street, which means that we don't have to change. A bit of luck happens to be on our side as the trains seems to be swapping over on the track, as our Walsall train seems to have past the stricken train and is moving to the top line of the departure board. The Walsall train arrives and we board, this is a relatively new train on this line, but it is not a #shineynewtrain that Mr UKBuses wants to catch. The trains departs Galton Bridge, and we pass through Smethwick Rolfe Street, Birmingham New Street and Duddeston before we arrive at our destination, Aston. We make our way down to street level, and cross the main road outside the station, and Mr UKBuses leads the way, and after a 5 minute walk up Holbourn Hill, we arrive at Rotola headquarters, and also home to Central Connect. We take a few photographs from the top of the ramp, using the zoom on our cameras to get a few photo's of vehicles that are parked up in the depot. Photographs over, we decide to make our way back into Birmingham, and Mr UKBuses leads the way again, and we walk up one of the roads situated opposite Rotola HQ, and we soon arrive at a bus stop and as soon as we arrive, our bus arrives, National Express West Midlands Service 66, which takes us through the Aston streets back into the City Centre. We take a seat on the bus towards the back, and as we make ourselves comfortable, a young woman decides to make a phone call, which in the end will last for the entire journey. It seems that she doesn't need her mobile as the volume she is causing, the person on the end of the phone should be able to hear without their phone switched on.

Cheers! in the Square Peg, Birmingham
We arrive in Birmingham, where we alight in Morris Way, around the corner from our first refreshment stop of the day, and the old faithful J D Wetherspoons. Before we whet our thirst, we take a few photo's of the buses in service along Morris Way. I leave Mr UKBuses as I need to get some cash, and spot the Tesco Express, so I go the cashpoint, and it is out of order, I inform Mr UKBuses that it is broken, and we go to our Wetherspoons, "The Square Peg", where as I have no cash on me it turns out to be Mr UKBuses round, and as it is hot we both decide to have a quenching pint of Pepsi, see picture right, and the ice makes it more refreshing and cools us down on this unusual hot October day. We get down our pints in record time, and Mr UKBuses recommends that we catch Arriva Midland's new service the X31 to take us to our next destination. We have to find Carrs Lane, and I know where it is, so we make our way there. As we arrive at the stop, we have near enough 30 minutes to wait, so we make our way down Birmingham High Street, where I find a Barclays to get some cash, I try and get out of buying the next round by informing Mr UKBuses that I have to use a Santander cash machine as it is my bank, but he doesn't fall for it and states that I can use any cash point - it was worth a try! Cash machine used, we make our way back to the bus stop, stopping off at WH Smiths along the way so that I can top up my phone. We still have to wait and a couple of National Express West Midlands X51's pull up which take a few passengers away from the stop, but even though there is more room, we both get pushed and shoved as people make their way past. Our Arriva Midland X31 is next to arrive, and we board ready for our journey to Willenhall. We make our way back through Aston, and through the Spaghetti Junction where we end up on the M6. We end up at Junction 10, and as soon as we are off the motorway, we alight at the nearest bus stop. Only a few minutes to wait and we decide to catch National Express West Midlands service 529, which takes us through Willenhall, past The Malthouse that we have come to like in Willenhall Town Centre, and onwards to Wolverhampton.

We arrive in the new bus station, I admit that I like the look of the building, but I just don't like the atmosphere, it seems to have been lost when the old bus station was torn down. We make our way to Lichfield Street, and as we make our way out of the station we notice that they already have the floor up insdie the station building to do some repair works. We decide that it is time for food, and we head into the second Wetherspoons of the day, "The Moon Under Water", and the place seems to be packed with people wearing orange shirts, Wolves must be playing at home today, the sign on the door gives it away, saying "no away supporters". We do find a table towards the back of the pub, and we opt for the ususal, Mr UKBuses has his BBQ Chicken Melt (without the cheese), myself the Beer and Burger, and I save a pound by having a coke with mine (I don't save a pound at the end of the day as Mr UKBuses stills owes it me from his change!). The food doesn't take long to arrive after we order it, and it goes down quickly, and washed down after with our drinks which have been served in plastic glasses, something that Mr UKBuses doesn't like. After our food has gone down, we make our way to St Georges and the Midland Metro terminus. As we arrive a tram is waiting to go, and we board "Sister Dora" and make our way through Bilston and West Bromwich before arriving at The Hawthorns

Mr Wood ponders on his trip on a #shinynewtrain
The Metro was my choice as I wanted to use all three modes of transport that we can use on the DayTripper tickets, and we make our way from the Metro platforms, accross to platform one to catch hopefully a #shinynewtrain back to Stourbridge. A train is soon due as we arrive on the platform, but it doesn't seem to be Mr UKBuses lucky day, as another Class 150 #dulloldtrain turns up. I persuade Mr UKBuses to wait another ten minutes for the next train, just as I did at Birmingham Snow Hill the other week in the hope that a #shinynewtrain would turn up, for me it worked, will the same principle work again today for Mr UKBuses, we will wait and see. As the station announcement blares out that the next Stourbridge train is on its way, Mr UKBuses has a smile on his face, as it seems that in the distance heading towards us, is a Class 172 (172338 to be exact) or in Mr Tonks' words a #shinynewtrain. We make our way towards the back of the train so that when we arrive at Stourbridge Junction, we can take a few steps and get some photgraphs before it leaves the station. As we boarded, we notice that the new train smell is still in the air, and we take our seats, which seem to be more comfortable and more spacious. As it is still record temperatures outside, we feel the benefit of the air conditioning cooling us down on our journey, the only thing that was not working today was the computerised announcements, and the guard seems to be doing these today. After a pleasant trip, we arrive back in Stourbridge Junction and we get our #shinynewtrain picture before the train carries on towards Great Malvern. With a thumbs up from Mr UKBuses after his maiden voyage on a Class 172, we make our way to Platform one, where we sample the Class 139, otherwise known as the Parry's People Mover, a journey which is not as smooth as the #shinynewtrain as we arrive back at Stourbridge Town

We have a bit of time before our next destination, so I take a few photographs of the construction works of the new interchange for the website, before making our way to Birmingham Street and Temporary Stand F to wait for our next bus to Kinver. We have just over ten minutes to wait and The Balmes (David and his wife Emma) make their way towards us. Mr UKBuses is spotted first and David says his hello's before greeting me. Our next bus turns up, Hanson's service 228, which we catch as we thought we would take advantage of the sun. It seems that everyone else has the same idea, including David and Emma, as the bus is packed before we even leave Stourbridge. We start our journey and as we make our way towads Wollaston a few more people board, as they also do in Wollaston itself. We make our way down to Stourton and a first is taking place as the bus stops at the stop just after Stourbridge Rugby Club, a stop that I have never before seen this service use. We make our way through Stourton and Dunsley and arrive soon after in Kinver. We make our way to the front of the bus and Mr UKBuses spots an Arriva bus, which is working on the 588 Service to Perton. Before we make our way to The Olde White Harte, we check the timetable and see that it is due out in a couple of minutes, so we decide to abort sunny Kinver and catch this service as far as Wombourne. After confirming with the driver that we can use our DayTripper tickets, we take a seat, and we head off. We pass through Potters Cross and up towards Enville. At this moment I'm having bad flashbacks as this is the start of the route of the Kinver 10K run that I ran in last week, luckily we head straight on and pass through Enville. The next part of the route is from Enville to Bobbington, and the Dennis Dart that we are on has to go through some small country lanes, I'm surprised that the bus didn't get stuck as some of the corners were very tight, there were no cars coming the other way so there wasn't a fight as there wouldn't be room for the both of them, there was nearly a tractor though.

Cheers! from The Vine, Wombourne
After the tight lanes between Enville and Bobbington, the bus passes through Bobbington Village, where Mr UKBuses starts thinking as he has seen an old WMPTE bus stop, and he spends the next few minutes wondering what WMPTE route would have used this stop, as he is thinking I am also wonderiong whether the bus is on fire as I can smell burning, but it is Mr UKBuses still thinking. After passing through Bobbington, we nearly drive through Swindon, but the bus bypasses the village and we come through the back end of Wombourne past the new Sainsburys and Waggon and Horses before ending up on the 256 route into Wombourne village. We alight outside the cricket pitch, and Mr UKBuses is thirsty, so I tell him to walk to the corner and he spots The Vine, so we walk a bit further to the pub where we have a well deserved rest. We decide to sit outside in the sun, see picture right, after we order our drinks and spot an opportunity for a cheers photo, I am a bit wary as I use a chair to get the desired shot, the camera seems a bit wobbly, but the photograph is taken with no problems. Mr UKBuses wants one too, and so I have to set up his camera on a wobbly chair, and his camera has not got a flat bottom, so it makes the expereince more nerve shattering, after his photograph was taken, I can confirm that his camera was not harmed. We are refreshed, and Mr UKBuses spots The Old Bush right next door to The Vine, but we take the short walk back to the bus stop, and as we turn the corner, we can hear a bus, and it is a National Express West Midlands 256 that we have missed by seconds. We still decide to wait at the bus stop thinking that a National Express West Midlands service 255 bus will turn up and take us to Kingswinford. After waiting half an hour in the sun, we find out that the 255 does not use this stop as a National Express West Midlands 256 turns up, we wish that we popped next door to The Old Bush now. The 256 pulls up and we board and we head back to Stourbridge. After passing through Wall Heath, Kingswinford and Wordsley, we arrive back at the temporary stops along Birmingham Street. The sun and the heat has got to us, so we decide to call it a day and after walking up to Stand F, we have a little wait before National Express West Midlands service 276 pulls up to take us back home.

Another good day out was had, especially with the unusually hot October sun making a surprised appearance and with us going around in circles a couple of times with the places we visited in specific order. We will be out again in a few weeks further afield in Liverpool, but will the weather surprise us again this time with snow!