Sunday, 4 December 2011

2011 - Day Out 34: Worcestershire - The Christmas Trip

Date: Saturday 03 December 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andy's Bald Cranium (ABC)

Bald Spot Picture One

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

Bald Spot Picture Two

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

Bald Spot Picture Three

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

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