Sunday, 22 July 2012

2012 - Day Out 13: Weymouth Vintage Bus Running Day

Date Sunday 17 June 2012

It is our last full day in Weymouth and we will be spending most of the day at the now annual Weymouth Vintage Bus Running Day, which is held at Lodmoor Coach Park, offering rides to local destinations on classic buses.

The Weymouth Vintage Running Day
I wake up and go outside for some "fresh air" before going back inside for our second Alendale breakfast of the year, Mr UKBuses arrives downstairs and we take our seats in the window again and order the same as yesterday, Mr UKBuses has the English and I go for the Scottish, complete with my Haggis and gorgeous Potato Scones. Once devoured we have a couple of minutes before we return to our rooms to get ourselves ready for the rally ahead. Once ready we make our way to Lodmoor and as we walk down the road to get to the coach park, Clive, an old Pensnett Garage driver passes on a First in Dorset Dennis Dart and stops and says hello to us. We arrive at the rally site and whilst the rides aren't in operation yet we go around the buses that are ready to be used today and take our photographs and look around the stalls before the crowds do eventually appear, now that these are out of the way we can concentrate on the rides for the day ahead.

Our first ride was on an ex Devon General Leyland Olympian (A680 KDV) which was operating the 10:10 journey on Service 454: Weymouth - Railway Station, arriving back at Lodmoor at 10:30. We have a little break and then catch another ex Devon General vehicle, an AEC Regent (CTT 518C), which was operating the 10:35 journey on Service 420: Weymouth - Littlemoor arriving back at Lodmoor at 11:05. Next up was another ride on the AEC regent, this time on Service 23: Weymouth - Bowleaze Cove which saw the vehicle struggling to get up the big hill close to the cove. We get off at The King's Statue as we are not sure if we would make it back to Lodmoor on time to get our next bus. Whilst Mr UKBuses is taking a few photo's I pop in the shop for a bottle of pop and when I come back out I do a classic "Interceptor" ambush on Mr UKBuses and creep up behind him squealing in his ear, Mr UKBuses did not find it funny, but the woman who was sitting outside the shop couldn't stop laughing.

South West Coaches Mercedes Benz Minibus

Cheers from The Pulpit!
It is now time to go to Portland Bill, and we are not sure if we would get there when a South West Coaches Mercedes-Benz minibus, pictured above, turns up operating the 12:00 journey on Service 22A: Weymouth - Portland Bill and we go a different route this year due to the Olympics due to take place in August. We arrive at Portland Bill at 12:40 so we have a bit of a break and decide to have a lunchtime pint at The Pulpit, see picture right (even the camera couldn't cope with the prices), after last years astonishing price, Mr UKBuses decides that it is my round so that he won't faint this year, we sit down in the big room overlooking the lighthouse and it is just before 13:00 so we make our back to the bus stop and catch an ex Plymouth Citybus Dennis Dart, pictured below, which takes us back to Weymouth, arriving at 13:40. When we arrive back at Lodmoor I have to rush to "The Lodmoor", a Brewers Fayre pub which is close to the rally site, which comes in useful as I am bursting for the toilet, whilst Mr UKBuses is on the rally site taking a few more photographs, I decide to have a sneaky pint before returning. After my pint goes down nicely I make my way back to the rally site and we catch South West Coaches Mercedes Minibus again on a mystery tour which is due to take about 50 minutes, we eventually took 1 hour and 30 minutes after the driver had to make a detour due to traffic problems en route which we went through Chickerell, Aylesbury and Burton Bradstock. We arrive back at the rally site and we catch an ex Stagecoach Devon Volvo B6LE (P701 BTA) which is operating the 15:20 journey on Service 23 to Bowleaze Cove, on the way back we decide to call it a day and get off at The Kings Statue and have a walk along the seafront back to The Alendale, with Mr UKBuses having an ice cream along the way.

Our bus to take us back from Portland Bill.

Cheers from The Clipper!
We return to The Alendale to have a bit of a rest and a freshen up before we have a night touring the pubs of Weymouth. I have my usual starter around the corner in "The Waterloo" whilst Mr UKBuses gets himself ready and when it is close to time to meet back up, I make my way back around the corner, but before I make my way back I get to say hello to The Alendale owners Denise and Jim who have returned back from their few days off. Our first stop is our usual J D Wetherspoons, "The William Henry", where we decide to grab some tea before we venture around the planned pubs for this evening, I surprise Mr UKBuses by having Scampi and Chips rather than my usual choice of meal. After our food has gone down, we decide to make a move and we walk around the corner and down the main High Street and decide to pop into an unplanned pub, which is "The Clipper" for a quick one before we enter our planned session, see picture left. We are surprised at how nice and relaxing The Clipper is and why we haven't used the place before, I think we have been put off previously by the rowdiness of some of the people that have used the pub when we have previously walked past, but it is a difference when we actually went inside. Drinks finished we move onto the next public house.

Next we walk down to the end of the High Street and walk across the bridge to get to our next couple of pubs. For the first one we walk up Trinity Terrace to get to "The Chapelhay", we walk inside and nothing has changed with all the marine memorabilia still adorning the ceiling and walls and the pub dog still going strong with the sound of the Coastguard radio in the background, the only thing that surprised me on this visit to The Chapelhay is at how quiet it seemed, at the time of our visit, we were the only people using the place and I felt sorry for that landlord that we had to leave to get us to our next pub. We had to finish our drinks off and make a move and we walked down Dorset Terrace and Chapelhay Street and past the old Weymouth Town Hall to get to another favourite of ours, "The Boot Inn", which is situated near the harbour just off a side street. We decide that the weather is still pleasant and decide to have a sit on the bench outside sitting next to a big porcelain boot outside of The Boot!

Drinks finished at The Boot, it is time to look for another of Mr WME's finds from last year "The Duke of Cornwall", so we make our way back across the bridge and into the small back streets around by the harbour, but after walking down so many side streets and not quite remembering where about it was (I had no map allowance!) we get ourselves on the right track when we spot "The Globe" and seeing as how Mr Wood enjoyed the place last night we decide to give up on the search of The Duke and pop into The Globe for some more Jail Ale. We are luckier tonight as we get the highly coveted bar seats so we enjoy the atmosphere and friendly nature of the local regulars, but the last night is nearly over and we have one more pub left to try so we return back to "The Cutter", which is located just around the corner from The Globe and surprisingly this year they had everything on tap that we asked for. We got talking to the landlord and after having a couple of pints it is time to say goodbye to the pubs of Weymouth for another year and we walk back along The Esplanade back to The Alendale for our final nights sleep in Weymouth.

Another good day out visiting the likes of Bowleaze Cove and Portland Bill on the classic bus rides on a dry and rather sunny day (improving on the rally's weather from last year), it will be a sad morning tomorrow as we have to pack our cases and say goodbye to the friendly atmosphere of Weymouth.
Date: Monday 18 June 2012

Its our last few hours in Weymouth before we get the train and return to the West Midlands, at least we console ourselves by enjoying our final cooked breakfast at The Alendale.

It is nearly time to leave Weymouth behind but at least before we leave, we get chance to have our final Alendale "gut-busting" breakfast to send us on our way. I make my way downstairs to have some "fresh air" before Mr UKBuses appears and when I arrive at our breakfast table, the host Moira has left me two cigarettes at my seating to say thanks for the one that I lent her yesterday afternoon in "The Waterloo", a nice touch for what have been nice hosts this weekend which has made our stay at The Alendale the more enjoyable, Moira and Jim do us proud by cooking us a large breakfast which will make us last until we return home. We devour our breakfasts and let it settle for a few minutes before we go to our rooms and ensure that everything is packed. Mr UKBuses and myself meet up downstairs and we sadly say goodbye to Moira and Bill and also to Denise and Jim. We now have a final walk up The Esplanade to The Kings Statue where we take some last day photographs at the bus stops and we make a final visit to J D Wetherspoons, "The William Henry" for a last pint in Weymouth before heading back to Weymouth Railway Station. The time that I dread each year is walking from The King's Statue to the Weymouth Railway Station, but it has to be done and we sluggishly walk down the streets leading to the station. I have chance to grab a "fresh air" break before we board our train and it is now time to sadly say goodbye to Weymouth as we board Stagecoach South West Trains 10:03 journey, which will take just under an hour and a half to reach our first destination of Southampton Central Railway Station and as we depart we wave a goodbye to Weymouth.

At 11:28, we arrive at Southampton Central and on the return journey I do get a chance to have a "fresh air" break here, so we make our way to the front of the station, but we have trouble getting out of the barriers with us trying all of our tickets, luckily a guard is nearby and after looking at the tickets, she lets us through and after the "fresh air" break is over, she is still by the barrier and kindly lets us back through. We have a couple of minutes before our Arriva CrossCountry train arrives, we board and after evicting a couple of people from our booked seats (they got off at the next station so we waited until then), we take our proper seats and rest for the rest of the journey with me raiding the buffet trolley a couple of times on the way back. After two and a half hours we arrive at Birmingham New Street at 14:18 where we promptly change platforms to get a train to Smethwick Galton Bridge where we change platforms again so that we can catch a  London Midland train to get us back to Stourbridge Junction. Upon arrival at Stourbridge Junction, we have a few minutes before "The Stourbridge Dodger" arrives so I make my way to the car park for a "fresh air" break, where we bump into Phil Tonks who has just finished his shift on "The Dodger" and comments on the Facebook check-ins we have made over the weekend. Break over, we make our way to Platform 1 where we board "The Dodger" which takes us the 0.8 miles back into Stourbridge Town Station and we walk over to the Stourbridge Interchange where we get the final journey of the day, National Express West Midlands service 276, which takes us on the final leg of the journey back home where we can unpack and get a bit of a rest after a long and sad journey back from Weymouth.

Overall it has been an enjoyable weekend with good company courtesy of Mr UKBuses, who I must give big thanks to for organising most of the week with the plans which is always appreciated and also a visit to old favourites and a big thank you goes out to Moira and Bill and also Denise and Jim from The Alendale - See you next year Weymouth, missing you already.

Friday, 20 July 2012

2012 - Day Out 12: Salisbury, Bournemouth and Swanage

Date: Saturday 16 June 2012

It is the second day of our weekend away in Weymouth, Dorset and after a good nights sleep at The Alendale, it is time to explore Dorset further afield as we visit quite a few towns and villages using our Explorer Day Tickets on First and Wilts and Dorset buses.

Our first bus ride of the day!
I wake up early so I decide to have a walk across the seafront up to The Kings Statue and get myself a newspaper from the local convenience store, walking back along the sea front enjoying the morning sea air to have a read before I meet up with Mr UKBuses for our first Alendale breakfast of this year. At 08.00 we take our seats at our breakfast table in the window and our host's Moira and Jim (Denise and Jim, the owners are away for a few days) greet us and take our order, Mr UKBuses opts for the standard English breakfast, but I opt for the Scottish breakfast complete with Potato Scones and Haggis. After devouring our breakfast we crawl back up the stairs to get ready for our tour of Dorset. We pay for our rooms before we leave for the day, and then make our way up The Esplanade in glorious sunshine (weather was wrong again) to The Kings Statue where we have time for a few photographs before catching our first bus of the day. Wilts and Dorset's service 183 to Blandford arrives , see picture left, and we board buying our Explorer Day Tickets (which can be used on both First in Dorset and Wilts and Dorset buses) and taking our seats upstairs before the bus pulls off at 09:10 giving us a chance to let our gut-busting breakfasts to go down. We make our way through Puddletown and Milborne St Andrew before arriving at Blandford. This is not our first destination of the day, this will be at the end of the next service which is service 184, which the bus that we are sitting on changes to, so we don't have to move from our seats.

We make our way from Blandford and arrive at Blandford Army Camp where a soldier boards and checks up and down stairs before we can move on from the entrance, I'm surprised that Mr UKBuses was not chucked off the bus as he is always looking suspicious. We spend the next five to ten minutes riding around the camp before arriving at the entrance, where unbeknown to me the soldier that checked the bus when we arrived was still on board, but he alights and opens the gates for us so that we can make our way onto our first destination. It has been nearly two hours since we boarded the bus, but at approximately 11:20 we arrive at our first destination, Salisbury - We won't be passing Stonehenge today but I did ask Mr UKBuses what it was like to be a part of the construction team, I cannot inform you of his reply. Mr UKBuses gets his camera out straight away, whilst I get my "fresh air" tablets out straight away and have a "break" whilst Mr UKBuses is snapping away. We make our way through the town, getting lost along the way but eventually we find the local Wilts and Dorset bus depot and after taking a few more photographs, we make our way into the Town Centre to have a little explore before heading back to the bus station to get to our next destination.

Wilts and Dorset's service X3 arrives and lays over for a few minutes before we can board, just in time as there are a few raindrops starting to fall, and at 12:10 we make our way to the next destination, Ringwood, home of the Ringwood Brewery, but we won't have time to sample any today as we are virtually just passing through. After a journey of forty minutes, we arrive at Ringwood, which is in fact across the border in Hampshire and with the brief rain shower now stopped, I get some more "fresh air" whilst Mr UKBuses crosses the road to take a few photographs. I cross the road to join him but as I cross the road he is nowhere to be seen and I walk up and down the street for about five to ten minutes looking for him, I return to the bus shelter and he suddenly appears saying he had been their all the time (but I doubt that). We only have a few minutes to wait before our next Wilts and Dorset bus turns up, which is service X6, a recently introduced Express service to Bournemouth. The bus turns up on time at 13:06, but departs the stop a few minutes late after an enquiring passenger holds up the driver. Despite this delay, we still arrive in Bournemouth for an impressive 13:32 and after taking a few photographs along Gervis Place we decide to have a quick one in J D Wetherspoons, "The Moon In The Square", Mr UKBuses does his usual trick by going to the toilet which means that I am the one having to pay for the round. Fortunately for me, this plan didn't work as when he came back from the toilet I was still waiting to be served and looking like it would be some time before we would get served, we decided that we wouldn't wait any longer and make our way along Gervis Place to our bus stop to wait for our open top bus to take us to our next destination.

Having a piddle in The White Swan, Swanage.
It is just after 14:00 and our Wilts and Dorset "Purbeck Breezer" service 50 arrives and we board taking our seats at the back of the open topper, which now as a door between the open top part and enclosed front part, but I wouldn't like to be sitting close to it as it had a nasty habit of swinging open quite quickly whilst en-route. We have a few minutes to wait before we are on our way and we make our way through Bournemouth and into Sandbanks (with a bit of sand getting into our eyes). We wait at Sandbanks for a few minutes for the ferry. We finally board and after a couple of minutes of swaying on the top deck, we decide to continue our journey on the bottom deck, which means that there won't be a chance for Mr UKBuses to be hit over the head with a tree branch, even though his Brylcreem needs to be taken back as his hair has moved!! We come off the Sandbanks ferry and carry on our journey with us reaching Swanage at 15:10 pulling up outside the Swanage Heritage Railway Station, we thank the driver even though it wasn't the pretty driver that we had last year - even though I did keep my eye out for her. We take a few photographs and walk down by the track to Wilts and Dorset's little depot and after taking a few more photographs we make our way back to the bus stop to get our next bus, which is where I see a flaw in Mr UKBuses plan, the next service is not until another half an hour with the summer timetable not actually yet in operation. We decide to have a walk into Swanage town and decide to have a quick pint in The White Swan where Mr UKBuses has a piddle and I have a pint of Piddle (which luckily was not the same thing), see picture right. After finishing our drinks we make our way back to the railway station where our next bus turns up, Wilts and Dorset's service 40, which departs at 16:05. The journey to our next destination takes just over an hour passing through Corfu Castle and Wareham before arriving at Poole at 17:15.

Whilst we wait in Poole we have time to take a few photographs at the bus station and we also have a walk around the corner to the Wilts and Dorset's Poole depot to take a few photographs, with buses being parked up ready to be cleaned for the next day's service. After a walk by the depot, we head back into Poole bus station where we will catch our bus back to Weymouth, and this will be the one and only time today that it will be a First in Dorset bus, but as we board the driver does allows us on as we explain that it is a Explorer ticket and at 17:40 we reverse out of Poole bus station and head back passing through Wareham and Preston before arriving at Weymouth at 18:50. We head back to The Alendale to have a freshen up before we hit the town. I tell Mr UKBuses to meet me in my regular, "The Waterloo" when he is ready and after I have a quick freshen up, I make my way around the corner to my regular and wait for Mr UKBuses. After about half an hour, Mr UKBuses arrives at The Waterloo and times it right as I am just about to go to the bar. Drinks purchased we sit down and he says that he doesn't mind The Waterloo after he thought that it wasn't a good choice when I discovered it a few years ago, but his mind has been changed. We finish our drinks and head up towards the town centre.

Our first stop in the town is a place that Mr WME discovered on our visit last year, "The Globe", and we sample the Jail Ale, there is no room at the bar so we take a seat in the corner. Mr UKBuses also enjoys this discovery and whilst we are in The Globe, we notice that there are a few deaf people that use the pub with a bit of sign language going on for a table discussion. After our visit to The Globe we also take a walk around the corner to another one of our favourites, "The Cutter", a pub that we nearly decide not to go in as the is a fracas going on outside as we near, but it soon dies down and we decide to enter. Mr UKBuses regrets this decision once he finds out that the pub is being host tonight to Karaoke, and even though I cannot tempt Mr UKBuses to get behind the microphone, I belt out a couple of tunes, mainly Metallica and even though we are about to go for a curry, I delay proceedings by about half an hour by belting out a few more of the heavier tunes of Metallica before we leave. After leaving The Cutter we make our way around to Chillies for our curry. After we have devoured our curry, we have a look at the First Depot which is virtually opposite, but we can not go for a drink in The Brownlow as we noticed that the pub has been boarded up as we went past it when we arrived on the train yesterday afternoon. After a look around the depot, we make our way back to The Alendale where Moira and Jim are still up, Mr UKBuses decides to retire, but me and Jim decide to have a nightcap around The Waterloo, but when we arrive it is closed, so Jim goes back to the guest house but I return to The Cutter to sing a few more tunes to the unsuspecting punters, I choose a couple of Metallica tunes, a couple of Bon Jovi tunes and a Robbie Williams tune before I decide to have a slow walk along the sea front with the new lasers lighting up the beach before returning to The Alendale for a good nights sleep, ready for the Weymouth Vintage Bus Running Day.

Another excellent day exploring Dorset followed by a tour of Weymouth and a return of "The Rog" to Karaoke, I enjoyed it even though I could hardly speak at the end of the night.

2012 - Day Out 11: Weymouth and Parkstone

Date: Friday 15 June 2012

It was that time of the year where we go for a mini-break to Weymouth which also coincides with the Vintage Bus Running Day held on a Sunday, giving us a couple of days to explore the Dorset area.

Our train to take us down south!
With the case packed, I make my way to Wollaston to get the first and what turns out to be the only bus of the day, National Express West Midlands service 276, which arrives on time at 07:56, I send the standard text to Mr UKBuses to let him know we are on the way, and at 08:02 the bus turns up at his stop, Mr UKBuses gets a bit of exercise in as I see him running to the bus stop so that he does not miss the bus. Mr UKBuses has a few minutes to get his breath back before we arrive at Stourbridge Interchange and change onto the "Stourbridge Dodger" to take us to Stourbridge Junction. We arrive and only have to wait a short while before a London Midland train arrives and takes us to Birmingham Snow Hill where we alight in time to have some breakfast. We decide to go to J D Wetherspoons, "The Square Peg" where we sample the delights of their Bacon Roll, we devour it as quick as it arrives just in case there is a certain Mr Tonks around. With breakfast over, we make our way to Birmingham New Street, stopping off along the way at W H Smith to get us some reading material for the journey ahead and also time for a quick "fresh air" break which I make the most of as I won't get another one until we arrive at Weymouth. It is nearly time for our train so we make our way down to the platform to catch the 10:03 Arriva CrossCountry service to Southampton Central, pictured left.

He thinks he is an Angel!
We take our seats and we are off ready for our weekend which looking at the BBC Weather website before we left it looks as if we are going to have a wet weekend. We pass through Oxford (with me saying hello to work colleagues as we pass Didcot Power Station), Reading and Winchester and after a journey of over two and a half hours we finally arrive in Southampton Central at 12:51. There is no time for a "fresh air" break, so we stay on the platform and stretch our legs but we have a little longer to wait as our connecting train is delayed. At 13:01 our Stagecoach South West train pulls up and we board and take our seats for the final leg of the journey which will take us just under an hour and a half passing through Bournemouth and Poole before arriving in Weymouth at 14:25, I leave Mr UKBuses in a cloud of dust, despite him trying to stop me getting off the train, as can be seen in the picture right looking like an "Angel with his halo", as I make my way to the front of Weymouth Railway Station so I can get a long overdue "fresh air" break, also it looks like the weather report was wrong for today as the sun is shining brightly in the sky. We have a few minutes around the station and we cross the road so we can look at First's depot in Weymouth before making our way to the seafront and across The Esplanade / Dorchester Road arriving at The Alendale to drop our cases off and have a quick freshen up.

Cheers! From The William Henry, Weymouth.
After a change of clothes and change of room between Mr UKBuses and myself (which meant that I had the same room that I had when we stayed here three years ago, which has since been refurbished) we decide to stay local this afternoon and have a walk around Weymouth Town Centre with us taking a few photographs around the main bus terminus at The Kings Statue and disaster strikes when I turn my camera on, I find out that the LCD screen on the back of my camera is broken, with a big black line down the middle and a big white spot along the top left hand corner, it looks like someone has either banged my camera or stood on my coat whilst it has been in my pocket, so the rest of the weekend it looks as if I will be pointing my camera and hoping for the best. I console myself by going into the nearest J D Wetherspoons which is right opposite, "The William Henry", where we sample our first pint's of the weekend and also decide to have a bite to eat with Mr UKBuses opting for his BBQ Chicken Melt - without the "melt", and myself opting for the Gammon and Chips. After we eat our food we have a few minutes to recover, as can be seen left, before heading back to the guest house to refreshen up ready for our evening away from Weymouth.

It takes a while for Mr UKBuses to finds his Brylcreem so I have a head start and head down to an old favourite public house of mine which is situated around the corner from the guesthouse and one that I haven't visited for a few years, "The Waterloo", where I have a pint before going back to the guesthouse where Mr UKBuses is finally ready. We make our way back to Weymouth Railway Station (not to go home), to catch a train to Parkstone, which is a journey time of just under forty minutes passing through Hamworthy (apparently there is a good chip shop there) and Poole along the way. We arrive at 18:47 and we plan to visit a couple of pubs in Parkstone, the first being "The Cow" , which is just a couple of steps away from the railway station. We have a couple of drinks in The Cow before moving to another pub, "The Bermuda Triangle", which we nearly get lost in along the way to find the place, we have a couple of more drinks in here watching England play on the big screen. Whilst in The Bermuda Triangle, I do pop out for some "fresh air" and Mr UKBuses is stood next to an open window, so he could have got another drink in and passed it me! It is time to make our way back to Weymouth, so we walk back through the lovely village of Parkstone and past The Cow to arrive at Parkstone Railway Station in time for our 21:35 train back to Weymouth, arriving just after 22:15 we make our way back to the guest house to get a good nights sleep ready for our tour of Dorset tomorrow, well Mr UKBuses does, I have a nightcap in The Waterloo before retiring.

An excellent if not relaxing first day in Weymouth, expecting it to be wet, the weather was quite good to us with the sun shining down on us all afternoon and evening, hopefully another couple of good days ahead.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

2012 - Day Out 10: London

Date: Saturday 19 May 2012

It is time to go to London again, and this will be the last time for a while, we are giving it a miss whilst the Olympics take place when London will be at full capacity. On today's trip we give a warm welcome back to Mr D9, his first trip of 2012 with us so the ARM's are back together at long last.

Its Midday according to Big Ben
It is an early start again and I make my way to Wollaston to catch the first National Express West Midlands Service 276 at 06.36am. The bus pulls up in the bus stop opposite at 06.34am, but the driver decides to get off and go for a walk and finally gets back on the bus and pulls up at the stop at 06.46am, leaving ten minutes late. I send the standard text to Mr UKBuses, who boards the bus at Norton, after taking his seat we stay on the bus passing through Stourbridge Interchange before arriving at Brook Road, our stop where we get off for a short walk to Stourbridge Junction. I have time for a quick "fresh air" break before we make our way to Platform 2 and after a short wait, our Chiltern Train arrives at 07.22am, strangely there are two trains on this service, so Mr UKBuses and myself board the second train behind and take our seats where we await the return of Mr D9, a text has been sent to board the second train behind. We arrive at The Hawthorns where Mr UKBuses decides to stand by the door to show Mr D9 where we are, but despite shouting at him, Mr D9 boards the train in front, at least he is on the train. Between The Hawthorns and Birmingham Snow Hill, contact is made and a quick train change is needed by Mr D9 at Snow Hill, it is my turn to stand by the doors, and Mr D9 makes a mad dash from the front of the train to our carriage on the second train, he looks like he is doing a 100m sprint, someone must have forgot to tell him that the Olympics are not for a couple of months yet!

With the group being back together and Mr D9 getting his breath back, we leave Birmingham Snow Hill and make our way to London Marylebone via Solihull and High Wycombe. Disaster strikes, just after we pass Solihull there is an announcement that we are being held up due to signal problems which eventually turns out to be an half hour wait, we pass the time by looking at old pictures of Stourbridge Bus Station in the 1970's to see if we can find the past reincarnation of Mr UKBuses, fortunately we did not see him, but we did not look at the pictures of "The Vauxhall", as he was more probably to show up on those pictures. We are on the move and we arrive at London Marylebone just under half hour later than scheduled, I make my way off the train and leave Mr D9 and Mr UKBuses for dust as I make my way outside to get some "fresh air" which was long overdue. "Fresh air" break over and with Mr D9 with his London One Day Travelcard and Mr UKBuses and myself with our OysterCards at the ready, we make our way onto the London Underground.

The Blackwall Fire Station used in Londons Burning
First of all we make our way from London Marylebone to Baker Street on the Bakerloo Line, which we could have walked as I found out on a previous trip to London that it is quicker to walk to the next station avoiding the long escalators. Our first journey on the underground is well underway, and we change at Baker Street onto the Jubilee Line and make our way to the second destination of the day (to make up time we miss out our planned London Bridge stop) which is Bermondsey, Mr D9 is pleased as he said that this was the first time that he has actually sat down on a tube train. We arrive at Bermondsey and make our way to ground and turn left down Jamaica Road, where Mr D9 and myself decide to "The Lambeth Walk" as well as singing over some other cockney songs along the way. We arrive at our destination, this being the filming location for The "London's Burning" TV Series, Dockhead Fire Station, which doubles up as Blackwall Fire Station, see picture right, in the TV Series. Pictures taken from the front and back of the station, we make our way to the main road where we luckily catch Stagecoach London Service 47 to Liverpool Street Station, along the way we pass a big crowd of West Ham football supporters, with Mr D9 standing up on the top deck and shouting "Chelsea" out of the window at them, luckily the bus does not stop and we avoid a riot.

Mr D9 and Big Ben
We arrive at Liverpool Street Station, and seemingly we are back on schedule, we catch a London Overground train to Whitechapel where we introduce Mr D9 to our London Regular, "The Blind Beggar", Mr UKBuses reminds me that I am buying the first round, so we make our way out of Whitechapel Tube Station and make our usual turn left to take us to our regular. It seems that Mr D9 won't get to sample our regular as it is not open and as it is just before 11.30am, it doesn't look like it will be opening within the next half-hour, so we make our way back to Whitechapel Tube Station where we have a short wait for a District Line train which takes us to Westminster. We arrive at Westminster Tube Station and make our way to ground where Mr D9 is greeted to Big Ben standing proud in front of him (I'm talking about the clock tower!!!), Mr D9 gets his picture taken in front of Big Ben, see picture left, and after the photograph is taken, Mr D9 gets a few shots of the old telephone boxes in the Westminster area, I didn't realise that they were different types, Mr D9 explains the differences along the way as we walk up Whitehall, passing Downing Street and the Horse Guard Parade along the way before we reach our lunchtime destination, J D Wetherspoons "Lord Moon of The Mall" but as we arrive the place is packed with no seats available, we make our way across the road to "The Silver Cross", a pub that we have visited before with Mr WME, but after looking at the price hike on the menu's we decide to leave and make our way to Victoria. We catch London General's Service 24, which takes us back to where we have just come from, it is not long before we arrive at Victoria and we make our way to the second J D Wetherspoons (and a favourite of ours) of the day "The Willow Walk". Mr UKBuses informs me that it is my round, but despite stating that the first round was at The Blind Beggar (wasn't my fault that it wasn't open), he was still insisting that my round is first. As we walk in, the place is packed and there are no seats available again, but we decide to have a drink, with me buying!!! As we start our drinks we keep our eyes peeled for a table to become free, I spot one and try to keep it safe, but when I look around, Mr D9 and Mr UKBuses have disappeared, they have found another table. We take our seats and look at the menu and food is ordered. Mr D9 opts for a gourmet burger, which arrives on a Wooden chopping board, Mr UKBuses has his BBQ Chicken Melt without the Melt and I opt for a Skinny Chicken Burger but I didn't read the menu properly as it arrives with just salad and no chips. We have one more drink before we leave, with Mr D9 paying for the round.

Sun Hill Police Station
We have a change of plan to get to our next destination, so we enter Victoria Underground Station and board a District Line train to Wimbledon Station, changing at Earl's Court Underground Station along the way, a station which we have never visited before and it does have an old feel to it. We arrive at Wimbledon  Station and it is straight onto the Croyden Tram Link where we alight at Mordon Road to get us to the next filming location of the day. It has been over two years since The Bill has stopped filming, but at the studios, the facade of Sun Hill Police Station still exists, minus the signs, see picture right. After taking photographs, Mr D9 and myself decide to use a footpath nearby where the bushes come in handy for the drinks that we had at The Willow Walk, after our unplanned bladder stop we make our way back to the Mordon Road Tram Stop and catch the Croyden Tramlink back to Wimbledon, where leave the station for an unplanned "fresh air" break. After the break, we make our way back into Wimbledon Station where we catch the District Line train back to Victoria and upon arrival we are in time for the planned "Borismaster", we wait and wait and the "Borismaster" does not show, so we catch a normal Arriva London service 38 to Tottenham Court Road Tube Station, but on our way there we see the "Borismaster" going in the opposite direction, it seems to be eluding us but I am sure that we will get to sample it in the future. We arrive close to Tottenham Court Road Tube Station, but we cannot see it, so instead we have a walk to Holburn Tube Station where we catch a Picadilly Line service to Baker Street, where we change to the Bakerloo Line back to London Marylebone, Mr UKBuses has the right seat though, see picture below.

The priority seat for the elderly.
Upon arrival at the station we notice that we have a bit of time before our planned train, so we visit the public house situated in the station, Mr UKBuses thought that he was going to escape buying a round today, but I bet he wishes that he purchased the first round at The Willow Walk as he ends up paying the most expensive round of the day, costing nearly twice as much as what Mr D9 and myself paid out earlier for our rounds. After supping our drinks, I have a "fresh air" break ahead of our journey and we board the 17.24pm Chiltern Railways service back to Birmingham, luckily we get a table seat right at the back of the train just before loads of Blackpool Football Club supporters board blocking the gangways for the journey ahead, the train does an unexpected stop at Wembley Station to pick up some more. We arrive back at Birmingham and change at Birmingham Moor Street, where after another "fresh air" break and bladder stop, we change platforms and catch the London Midland train back to Stourbridge Junction, as we near The Hawthorns we say goodbye to Mr D9, with Mr UKBuses and myself arriving back at Stourbridge Junction changing platforms to catch the "Stourbridge Dodger" being driven by Bridge Radio DJ Phil Tonks, ensuring a safe journey for the 0.8 miles of track into Stourbridge Interchange. From there we catch Black Diamond's Service 276C back home saying goodbye to Mr UKBuses along the way.

It was a good day out thanks to the good company of Mr UKBuses and Mr D9, and it was all possible thanks to the excellent plan that Mr UKBuses came up with. It's goodbye to London for a while, but I'm sure that we will be back later in 2012.

Andy's Bald Cranium (ABC)

Bald Spot 1 - On the tube

Bald Spot 1: An early shot of the bald spot is captured as we board our tube train towards Bermondsay.

Bald Spot 2 - Opposite Big Ben

Bald Spot 2: The bald spot is captured opposite Big Ben.

Bald Spot 3 - By the Cenotaph.

Bald Spot 3: The bald spot is pictured close to the Cenotaph, this was taken with the kind distraction from Mr UKBuses.

Bald Spot 4 - The Bald Spot meets the Prime Minister.

Bald Spot 4: The bald spot is making an appearance for the Prime Minister at Downing Street.