Sunday, 22 September 2013

2013 - Day Out 10: Showbus International

Date: Sunday 22 September 2013

This year the biggest bus rally in Europe was being held in central England, with the destination being Long Marston Airfield which is close to Stratford-Upon-Avon and it also meant that it was a cheaper admission fee to pay.

Showbus 2013
 Mr UKBuses is kindly on driving duties today and just after 08:30am he picks me up from home and as I get into the car and belted up, away we go. There is no need for maps or directions today as he has a woman giving him directions (well a woman's voice on the SatNav) so as we head out of Oldswinford and through Hagley and Bell End, we make our way to the big traffic island at Junction 4 of the M5 Motorway where we are told to "take the next left", Mr UKBuses follows the instructions given saying thanks to the woman after each instruction (I didn't want to tell him that there isn't a dwarf woman inside the plastic case telling him where to go). We are not on the M5 for long as we split off and join the M42 to get us to Stratford-Upon-Avon, we do have to have a little spin on the M40 before we arrive there. As we leave the motorway, we make our way through Stratford-Upon-Avon and then it is only a few miles to go until we get to Long Marston Airfield, but the woman gets us lost and sends us a different way, I knew he should have chosen a man's voice as I knew a woman would get us lost. We do finally get on the right road and arrive at Long Marston after a drive of approximately one hour.

We make our way into the airfield and I pay our admission fees to get us into Showbus (Only fair as Mr UKBuses is driving and using his fuel), after we have paid, we are directed to the car park (well a field) where we are shown where to park, Mr UKBuses decides to nearly run over the marshal as he backs into the space to get out easier. Parked up, we make our way from the car park to the show, but then I realise something about the parking, the way everyone else is parked, Mr UKBuses would have had to reverse out of his space, so we go back to the car and he turns it round to leave in the right direction (no wonder the marshal was giving him a funny look!). With the car the right way we now make our way to the showground and as we have arrived early we decide to check on the stalls first to see what we can find, well that's if Mr UKBuses would stop thinking it was a disco as he seemed to be dancing to "Kung-Fu Fighting" most of the time, this was due to a large number of wasps that were flying around the airfield. I did find a few photographs including a rarely spotted scene in Wollaston Farm with a Midland Red D9 operating the local S53 service. Stalls scouted and Mr UKBuses legs aching we head back to the car for a break before looking at the buses on display today, but we did make a diversion to a Routemaster kitted out with a grill for a bacon roll (Phil Tonks would be proud), we took this back to the car and ate and rested for a bit.

Foxy Bingo! Carol showing off her gongs!

Break over and we make our way back to the showground to have a look at the buses and take some photographs. Bizarrely there are two different sections where the buses and coaches are being exhibited one area close to the car park and another area which seems like a mile away, we have a look around the buses and coaches parked up by the car park first with Mr UKBuses clicking away on his camera. Whilst looking around we decide to have a break before going to the other area and I have found a place to have a good rest, the bar! Before resting we have a look around the coaches where I spot the coach that is used in the Foxy Bingo adverts (See picture above left) and I also see a special liveried National Express Coach which has a big picture of Carol Vorderman with her gongs out, sorry it was her holding some Pride of Britain awards (See picture above right). The coach section finished we have a little rest in the bar, well Mr UKBuses decides to pop in their first as we lose each other whilst taking photo's, I spot him coming out as their was no way that he would put his hand in his pocket to buy the round! Mr UKBuses has a coke seeing as he is driving and I opt for a pint of Magner's Draught Cider, there was bitter available but I wasn't keen on this as it was smoothpour (see picture right). We rested our feet under cover at the bar, but we still were being joined by the wasps!

Who is this bloke?
With the rest break over, we make the walk to the other area where the buses are parked up and this area is the one I like as it is playing host to many vehicles from the Midlands. We start clicking away with our cameras and also in this section are a few buses that we have seen and sampled a ride on from previous visits to the Weymouth and Torbay Vintage Bus Running Days. We make our way around the airfield looking at Midland Red D9's, S23's and 101 - Midland Red's first Leyland National, also in this area we come across old WMPTE Fleetlines, MCW Metrobuses and BCT Daimler's as well as current vehicles in the National Express West Midlands fleet. Even though I got some good shots, some bloke kept getting in my way (See picture left). After loads of clicking camera's, we have a last look at the stalls before another visit to the bar (and the wasps) to give our now aching feet a well deserved rest for a few minutes before making our way back home.

Just before 15:00 we get in the car and as we leave the airfield, sitting at the entrance is "Mad Ron", so we shout our hello's and goodbye's out of the window at him before making our way through a now busier Stratford-Upon-Avon and a trio of motorways to arrive back at Stourbridge, where Mr UKBuses takes a little detour to kindly drop me off at for a quick liquid refreshment before heading back home.

A good day was had, with the weather being good for us and we didn't have to travel too far to get to the rally and back, and we had good company with the wasps turning out for us. A shame that Showbus will be returning to Duxford War Museum next year. I nearly forgot, there were some bald spots at Long Marston:

Bald Spot 1 at Showbus 2013

Bald Spot makes an appearance for Central Buses.

Bald Spot 2 at Showbus 2013

Bald Spot makes an appearance before a rest in the bar.

Bald Spot 3 at Showbus 2013

The Bald Spot can clearly be seen making appearance for Midland Red.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

2013 - Day Out 09: Manchester

Date: Saturday 07 September 2013

It is time to go further afield and we decide to visit a new location. I meet up with Mr UKBuses and make our way to Wolverhampton before getting the train to make our way to Manchester.

Welcome to Manchester
Its 07:36 and our first journey of the day is about to start and I board National Express West Midlands Service 276, sending Mr UKBuses the standard text to say that the bus is on its way and as we head around Norton Mr UKBuses duly boards and we make our way to Stourbridge Interchange to wait for our next bus. As there aren't many early morning journeys on Saturdays direct to Wolverhampton we have to catch National Express West Midlands Service 246 to Dudley, where upon arrival we don't have long to wait before the National Express West Midlands Service 126 arrives and at 08:36 we depart on our way to Wolverhampton. Along the way and very close to Wolverhampton disaster strikes, the ABS brakes fail on the bus we are travelling on so we have to alight and wait for the next service 126 to arrive, which is only ten minutes which means I can have some "fresh air" and Mr UKBuses also reminds me it was his birthday the other day (sorry Mr UKBuses - Happy Birthday you "Old Git"!). Our next 126 arrives and takes us on the now short journey arriving at Wolverhampton Bus Station a little later than planned.

Upon arrival we make our way across the new footbridge to the Wolverhampton Railway Station, but before we do, it is time for some "fresh air" before making our way to the platform via W H Smiths for some liquid refreshments. We have just over ten minutes to wait before our train arrives and the platform guard keeps us occupied with her pleasant smile. At 09:49 our Arriva CrossCountry train arrives at Platform 1 and we board and get our seats to make ourselves comfy for the journey to Manchester. The train departs and just as we come out of Wolverhampton disaster strikes, we are stuck on the track due to a points problem up ahead on the line. We are stuck in the same spot for about half an hour before we are back on the move and we make our way through Stafford, Stone and Stockport before arriving late in Manchester, but I think the train may have a problem also until I find out that it is Mr UKBuses who is having a nap and making a loud snoring noise! We walk along the platform to the concourse and we now have to buy our day ticket, a One DaySaver ticket which covers travel on bus, rail and trams in Manchester, but after walking twice around Manchester Piccadilly Station we end up where we started before we spot where we have to get them from.

With more time wasted we quickly make our way to the platform for the Manchester tram which once we alight we have to go one stop and as we depart the main railway station we start to see the sights of Manchester City and after a few minutes on board we alight our tram at Piccadilly Gardens, a big public square where buses and trams terminate and stop so this is a good photo taking spot and a good welcome to the city. As we are running late we decide it is time to have lunch, with our J D Wetherspoons located in the area we search for it, and search for it, and search for it and after walking around five different streets we give in and ask a man standing outside of another bar. He points us in the right direction and we eventually spot it and find out that we must have walked straight past it two or three times. We enter "Wetherspoons Piccadilly", and it is quite busy, so Mr UKBuses finds a table whilst I wait at the bar to get served. It is a while for me to get served and it doesn't help when the barman keeps asking customers for ID, I finally get served and order a "Spitting Feathers", which is what describes my mood when the same barman asks me for ID!!! Seeing as I'm in my mid thirties I don't carry any ID on me so after showing him my bank cards with my name on, he says he can't accept them, I then produce my CAMRA card which has the same name on and explain that I wouldn't be able to be a CAMRA member if I was underage so he agrees and pours the drinks. I take the drinks to the table and we choose our lunch, Mr UKBuses orders his usual BBQ Chicken Melt without the melt and I opt for the Gammon, Mr UKBuses thankfully agrees to order the food after my experience at the bar previously. The food doesn't take too long to arrive and despite the staff, the food was brilliant and went down quickly.

The BBC at MediaCity UK
To catch up, we decide to head out to get the tram to our next destination and we board at Piccadilly Gardens and go a couple of stops to Shudehill, another interchange between trams and buses so more photographs could be taken at this location. We don't spend a lot of time here so we can catch up after our delay at Wolverhampton earlier, so we head back onto the tram and alight at St Peters Square where we have a little walk and toilet break before arriving at Albert Square (and no there wasn't a sighting of Phil Mitchell or Alfie Moon!!!) to catch our first Manchester bus of the day. We don't have long to wait before our Stagecoach Manchester Service 50 turns up and takes us on a journey of approximately 20 minutes to the Harbour City tram stop, we actually alight a stop before (Mr UKBuses Map Allowance has not been paid!!) and have a short walk to the tram stop. We just miss our tram so "fresh air" is taken before our tram turns up and takes us one stop to MediaCity UK, which is the location where most of the BBC production has moved to and soon will also be the new home of the ITV Studios, across the water replacing the old "Granada TV" Studios a few miles away, this will also be the new home of a newly built Coronation Street set.

Cheers! From The Lime
We have a walk around MediaCity and also have a quick look around the Imperial War Museum North, having a look at the displays from past wars that Great Britain have been involved with. After our museum tour, we decide to make our way back across the water passing the BBC studios and decide to have a liquid refreshment break, we find a place called "Lime" a bar / restaurant. I'm informed when we get to the bar that the first round I purchased was Mr UKBuses birthday drink so it is my round here also. A pint of Fosters for Mr UKBuses and a pint of Bitter for me works out at £6.90, no wonder he wanted to miss out on this round!!!! We rest our feet and decide to savour the drinks (especially at those prices) before making our move to get back to the city centre. We deviate from the plan and decide to catch the Stagecoach Manchester Service 50, we keep an eye out for the Granada TV Studios on the way back, but with no luck we alight at Albert Square (Still no sign of Phil or Alfie), and take a walk up to Piccadilly Gardens where more photographs are taken.

Whilst Mr UKBuses finishes off his photo taking, I get some refreshments fro the train journey back and we board our final tram of the day and alight at Manchester Piccadilly Railway Station. We have time to have some food before our train is due to depart so we head to Burger King. I ask for a plain beefburger and when I am served and about to eat, I find out that I have relish and gherkins all over my burger, so I head back to Burgerking to complain and get a replacement, they change it but the manager tries to charge me again because they had to throw my original burger away, I refused to pay and the manager gives me my replacement begrudgingly after I tell him that it was the person who originally served me for giving me the wrong food. We take our seats and eat our food. We have a bit of time left and I decide to have a quick drink in "The Balcony Bar" located inside the railway station meeting back up with Mr UKBuses after the pint is finished, the barman recognises my accent and reveals he is from Walsall originally, this is the only person today who has served me who seems to have good customer service.

We make our way to the platform to get our train back to Wolverhampton, at 17:06 our Arriva CrossCountry train departs and it doesn't seem that we are on the train long when we arrive at Wolverhampton at 18:15. Upon arrival we walk to the bus station and get our National Express West Midlands service 126 which departs at 18:40 and arrives in Dudley at 19:10 which gives us 5 minutes waiting time for our last bus of the day. At 19:15 we board National Express West Midlands Service 276 and for me (Mr UKBuses just misses out) I travel the entire route from Dudley to Wollaston, alighting at 20:18 and I head to San Wu House (my normal Chinese is closed due to holidays) for a hot Singapore Chow Mein to devour when I get back home.

A good day out was had with good company and a good first visit was had to Manchester, not the top of my location list, due to bad customer service in Manchester, but would return for a further investigation of the area and below are the bald spots caught whilst out touring Manchester.

The bald spot at Picadilly Gardens.

The bald spot is caught at Piccadilly Gardens.

The bald spot at MediaCity UK.

The bald spot is having a look around MediaCity UK.