Saturday, 21 November 2015

2015 - Day Out 17: Liverpool

Following on from our weekend break in London, it is time to go back on the coaches and this time Greenline Coaches will be taking Mr UKBuses and myself to Liverpool on what will be our last coach trip of 2015.

The Albert Docks
Time to go and catch the coach, so I make my way to Wollaston, where just after 07.30am, I board National Express West Midlands service 276 leaving on time, so I send a text to Mr UKBuses to tell him that we are on the way. Mr UKBuses boards at Norton and we make our way to Stourbridge, alighting at Stourbridge Interchange. A quick visit is had by Mr UKBuses to the cash point to top up his ever bulging wallet and we make our way to the pick up point in Birmingham Street where "fresh air" is had while waiting. It is getting cold as there is a sharp wind blowing so to hurry up the coach, I have some more "fresh air" and as I finish my break, the Greenline mini coach "Herbie" arrives. We board and take our seats and get ourselves warm. We are waiting for a few people still and after waiting ten minutes extra and the coach driver trying to contact the missing passengers, the coach driver is about to pull off until he sees a group of people running towards the coach (they waited at the ring road bus stop, the other side of Stourbridge). With all our passengers on board, we make our way to Colley Gate, where a few more passengers board, before making our way to Dudley, where we change onto the main coach.

Bram, Our Coach
We depart from Dudley just after 09.00am and we make our way through Bilston and onto the M6 motorway heading north, bypassing Stafford and Stoke on Trent. As we head further north, the coach driver pulls of the motorway at Sandbach Services, where after a comfort break, Mr UKBuses decides to wait in the queue for his McDonald's, whilst I pop next door where I have a BLT sandwich, which I have almost eaten by the time Mr UKBuses gets served and joins me. A "fresh air" break is had before we board the coach to complete our journey, once we take our seats and wait again for the same missing passengers earlier, we head back onto the M6 motorway and after passing Warrington, we turn off onto the M62 motorway which gets us to Liverpool, arriving at our drop off point, The Albert Docks, just before 11.30am, see picture above left. We alight our coach "Bram",see picture right, before we make our way into the city, a "fresh air" break is had.

We don't have far to walk and we make our way out of the docks and virtually opposite is Liverpool One, one of the main bus stations in Liverpool. After a few photographs are taken, we make our way to the travel centre situated in the bus station, where we purchase our Savaway All Areas day ticket. After asking for our day ticket, we are presented with a smartcard, The Walrus, which Merseytravel have recently introduced, so instead of showing the bus drivers our paper ticket, we just simply scan our card upon boarding our buses.

The Roscoe Head
Our first destination in Liverpool (and to get out of the cold), we catch a Stagecoach Merseyside service 86 bus which takes us from Liverpool One, through the city centre streets, where, as we reach Renshaw Street, we alight, and have a short walk into a side street and have a little warm in "The Roscoe Head", see picture left. This pub is under threat of closure with a campaign from the regulars to try and keep it open. After sampling the Roscoe Head, I can understand why they want to save it from closure, the bar staff are pleasant and friendly, it is an old fashioned pub with different rooms, if it wasn't for visiting other places in Liverpool, I could have stayed in The Roscoe Head for a few hours. After we finish our drinks we do have to go back out into the cold and make our way around the corner again into Renshaw Street, where as we arrive at the bus stop another Stagecoach Merseyside service 86 pull sup, so we board and we make our way back to Liverpool One.

Arriva Birkenhead Bus Depot
We alight at Liverpool One, where we decide to get a few more photographs. Our next destination is Birkenhead, the other side of the River Mersey. Looking at the time, we wouldn't be able to get to Pier Head to catch the famous ferry, so we have a walk through the main city centre streets, which are quite busy in the run up to Christmas. We arrive at Whitechapel, and get confused when we see a destination of Tower Hill on the buses going past, thinking that we are in London, rather than Liverpool. We have a few minutes wait and we board another Stagecoach Merseyside bus, Service 1 which takes us from Liverpool to Birkenhead bus station going underneath the River Mersey through the Queensway Tunnel. We alight at Birkenhead Bus Station and just miss our next bus, so have about twenty minutes to wait for our next bus. Whilst Mr UKBuses is taking a few photographs, I go in search of a toilet as the pint in The Roscoe Head has taken it's toll. I do find one which is out of order, so make my way back into the bus station after being pestered by a TalkTalk broadband man and take our place in the queue for our next bus. Our Arriva North West Bus pulls up and we board service 407, where after ten minutes we alight just past Mallaby Street and cross the road to take some photographs of the Arriva North Birkenhead Bus Depot, see picture right. After taking some photographs, we make our way to the bus stop where we see a Arriva North West Service 437 bus pull out of Mallaby Street, so a quick dash to the bus stop is taken, which we need not have done as their was a driver change about to take place. We take our seats and shortly arrive back at Birkenhead Bus Station.

The MacKenzie
Time for a warm again, so we decide to have a walk from the bus station past the J D Wetherpsoons (yes, Mr UKBuses did walk past!) and up Claughton Road, where after about five minutes we arrive at "The Mackenzie", see picture left, a pub we have been in before and after a few years away, the place hasn't changed. There are no real ales on, so a John Smith's Smoothpour is chosen and Mr UKBuses has a Guinness. Whilst Mr UKBuses is ordering I go for a long overdue comfort break, which was made worse between the depot and The Mackenzie with the now freezing winds. After watching a bit of football and resting our legs, we make our way back out into the cold and back to Birkenhead Bus Station, via the Pyramids Shopping Centre and being pestered again by a different TalkTalk Broadband person and also where Mr UKBuses makes another visit to the cash machine (twice in one day!). Instead of catching the bus to the ferry terminal at Seacombe, we decide to miss out the ferry due to the cold wind and get the bus back to Liverpool. We board a Stagecoach Gold Service 2 and head back under the River Mersey and back into Liverpool, alighting at Sir Thomas Street. We are getting a bit peckish now, so we make our way around the corner and into Queens Square, passing through the bus station and into the main shopping centre, where we decide to rest our feet and have something to eat at J D Wetherspoons "The Fall Well". Before we go to the bar, we decide to have a look around first to see if there are any tables available as the pub is quite full, we do luckily get a table towards the back after we spot someone leaving. We have a look at the menu and Mr UKBuses goes for the BBQ Chicken melt "without the melt" and a pint of Guinness and myself, I opt for the Gammon and a pint of real ale. I head towards the bar where it is taking ages to get served, but I eventually get served and somehow I end up with two pints of ale and a pint of Guinness, even though I have only ordered one real ale. As my pint was a porter and looks the same as Guinness, Mr UKBuses thinks he has an extra pint!! We wait about fifteen minutes and there is confusion and our meals are offered to someone else, as close by is another table with the same number as ours. We do eventually get our food and tuck in. With us fed and watered, we decide to make our way back outside.

We leave the Fall Well behind and make our way back through the busy shopping centre and back to Liverpool One, it is now too dark to take any photographs, so we head straight towards The Albert Docks and have about forty-five minutes to wait for our coach to pick us up. Mr UKBuses wants to go to "The Beatles Story" shop so he may be able to pick up a Christmas present, so we make our way around to the shop and after having a little look around, Mr UKBuses decides not to get a present after seeing the prices and nearly fainting. We leave the shop behind and still have a while to wait, so we head into the warmth and a few doors away there is a pub / restaurant which we decide to rest our feet. We head into the "Circo" Bar and Restaurant and I decide to nearly faint when it is my round and despite only having a pint and a soft drink, the round comes to over £6. We take a seat overlooking the Albert Docks and before leaving I make sure that every drop is drunk out of the glass. We head back out and around the corner where our coach is waiting. A "fresh air" break is had before we board and we take our seats and get warm again. There are a few people left to board and a few minutes after we are supposed to have departed, the missing passengers (guess who?) turn up and we are on our way.

We head back out of Liverpool and back onto the M62 motorway and eventually back onto the M6 motorway, bound for the West Midlands. There has been an accident further ahead along the motorway, so as we battle our way through the traffic, Mark, our coach driver decides to quickly pull into Knutsford Services so anyone could have a quick comfort break. I opt for a "fresh air" break and board the coach and we are waiting for our favourite passengers again before we head back out onto the M6 motorway, where the traffic is moving more quickly now. We head back towards the West Midlands and are nearing Stoke On Trent where the coach driver decides to have a proper break now and we pull into Keele Services where we have about twenty minutes to stretch our legs. "Fresh air" is had and we board our coach again, where our favourite passengers are yet again late coming back to the coach. We head back onto the motorway and alight at Junction 10, where we head to Dudley arriving at 07.50pm. We change back onto the mini coach, "Herbie" again and yet again even though we are just changing coaches, our favourite passengers take there time. After they board we make our way through to Colley Gate and back to Stourbridge where we alight in Birmingham Street. Luckily this time we have plenty of time to walk up to Stourbridge Interchange and also some more "fresh air" is had along the way. We board the National Express West Midlands service 276 at 08.35pm, saying goodbye to Mr UKBuses when he alights at Norton and I carry on to Wollaston where I alight and have a nightcap or two at "Grahams Place" and "The Unicorn" before getting back home to rest my legs. 

Despite a freezing cold wind, another great day out was had in Merseyside, with thanks to Greenline Coaches, our coach driver Mark and the company of Mr UKBuses, speaking of Mr UKBuses, his bald spot made an appearance in the cold weather:

Bald Spot 1

Bald Spot 1: The Bald Spot causes glaring issues at The Albert Docks.

Bald Spot 2

Bald Spot 2: The Bald Spot tries to hide at Arriva Birkenhead Bus Depot

Monday, 9 November 2015

2015 - Day Out 16: Return from London

Its our final morning in London and we wake up for the last time this year at Travelodge Docklands hotel and enjoy our last breakfast before making our way back to the West Midlands.

Travelodge Docklands Hotel
After making sure everything is packed, I make my way downstairs for some "fresh air" before Mr UKBuses surfaces and we make our way into the Bar Cafe where we fill up with a large breakfast to ensure we are full until we get back to the West Midlands. With a table chosen it is time to get our food and Mr UKBuses spends a few minutes again at the coffee machine and I think today he has got the hang of it. Whilst he is messing about with the coffee machine, I make my way to the food and load my plate up with bacon, sausage, beans and hash browns and make my way to the table. Mr UKBuses gets his plate filled up and we eat our breakfast. With my main breakfast out of the way, it is time to wash it down with some more apple juice and a few yoghurt's. Whilst Mr UKBuses finishes his breakfast off, I go outside for some "fresh air" before making my way back in. It is nearly time to leave and we make our way back to the rooms and make sure that everything is packed. I say goodbye to my room and make my way down to reception and check out. Time for a quick break of "fresh air" whilst waiting for Mr UKBuses and he checks out and we make our way to East India DLR station saying goodbye to Travelodge Docklands, see picture left.

We climb the stairs for the last time this year and tap in and make our way to the platform where after a few minutes we catch our DLR train to Canning Town, where we change onto The Underground and onto the Jubilee Line where we board a packed train. Luckily we do get chance to sit down for a few stops before we alight at Green Park, where we change onto the Victoria Line and catch our final tube this year to Victoria station where we alight and tap out. We make our way to ground, where Mr UKBuses asks if I want some "fresh air", only because he wants me to look after his bag whilst he goes around Victoria bus station to get a few photographs. Mr UKBuses has been gone for a while and expecting him to come around the corner, he pops up behind me as he has been in the station to get an extra OysterCard for when he comes down with family. Its time to say goodbye to London and we make our way to Buckingham Palace Road, where after a few minutes waiting at the bus stop, we board a London General service 11 bus. We don't have to go to far before we arrive at our stop and we alight at the same stop that we caught our first bus from on Friday, so you could say that we have come full circle and now is the time to leave London.

Victoria Coach Station
We are at Victoria Coach Station, see picture right, it is a bit different this time as we have to go in the main departure building and after getting some liquid refreshment for the journey back, we find out where we have to depart from. Once we find out, we make our way to Gate 14 and have a rest before our journey. With the coach due to arrive soon, I decide to get some "fresh air" leaving Mr UKBuses looking after the luggage this time. I make my way back to gate 14 and we still have about fifteen minutes to wait. A young girl comes running around the corner trying to get out but as the doors are locked she starts to panic but eventually she does get the attention a member of staff and luckily she does get to board her coach, a few seconds before it was about to drive off. It is nearly 11:00am and our coach is ready to board, we show our tickets to the driver who loads our luggage and we board our National Express Coach, this time taking the back seat as the front seat was unavailable due to a passenger deciding to leave his luggage there and using the seat opposite!

Just after 11:00am, we depart Victoria Coach Station and make our way through the streets of London and I follow suit as a fellow passenger takes his shoes off, so I take my boots off. After about 40 minutes we make a stop at Golders Green Underground Station, where a few more passengers board and then we make our way out of London and onto the M1 Motorway. Mr UKBuses decides to have a nap so he misses out on passing through Milton Keynes and Coventry and just before Birmingham, he wakes up just in time to alight when we arrive at Birmingham Coach Station at 13:50pm. With our luggage, we make our way to the bus stop and this time catch a National Express West Midlands service 60 bus from Digbeth to the Bull Ring where upon arrival, I forget we are not in London anymore and try to make my way to the non-existent central doors. After finally getting off our bus, we make our way around to Birmingham Moor Street Railway Station, where a late running train means we are able to board and get to Stourbridge a bit quicker.

We make our way through Birmingham Snow Hill, Jewellery Quarter, Smethwick Galton Bridge, Rowley Regis and Cradley Heath before arriving at Stourbridge Junction just shy of 14:30pm. Mr UKBuses has a lift, but I decide to pop into Stourbridge so I can visit the bank and also have a post-trip pint at JD Wetherspoons, "The Chequers Inn", so after saying goodbye to Mr UKBuses, I make my way to Platform 1 where I don't have to wait long for the Stourbridge Shuttle, where upon arrival at Stourbridge Interchange, I make my way to Stourbridge High Street and have a relaxing pint. On my way back to Stourbridge Interchange, I spot a Hanson's Service 250 coming down the High Street, so quickly make my way to the bus stop where I board and catch the bus into Wollaston, where after another quick pint of Batham's at "The Unicorn", I make my way home where I give my legs a well deserved rest.

Another great break was had in the Capital and a big thankyou to Mr UKBuses, as the break wouldn't have been possible without the planning by Mr UKBuses. Speaking of Mr UKBuses, his bald spot made an appearance over the weekend:
Bald Spot 1
Bald Spot 1: The Bald Spot makes an appearance at Canning Town Bus Station.

Bald Spot 2
Bald Spot 2: The Bald Spot makes another appearance at Canning Town Bus Station.

Bald Spot 3
Bald Spot 3: The Bald Spot pays tribute to "George" outside the Copthorne Tara Hotel, Kensington.

Bald Spot 4
Bald Spot 4: The Bald Spot ready to catch the coach at Victoria Coach Station.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

2015 - Day Out 15: London "Remembrance Sunday"

It is time to go to Whitehall and pay our respects for all the fallen on Remembrance Sunday, so with poppies at the ready, we make our way through London.

Cenotaph, Whitehall
We are up early and get down to breakfast just before serving starts. The same thing happens as yesterday, drinks, table, loads of bacon and then yogurt. After a few minutes of letting our food go down, we are ready to leave and we make our way from Travelodge Docklands and catch the Docklands Light Railway at East India DLR Station, changing at Canning Town onto the London Underground and onto the Jubilee Line. We arrive at Westminster Underground Station at 09.00am and after tapping out with our Oystercards, we make our way onto Bridge Street, which is closed to traffic and make our way down to Parliament Street, where it is fenced off and we have to make our way through security. Luckily the police are nearby as Mr UKBuses is nervous as he has to takes his wallet out and pass it over to the security team. I head through the metal detector first and do not set it off and have my belongings passed back to me. It is now Mr UKBuses turn and he is visibly shaking as he does not have his wallet on his person, but he is keeping an eye on it as he passes through the metal detector, which does not go off and he is relieved when the wallet and other belongings are passed back to him, the wallet is quickly put back into its right place.

Its the same cameraman!
Security check over, we make our way towards Whitehall, where as we are slightly earlier than last year, we have no problems with getting stuck in the crowds on the way and we easily get to a spot that is a bit closer to the Cenotaph than we did last year, see picture above left. We do have a bit of time to wait before the proceedings start and as we get to 10.00am, the crowds are getting busier and we are getting enclosed in, so it was good that we actually timed it right to get here this year. The cameramen take their places, with a static one and a boom camera situated in front of us, see picture right, with the boom cameraman being the same person that was in front of us last year at The Lords Mayor Show and Remembrance Sunday, is it a case of him following us about or us following him about? Luckily we got some liquid refreshment before we entered the secured area, so we keep our throats lubricated, especially in my case with my cold, ready to sing when the service starts. The bands start making their way to the Cenotaph and start playing Rule Britannia and other songs including the solemn "Nimrod".

The Red Lion, Whitehall
It is just before 11.00am and the dignitaries, politicians and the Royal Family, including Her Majesty The Queen, take their places. Big Ben strikes which starts the service with a two minute silence, followed by the last post, laying of the wreaths, prayers and the National Anthem, which I do attempt to sing with what voice I have left. With the service over and my back seizing up, we decide to have a rest in the nearby "Red Lion", see picture right, so we take a few steps and luckily there are a couple of seats available. With Mr UKBuses being sympathetic about my back, he sends me to the bar to get drinks, which are only soft ones as beer is not yet being served. It is just before 12.00pm and the bar starts serving so a London Pride is purchased and we rest our feet (and my back) for a while so the crowds can get out of Whitehall. After another pint, and just after 01.00pm, we decide to make our way and surprisingly we don't get held up in a middle of a blockage and get straight out of Whitehall and into Parliament Square with no problems. 

The Copthorne Tara Hotel, Kensington
At 01.05pm, we make our way onto the Underground once again, checking in at Westminster Underground Station and onto the Jubilee Line, alighting at Bond Street and with no James in sight we change onto the Central Line where we go to Notting Hill Gate and onto the District Line where we alight and go back to ground level at High Street Kensington. The drinks at the Red Lion take their toll on us so we have to make a quick dash to the McDonald's opposite the Underground Station. After our unplanned break, we make our way to another filming location and we head to the Copthorne Tara Hotel, see picture right, which was used in the "George and Mildred" film. I have never seen the film but Mr UKBuses says there is no difference to the scene and I confirm this after seeing a clip on Youtube. After a photograph is taken, we make our way back to Kensington High Street, where after a few minutes wait, we board a London United service 9, which is a Borismaster but according to the plan should have been a Routemaster Heritage bus. We arrive at Charing Cross and decide to go off plan and instead of busing it back to the hotel, we decide to go Underground once more and tap in at Charing Cross Underground Station and board a Northern Line train to Waterloo, changing onto the Jubilee Line back to Canning Town and then back onto the DLR to East India, arriving back at the hotel just after 03.30pm, where we decide to freshen up and have a rest, well I try to as when I come out of the shower, I didn't hear that the cleaner had come into freshen my room.

Cheers! From The Blind Beggar!
With my shock (mine or the cleaners?) over, I make my way down to the hotel bar to have a quick drink before meeting back up with Mr UKBuses, after meeting up we walk around the corner to get a bus that we have seen parked up at the terminus in Nutmeg Lane many times on all our visits to Travelodge Docklands and have never caught, so we board a Stagecoach London service 277 which takes us to Mile End, where we head past the Mile End Underground Station and wait for our next bus which is a Tower Transit service 25, where we alight at Whitechapel and have a pre-meal pint at our London Regular, "The Blind Beggar", see picture left. With the drink finished, we make our way back outside and catch another Tower Transit Service 25 bus, which takes us to Bank, where Mr UKBuses makes us alight a stop early and we have to discover our eating place, we do eventually find our J D Wetherspoon's "The Crosse Keys" and upon entering, the door is locked and discover that the pub closes at 06.30pm on Sundays! With us feeling hungry we decide to have a look for the nearest Underground Station, where we can make our way to another Wetherspoons which we know would be open.

We find Monument Underground Station and tap in and board a District Line Train to Victoria where we tap out and make our way to J D Wetherspoon's "The Willow Walk" and after finding a table, we order food. Mr UKBuses decides to opt for a Chicken Tikka Masala for a change and after a rather disappointing menu choice, I choose a Chicken Burger. Luckily it doesn't take long before the food arrives and whilst Mr UKBuses enjoys his curry, I find my burger very dry and have to leave half of it. Disappointed with the food, we drink up and make our way to Victoria Bus Station where we board a Metroline service 24 bus to Westminster. We go back Underground for the final time today and jump on the Jubilee Line taking us back to Canning Town, where we change onto the DLR to East India, arriving back at the hotel for 09.30pm. I say goodnight to Mr UKBuses, who retires to his room, I have a couple of nightcaps in the hotel bar before going back to my room and pack my case ready for the journey back tomorrow.

Another good day was had, with another good service being held for Remembrance Day at The Cenotaph in Whitehall. Despite the change of plan, the evening was a success also.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

2015 - Day Out 14: London "On The Buses"

Our second day in London and today, we will be "On The Buses", visiting a few filming locations used in the Elstree Area.

Canning Town Bus Station
Its our first full day in London, normally we would be going to the Lord Mayor's Show, but due to the falling of Remembrance Day Sunday on different weekends, we will not be attending the parade this year. This means that this morning we have a little lie-in, so at 08.30am, I head downstairs and meet up with Mr UKBuses for breakfast. With us checked in to the breakfast room, we make our way to get some apple juice before getting a table and then the best bit, getting loads of unlimited food. With my plate stacked up of bacon, sausage, baked beans and hash browns, I dive in, Mr UKBuses is still working out the coffee machine and the toaster, so I'm about a quarter of a way down my breakfast. With breakfast finished, I have found out where they have moved the yoghurt's to, and eventually get through four of them to fill me up for most of the day. With breakfast over, it's time for a quick freshen up before leaving the hotel and as is tradition on the Saturday of our London breaks, it has started to pour with rain.

We make our way to East India DLR Station where we just go one stop to Canning Town, where we tap out and I hear a click of a camera on the escalator, which I'm sure it wasn't the girl behind who did not enjoy the fact that someone was taking a photograph right behind her by the look of her face when I turned around. Out of the DLR / Underground Station and into the bus station where we get a good opportunity to take a few photographs, see picture above left, before we board a Stagecoach London service 323 bus at 09:48am which takes us through an industrial estate and also pass a Stagecoach London bus depot at West Ham, which isn't too far from the hotel. We arrive at Mile End, where a walk around the corner to Mile End Underground Station, we board a Tower Transit service 25 bus at 10:12am which takes us to Aldgate, where we alight so that we can take some more photographs at Aldgate Bus Station. When we arrive the bus station is closed looking like it is for refurbishments and this once busy plot of land is now eerie as it is so quiet, we do have a walk around the outside of the bus station where it was once a bustling place.

Inside a Metropolitan Train
We cross the road and enter Aldgate Underground Station, where we board a Metropolitan Line train which is quite freaky when you first get on as you can see all the way down the train, see picture right, we only have a couple of stops to go before we change onto the Northern Line at King's Cross where we travel to Edgeware, tapping out at 11.31am. When we leave the station, the rain is falling down quite heavy now, so I decline to take any photographs, but Mr UKBuses attempts a couple and he does catch a perfect bad weather shot. We are on the hunt for Stand B, so we head over to the entrance of a shopping centre and after some "fresh air", we can't find our stop, so we make a dash and go on the hunt for the stop. We eventually find out that the stop is a couple of minutes around the corner in Station Road. It looks as if we miss our planned bus, but four minutes late, it turns up at our stop and at 11.49am, we catch our London Sovereign Service 292, after about 10 minutes, luckily the rain has stopped and we alight at our first filming location from the "On The Buses" film and at Ripon Park, Manor Way, we make our way down the street.

On The Buses Launderette Location
After a couple of minutes walk, we stop outside of the launderette, see picture left, where in the film, Blakie is accused of pinching someones washing - "Oi, he's got my knickers!" - and nearly getting arrested for it. With a photograph taken to mark our visit, we make our way back up to the bus stop and on time at 12:15pm another London Sovereign Service 292 bus turns up, so we board and go past the launderette once more, after a few minutes, we arrive in the main Elstree / Borehamwood centre and alight just past the Elstree Studios where we see signs for the audiences of Celebrity Juice and Strictly Come Dancing to go to when they come to watch the shows being recorded. It is starting to rain again so we make our way to Shenley Road and decide to keep undercover at J D Wetherspoons "The Hart and Spool", where we partake in a couple of Doombar's. Mr UKBuses has only had a few sips when he thinks he has seen Trevor, out of "Trevor and Simon". We do get quite cosy and do not realise what the time is, we have gone off the plan as we drink up and still have to visit a couple of "On The Buses" filming locations to visit.

On The Buses - Stans House and Green Street (Eastenders)
We make our way down Shenley Road and on our first corner we have visited one filming location as when the bus turns into Whitehouse Avenue, this is shown on the opening credits to the "On The Buses" Film. We have only a little walk to make back up Shenley Avenue, where we cross the road and turn into Clarendon Road and straight away, we can see the next location which was used as Stan's House in "On The Buses", see picture right, we make our way up to the end of Clarendon Road, and we also pass an entrance to the BBC Elstree Studios, which means that the Queen Vic and Albert Square are close by. We make our way closer and I take a picture of Stan's house and as I'm also preparing the shot, I got accused by Mr UKBuses of taking a bald spot picture, I'm not being sneaky, I notice a green bridge behind "Stan's House" and realise that another building that is not in the picture just right of the bridge is a building used in Eastenders, so we have found two filing locations in one place! We need to catch up on the plan, so we decide to head back to Shenley Avenue, where we wait for a bus to the railway station. When our bus turns up, we are only about twenty minutes behind schedule, at 13:57 we board Metroline's service 107 and are only on the bus for a couple of minutes as the station is around the corner.

We alight at Elstree and Borehamwood Railway Station and tap in, making a quick visit to the facilities and we can catch the 2:08pm Thameslink train until it is cancelled and we have to wait fifteen minutes for the next journey, which also turns up a further 5 minutes late. We do eventually get the train and it is good timing as the rain is starting to fall down quite fast again. We arrive at Kentish Town where we change back onto the Northern Line Underground and get off at the next stop and come back to Ground Level at Camden Town. We tap out and go round in circles before we find our stop and wait a few minutes before our Metroline Service 24 turns up and we make our way to Trafalgar Square having to stop a couple of times for a few minutes as the bus was running early as "the traffic is dead". We decide to give Trafalgar Square a miss and travel straight down to Whitehall, alighting by the Cenotaph, where we will be tomorrow. Mr UKBuses decides he desperately needs to use the facilities at The Red Lion, so I wait outside whilst having some "fresh air". By the time Mr UKBuses returns, he had time for a crafty pint, we make our way to Westminster Underground Station where we tap in and jump on the Jubilee Line to Canning Town and then onto the DLR to East India, where we head back to the hotel, a little bit earlier than planned and we go to our rooms for a bit of rest and freshen up.

The River Thames from Tower Bridge
We meet up in the hotel bar in the evening and Mr UKBuses is not feeling very well, so we decide to have a meal at the hotel, Mr UKBuses opts for fish and chips and myself Lasagne. Considering that a few residents were in the bar and were also having food, the service was quick and we didn't have to wait long, I only popped out for "fresh air" and the food was ready. This was our first time trying food at Travelodge Docklands,  considering it is about four years we have been using this hotel, we have missed out. With food over, I finish my drink and Mr UKBuses retires to his room, I decide to pop out into London for a while and just after 7.00pm, I make my way to East India DLR Station and make my way to Tower Gateway. Tapping out at Tower Gateway, I have a walk to Tower Bridge and it is lit up in the London darkness and so were the many buildings lining the River Thames, see picture left. I carry on with my walk across Tower Bridge and have a rest at the appropriately named J D Wetherspoon "The Pommelers Rest" and I did get a rest whilst waiting to be served as it took a while even though there were not a lot of people at the bar. I do manage to drink my beer, but considering there was a cask marque on the wall, the beer wasn't that well kept. After finishing my drink, I decide to leave as I didn't want another long wait.

I make my way to the bus stop opposite when I see a bus coming and decide to catch Arriva London's service 78 bus across Tower Bridge and alight at Tower Gateway and make my way past the Tower of London to another nearby J D Wetherspoon, "The Liberty Bounds". At least in this Wetherspoon's, the service was loads better and so was the beer. With the pub getting a bit more busy, I decide to finish my pint and make my way back to Tower Gateway DLR Station, where I catch my DLR and alight at East India and I make my way back to the hotel, arriving back just before 9.15pm. I decide to have a couple of nightcaps in the hotel bar and seeing as we have an early start tomorrow morning, after some "fresh air", I make my way to bed just after 10.30pm and watch a bit of television before dropping off.

Another good day was had, especially learning that Stan's House used in "On The Buses" is actually in front of another TV Programme set, Eastenders. Early start tomorrow, so an early night was had.

Friday, 6 November 2015

2015 - Day Out 13: London

Its time for our annual weekend break in London staying at our old faithful Travelodge Docklands hotel, the weekend away will involve a musical and a visit to Whitehall for the Remembrance Day Parade.

Birmingham Coach Station
I make my way into Wollaston where after getting refreshments for the coach journey, I make my way to the bus stop and at 09:00am, National Express West Midlands service 276 turns up which I board and send Mr UKBuses a text to say that I am on my way. Just over five minutes after, the bus is in Norton, where Mr UKBuses boards and takes his seat and as we arrive at Stourbridge Interchange and after a "fresh air break", we interchange onto the Stourbridge Shuttle and just get a seat as this 09:30am journey is quite a busy journey. After the short distance and three minutes, we arrive at Stourbridge Junction, where we alight and take a few steps to Platform 2, where after a few minutes wait, our London Midland train arrives and we board and take our seats, passing through Cradley Heath, Rowley Regis, Smethwick Galton Bridge, Jewellery Quarter and arrive at Birmingham Snow Hill, where we stay on the train as today we go one more stop to Birmingham Moor Street, where we alight and make our way out of the station and onto Moor Street Queensway, where we make our way to the bus stop and wait for our next mode of transport.

Inside Birmingham Coach Station
We don't have to wait to long as our National Express West Midlands Service 50 turns up promptly and we board and go a couple of stops before we alight, conveniently outside the Birmingham Coach Station on Rea Street in Digbeth, see picture above left. We have over half an hour to wait, so after a few photographs are taken we make our way inside and take a seat, see picture right We spot that our coach is going to be late, but Mr UKBuses was looking at the wrong screen, he was looking at Arrivals and not Departures. We don't have a lot longer to wait, so I make my way outside of the coach station to get some final "fresh air" before we board our coach. Mr UKBuses gets away without being hassled after wearing a National Express Jacket and has a bottle of water to keep him refreshed for the journey ahead, see picture below left. Just before 11:00am, our National Express coach pulls up and after showing our tickets and passing over the luggage, we board and take the seats behind the driver which gives more leg room for the journey ahead.

Preparing for the journey ahead!
At approximately 11:10am, we finally leave Birmingham Coach Station and make our way through the City streets and as we approach the Stratford Road, we are held up for nearly half an hour as there are some temporary traffic lights ahead which is causing major tailbacks. Once we pass the temporary lights, and we are surprised that there were two men working and about five looking or as they may class it, supervising, we make our way towards the motorway and we join the M40 Motorway bypassing Banbury and Bicester along the way, Mr UKBuses would not have know this as he was fast asleep. We discreetly leave the M40 and head towards London on the A40 passing closely to the old BBC TV Centre in White City. We eventually arrive at Victoria Coach Station, pulling into the arrivals building at approximately 2:20pm. We have arrived in London and we make our way onto the streets of London, with Mr UKBuses forgetting his map allowance as we go the wrong way towards our bus stop.

After "fresh air", we make our way onto Buckingham Palace Road where after a few minutes wait, we board Abellio London's Service C10 making our first tap in of our OysterCards, alighting at Borough Underground Station. We make our way into Borough Underground Station, tapping in and with this tap, it is also topping up our OysterCards. We make our way down to platform level via the lift, and onto our first tube train today (and this year), on the Northern Line, where the first tube journey is short lived as we only have to go a couple of stops and alight at Bank, where we change onto the Docklands Light Railway which takes us to our destination of East India, where we alight and tap out and make our way to our hotel for the weekend, Travelodge Docklands. We have no problems checking in and I get the first floor room this year after the reception staff take pity and give Mr UKBuses the ground floor room this year. We go to our rooms where, we get settled in and also freshened up before we make our way out this evening.

Damon Hill Race Winning Williams F1 Car!
We meet back in the hotel bar and sample a pint before making our way into Central London. After our drinks are finished we head to the DLR at East India and then head back onto the Jubilee Line at Canning Town alighting at Waterloo. With no Abba in sight, we head onto the Bakerloo Line and alight at Charing Cross and make our way out onto Trafalgar Square. We are feeling a bit peckish now, so we head to J D Wetherspoons "Lord Moon of The Mall", but upon entering and seeing that there were no tables and a lot of standing people we make our way across the road and have to do with a McDonalds to keep us fed. With the food over, we make our way towards Her Majesty's Theatre and decide we have time to have a pre-show drink next door at Riley's Sports Bar. Mr UKBuses has a Bells Whiskey, but nearly ends up with a Bailey's and we have a rest. Nearly time to go and time for a toilet visit before we leave and I spot Damon Hill's race winning Williams F1 car hanging from the roof, see picture right. Mr UKBuses declines a visit as I don't think he wanted his nails done!

We head next door and after some "fresh air", we make our way into the theatre and after purchasing a drink at the theatre bar, we make our way to the stalls and find our seat and what a view we had of the stage on this visit. The Phanton Of The Opera starts and after about 30 minutes I do have to make my way to the corridor for five minutes as I'm still suffering from a recent cold and felt like I was going to pass out as I was feeling rather hot. After cooling down and seeing what the theatre staff get up to during the show, they were playing a game of chess, I make my way back in and watch the rest of the first half. We have a break and I make my way out for some "fresh air" and a quick drink before taking our seats for the second half. At the end of the show, The Phantom disappears in a chair on stage and considering we were so close, we still can not work out how he disappears. With the show over, we make our way back onto the streets of London and board a London Central Service 12 bus from outside the theatre to Westminster where we alight and head back onto the Jubilee Line at Westminster Tube Station and change at Canning Town onto the DLR for one stop to East India, where upon arrival and feeling quite tired, I say goodnight and get a good nights sleep.

A good start to the weekend. A good and first ride was had on National Express with the coach journey not being as bad as I thought it would be.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

2015 - Day Out 12: Pensnett Garage

No coaches this week, we are staying local, heading just a couple of miles up the road and I have been volunteered by Mr UKBuses to help out at the first National Express West Midlands Pensnett Garage Open Day.

Pensnett Garage Open Day 2015
It's just after 08.00am and Mr UKBuses is driving today and he picks me up from home and we make our way through Wollaston, Amblecote, Wordsley (with a cyclist thinking he owned the road) and Kingswinford before arriving at Pensnett Trading Estate, home to the Dudley area of bus routes, National Express West Midlands, Pensnett Garage. We set to work before we get to the garage by putting up signs showing the way to visitors on the Pensnett Trading Estate, with our final sign to put up on the bus stop showing the times of the shuttle bus between the garage and Dudley bus station. With that job done, we park up, don our Hi-Viz jackets and make our way into the garage. Mr UKBuses first job is to make him a cup of coffee and finish a few things off, I do see a sign saying "no admittance", asking if that is supposed to be on his wallet, I got a dirty look off him for that one. With everything complete, we make our way downstairs and outside ready for the visitors to flock in.

After putting up a few signs downstairs in the traffic office, we make our way outside, where it starts to rain. A bus driver is getting one of the new Alexander Dennis Enviro 400 MMC's ready for the bus wash, which would be the cleanest bus in the garage at the end of the day, the shuttle bus had arrived which was a demonstrator, a Wright Eclipse Gemini bodied Volvo B5LH which National Express West Midlands are trying out giving it a good test on the garage shuttle service today between the trading estate and Dudley, it seems odd to see a bus with two sets of doors in the West Midlands. A few of the garage's own buses were being put into position being lined up at the top of the garage yard. This gave me a chance to try out these before everybody came, so I tried one of the new Enviro 400 MMC's, a Dennis Trident and also a Volvo B7RLE with the fleet number of 2095. This is also a bus which has been named after one of the Pensnett Garage's own driver, Dave Gerrard, who over the years has raised a lot of money for different charities. Dave was also on hand today and managed to get a picture of him next to his own bus, see picture right, he can be seen in one of his uniforms from when he was working with Midland Red. With the shuttle off out on the first trip to Dudley, it was nearly time for the crowds to arrive, so it was time to do some work and the first jobs was showing the preserved buses that turned up where to park, some of the preserved buses included:

MCW Metrobus, Ex West Midlands Travel (2989)

MCW Metrobus, Ex West Midlands Travel (2989)

Optare Excel, Ex National Express West Midlands (693)

Optare Excel, Ex National Express West Midlands (693)

Optare MetroRider, Ex Travel Merry Hill (155) - Back in it's old garage!

Optare MetroRider, Ex Travel Merry Hill (155) - Back in it's old garage!

Leyland National 2, Ex West Midlands Travel / WMPTE (1026)

Leyland National 2, Ex West Midlands Travel / WMPTE (1026)

Volvo B6LE, Ex National Express West Midlands (669)

Volvo B6LE, Ex National Express West Midlands (669)

Mercedes-Benz 0.405N, Ex National Express West Midlands (1707)

Mercedes-Benz 0.405N, Ex National Express West Midlands (1707)

Optare Spectra, Ex National Express West Midlands (4001)

Optare Spectra, Ex National Express West Midlands (4001)

Daimler Fleetline, Ex Birmingham City Transport (3472)

Daimler Fleetline, Ex Birmingham City Transport (3472)

Leyland Fleetline, Ex WMPTE (6600)

Leyland Fleetline, Ex WMPTE (6600)

The crowds arrived on the first shuttle bus which was being driven by Tony Hunter, see picture left, the youngsters went straight for the garage's buses as they could sit in the cabs and it was weird how they knew how to set the destination blinds in the buses and also how to open and close the doors. Luckily they didn't know how to drive them so I can safely say that the buses stayed in the same position all day. As soon as people started arriving, the rain also arrived at the same time which stayed with us on and off for the rest of the day, a fresh air break was needed so we decided to have a stroll to "The Graveyard" where all the withdrawn buses are situated and making sure that no-one was straying behind the fences. A quick break was had after in the office to rest our legs for a few minutes before heading back out to the garage. We were getting hungry now so decided to have a burger and take shelter and eat it away from the crowds on one of the parked up buses in which Mr UKBuses forgot how to close the doors. Dinner over we decide to go on a trip on the shuttle bus to Dudley and back before carrying out our duties for the rest of the day. With the day coming to a close and the rain stopping and blue skies showing, we have a final cuppa before making our way back home, that is after our final job of taking down the signs that we put up this morning and Mr UKBuses driving me back to Wollaston.

National Express West Midlands (Pensnett Garage) Enviro 200 (825)

National Express West Midlands (Pensnett Garage) Enviro 200 (825)

National Express West Midlands (Pensnett Garage) Enviro 400 MMC (6115)

National Express West Midlands (Pensnett Garage) Enviro 400 MMC (6115)

National Express West Midlands Platinum Liveried (Walsall Garage) Enviro 400 MMC (6721)

National Express West Midlands Platinum Liveried (Walsall Garage) Enviro 400 MMC (6721)

National Express West Midlands (Pensnett Garage) Dennis Trident (4199)

National Express West Midlands (Pensnett Garage) Dennis Trident (4199)

National Express West Midlands (Pensnett Garage) Volvo B7RLE (2095) named after Dave Gerrard

National Express West Midlands (Pensnett Garage) Volvo B7RLE (2095) named after Dave Gerrard

A good day was had with the garage staff making everyone welcome and for organising the event and also to the garage's engineering team who went out of the way to make the event even better for some enthusiasts, hopefully Pensnett Garage may do another open day in the future, I've got my hand up for any help needed that day. I did not get any Mr UKBuses bald spots today as he was actually doing some work, so instead you will have to put up with me learning how to drive a bus:


Me behind the wheel of Pensnett Garage's Enviro 200 (825)

Me behind the wheel of Pensnett Garage's Enviro 200 (825)

Me behind the wheel of Walsall Garage's Enviro 400 MMC Platinum (6721)

Me behind the wheel of Walsall Garage's Enviro 400 MMC Platinum (6721)

Saturday, 17 October 2015

2015 - Day Out 11: Blackpool

Back on the coaches again, we go back on Greenline coaches a planned day out in Blackpool and a late return so that we can see the world famous Blackpool Illuminations.

Back on Jan!
Its an early start and I make my way into Wollaston ready for the 07:05am journey on National Express West Midlands service 276, after getting some supplies for the coach journey, I make my way to the bus stop and the bus turns up ten minutes early, the driver kindly letting me on so I don't have to wait in the cold. I send a text to Mr UKBuses to let him know that the bus is about to depart and as we arrive in Norton, Mr UKBuses boards, but he was not wearing a dress, as he had to pretend to be a woman, see ticket below. and we make our way into Stourbridge Interchange. A "Fresh Air" break is had whilst we walk down towards our pick up point and at 07:45am we do see a Greenline coach which drives straight past us, just after 08:00am the coach returns and we cross Birmingham Street to board. We take our seats, which are still at the front, but behind the driver this time and we set off around all the other pickup points which include, Halesowen, Blackheath, Quinton and Dudley. With our last pick up point at Dudley reached, we set off towards the M6 Motorway just after 09:00am and as soon as we enter the slip road, the traffic is halted due to an incident ahead, after about five minutes we are on the move again.

Did Mr UKBuses wear a dress to get on the coach!

Mr UKBuses has a nap!

Blackpool Pleasure Beach
At about 10:20am it is time for a break and we exit the motorway and stop at Sandbach Services, a bladder stop is needed first and Mr UKBuses takes his place in the queue at McDonald's, whilst he is waiting I pop to the shop next door where I get myself a sandwich and I find a table and Mr UKBuses is still waiting in the McDonald's queue, he does eventually get served and joins me to eat his meal. With our food finished we make our way back outside for some "fresh air" before boarding our coach for the second part of our journey. The food has taken its toll on Mr UKBuses who drops off on the coach for most of the remainder of our journey, see picture above, We approach Junction 32 on the M6, where we leave and join the M55, where at Junction 4 we leave the motorways behind and have a few miles to go where we arrive at Blackpool just before 12:30pm, with the coach parking up at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, see picture right, our driver Nigel tells us that we have until 06.30pm before we head out and drive through the famous Blackpool illuminations. We make our way to the sea front where opposite the Pleasure Beach we wait and board a tram which takes us to the North Pier stop where we alight and make our way through the town centre.

Preston Bus Station
We decide to pay Preston a visit and we have to find Corporation Street to get our bus, with Mr UKBuses map reading skills, we eventually find our stop just as our bus is about to depart, luckily the bus driver stops and we board Stagecoach in Lancashire service 61 after purchasing our Stagecoach DayRider tickets. We pass through Kirkham and after an hour and ten minutes we arrive at Preston Bus Station, see picture left, which has over 70 stands. A few pictures are taken around the station, which is looking very outdated, it might have been good when it first opened in 1969, but needs to be bought up to modern day standards. We decide to leave Preston early and at 14:32 board our Stagecoach in Lancashire service 68. We leave Preston behind and we are on a different route back to Blackpool this time passing through Lytham, St Anne's and we know we are near when we pass Blackpool Airport. We make our way back into Blackpool and as we arrive in Rigby Road, we alight so that we can visit the depot of Blackpool Transport, also home to the trams. A few photographs are taken and we head back to the sea front.

It's back on the trams again and we board at the Manchester Square stop and go a couple of stops and alight at the Tower tram stop, that is after some uncouth person decides to nearly soak us by knocking over a can of energy drink on the ledge behind our seats. Its time for some refreshment and we make a visit to J D Wetherspoon "The Albert and The Lion", there is a member of staff at the door saying that there are no tables at the moment and it may be a wait for a table if food was ordered. Mr UKBuses makes his way to the bar (he actually purchased the first round!) and as he is served, a table becomes free and we take the opportunity to grab the seats (the fastest I've ever seen Mr UKBuses move!) and we eventually get to rest our feet. With the drinks finished and the pub getting busier, we decide to leave and walk around the corner to another one of our favourite pubs in Blackpool, we enter "The Castle" and as we went upstairs last year, we decide to give the downstairs bar a visit this year. The place is busy but we do get served quickly and music is blaring out at full blast and Mr UKBuses spots the DJ who resembles Paul O'Grady, his name was actually Jim Curran, he may have looked like Mr O'Grady but he had the voice and language more akin to Roy "Chubby" Brown. We liked the DJ and his sense of humour so much, we decided to stay and have a second pint, Mr UKBuses was hiding though as the DJ may have taken the mickey our of him if he was spotted.

He is back asleep!
We still needed to get some food before we boarded our coach, so we head back to the seafront and it is time for another ride on the trams, boarding again at The Tower tram stop and we have an enjoyable ride along the sea front at Blackpool saving us a walk of one and a half miles as we alight at the Blackpool Pleasure Beach tram stop. Time for food and we make a visit to a new J D Wetherspoon public house, "The Velvet Coaster", which opened in May 2015 and it is the first time that I have visited a Wetherspoons with a lift, but the building has three floors and considering it is a large pub it is virtually packed with us having trouble finding a table. After looking on all three floors, we head back to the ground floor where we spot a table. With our seats found, we peruse the menu and I go to the bar to order our food and get the drinks. Mr UKBuses decides to have his usual a BBQ Chicken Melt, without the melt and I opt for Scampi and Chips. Mr UKBuses sticks with his Guinness and I ask the barman to surprise me with a real ale and I am served Viper and I can say after drinking it, it did pack a bit of a bite. We have a little wait for our food and after finishing eating, we have a few minutes to finish our drinks off before leaving and having a short walk back to the coach, with some "fresh air" taken along the way.

We board our coach and with everyone on board at 6.30pm, we make our way to the seafront where the coach pulls over waiting for the illuminations to be switched on. After a few minutes the power has been switched on and we slowly make our way along the seafront taking in the lights. After we pass the Blackpool Tower, we are able to move along a bit faster to see the rest of the lights before heading back onto the M55 Motorway and then the M6 motorway, the day has taken its toll on Mr UKBuses as he falls asleep, see picture above right. We have a short stop at the Knutsford services, with me having to wake up Mr UKBuses as we arrive, where a bladder stop is taken and "fresh air" break had before boarding the coach and completing our journey. We arrive back in Dudley, our first drop off point just before 11.00pm and then we head off to all the other drop off points doing a late night tour of the Black Country before finally arriving back in Stourbridge at about 11.45pm. We decide to walk up to Stourbridge Interchange and with the last buses home already departing, we decide to get a taxi arriving back home just before 12 midnight.

Another good day out (if a little tiring) with thanks to our coach Driver, Nigel and the Mr UKBuses and luckily we could see the lights without much glare from the bald spot:


Bald Spot 1

Bald Spot 1: The Bald Spot waits for the tram outside Blackpool Pleasure Beach!

Bald Spot 2

Bald Spot 2: The Bald Spot is spotted on a stand in Preston bus station!

Bald Spot 3

Bald Spot 3: The Bald Spot is spotted outside Preston bus station!

Bald Spot 4

Bald Spot 4: The Bald Spot spots the trams in Rigby Road Depot, Blackpool!

Bald Spot 5

Bald Spot 5: The Bald Spot is seen outside Blackpool Transport Bus Depot!