2009 News Archive.

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10/12/2009 - Merry Christmas everyone! In the last few weeks I've been on a CAMRA Black Country pub crawl, witnessed Freightliner's new class 70 working through Hereford (not much of a looker but it sounds a bit better than a 66!) and helped a friend re-fit our bathroom. The latter was hard work so I'm really looking forward to a few days relaxation in Germany including the usual wander around the Christmas markets between brewpubs! The holiday will also feature a trip behind the unique V320 and hopefully I'll write a report as well as getting my Fotopics site up to date after my return.

29/10/2009 - It's been almost six weeks since my last update but a lot has happened since then! I've had a day trip to Belgium, visited diesel galas at Peak Rail, Ribble Steam Railway and the Severn Valley Railway (with the first two operating a class 05 similar to ours at Moreton on Lugg), spent a very enjoyable afternoon at St Helens beer festival, had a weeks holiday in Germany and stood on a nail at work (ouch!). I'm now finishing the prep work prior to our bathroom being ripped out and replaced so I've hardly had time to catch my breath! I managed to write a trip report while in Germany which can be found here.

14/09/2009 - Happy Birthday to my brother!! Having celebrated my 40th birthday while on holiday in the Netherlands last week, it's business as usual this week with six days at work although I'm already plotting a day out on Saturday! I've just finished writing up a trip report from our visit to Belgium and the Netherlands which included the Mercia Charters tour, a trip on the PFT museum line from Ciney to Purnode, a couple of brewery trips and far too much beer! Added at the end of the trip was a visit to the Bridgnorth Beer Festival via the Severn Valley Railway.

01/09/2009 - After a weekend with far too much beer at the Victory & Barrels (I wasn't overly impressed at the latter by the rather pushy approach to make a donation at a supposedly free event!), I'm having a breather before my birthday bash in Belgium and the Netherlands. I did make an exception this evening though as Mark & Pauline are leaving my local, The Three Elms, in favour of a return to Wales and the Duke of Wellington in Cowbridge. Best of luck to them although it is interesting to note that good old Greene King have managed to drive someone else away so I don't envy the job of the new managers!!

25/08/2009 - The date for the next BLS visit to Moreton Park has been set as Sunday 11th October. Stephen Phillips is very kindly overseeing bookings again and more details can be found here. Although I'm not yet sure whether I will be able to make it on the day, I've got some maintenance work to carry out on my Shark in the meantime as it will probably be in use along with the Grampus and D2578 / 03145.

24/08/2009 - It looks like the bank holiday weekend is going to be a busy one for me! June & I have been invited to a friends party on Saturday (free food and drink - how could I refuse!). It's also quite a beery weekend it town as in addition to the annual Barrels beer festival, the Victory is also having a small festival. There will be a total of 15 ales and 6 real ciders rotating through the handpulls as well as a BBQ from 13:00 on Saturday and music on Friday - Sunday evenings from 20:00 (Life on Friday, Pheonix on Saturday, TBC on Sunday). Monday will be a mopping up at the Victory although I'm 12:00 spare so may drop for a job.

10/08/2009 - I've just had a weekend off after two solid weeks of work (2 weeks of work - rare for freight train drivers I here you say!) and as the weather forecast was good I decided to head to Barrow Hill on Saturday for their diesel Gala followed by a day out in Northants/Bucks/Oxfordshire with June on Sunday.

Saturday 8th: Barrow Hill was interesting although slightly chaotic in the morning (the gates opened at the same time as the first train shuttle was due to depart so many people missed it and some were struggling for the second run!) and my own experience was slightly tarnished by several selfish photographers who set up tripods and "took over" some of the locations alongside the running line even when not actually photographing or videoing. Some others were also a bit miffed when news leaked out that an additional class 66 (842) was going to be included in the line up for Sunday - possibly a ploy to get a few people to return again? If so, it failed with me as one day was enough and I was starting to get slightly bored standing around in the sweltering heat (and that included inside the supposedly air conditioned coaches!). I did however find time to enjoy a very nice roast beef roll accompanied by an excellent pint of Ashover "Grid Smoke Stout" which I assume was a rebadge for the day of their Coffin Lane Stout. One interesting event that I couldn't decide about was the firing up of the Baby Deltic engine inside 37372. I've never been a big fan of Deltics but the project is a fascinating one although hearing a 37 sounding so different just didn't sit right with me.

Sunday 9th: Today was a much more relaxed day, starting with a visit to the Northampton & Lamport Railway at Pitsford. It was my first visit to the railway and like several other of the smaller preservation groups, they are struggling for volunteers. Hopefully they will overcome this problem as the railway has good potential and I enjoyed a ride behind an incredibly scruffy 31289. After that we headed south to Chinnor via a couple of guide entry pubs: "The Crewe Arms" at Hinton in the Hedges and "The Plough" at Marsh Gibbon, the latter serving a beer from the nearby Oxfordshire Ales Brewery. We arrived at Chinnor just in time for a trip behind GWR steam loco 5542 and I was a bit withered to see that the guard was none other than Richard Morrison! I then discovered that the final train of the day was going to be double headed by 9682+5542 which was quite a rare occurence for the railway and had I known, we could have taken our time en route and stopped off for a Sunday lunch. This is another railway that will benefit from an extension, in this case running through from Thame Junction to Princes Risborough as a main line connection will definitely make access easier. It sounds as though all the hard work has been done so hopefully this extension may not be too far off. As we'd not had a proper meal all day, we decided to call in on some friends in Oxford - the former landlords of our local in Hereford, "The Three Elms" although we did make a brief stop on the way to visit "The Shepherd's Crook" at Crowell. After finally negotiating our way into an Oxford car park (our idea of using the park and ride went out the window as the last bus was at 18:45!), we arrived at "The Royal Blenheim" just before 7pm. Having been very restrictive on my beer intake during the day (I value my driving license too much!), I was able to have a pint of Thwaites "Nutty Black" to go with my beer battered fish & chips. We had a good chat with Ian and Sarah who seem to be enjoying themselves running the brewery tap for White Horse Brewery. June and I both enjoyed our spur of the moment visit but hopefully when Network Rail have finished messing about with the Oxford - Worcester line we might be able to pay another visit for a bit of a crawl around Oxford.

02/08/2009 - After an afternoon out yesterday, we decided to stay local today with a visit to my brother and his family followed by Sunday lunch in the Moon Inn at Mordiford. The lunch was excellent and washed down with Keltek "Golden Lance" and Mayfields "Auntie Myrtle's". After that, we relaxed at home watching a film then June started to get to grips with her Facebook account that she's just set up - will I ever see her again?!?

01/08/2009 - Happy 18th birthday to June's god-daughter Lauren!!

25/07/2009 - I'd decided to visit one of my nearest preserved railways in the shape of the Pontypool & Blaenavon Railway (the Dean Forest is slightly closer) as they were holding a diesel gala. The railway is also home to a sister loco of our 03145 (03141 although theirs is still quite a way from being a runner). We'd also intended to pay a visit to Big Pit National Coal Museum for a trip down the mine - something I'd never done before. The gala got off to a bad start as one of the originally advertised loco's (31203) had already been pulled from the line up leaving just 73128 & 37216, joined at the last minute by 37421. Things then got worse when 73128 failed after its second run of the day which caused a 45 minute break in the service while 37421 shunted it out of the way. 37216 took its place for a couple of trips which was then due to give way to 37421 - which promtly failed! Welcome to the 37216 gala!! It was hoped that both 37421 and 31203 would put in appearances in the afternoon so we decided to head off Big Pit for a few hours. I was very impressed with the whole set up there including the mine visit, the simulated mining galleries and the fact that it was free!! The museum is part of the National Museum of Wales of which all its exhibits are free, unlike some expensive English museums that I could mention! The Welsh mines are part of our heritage and it would be a sad state of affairs if people were put off from visiting by an expensive admission cost - well worth subsidising in my opinion. A selection of photographs from our visit can be found here. We got back to the railway to find 31203 was now in service, paired up with 37216 although the 31 seemed to do most of the work on our trip. Even better news was 37421 had been repaired and would be making an appearance (as it had while we were at Big Pit) so I decided to hang around and wait for it. All in all, I think that the gala was a success for the railway although they obviously had a few problems in the morning. They are far from unique in that respect but are worth supporting bearing in mind their ambitions to re-open a sizeable section of line (the first stage being only 12 months away). Surprisingly, the pub at Whistle Inn Halt wasn't open (I think they missed a trick there) although the bar car on the one set of stock did have some bottled Rhymney beers on board. We decided to call in at Abergavenny on the way home as I'd discovered that the Kings Arms pub (not in the GBG) was now home to the Tudor micro brewery. They only had one beer on but the Sugarloaf was a very enjoyable 4.7% pint, a nice way to round off the day.

19/07/2009 - We had a very enjoyable weekend in Norfolk, arriving at Holt on Friday afternoon in time for the last steam service of the day with visiting GWR loco 6619 (31207 was on the diesel diagram). As it was required, June drove the car to Sheringham while I let the train take the strain before we headed off to our B&B to check in. Afterwards we went for a wander down to the front then headed back to the station for a few beers at the festival. The music by the King Size Papas was far better than the weather so it was a relief when the stock from the last train was shunted into the platform to provide some extra seats out of the rain! Saturday saw us head to Holt on recently arrived visitor 24081 (a very enjoyable run with plenty of thrash) followed by a trip into town on a Routemaster bus. This was partly because we'd seen signs for a small beer festival at the Kings Head which seemed worth a visit as we were so close. They had 18 beers on, mostly local but still interesting for us. It was soon time to head back on the bus to the station for another required visiting GWR kettle - 5521 this time. We baled at Weybourne and as the weather had now improved we walked down into the village to find the Ship (A GBG entry pub) which normally had a Yetman beer (from Holt) on. Typically there weren't any available on our visit although we did enjoy a very nice pint of Spectrum "Dark Fantastic" as well as getting a few photographs around the village. Back at Sheringham, we revisited the beer festival as the weather was much better than the previous evening although I didn't rate the music of the Ugly Dog Skiffle Combo as much as the previous night (but each to their own - I prefer dark beers but many were enjoying the light summer beers). We were heading home on Sunday but had all day to do it so we started off by taking a scenic run via the coastal road to the Bircham windmill followed by a break in Kings Lynn. After that, we made our way back via three guide entry pubs (three halves for me!) including an excellent Sunday roast in the Admiral Wells, Holme (next to the ECML but I didn't see my last 91 go past!). All in all, a very enjoyable weekend despite the unpredictable weather!

16/07/2009 - Happy Birthday to my girlfriend June! Typically I'm working nights but we're planning a couple of days away in Norfolk including a visit to the North Norfolk Railway for their annual beer festival.

15/07/2009 - Since my visit to Morocco, things have been very hectic. I've been continuing work on the house but have also managed to squeeze in visits to railway galas at Butterley, Ruddington, Keighley, Middleton (where our loco D2578 was visiting) and Toddington! In addition, I've also stewarded on a Mercia railtour in Belgium, visited Barrow Hill for their beer festival and had a five day trip with June to the Czech Republic. Hopefully I will get up to date in the next few weeks by uploading a selection of photographs but I've made a start by compiling a trip report from the czech visit.

23/04/2009 - The Reports page has been updated with a report from my recent trip to Morocco.

09/04/2009 - The recent demise of the Dunn Plowman brewery at Kington reduced Herfordshire to just seven breweries but I'm glad to say that the brewing equipment has been used to set up the Golden Valley Brewery at Kingstone and the first beers are now reported to be available. It looks like I might have to plan a trip to the Bull Ring pub in the near future!

08/04/2009 - To cut down on the size of the news page, I've moved the older news items to a seperate page which can be found here.

02/04/2009 - After a week decorating the living room and laying slabs outside the house, June & I were both looking forward to last weekend as we'd been invited up to Scotland for a friends wedding. The rather stunning setting was the Ardanaiseig Hotel alongside Loch Awe which was made even better by some good weather.

Thursday 26th: We'd planned on driving straight to Scotland but as I dropped for a job that didn't finish until the evening, we compromised and booked a Travelodge in Barrow in Furness which we reached at 00:30 after June had picked me up from work. This was despite the lack of signage which meant we had a trip round the town centre first despite passing within 20 metres of the place! This would at least give us a more relaxed journey to Scotland compared with the guests travelling up by coach from Bromyard (I'd have lasted about 30 minutes before being sick!).

Friday 27th: We took the scenic route north through the Lake District passing Windemere and Ullswater before joining the motorway for a dash north of the border. We made another detour at Arrochar, heading west via Loch Fyne so that we could call in on the Fyne Brewery to pick up a few bottles from their brewery shop. We were made very welcome and had samples of each beer available before settling on four bottles each of Maverick, Highlander & Vital Spark. After passing through Inveraray (literally as the road goes through an archway) we headed up to Loch Awe but the opposite side from the hotel, before continuing to Oban to meet our friends Chirs & Ce who had stayed the night in Taynuilt. After a short wander round and something to eat we all headed back to Taynuilt for a quick pint of Maverick in the Taynuilt Hotel, collecting their bags in the process. We then had a 25 minute trip down the lanes to the Ardanaiseig Hotel (warning - some of the locals don't seem to realise it's only a single track road with passing places judging by their speed!) where we were able to relax while waiting for the coach to arrive with most of the guests. They were running a bit behind schedule and finally arrived at about 20:45 so after helping out with the bag carrying we were all able to meet up for an evening buffet, washed down with some rather expensive bottled beers (5.50 for the likes of Orkney Dark Island - not too surprising considering the fairly remote location).

Saturday 28th: Today was the day of the wedding but as it wasn't until 15:00 (and we'd drunk half of our stash of illicit bottles), June & I decided to head out after breakfast for a drive around the area ending up on the Island of Seil. Our reason was two fold; to drive over the Atlantic (the bridge connecting the island to the mainland at Clachan is probably the only place where this is possible) and to visit the Oyster Brewery at Ellenbeich. The journey from the hotel to Kilmelford took us through Inverliever Forest and past Loch Avich and was pretty slow due to most of the route being single track but was great scenery (so the numerous photo stops made things even longer). We finally reached Ellenbeich only to discover that the shop for the Oyster Brewery quoted in the Good Beer Guide doesn't exist any more and to make matters worse the pub didn't open for another 45 minutes. To pass the time, we went to have a look at the C John Taylor exhibition centre and despite his art not being overly to my taste, it did provide us with a chance to take refuge from the high winds and to pick up a few nick nacks. On returning to the pub, we were disappointed to find that none of their beers were on although two from the Glenfinnan Brewery were. It turned out that the brewery had recently changed hands (bought by one of the previous owners best friends!) and the supply of beer that was expected to last until Easter had already been polished off by the thirsty pubgoers! To rub salt into the wounds, the one Glenfinnan beer had to be taken off because the high winds had blown the barrel off its stand but despite this we were again made very welcome and left with two of our 4 pint carry outs filled with Glenfinnan Standard Ale after sampling a quick pint each . Hopefully, the Oyster Brewery website will be back up and running soon as well. We took the quicker route back to the hotel via Oban & Taynuilt and got ready for the wedding ceremony which was going to be conducted in the drawing room of the hotel. Everyone had an exellent afternoon and I managed to get some good photographs of the event (that way I don't tend to be in many of them!!) before the evening meal and Ceilidh (far better than a dodgy 80's disco in my opinion!).

Sunday 29th: After another good breakfast, it was time for us to say farewell to the other guests who were heading back south on the coach as well as John & Debs who were staying on for their honeymoon. As we'd offered to make a slight detour and drop the cake stand off in Glasgow, we asked Chris & Ce if they wanted to squeeze into the car again as they were also going to be passing through Glasgow on their way to Edinburgh. This would save them waiting until midday for the train from Taynuilt and give them a chance to have some different views than from the train. After stopping for a few photos as well as a tea break on the side of Loch Lomond, we dropped them off at Rutherglen station followed by the cake stand down the road and then headed back to the motorway. We planned to make a diversion into the Lake District again as unlike our northbound journey, the pubs were now open but we decided for a short stop at a services on the way so we were a bit surprised approaching Gretna to see a familiar coach in the distance. We couldn't resist slowing down so June could give them a wave before zooming off as we didn't have much time to play with to reach the Hawkshead brewery which closed at 17:00. We arrived in Staveley despite some dodgy directions from the SatNav (which I'm testing for free on my PDA phone) with about 20 minutes to spare only to find that the brewery tap is now open until 18:00. We were both impressed with the place which is situated in an old mill yard along with several other businesses like an adjoining cafe and a bakery. After a couple of halves, we decided to head up the road to the Watermill brewpub, all of 1.5 miles away! As I was driving, we filled one of the four pint carryouts with Dog'th Vader, a nice strong dark brew of theirs. The place seemed very popular with locals as well as tourists with many eating as well as drinking. It was soon time to hit the road again but our original plan of calling in on some friends was flagged as we were both now starting to feel the pace after a pretty hectic weekend so we decided to head straight home for a reasonably early night.

21/03/2009 - Taking a short break from the decorating, June & I headed off in the car for an afternoon drive in the sun around the Brecon Beacons. For the first time ever, I paid a visit to the narrow gauge Brecon Mountain Railway which heads from Pant (on the northern outskirts of Merthyr) alongside Pontsticill Reservoir. The fare of 9.50 seemed a bit steep as the line doesn't yet run the full length of the reservoir and takes less than an hour (including a 20 minute stop). Luckily they offered a priv reduction which halved the price so we both went for a ride which was very enjoyable despite the brevity. I think that the line will be much improves when it reaches Pentwyn Reservoir and Taf Fechan Forest but hopefully they'll keep the fare the same to increase the VFM! We had also intended visiting the Heart of Wales Brewery at Llanwrtyd Wells but our plans were scuppered by a closed road at Sennybridge so we instead diverted to Brecon which must have one of the worst one way systems in existance! We visited two GBG pubs, starting with the Boars Head which is the tap for the Breconshire Brewery but neither of us thought much of it although our view was tainted a bit by the rugby on the TV. Next we headed across town (numerous times before we eventually found the right road!) to the Bulls head which had much more of a "normal" pub feel to it as well as a very nice dark beer on tap in the shape of Evan Evans "Paddy's Dark". As they weren't doing any food and the shops were starting to close, we headed home via a local Chinese takeaway in Hereford!

13/03/2009 - Despite my local, The Three Elms, being under a new manager it is still getting some good beers in to "compliment" the standard Greene King beers (in other words, I don't have to drink GK IPA!!). This weeks offerings have included Black Hole Brewery "Star Gazer", Nethergate Brewery "Jolly Farmer", Smiles (Highgate) Brewery "Old Tosser" and Elgoods Brewery "Golden Newt" so it's a shame that under CAMRA's rules the pub won't qualify for next years guide, not that many of the local CAMRA members seem to make much effort anyway.

09/03/2009 - After a hectic couple of weeks, I'm looking forward to a week off although the first few days will be occupied with painting the living room!

June and I had a night out on Saturday 28th February to visit friends with the excuse of swapping our Indian photo's. It also gave us the chance to visit the Lady Lever Art Gallery and have a wander around the intriguing Port Sunlight village (the Bridge Inn was disappointing though, no cask ales so we settled for Guinness). This was followed by a trip on the Mersey Ferry - well, everyone has to do it once surely? After that, we caught a train from Birkenhead to New Brighton to visit the 2 GBG entries, starting with a stroll down to the Marine Promenade to visit the Queens Royal (where we sampled the Brimstage "Trappers Hat" and Coastal "Hitch Hiker"). We hadn't planned on the uphill slog to the Telegraph so we only had time for a couple of quick drinks amongst the rugby fans; Wem (formerly Hanby) "Scorpio Porter" & Allgates "Napoleon's Retreat") before heading back to the station where we just caught our planned train back to Birkenhead and Port Sunlight for a well earned curry! The Queens Royal wasn't what I was expecting and the beers were all very light and hoppy so not to my taste but we both liked the Telegraph (especially as they had a porter on!) and would have liked to have had longer there. The next morning, after an excellent fry up courtesy of Helen, Daffy took us to a couple of his local pubs including one overlooking the Dee Estuary - something I'm used to seeing from the other side when I work the steel trains to Shotton Steelworks. We sampled Cottage "Whippet Between the Posts" in the Fox & Hounds at Barnston followed by Holt Bitter in the Harp Inn. After meeting back up with Helen, we all headed to Chester for a couple of drinks in the Mill Hotel and the Union Vault before saying cheerio. June & I also had time for a late Sunday lunch in the Old Harkers Arms washed down by McGivern "Amber Ale" before catching a train straight through to Hereford.

Saturday 7th March saw me on a pub crawl from Worcester to Hereford, organised as a stag trip for a JC's upcoming wedding. In total, we visited nine pubs as during the day. After catching the 11:40 train from Hereford to Worcester Foregate Street, our first port of call was the Dragon Inn (West Berkshire "Good Old Boy", Little Ale Cart "Salmon Trout" and a bite to eat) followed by the nearby Saracens Head where they had several guest beers available in the back bar including Sadlers "Jack's Ale". Next, we headed back to the station and the 14:30 train to Malvern Link for the walk towards Great Malvern, calling at the Nags Head on the way. Unfortunately, I only had time to sample a crackign pint of Art Brew "Dark Brut" as we still intended to call on another couple of pubs before catching our next train from Great Malvern station. We made a mistake and picked one of the steepest routes to get to our next pubs, the Unicorn and the Red Lion so we worked out that we could take our time and still stop off Colwall before meeting another mate at Ledbury. We wandered down the road to Great Malvern station in time for the 17:45 train to Colwall and the short walk down the road to the Crown Inn. After a pint and a game of darts, it was back to the station for the 18:50 train to Ledbury and a visit to the chippie for Sausage and chips. After soaking up some beer, we popped into the Horseshoe Inn across the road for a pint of Hobgoblin before Chris joined us. Chris route conducted us to thee Prince of Wales but we didn't have much time to enjoy the Doom Bar before the trek back to the station and the HST to Hereford which to my surprise was on time! We rounded off the day with a visit to the Barrels where I had my favourite Wholesome Stout before June turned up to give us a lift home. It was the first time for several years that JC & I had got together for a rail pub crawl (my previous trips had been Yorton - Hereford, Wolverhampton - Shrewsbury & Midland Metro) and the day was enjoyed by all - except June of course who wasn't allowed to come!

17/02/2009 - June and I have just had a night out for Valentines Day although instead of the usual wining and dining, we had a pub crawl across the Pennines! I've written a short report of our trip.

13/02/2009 - I've just survived a very hectic couple of weeks without losing my marbles but what an excellent time I've had. Firstly, it was a few days in Switzerland to meet up with some friends, followed a few days later by a week long package deal in India - a first for me and June but not for Helen & Nigel who went with us and showed us the ropes. I was pleasantly surprised and thoroughly enjoyed the holiday although Goa does tend to be the most touristy area of India so might not have given a true insight into the country. I've written trip reports for both holidays and following a few queries that I've received about my time in Switzerland, I've also included some gen on the BLS workings around Bern at the end of the Swiss report.

05/01/2009 - Good news, Fotopics is back in action so rumours of it's demise were greatly exagerated. Hopefully all the problems are resolved and it will be business as usual.

03/01/2009 - A double blow today! I was planning on going to the Hereford United v Leeds United football game today as I had the time and the inclination but unfortunately the game's been postponed due to a frozen pitch :-( Added to that, I can't log on to my Fotopics site and I've heard rumours that the company may have closed down. Hopefully the problem is less permanent than that but in the meantime my apologies to anyone unable to access my photographs.

01/01/2009 - My new years resolution is to not bother with any new years resolutions! The end of 2008 saw June and myself finishing some of the prep work for our trip to India. This included getting our jabs, doing some research into malaria tablets and mozzie nets and also filling out our visa applications which turned out to be an almighty pain in the backside! After spending 45 minutes online completing the forms (which still have to be printed off and handed in - why?!?) we then had to book an appointment to deliver the forms and passports. Despite quoting a timespan of 08:30 - 14:30 on the website, you don't get a choice of time when booking your appointment which is a bit frustrating, particularly as they no longer process the application in a day (3 working days now) so a second visit is required to collect the passports if you don't trust the postal service. After all the hassle, it amazes me that India has a toursit industry at all!

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