Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sunday 31 May - Shrewsbury Grand Prix

I went out this morning to find barriers along the main street in front of the apartment.  This was for the Shrewsbury Cycling Grand Prix.  We stopped into the Three Fishes to say goodbye to Danny, who wasn't there and then went to the start line at the Market Square. However the first couple of hours was family cycling.

All was not lost as there was a beer tent set up by Woods Brewery of Winstanstow which we went through on the bus to Craven Arms.  Their Grand Prix beer was pretty good.

We had a reservation at the Coach and Horses for lunch at 1500.  No problem as the Coach and Horses is just around the corner.  The racing proper was due to start at 1500 but we and the pub were both on the inside of the track.  Easier said than done.  We tried three different ways of approach and managed to get to a location right across from the pub entrance but the race was about to start.
The start car came through.  The entrance to the Coach and Horses is behind the steward.  Note the bollard is well covered with bubble wrap.
The cyclists then went past
The stewards then let across and into the pub.  The carvery was excellent once again, we both had pork with lots of vegetables and trimmings. We came out during a lull in the racing and went down to the Dingle which was as good as ever.

We came back to watch the main professional race.  The 800 metre course had some sharp curves as well as a hill while the road surfaces were varied  - asphalt but also bricks, and several sizes of cobbles.  Two riders crashed on a curve just where I was standing.  They both had to retire, one of them burst a tire.  In all about half the competitors withdrew before the end of the race which lasted just over an hour.
Rain has threatened all day - there was a full rainbow just before sunset.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Saturday 30 May - Pembridge

We travelled to Leominster where we met Colin Bishop who is staying at a farm close by. He took us first to Shobdon where there is a very attractive 14th century church a little way removed from the village,  It is reached through a very pleasant tree lined driveway with a field of rape on one side.  The church is very well looked after and the wooden pews are painted.

Colin had made a reservation for lunch at a tea room in Pembridge called Ye Olde Steppes.  It was a general store and the food was excellent.  We started with good mushroom soup and Colin and I had a Bombay Bomb while Mary had a chicken salad.  Both were very good and quite filling.
The Bombay Bomb is the pastry filled with curry

Pembridge is a pleasant village and we took some time wandering around and exploring the church which has an unusual separate belfry,

A very old post box.  The owner of the house told us that people still occasionally put letters in there to be mailed but he took them down to the official post box in the village

This 13th century belfry is separate from the church.  The clock was installed in 1889.

A short nature walk along the River Arrow and it was time to return to Leominster to catch the train back to Shrewsbury.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Friday 29 May - A Rainy Day

We had planned to go to Chirk and take a look at the Pontcysyllte aqueduct but it was raining all morning so we decided to postpone,

To give the rain a chance to clear we went to the movies early afternoon, calling in at the Nags Head on the way there.  The one thing on the lunch menu was pork pie, pickled onion and mustard.  Good job we had already eaten.

After the movie we crossed the railway track by Sutton Bridge Junction and called in at the Prince of Wales which has just been voted the best real ale pub in Shropshire.  The ale might have been good but the welcome was pretty sour and we would not want to go back.
Sutton Bridge Junction Signal Box
A class 175 passes southbound at Sutton Bridge Junction
For dinner on my special day we had a reservation at the Lion and Pheasant on Wyle Cop.  We have eaten here several times before and each meal has been excellent.  This was no exception.  The menu items are a little out of the ordinary but the ingredients seem to blend in well.  The pictures speak louder than words.
Starter, Mary: confit of salmon
Starter, Colin: confit of pork belly and scallop
Main Course, Colin: Duck Breast with polenta
Main Course, Mary: Sea Bass
Selection of cheeses, Colin: Wyfe of Bath, Shropshire Blue, Red Leicester, Cheddar, Goat
Dessert, Mary: Dark chocolate fondant with Brioche ice cream

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Thursday 28 May - Vale of Rheidol Railway

Vale of Rheidol no. 9 "Prince of Wales" at Aberystwyth
We took the same train again this morning out of Shrewsbury.
Slow departure as far as Sutton Bridge junction with the spires of St. Alkmonds and St. Marys prominent along with the Market Clock Tower and St. Julian's tower also visible.
A grass running track
Traces of the Shropshire and Montgomeryshire Railway
Site of Hookagate Permanent Way depot
Chicken farm
Open countryside with much sheep pasture and a patchwork of bright yellow rapeseed.
The hills of mid-wales are a bright green with a few patches of yellow gorse. The hedgerows are a bright white with May blossom.
And that is just the first 15 minutes.

At Newtown we were joined by an Irish mother and her small boy from Bishops Castle. He straight away explained that they were going for the night at Aberystwyth. He was very chatty and curious and we talked the rest of the way to Aberystwyth.

The Vale of Rheidol Railway was doing a good business. We were hauled by no. 9 Prince of Wales. The staff were not uniformed, did not smile or wave and there was a general sloppiness in the operation. We were locked in the carriages.

Typical Great Western Railway copper capped stack/chimney/funnel
Typical Great Western Railway brass safety valve rose.
The weather was bright but it became cool as we climbed up to Devils Bridge. The line follows the hillside above a pleasant valley. The bluebells were very much in evidence. The hillsides were well wooded with trees of slightly different colours of green. We saw several hawks hovering high above the fields, probably kites.

Approaching Rhydyrhonen where we took water
Devils Bridge gives one the impression of an Edwardian tea room that has seen better days.  We caught the next train back which was full of obnoxious kids and their obnoxious parents.
There was a quick exit at Aberystwyth but people were chanelled out through the tiny Booking Hall in the hope of increasing sales.
The reversing lever takes less space than a lever while the varnished hardwood handles are pure Great Western
At Devils Bridge
The Aberystwyth we saw was a low end seaside resort. There were lots of drinking establishments. There was a wide front with fish and chips and ice cream. There is a pier but to get to the end one has to walk through a nasty amusement arcade. We walked along the front to the cliff railway and rode to the top and back. It was then a short walk back to the station. 

Aberystwyth from the cable railway
While waiting for the train to Shrewsbury the second Vale of Rheidol locomotive in steam arrived with the last train of the day. It was no. 8 in gorgeous Great Western  green.
The ride back to Shrewsbury was delightful. I suspected it would be a short overcrowded train and placed myself by a door so as to score good seats. Borth seems to be a caravan park. After that the low sun highlighted the Covey estuary with its extensive salt marshes which were full up with sheep, Canada geese and a few swans and Shellducks. We left the marshes behind by Machynlleth and began some serious climbing. The motors were running flat out up Talerddig bank and the opposing train was in the hole at the top so we were able to cruise through without slowing significantly.
It was a pleasant end to the day. Let's hope the weather cooperates tomorrow.

Click here to see all pictures taken in Aberystwyth and the Vale of Rheidol

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wednesday 27 May - Talyllyn Railway

Edward Thomas at Nant Gwernol
We caught the same train today as yesterday but this time we had to ensure we were in the rear two coaches as we were going through to Tywyn on the Cambrian Coast.  It was sunny and cloudy in turn and the ride was very good.  These trains are significantly faster than the old steam trains.  We went through Abermule, scene of the famous head-on collision on the single line where the two drivers fought for possession of the train staff and then down Talerddig Bank which caused such grief in steam days.

At Machynlleth the train was divided, the first part going to Aberystwyth and the second to Pwllheli.  I spoke to the driver of our section who had worked the Paddington suburban services before moving to here where he was also a driver on steam on the Ffestiniog Railway.  Uncoupling is such a simple procedure now as it can be done completely from the cab.  No getting in between and uncoupling hoses now.

At Tywyn there were no signs on the station showing the way to the Talyllyn Railway station.  However, it was easy to find as we passed the Wharf station on the run in but one would have thought that Arriva Trains Wales would have thought to have put up signs to one of the major tourist attractions on the Cambrian Coast. My first visit was on Thursday 22 September 1961 and I wrote about it in my diary:
At that time the trains were running only as far as Abergynolwyn.
I also came here with Paul several years later

Today the train and platform staff were all well dressed and identified by TR blazers with collar and tie.  The track crews all used high visibility clothing and EVERYONE smiled and waved at the train.  They made quite an impression.

We were hauled by Edward Thomas, one of the locomotives obtained by the preservation society from the Corris Railway and a real gem. Talyllyn. one of the Talyllyn original locomotives was also running.  Duncan, no. 6, was the third engine in steam - it has a face similar to Thomas the Tank and I would have been bitterly disappointed if it had been our train engine, The line climbs steadily up a wide valley which is given over mainly to sheep.  There are patches of woodland and the bluebells were in their prime. As we climbed higher the grass gave way in places to bracken which was well advanced here.  Several fields of sheep were festooned with many patches of wool, both on the ground and also caught on the wire fences.

The bracken was leafing out.  In the background is a slate fence which is used extensively in this area.

Running round at Nant Gwernol
We rode the extension up to Nant Gwernol, opened in 1976, and returned to Abergynolwyn where there was a 30 minute break to visit the refreshment room. We rode back to Tywyn in an open car which was air conditioned!  We passed several work crews, some with a few kids who must have been less that 10 years old.  They all had high visibility clothing and they all smiled and waved. As we approached Tywyn it began to rain.
At Tywyn
A locomotive from the Guinness brewery in Dublin
An interesting and well displayed collection of TR railway tickets
Waiting to depart at Tywyn. The trains were crowded as this is half term but my people filter was working well
The narrow gauge museum is well worth a visit.  It is in two storeys with a wide staircase in the centre.  The high walls are used to good effect.  We took a quick walk through the town which seems to have a large number of churches, even the railway station has been converted into one, and a correspondingly small number of pubs.  The train back brought us to Shrewsbury on time. Just after Dovey Junction we caught a glimpse of an osprey's nest with possibly a bird in it - maybe we will get a better view tomorrow when we go to Aberystwyth.

Click here to see all pictures taken this day

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tuesday 26 May - Newtown

Today we took the train to Newtown, just two stops on the Cambrian Coast line towards the sea.  We went there for no other reason than we had not been there before and we chose a Tuesday because that is Market Day - it looked to be pretty important because Tanat Valley buses run a market bus on Tuesday only from Oswestry.

Although it is the largest town in Powys, Newtown is quite small, about 13,000 inhabitants, but this number is increased on market days when a large number of people come in from the countryside to shop and also to socialize.  The coffee shops were pretty full of people chatting and the pub at lunchtime was also doing a good trade.

The town is nestled on the banks of the River Severn which has clear water, is quite shallow but fairly fast flowing.  The rolling mid-Wales green hills, which surround the town, are dotted with sheep and patches of woodland. A parliament of rooks was making a lot of noise in the trees down by the river.  The market did not appear to be exceptional although there was a good choice of foodstuffs and consumer items.

While photographing this interesting building with trees growing out of it we were treated to the delicious smells from a hot bap stand which was selling the usual range of fillings as well as Welsh lamb burgers with or without mint sauce
There is an excellent, small, museum dedicated to the work of Robert Owen who was born here and died here.  He was a leader in the reform movement which worked for better working and living conditions for factory workers in the early 1800s.  It was Owen who was the virtual founder of the trade union and co-operative movement.  The museum is actually located in the ground floor of the municipal offices,

These two paintings are artists impressions of how Newtown would have looked in Robert Owen's day
We had an excellent lunch at a Weatherspoons pub on the main street.  After that we went to W.H. Smiths which had a W.H. Smith museum but it was closed.

The train brought us back quickly to Shrewsbury.  The diesel units are fast and comfortable even though some of the track is still jointed bullhead rail.  The Welsh government has just increased the frequency of the Cambrian Coast Line trains and they seem to be well filled.

The evening light in the Dingle Gardens brought out the colors of the rhododendrons this evening.