Vintage bus day at the Bluebell

Getting to the Bluebell Railway by public transport is problematic, so I look forward to the vintage bus days, when I can get a free ride from St Peter's church right to Sheffield Park. This time I was joined by Peter Chrisp, Lisa Wolfe and Susan Sainsbury. So, we waited at St Peter's and along came a cream and green Southdown single decker.

Southdown bus

I wasn't holding out much hope for interesting locos - the roster said it would be guest Black 5 No. 45231 The Sherwood Forester plus the South Eastern & Chatham Railway No. 263 and SECR Wainwright goods No. 592, but arriving at Sheffield Park, we were delighted to see that the mighty 9F 92212 from the Watercress Line was in steam. I took a photo of Peter with 263, which was hauling the Golden Arrow dining train, and he waxed lyrically about poppet valves and compound locos, inspired by Flann O'Brien.

  263 pulls the diners

So, after a pint of Harvey's in the buffet and a look round the sheds, we crossed the footbridge and boarded the train to East Grinstead. The rolling stock on the Bluebell is always perfectly matched with lovely upholstery. The trip there and back was very pleasant, tho we saw little wildlife apart from pheasants, and we caught a glimpse of the Black 5 (which are common as muck Up North) at Horsted Keynes. Back at Sheffield Park we waited in the bus park until a rather boring and bumpy green single decker started up to take us back to Brighton - to await the great storm.

  The mighty 9F

The boring green bus that took us home can be seen the other side of the fence in this photo of a rather splendid Eastbourne bus:

Eastbourne bus

Previous trips to the Bluebell:

Duchess of Sutherland at the ELR

It was October and time to travel Up North for the East Lancs Railway's autumn steam gala on 19 and 20 October (and see the relatives, of course!). The Manchester train was diverted via Crewe, so I managed a glimpse of the Duke of Gloucester on the way up, plus a couple of black locos in the sidings. The draw this year at the ELR was a visit by 46233 Duchess of Sutherland, a never streamlined semi. In fact I don't think I have ever been on a train pulled by a semi, ever!

With a couple of days to kill, I had a wander round Bury and was sad to see that demolition of the Art Deco Odeon had started. I visited Bury art gallery and eavesdropped on a class of  primary kids getting a talk about Bury's coat of arms and industry. Thankfully, the Art Picture House is now a JD Wetherspoons pub, so I admired the interior as I supped a bargain pint. On the Friday I was taken out by my niece to Bolton - for fish and chips ('just enough' portion) at the Olympus, and a visit to Bolton FM. In the evening we went to see Seth Lakeman and others at Bury Drill Hall, a building I'd never hitherto been in.

61994 The Great Marquess

On Saturday, at Bury Bolton Street, I was greeted by a plethora of locos in steam: jinty 47584 and 61994 The Great Marquess were in a double header, and standard tank 80080 was also in the station, both trains heading for Rawtenstall. I caught a flash of green through a carriage window heading of Heywood and in a panic thought it was the Duchess, so I crossed the footbridge and jumped aboard. But at Heywood I discovered it was just a couple of tanks: W^D 132 Sapper and the guest GWR pannier 1501. After studying my timetable, I discovered that the Duchess would be back at Bury, as the next train to Heywood, so I travelled back and - at last - was being hauled by one of the most beautiful locos ever built! This was a bit naughty of me as I'd only bought a round trip, not a Rover, but my ticket hadn't been clipped, and I got away with it. So, I travelled to Rawtenstall and back with the Duchess, double headed with 80080. Finally a pint or two at the Trackside with nephew.

Duchess of Sutherland

On Sunday I was back for more. This time I'd studied the timetable properly, and set off on the 12.05 to Rawtentall with the Super D 49395 pulling and the Duchess at the back as banker. Just one round trip this time, and back at Bury from Heywood I positioned myself in the photographers' pit to catch The Great Marquess double head with the Duchess out of Bury, heading to Burrs where my sister and brother-in-law walk the dog (Issy) and on to Rawtenstall. The photo of them under the bridge was against the light so looked bit arty - plus my phone had changed the setting to 'noir'!!

The Great Marquess and Duchess of Sutherland double header at Bury

On Monday I travelled by bus to Manchester to see the Jeremy Deller exhibition All that is solid melts into air. Is it art? Might be! Basically he's curated an exhibition about the industrial revolution and the disgruntled working class, along with various family trees of Noddy Holder, Brian Ferry and Shaun Ryder. In a film, someone sings a lovely broadside about how wonderful it'll be in 1973. Thence to New Mills to stay over with my old friend from Guildford, Lois. It was raining on Tuesday so I got the scenic train to Sheffield - via Edale and Hope - to visit the Millennium Gallery and its Ruskin collection - unfortunately the Graves gallery where the Victorian collection resides was closed. Back to Bury on the 135 bus and home to sunny Brighton on the Wednesday.

Previous visits to the ELR:
April 2013
August 2012
October 2012
September 2011
October 2010
November 2009
April 2009
October 2008
November 2007
September 2006


Now that's what I call entertainment...


I've just had a weekend of what you might call less popular entertainment, albeit almost certainly popular with Jeremy Deller. On Saturday, I travelled by bus to Lewes, for the Lewes Folk Festival day of dance. On the Thursday I'd been (by train) to the Royal Oak to hear a talk by Shirley Collins on BBC collector Bob Copper, and to have a sing song with the Copper Family from Rotten Dean in the second half. That's what's missing from most entertainment these days - the opportunity to sing along!

I have a lot to thank folk music for: it got me in a pub age 16 (the Albion in Bury, I think it was) - I even stood up and sang a song accompanied by my grandad's mandolin (where is it now?). That exerience got me involved with the folk club at Battersea, and that led to my 15 minutes of fame in Helix. One of the first records I bought was an EP by A L Lloyd singing All for me grog.

Kettle Bridge Clogs

So, on Saturday I was greeted by some clog dancers as soon as I got off the bus outside Waitrose. Despite Bill Tidy's cartoon strip, The Cloggies, clogging seems to be the domain of the women dancers and Saturday promised at least four clogging sides in action. I wandered round the corner to another set of sides, to the John Harvey Tavern, thence to the Dorset at the far end of town where I succumbed to a pint of Harvey's Old, well you have to. Already dancing were the Kettle Bridge Clogs with their almost militaristic marching, with bells on their green clogs.

  Oyster Girls

Then there were the Oyster Girls from the Isle of Wight, and finally the non-clog-wearing locals The Knots of May, whose band included a Serpent! I love the repetitive music, particularly if the squeezebox and fiddle are augmented by a tuba and drums - and we all love the Morris Dancers smashing sticks to bits. On the way back to the bus stop, I caught the tail end of a side dancing in plain black clogs without bells, which seemed a bit more authentically Northern. I was yearning to ask one of them if I could photo their clogs, but afraid of being thought a foot fetishist!

Men banging sticks from Alan Fred Pipes on Vimeo.

In case you don't know what Morris Dancing looks like, here's a video of Brighton Morris banging sticks.

Compton theatre organ

On a rainy Sunday I was off to Portslade Town Hall to hear a mighty Compton theatre organ. At a recent Dome open day (14 September) I'd come across an organ recital by Dave Davies and was captivated. The organ must be the loudest acoustic instrument there is, and what with added bells and drums - invoked via foot pedals (see below) - makes a magnificent sound. At Portslade it was Christian Cartwright on organist duty, who looked a bit like Peter Kay and told christmas cracker jokes at the end of each set. He's assistant organist at the Pipes in the Peaks.

  Christian Cartwright

I must have been the youngest in the small but enthusiastic audience - we even had tea and KitKats at half time. The Portslade organ is a hybrid of several cinema organs with the original non-working Victorian facade of pipes - and what a sound! You have to experience a theatre organ live. He started with a Buddy Holly medley, including the appropriate Raining in my heart, then went on to the obligatory Dam Busters March, songs from the shows, a Beatles selection and a moving You'll never walk alone. The encore was New York, New York.

The theatre organ can also be the pub singer of musical instruments and sometimes it takes a while to unravel the tune from all the notes! It is also one of the few performance in which the performer has his/her back to the audience - a closed circuit Tv however was looking down at the keyboard, to be projected on a big screen so the side of the stage. Portslade Town Hall seems to be a very underused resource, let's hope the organ recitals are enough to keep it open. Next one is on 10 November: John Mann at 3pm.

Compton special effects



Southampton Central station

I have been through Southampton on the train many times, en route for the New Forest or Exeter, but never stepped outside the station. For this week's mini city break I decided to visit the city's art gallery and maybe the new SeaCity museum. It was another journey just shy of two hours, but costing half the price of Luton. So, on the folding bike and after consulting Ivy Arch's blog, I knew to check out the mosaic mural on the bridge (Sue Ridge, 1988) and leave by the south Art Deco entrance.

Elod - paper artist

Up and over the railway and I was in Southampton's Cultural Quarter, a big slab of 1930s white stone with a tower on top. Round the back was the library, and upstairs, the art gallery. At first glance, it doesn't look much, a large airy space with paintings hung on every surface. I was first taken by an L S Lowry - The Floating Bridge, Southampton (1956) showing a contraption that once conveyed people and buses across the water. After looking at paintings from the whole of art history I arrived at the front windows where artist Elod Beregszaszi was installing a cardboard mobile (part of the forthcoming The First Cut - paper at the cutting edge). I said it reminded me of Mondrian, and he said 'spot on'. He also directed me to the side rooms, which I could easily have missed.

The Baring room

There I found some contemporary exhibits, then the Perseus Room! Now, I'm not a big fan of Burne-Jones, but this is something else: a recreation of the room where they were to hang, using mahogany panels from Barings bank. These ten gouaches are the preliminary cartoons; the finished oil paintings are in Stuttgart.

Jamie Shovlin - How most of what you know is reconstruction

On the other side of the main hall, was a series of rooms devoted to Jamie Shovlin's How most of what you know is reconstruction (I thought at first they were three different installations), which included a room of interventions with paintings from the permanent collection (Frank Auerbach, Ewan Uglow, Richard Long) and in the last biggest room some huge paintings of spurious imaginary book covers from the Fontana Modern Masters series. Other paintings that caught my eye included Ford Maddox Brown's Cordelia's Portion (1867-75) and Spencer Frederick Gore's Brighton Pier, which is presumably the West Pier. Photography was not allowed (tho I sneaked a couple) so I'm grateful to the BBC's Your Paintings for providing the images!

The cafe in the art gallery was closed so I popped next door to the new SeaCity museum, which you could use without paying the entrance fee. I'm always a bit suspicious of new museums that charge to go in, I suspect there might be lots of boards to read and videos to watch, so I didn't bother. As far as I could tell, there's a model of the Queen Mary and a watch from the Titanic in there. In the empty cafe, next to the gift shop, the Crank's sandwich (£3.50) was a little soggy and the cappuccino weak, and the person behind the counter seemed more interested in polishing her spoons to notice a customer (I was served eventually by a pleasant young man who got me a plate for the sandwich) so it wasn't a great experience. Free wifi, though! I'm afraid I didn't have time to enjoy more of Southampton. Next time I shall explore the Hythe ferry and Solent Sky museum. But the art gallery is a gem and well worth visiting.


Luton to Dunstable Busway

Look no hands!

A friend on Facebook - Jenny from the wonderful band Spacedog - mentioned she'd travelled to work on the new guided busway that joins Luton to nearby Dunstable, apparently the biggest town in England without a railway station. She also linked to the rather fascinating blog all about Luton, Yoga World and Pesto, a website almost as captivating as The Lost Promenade, which I urge you all to follow. It occurred to me that I could get to Luton direct from Brighton, via St Pancras, on what was once known as the Thameslink. It would take less than two hours and cost less than 20 quid, so I thought I'd go and check it out.

The 'A' bus to Luton Airport
The journey up was painless, there was a lovely signalbox at St Albans to spot, but no steam interest. Luton station seems to divide Luton from Hightown, the subject of the above mentioned blog, but I didn't get that side of the tracks, instead headed for the bus stop where I could see an 'A' bus had just arrived. And yes, my bus pass was valid! But it was raining and I didn't get a prime seat for photography, so just enjoyed the journey. I'd heard of busways before but never seen or been on one.

I got off at the High Street in Dunstable and followed the cast-iron signposts to the tourist information, spotted an Art Deco cinema turned conference centre, but ended up in Asda car park! However, across the road was a futuristic JD Wetherspoons pub, the Gary Cooper, and so had a pint of Growler Priory Mild for £2.15! Didn't fancy a curry, so popped across the road and caught the next bus (another 'A') back to Luton. This time I got the seat at the front next to the driver. I could see that when he'd been funnelled into the busway, he could take his hands off the steering wheel, but not for long, there were junctions and crossings to negotiate.

The way back from Dunstable

I didn't go all the way to the airport, but back at Luton trotted along to the beginning of the busway to see how it worked. Basically it's a concrete railway, built along an old railway line, with car traps to keep the traffic out.

Bus heading for Luton
A puzzled woman approached me and asked why? I said because they're faster than normal roads, and the buses have the advantage over trams or light railways in that they can also drive on regular roads when the busway ends. Later I noticed the little guide wheel at the front that does the business.

  The guide wheel

I then decided to explore Luton so headed towards the tower of the impressive town hall. I found the tourist information in the library and picked up leaflets and maps, but walked all round the Mall looking for the indoor market.

Luton town hall

On the way back to the station, I experienced 'Loho' the rather seedy ‘tri-street area of Guildford / Bute St / Cheapside’ according to the above blog and, attracted by an A-board chalk sign that said FREE (wifi) / (awesome) COFFEE, popped into the Hat Factory, now an arts centre, where I had a salad sandwich (on white - I should have asked for brown!) and a cappuccino. But it did indeed have wifi, so I was able to see what was happening on Facebook!

  Tiles on a tattoo s

The journey back was quite busy once we hit London Bridge, and it was only 4.30! Do people leave work earlier these days?

More photos on Flickr - or just click on one of the above snaps.