Thursday, August 31, 2017

Thursday 31 August - Crickhowell and a Jacques Tati ending to the day

The ruins of Crickhowell castle

The Bear Crickhowell

The Bear Crickhowell
Mary and I took the train to Abergavenny where John and Valerie Palmer met us for the short ride into Crickhowell.  This is a delightful little village on the river Usk.  We had coffee in the Bear Inn then made our way down to have a picnic on the banks of the river close to the ancient bridge.  This is a salmon river and fishing rights are costly.  The blackberry bushes were ripe with fruit.
Crickhowell Bridge
After lunch we walked across the bridge and took the footpath to Llangattock, past St. Cattwg's church to the canal. There was a mare with a foal close by.

St. Cattwg's church Llangattock

As we passed there was a funeral service in progress. It seemed the whole village had turned out.  We heard a very emotional rendering of Canol Lan, a traditional Welsh hymn.
Click here to see all pictures taken at Crickhowell

Mary and I waited in the Abergavenny station cafe for our train to return to Shrewsbury.  The owner was very chatty and seemed pleased of our custom.  Just before our northbound train was due to arrive a southbound train came into the other platform and was examined by a member of the crew. It had evidently hit something which had broken off some of the front cowling and bent the drivers' footsteps on the west side.  Our train was held out of the station while this was going on.  The southbound train then left and our train came into the platform.  After a long wait we left and went north a few miles then came to a stand.
Long wait.
Staff announcement - there was an obstruction on the line and we would proceed when it had been cleared.
Long wait.
Staff announcement - we would be backed back to Abergavenny where we would be switched to the other line to go north.
Long wait, then slow return to Abergavenny were the doors were opened so people could walk out on the platform. This was an opportunity for the small kids to gang up and play pirates with swords running up and down the two car train.
The next train up was also in the station platform behind us.
Long wait - then the passengers in the train behind were told to get into our train so the second train could return south to Newport which it eventually did using the crossover south of the station near the signal box.
The Arriva Trains Wales web site showed that a train had hit a bull and they were waiting for a veterinarian to arrive before they could clear the line. The staff still referred to is as an obstruction.
Long wait - then staff announcement that they did not know how long it would take and our train would go south to Newport where other arrangements might be made. One possibility mentioned was a return via Birmingham or possibly buses would be put on.  
This is where the fun began.  The train could not convey passengers over the crossover to the southbound line.  I presume this was because the crossover points (switches) were not fitted with facing point (switch) locks. The passengers would have to cross over to the other platform by the overbridge (the luggage was safe however).
On the southbound platform we once again boarded our train and wondered how we were going to get back to Shrewsbury.
The train which hit the bull

Our train has successfully negotiated the crossover by the signal box

Another long wait then the conductor announced that the blockage had been cleared.  However, our train was now on the wrong line and would still be returning to Newport. People wishing to continue north would have to get out, climb back over the footbridge and wait for the next train which would arrive in about 30 minutes.  This time people had to carry their bags, prams etc. as well. One of the compensations was a beautiful sunset over the mountains viewed from the footbridge.

As we sat on one of the few platform benches Mary mentioned that it was like that wonderful scene in the Jacques Tati movie "Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot" where a crowd was moved several times between platforms.

Throughout the four hour wait passengers had said "Buggrit" and drifted away, either deciding not to travel, taking a taxi or getting a friend to drive them.  The group was quite cheerful and nobody gave the crew a bad time. Temporary friendships developed  and as people left at the stations along the route we could hear
"Good bye, nice meeting you"
We eventually reached Shrewsbury about four hours late.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Wednesday 30 August - Ellesmere

Many hanging baskets are a blaze of color 
The new 501 bus at Ellesmere
The 501 route bus between Shrewsbury and Ellesmere has now been taken over by a new bus company, Lakeland Transport from Ellesmere. It is still heavily subsidized by the Shropshire County Council and the route is the same (Preston Gubbals, Myddle and Cockshutt) but there are fewer trips now.  We caught the 0900 bus from Shrewsbury and were the only people going right through although a handful got on in the outskirts of Ellesmere.

A man was leading a reluctant horse along the street in Ellesmere.  It looked as if he was trying to get it into a side alley next to a butcher's. Perhaps the butcher sold horsemeat.
Ellesmere church from up close
The Mere at Ellesmere was its usual calm with a lot of water birds, many congregating around the Boathouse area looking for handouts.  We walked around the side as far as possible enjoying the early autumn foliage on the tall trees.  The blackberries were very disappointing as they had been heavily picked over - by humans or animals - but I found a few to eat.

Ellesmere church from the other side of the mere
Several docks are now made from material created from recycled plastic bags. This represents 70,000 bags. The material is superior to wood as it doesn't rot or corrode
We had a good lunch at the Boathouse restaurant which became quite busy. There was a short heavy shower during lunch and another as we were walking back to the town centre.  We sheltered under a large weeping willow tree.

The trip back to Shrewsbury was in hot sun. Again, we were the only two who went right through. There were an additional half a dozen all told.

Click here to see all pictures taken at Ellesmere

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Tuesday 29 August

Monument to Percy Thrower, a well known radio personality who was garden superintendent here
It rained this morning and neither of us felt very energetic. Had a good lunch at the Boathouse

The swan parents were taking their seven cygnets for a swim up river with one parent leading the way and the other bringing up the rear.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Monday 28 August - Walk along the Severn

Thistle on the bank of the Severn

This morning was very quiet being a bank holiday but things livened up later on as most of the shops were open as on a Sunday.

We walked along the Kingsland Bridge then along the river up stream out of town.  There are several meadows with small herds of cattle or horses. The weather was fine and many people were out with their dogs.

The Old Market Square was pretty quiet compared to yesterday

These are pedigree English Longhorn cattle. They are the oldest  registered breed of pedigree cattle and are grazing here with the permission of the Shrewsbury Town Council.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sunday 27 August - Coach and Horses Carvery and More Folk Dancing

We may talk about the Crazy Kitchen in the Ottawa Science Museum but Shrewsbury has had a Crazy Pub for several hundred years. 
A slow day today as we are still suffering from jet lag.  The folk dancing has been going on all day mainly in the old market square but also at the top of Pride Hill.

We went to the Coach and Horses without having had breakfast, a good thing as the carvery has a great meal. We both had roast turkey and roast pork.
We thought we had overfilled our plates but by the actions of some other diners we were down by several layers.  The roast potatoes are always good here. 

Kickin' Alice is a group from Eardington, near Bridgnorth.  They were very good.

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Saturday, August 26, 2017

Saturday 26 August - Shrewsbury Folk Dance Festival

This family of swans on the Severn had seven cygnets to look after.
Breakfast included a croissant from the new baker which has recently opened just around the corner across from the market.  I had to get some bread as well and for that some full cream butter was obtained from the market.  I also had a fried egg and a rasher of back bacon - 1/4 inch thick.

As soon as we set out it became obvious that this was a special Saturday.  We followed the rhythmn of the drums and quickly found the Folk Dancing in the Old Market Square.  Instead of the familiar white garb of the Morris dancers these dancers were brightly clothed and heavily made up.  There were a couple of mixed groups  but it was usually men playing the music for the women or vice versa.

These are the Shropshire Bedlams.

These pictures illustrate better than words

The Shropshire Bedlams

Black and white love dance on the forecourt of St. Marys.

There were people wearing outrageous makeup and costumes jingling their was all around town  yet most people seemed to take it in their stride.  Everyone had a good time and enjoyed themselves.

We took a long walk around the Severn as far as the English bridge. There were a lot of people out and several dogs were swimming in the river.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Friday 25 August - Shrewsbury

This is the Old Police Station. We are staying in the ground floor apartment to the right just inside the archway.

Getting over jet lag and getting in all the necessities for our stay.  It was cloudy with a fair bit of sun and quite warm. I had to renew my Seniors Rail Discount Card which entailed a trip to the station. We now have all the cleaning, washing and cooking things necessary for our stay.
 The Castle gardens are bright with colour
Mary's first cup of coffee (a flat white) at the new Costa coffee house in the Darwin Centre.
There seem to be a number of new businesses since we were here last, particularly restaurants and small coffee places.

The Quarry gardens are a mass of bloom, and many people were out enjoying the show.

Even the pigeon seemed impressed

August 23 - 24 Travel Ottawa to Shrewsbury

Formerly the Station Manager's office in the Reading railway station

The Air Canada flight to London leaves very late in the evening but we had a good flight and arrived at Heathrow over 30 minutes early. Immigration took a long time but even so we had caught the bus and taken the hour long ride into Reading by 1230. Reading is another place that has been killed by the car - it is now a very unpleasant place.  

I had booked tickets on the 1415 train onwards so we had some downtime to get a meal and recover from the flight.
The original GWR station is not now used for railway purposes as the new structure has been built around this listed Great Western building.  It is now the Three Guineas pub, a Fuller house. The name Three Guineas, comes from the prize from the competition for suggesting the name of the crack GWR express train the Cornish Riviers  

A full English breakfast with a pint of London Pride set me up for the rest of the day. It seemed strange eating in this place which had been the Station Managers office where I had spent much time as Assistant Station Manager.

Painted on the wall of the stairway

The 1415 to Wolverhampton was on time. Good job I had made seat reservations as it was full and standing for most of the two hour trip. The connecting train to Shrewsbury was very full but quickly emptied out so we could sit back and enjoy the pleasant Shropshire scenery as we made our way through Telford and Wellington, past the iconic Severn Valley signalbox, now the largest interlocking lever frame in the world and into Shrewsbury station.

We met our delightful landlord, Richard Tudor, and quickly refamiliarized ourselves with our home for the next month. A quick trip to Waitrose to pick up a few necessities such as coffee and milk with a stop off on the way back at the Three Fishes. Wendy greeted us with a big smile and I had a pint of Timothy Taylor's Landlord Ale while Mary sampled a large glass of white Zinfandel which is actually a rose.

Great end to a very long day and a great start to our time here.