Friday, August 25, 2023

2 Years Later

So, the final lockdown took its toll, I ran out of things to write about and, frankly, ran out of motivation to try and write stuff. Then life got chaotic as the world reopened and I decided I needed a break from blogging.

But I will be resurrecting this blog over the next few months, with weekly posts going up, although I'm not sure exactly what day and time yet... watch this space.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

London terminals: ✅

The last week before I started work was rather busy, with a lot of things I needed to get done. And so I only had 1 day to properly go out for some railway fun. I gave quite a lot of thought to what I was going to do and eventually settled on visiting the last two London terminal stations I needed to tick off as well as visiting the Emirates air line cable car. There were a few stages to this trip, starting with a Thameslink service into London Bridge station, where I changed to board what would be my first ever train into Cannon Street. 
I then boarded the tube round to Aldgate where I swapped to the metropolitan line to head up to Wembley Park. From here, I made a walking connection, including a quick stop to pick up lunch, across to Wembley Stadium national rail station, which felt rather desolate, however I am sure it doesn't on major event days. Soon enough, I was boarding a train to Marylebone, the last of the London Terminal stations that I needed to visit. A walking connection was made to Baker Street for the Jubilee line, with my next destination being North Greenwich.

I took a few minutes on arrival at North Greenwich to familiarise myself with the area and get my bearings for two reasons. The first was that I'd just booked tickets for a concert in November 2021 at the O2 arena (and have since booked a few additional concerts) and thought a general sense of where I was would be useful. The second was to do with something really cool I was booked in to do that weekend, although I'm not going to give away anything about that yet. Details will be in the post in 2 weeks time.

I then headed over to the cable car, which I was a bit nervous about if I'm honest, for the simple reason that I hate heights, but I actually enjoyed it. Hopefully at some point I'll be able to do it from north to south and see the O2 coming towards me.

That's all for this week, but next Saturday will be a Girl on a Hike update, with the following post being about something really cool and normal railway related service being resumed the week after that.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Behind the Scenes at & Juliet

Firstly, today's post isn't to do with trains, other than the fact I used a train (and then a London bus) to get to my destination. But having mentioned this event in last week's post, where I discussed going to Meridian Water a week prior to this event, having found myself in London a week early, I thought I'd tell you all about it. Plus, let's be honest, I'm trying to keep what content I have going for as long as possible, although hopefully a return to leisure travel being allowed will happen soon.

So, back in September of last year, I went on a backstage tour of the Shaftesbury theatre in London, organised as part of a wider open house event. It was mainly an architectural tour, but as a fan of & Juliet, the show based at the Shaftesbury theatre (and with tickets being free) I decided to book. A lot of fans of the show had the same idea from what I saw on social media - and in fact quite a lot of us on my tour were & Juliet fans. I suppose the first thing to mention is that covid rules were being followed throughout the tour, with masks being compulsory (unless exempt), temperatures being checked and hand sanitiser available. We all also stayed as distanced as possible from each other within our small group. 

The theatres had been empty for 6 months at this point, with many shows, & Juliet included, cancelling performances from Monday 16th March 2020, after the announcement that social distancing was needed and a week before lockdown 1.0 happened. The timing of these decisions meant that many of the theatres were set up ready for that night's show and there were several props in the wings of the stage. We started in the foyer and headed downstairs into the auditorium, where all of the show's fans within the group had a bit of an emotional moment at being back in the auditorium of a show we all love so much, before we headed onto the stage. After a stop to take photos we then headed under the stage, and then up, walking through some of the dressing rooms, and up onto the roof. We then headed back down through the wigs department and production offices, with an opportunity to go out onto the fly grid (where scenery that flies in and out is controlled from), although I opted out of this because I'm not a fan of heights!

All in all, it was a great day. I'm hopefully going to be at the reopening show of & Juliet and I cannot wait. 

Saturday, February 13, 2021

A busy week....

On 12th September, I headed up to London. My destination was the Shaftesbury theatre in London, home of & Juliet, and my plan was to attend a backstage tour of the theatre. All was going well until I was sat in the five guys burger restaurant at Covent Garden having lunch, 5 minutes on foot from the theatre, and I realised I was a week too early. Check out next week's post for my post about that.

By that point, I'd already paid for a London travelcard, so decided to have some fun. Meridian Water station had opened whilst I was at university, and I'd wanted to go and take a look. So, i got my phone up to look at the timetable. I decided to go there via tube and bus because the timetable meant that I'd have a long wait to head there directly by train (because I'd have arrived at Stratford just after one had left). And so I headed for the tube. I walked the short distance to Leicester Square tube station, which is just around the corner from where I'd had lunch, where I boarded a Piccadilly line train, changing for the Victoria line at Warren Street. At Tottenham hale, I headed to the bus station and boarded a bus, alighting outside the Tesco and Ikea which are across the road from the station. I quickly nipped into Tesco to pick up a drink before heading to the station. 

Making my way up the stairs towards the ticket barriers, I noticed that the bridge had been left open, enabling people who will be living in the new Meridian Water development to walk over to the shops without needing an additional bridge to be built. The station had minimal facilities however I wasn't there long, instead boarding a train to Stratford, from where I headed back into central London to head home. All in all, a good day, albeit not the plan I'd had for the day.

And then, a few days later, I was offered a job. It was in a local secondary school, and I was starting just over a week later, so I decided to make a few trips out over the last week to try and get some more stations ticked off before I started.

And so, on the Friday, I headed to Moorgate to tick off the stations on the northern city line up to Finsbury Park. It was an uneventful journey however it was my first ride on the class 717 trains. As a regular class 700 user, they were of course very similar, but they were nice nonetheless.

Arriving at Finsbury Park I made a quick trip outside to buy lunch  before I went and tried out another bit of railway I'd never used before: the canal tunnels between Finsbury Park and St Pancras. From there, I boarded the tube, making a quick stop at Westfield London to nip into a couple of shops, before heading back to Hammersmith. I made the now obligatory stop at Hammersmith's branch of Ben's Cookies (well, it would be rude not to whilst I'm walking past!) before heading back to Victoria and then home.

That's all for this week, however next week I'll be talking about my first trip back to a theatre since lockdown, with the tour I attended at the Shaftesbury theatre in London.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Girl on a Hike.... Part 2

Today's post is going to be slightly different. For a start, there isn't really a train in sight. Those of you who've been following me for a while may remember that, back in the summer, I shared on twitter that I have signed up to take part in the London Marathon Walk in September of this year, raising money for Girlguiding, and asked whether people would be interested in hearing about my training journey, and the overwhelming majority of those who responded said that they would. And so, Girl on a Hike was born. I did an introductory post in September last year explaining the basics, at the end of which I said that I was planning on doing my first decent length walk (5 ish miles) in the next few weeks. And then life took an interesting turn. I was offered a job in a school locally to where I live. I always try run my blog posts a couple of weeks behind my actual trip to ensure that if I suddenly wasn't able to travel I wouldn't run out of content. Which meant that, around 10 days after I posted the introductory post to the Girl on a Hike series, when I was offered the job, the story of my first walk hadn't been written up, let alone posted. They wanted me to start less than 2 weeks after being offered the job, which meant that life was very hectic in getting ready and settling in, however I did some trips over the autumn, which will be keeping the blog going all through lockdown 3. But I felt that the story of this walk needed to be shared, if nothing else for a bit of amusement.

So, the route. There's a bit of a story behind this. Back in 2017, I was meant to be participating in a "Walk the London Bridges" event with my guide unit, which got cancelled with only a few days to spare. And since then, I'd always wanted to do it. Of course,  what with being at university in the midlands, that wasn't convenient. But then I signed up for the marathon walk and decided it was a good place to start with the training. Now, one thing to understand is, like how you wouldn't run 100m and a marathon at the same speed, you wouldn't walk them. The time estimate for the event itself is around 9-10 hours, including refreshment stops, so I'm aiming for just over 3 miles per hour as a sustainable pace. The route was relatively simple: starting at Westminster tube station, walk across Westminster bridge before turning left and walking the entire way to Tower Hill tube station, crossing every road bridge (plus the millennium footbridge) that I found, a total of 8 bridges. The first couple of bridges passed relatively easily, and I was keeping relatively to time. But then I got to Waterloo bridge and it all went wrong. 

How much had I eaten that morning? Not enough. What food did I have on me? Nothing. It was also rather warm. I was exhausted already, but I wasn't giving up. I decided to look for a shop to buy food. The first place I came to was a Waitrose, but I could see both a Sainsbury's and tesco on the other side of my next bridge. I decided to push on. I don't know why. I suppose it helped me build my resilience, which will help in the future training walks of up to 20 miles. I must admit that I don't really remember walking across Blackfriars bridge, I just remember the air conditioning of the Sainsbury's hitting me as I forced myself in to buy food. I thought smart - what was going to help me? I picked up a couple of sports drinks to help rehydrate me, along with some sweets to get my blood sugar up quickly, because I was starting to worry that I was going to pass out if I wasn't careful. Plus I picked up a couple of sausage rolls and some crisps as "lunch". I also got some water to carry with me, but stopped outside the shop to eat some sugar and drink one of my sports drinks before I carried on to the millennium bridge. It was when I got to the south bank of the Thames that I felt a bit better. Not fantastic, but I didn't feel so faint any more. And, of course, I was over halfway there now. 

The next section of the walk was uneventful, until I decided that I really needed the toilet. I was on London bridge, and was about to walk past the station of the same name, so stopped in there, although that took me longer than it should have done because I got rather lost in the one way system that had been introduced due to covid. But, from there, I was on the final stretch. As I crossed tower bridge I was exhausted yet relieved. I did semi crawl onto the underground from tower hill back to blackfriars, where I boarded a thameslink train. I still felt quite weak physically, so alighted at London Bridge to get food before boarding a train home and, after eating a (relatively substantial) late lunch on the train home I felt a lot better. So, what did I learn?

Well, the main thing is that I'll burn more calories than I think. My walk tracker app estimated I'd burned 1100 ish calories in that walk, and of course the marathon walk will be more than 5 times  that distance, and so I need to fuel up adequately, both in the days before and on the day itself, but at least I know that before I start training properly later this year.

That's all for today,  but next week we are back on the trains with details of a couple of my London trips from September.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Farewell class 483s (1938 stock)

This was a trip I almost didn't get to make. By early September, my plans for the autumn involved a trip to the Isle of Wight on 2nd November, followed by a possible trip in the first week of the school Christmas break, just before the 1938 stock was retired. And then, something in my gut told me to go now, and I'm so glad I did. That November trip didn't happen, and neither did the December one. 

I decided to get the catamaran across from Portsmouth, although at some point I do want to give the hovercraft a go, and they were running at the time I went, albeit on a reduced timetable. I had something on in the evening that I had to be home for, and so I was on an early train down to Portsmouth to connect with a ferry, arriving on the island at around 11.30am. By early, I mean 9am, so not all that early, but I decided to wait for the first off peak train as it was quite a lot cheaper. My original plan had been to get the train down to Shanklin, spend 40 minutes there until the next train arrived, buying lunch whilst I waited, and getting the train back up to Ryde. The ferry timings meant that I had to be on the 1.45 ferry back to Portsmouth in order to make the train that would get me home in time, which then essentially meant that I'd be heading straight back to the ferry terminal from Shanklin. But the trains had other ideas, namely the fact that there was only 1 train per hour running in each direction because there was only 1 unit working. 

And so, on the train to Portsmouth Harbour, I came up with a plan. I didn't really want to be that person who literally stayed on the train when it turned around at Shanklin, but I wanted to maximise what turned out to be my last ride on the 1938 stock, and so I decided to get out at Lake and wait there for the train to head to Shanklin and back. I ended up waiting in the shelter on the platform, and in fact I spent the time booking theatre tickets and a hotel! I should probably explain that: I got off the train and checked my phone to see that one of my favourite musicals, & Juliet, had announced a reopening date in March, and of course I wanted to go! The reopening has been postponed to May, and of course I've transferred my tickets.

Anyway, by the time I'd done this, the train was on it's way back to me and so I waited to head back up to Ryde. Alighting at the Esplanade, I took a quick lunch break (fish and chips) before walking up the pier ready to catch my ferry back over to the mainland.

I then took the opportunity to walk around to Gunwharf Quays to go to the Cadbury shop, as I had 45 minutes before I needed to be on the train home. 

It was only a short visit to the Island, but I'm glad I had done it because it turned out to be my last time on the 1938 stock. 

I'm looking forward to getting back over to the Island once the upgrade is over to try out the new class 484 trains, made from upcycled old district line trains. Provided I'm allowed to travel, I'll be over on the island at the end of May to explore and see what's changed. I've got some theatre tickets booked either end of my trip, so will have some time to tick off stations in London, and I also have plans to tick off some stations in both East Sussex and Kent.

The next post on here will be a bit different, with it being the second of my girl on a hike series detailing my training for the marathon walk I'm doing in September, which will be live on saturday, with another train post the following weekend.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

The ones that got away....

2020 wasn't a great year, was it? So today, I thought I'd reminisce about the trips that never happened, and when I hope to be able to do them instead. Obviously now I'm working it isn't quite as easy! All of these got cancelled due to covid.

1. The end of the spring term.
I don't think it's a huge secret that I struggled to settle at uni in my final year. It was a couple of weeks into the spring term when I first went to see & Juliet, and it instantly became one of my happy places. And it was with this, and a timetable that left me with no lectures or anything after Tuesday of the final week of the spring term. All I had to do was hand a dissertation in that was due on the Thursday at 3pm. I had a weekend event with a uni society in Sheffield, starting at around 7pm on the Friday, and immediately spotted an opportunity. Now hold on, I know what you're thinking: Charlotte, this is a rail blog, what does a theatre show and uni society event have to do with trains? Well, I managed to fit some trains into the itinerary for this trip. The plan was to get the train to London, check into the hotel and then head out, with my aim being to tick off all of the London Overground stops on the line out of Liverpool Street, before I grabbed dinner and got ready to go and see & Juliet. On the Friday, I was going to head up to Sheffield, where I had a few hours to explore before my friends arrived, in which I was going to get out and do some of the surrounding areas to Sheffield - I hadn't got as far as planning the trip before it was cancelled. 

2.  Various day trips, plus a few days away
I hadn't planned these for certain yet, but they'd have included Matlock, Skegness and visiting Elton and Orston, the least used station in Nottinghamshire. I was also hoping to do a few days somewhere after my final exams, but again hadn't planned it before it became apparent that it wasn't happening. 

3. North Downs line, Reading and the chiltern main line. This was in part a theatre trip, but I was planning on ticking off some trains. I'd have headed to Reading via the North Downs line, before staying over night, and then ticking off the western side of TFL rail on Saturday morning, plus hopefully a few other stations and then heading to the theatre in the evening. On the Sunday I was going to head out of Marylebone to Birmingham before heading over to Nottingham. I'd have done something train related on the Monday before a theatre show in the evening.

4. November. This trip kept changing. The theatre shows got cancelled, so I then decided to do the Liverpool Street Overground services after having done one final extra trip to the Isle of Wight before the 1938 stock went. I'd done a final trip in the summer, but when the opportunity arose for 1 extra trip I took it, but alas it never happened due to lockdown 2. 

Here's all for today, but starting next week I'll be going over some of my final trips of last year, starting in September just before I started my job....