Monday 29 May 2023

Severn Valley Railway Spring Gala: an afternoon at Arley.

Arley Station, on the Severn Valley Railway, was one of two locations that most inspired my (Ben's) railway enthusiasm as a child.  Along with the level crossing at Langley Green -where my late Gran used to park me up to watch the trains in my pushchair, on the way home from playgroup- I spent many an hour peering over the bridge at the station.  I've heard other enthusiasts describe the above angle as one of the classic views of the railway preservation scene in the UK, and it's hard to disagree with that.

As mentioned, my parents are moving to Wales and thus it's very unlikely I'll have chance for visits to my old haunts in the West Midlands.  With a free afternoon following the Dudley Canal Tunnel trip, we nipped over to Arley to spend a couple of hours.  The Severn Valley Railway were holding their Spring Steam Gala, so there was the promise of a very frequent train service to photograph too.

Arley really is one of the most wonderful preserved stations you can find.

On arrival, we saw the visiting 2MT from the Great Central working a 'local' (Kiddy-Hampton Loade and return); these shorter trains, more in keeping with the SVR in its active days, were an interesting contrast with the rest of the gala services.

The Victoria Bridge, surely one of the most iconic and eye-catching structures on any preserved railway.

Of course, one of the differences between the SVR and our local line, the Worth Valley, is with the directions trains face.  The KWVR, being a reasonably steep uphill slog, always has the locomotives facing south.  On the SVR it's a little more unpredictable, which is a pity.  Good lighting, good sky, but a tender-first shot rarely makes for a satisfying pic.

There wasn't long to wait between trains, but whilst Amy had a bit more of a play with her stitching software, I was drawn to the interesting textures of this old gate post.

My Dad was wanting to see "Taw Valley" in its wartime black livery, and annoyingly this was another tender-first run.  It wouldn't be coming back facing the right way until later in the evening, so this was our only glance at it.

Much better was the local that arrived next; oddly enough, this Pannier is a loco I've photographed a great deal in recent years, as it's visited the KWVR a couple of times.

Back to Arley, and this magnificent scene.  "Pendennis Castle" was arguably the star attraction for the event, visiting from Didcot.  This loco had been preserved all the way out in Australia at the port-end of the railway serving the Hammersley Iron Ore Mines; repatriated and returned to steam, the machine looked and sounded superb.

And that, indeed, was that.  I genuinely don't know how many times I've been to Arley, how many times as a child I've stood here on Gala days.  One of my happiest memories is going for a walk on a cold Christmas Eve morning along the riverbank with Dad, and stopping in at Arley for a hot snack.  It seemed nice and fitting to have one last trip there on what was a nice, if slightly melancholy, end to the holiday. 


Friday 26 May 2023

Dudley Canal Tunnel

Having driven Yorkshire to Glastonbury in nine, horrible, backside-aching hours on the way down, we took the descision to stop off in Dudley for the weekend on the way back up north.  

Ah, nostalgia... my (Ben's) parents are moving house soon, and having grown up with this view, it seemed out this was probably the last time I'd be looking out on it.

We decided to visit the underground canal tunnel tour, as I'd somehow not managed to go before (even with many years of school trips around the limited local attractions growing up).

Well, this was unnexpected... but then the tour guide pointed out they'd been doing an "Alice in Wonderland"-themed trail for Easter.  Wonder who'll try paddling around the tunnel on the inflatable one at some point?

Apparently there's an owl lives in that ivy somewhere.

Photographic angles were a tad limited, and my SLR was struggling a bit in the dark, but I  thought it was worth experimenting with.

The lighting down the tunnels was creative.

Into the old limestone caverns.

All in all, a very interesting hour or so (and odd that it was our second underground tour in a week).  Good to finally tick it off the list, and probably the last time we'd be able to easily do it.  Just a shame the camera wasn't quite up to the task.


Monday 22 May 2023

Easter in Somerset (...ish): Bristol

On the way out of Somerset, we stopped off in Bristol.  I (Ben) had been to the waterfront museums here as a kid, and it seemed a tempting place to break the journey, not least because there was a free, covered museum on what promised to be a soggy day.

Oh look, a railway :)  In my defence, photographing and writing articles about railway lines is my side hustle, and in any case the trains weren't running so The Childs at least missed out on my inflicting more train rides on them.

It was interesting seeing a preserved railway line running down the street, something of a rarity in Britain, so it was a pity the railway wasn't operating.  It would be tempting to come back on a running day, though it's a bit of a commute from Yorkshire...

Study of the tracks; Elder Child was taking lots of pictures as research for her school art project, so I got in on the action.

Tut tut, shouldn't walk along railway tracks :)

I'd forgotten how interesting it was down here, the cranes and ships were very eyecatching.

The museum was stuffed full of interesting artefacts, and it's great to see a museum that's clearly had some money spent on it.

Plenty for the Model Making Blog as well.

Back outside to eat lunch on the quayside, and time for some slightly more abstract studies of the cranes.

Walking back to the car, and some more studies of the railway line.  Sadly much of it seems to be getting closed down and built over, in the rush to construct a guided busway.  Well, I say a rush, it seems to have been in progress since 2017 so nobody can be trying very hard to lay the concrete in a hurry.

Younger Child has been taking after me with the extreme low-angle shots, clearly, as she'd borrowed my phone for a few pics as we passed the stabled stock.

An interesting couple of hours; shame we were only passing, it would be nice to come back again at some point.

Friday 19 May 2023

Easter in Somerset: Glastonbury Tor

With the end of the holiday fast approaching, it was time to climb up Glastonbury Tor.  You could see the hill from the garden of the holiday cottage, and indeed you could hear the hippie drumming coming from the summit most evenings (at least, until the strong winds and thunderstorms drove them off the hill mid-week).

There looked to be some very pleasant footpaths around this way.  In fact, as a town Glasto looked fantastic, and way, way out of our budget.

Amy was wanting to use the trip as a chance to have a bit more of a play with her stitching software... well as us both wielding our SLR's.

This was an effect Amy has been wanting to get for a while, though still some way to go with getting enough shots for the software to blend/clone the landscapes a bit more seamlessly.  Still, it's all about experimenting.

After a fairly taxing climb which demonstrated that at least three of us aren't over our Long Covid quite yet, we reached the summit.

Stunning views out over the Mendips.

A free air show too, courtesy of the local constabulary.

I thought I'd try some greyscale experiments whilst Amy was doing her stitched shots.

It's had an amusingly cartoony effect on some of the shots.

After half an hour on the windswept summit, the lure of the bakery in Glasto proved too tempting, so we set off down the hill for lunch, and a last look around the shops before going back to pack up.

Bye-bye Glastonbury, it was a brilliant holiday.

Not quite over though, there'd be a day out in Bristol on the way back to Yorkshire, via the Midlands...