Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Scenic and great value day out by train

Arriva Trains Wales have re-introduced their 'Club 55' offer which a couple of us used earlier this year to travel the scenic Heart of Wales line (see this blog, 30th March). The offer is open to anyone of 55 years or older to travel to anywhere on the ATW network for £18 (£16 with a senior railcard). Peter and I decided to travel to Shrewsbury, onwards though mid Wales to the Cambrian coast, then enjoy the coastal trip right around Cardigan Bay from the Dovey estuary to Pwllheli.

First stage, the 07:46 train rolls into Wilmslow on time, where we board it.

The day started with the 07:46 from Wilmslow, a Manchester to Camarthen train which took us as far as Shrewsbury. Bright sunshine in Wilmslow, but across rural Shropshire between Nantwich and Wem radiation fog which had yet to burn off at this early hour hid the view.

We had a fifty minute wait at Shrewsbury for our next train, the 09:27 to Aberystwyth which originated in Birmingham and we will take as far as Macynlleth. Time to photograph a couple of trains!

Class 66 on a train of tank wagons awaits the road in Shrewsbury station this morning

This single-unit class 153 is being prepared to form the 09:00 Shrewsbury to Swansea train via the amazingly scenic Heart of Wales line, the trip Peter and I did this March and is reported on the blog

Our class 185 multiple unit arrived on time from Birmingham, and soon we were speeding through mid Wales, through Welshpool and Newtown, to Macynlleth, arriving at 10:46.

Our class 185 whizzes though mid Wales, somewhere near Newtown.

Having arrived at Macynlleth, we spy our onward train, the 11:00 to Pwllheli waiting in the siding before pulling forward into the station.

The 11:00 to Pwllheli moved into the station from the siding, and we set off along the Dovey estuary and around the coast of Cardigan Bay. The weather had turned cloudy, so the best photographs were of the return journey down the coast; by then it was a gloriously sunny day in West Wales.

Bit of a dull day on our outward journey around Cardigan Bay. This is Barmouth.

The only flat crossing of a narrow gauge railway and standard gauge in UK. The Ffestiniog Railway's Welsh Highland Line crosses the Cambrian Coast line near Porthmadog.

End of the line. Our train reaches Pwllhelli on time at 13:14

Pwllheli town... not a lot to see!

The train arrived at Pwllheli at 13:14 before returning down the coast at 13:42, so there's not much time to see the town. But then, in Pwllheli, there's not a lot to see!

By the time we were headed back along the coast the sun was shining. Here, passing Pwllheli harbour.

Time for a spot of lunch now the sun is out!

The Rhinogs from west of Criccieth

Black Rock Sands

Crossing the Glaslyn near Minfford

Across the Glaslyn, Portmeirion nestles against the hillside (for a closer look a
Clough Williams-Ellis' surreal village, click twice on the image; and please do the same with any of these pictures for a full-size view).

Barmouth Bridge

View across Barmouth estuary to Fairbourne point

Looking back to Fairbourne and Barmouth

Along the Dovey estuary

After passing the lonly station of Dovey Junction which has no road access, and coupling up with the train from Aberystwyth at Macynllth, we speed back though mid Wales to Shrewsbury.

We were back in Shrewsbury on time at 17:23 in plenty of time for the Milford Haven to Manchester train that would take us home to Wilmslow, where we arrived at 19:00.

Not a bad day out for £16!


Thursday, 22 September 2011

Nice flight today

Time for a day out in the 'Top Toy'; our group-owned 1951 de Havilland Chipmunk.

These pictures, especially the airborne ones, are best viewed full size by clicking on them twice.

Pre-flighting the Chippy at Liverpool John Lennon airport this morning

Forty minutes or so later, Sierra Lima is on the much more appropriate setting of Sleap Aerodrome's grass apron. The landing had been a cracker - a straight in approach to runway 23, holding off over the displaced threshold to touch down 3-point on the numbers and roll to walking pace in plenty of time to take the first turn-off.

After the usual lovely lunch in the cafe in Sleap's Tower, I did a circuit followed by a touch-and-go so I'd have completed three landings (two at Sleap, one back at Liverpool) which enables me to meet the legal requirement for passenger carrying of having made at least three landings in the last ninety days. In the picture above I'm downwind left hand for runway 23, further out than I'd like to be as there two others in the circuit.

Curving around to a short final for runway 23 for my second landing at Sleap today. This was for a 'touch and go'; a landing followed by an immediate take off without stopping on the runway. If you enlarge this picture by clicking on it twice, you can see the displaced threshold with the '23' numbers, in white on the runway surface, denoting the start of the usable runway (the several hundred yards from the start of the tarmac to 'the numbers' is rough and unusable). The first turnoff that I took in my original landing can be seen soon after the numbers on the left.
It's not easy, by the way, to fly the aeroplane to a tightish final like this while taking photographs at the same time!

After the touch and go, I headed north from Sleap back to Liverpool. Here passing the Shropshire town of Wem. Out here in open airspace we are not under any air traffic control authority and can wander around at will.

The short movie below that I filmed on today's flight
gives an impression of what it's like in the noisy
cockpit of a small aerobatic 2-seat aeroplane.

Cruising along at about fifteen hundred feet affords a bird's eye view of the richly rural Shropshire countryside

Whitchurch, Shropshire

Combermere ahead, Osmere to the left

Leaving 'uncontrolled' airspace now, I am cleared by Liverpool Approach to enter the Liverpool Zone under Liverpool Air Traffic Control. I've just passed my zone entry point of Oulton Park Motor Racing Circuit and are headed to Helsby Hill, my current clearance limit. The forest of Delamere lies between us and the Mersey glinting in the distance. John Lennon Airport is just the other side of that estuary.

Passing Helsby Hill having been handed over from Liverpool Approach to Liverpool Tower I'm cleared onward across the Mersey to position left base for runway 27 at Liverpool

A glance out to the right shows the extensive chemical works at Weston Point. The River Weaver snakes in from the right to join the Manchester Ship Canal which itself closely follows the south bank of the Mersey.

Crossing the Mersey, the ruler-straight Ship Canal clearly visible in the foreground

A closer look at Weston Point showing how the Ship Canal clings to the south bank
of the Mersey

Cleared to land, I curve around onto a short final for runway 27 at Liverpool John Lennon maintaining about 100 knots all the way in from Helsby in order to prevent delay for following traffic

Becoming established on short final, pulling the power right back while holding height to bring the speed back to flap limit speeds, re-trimming at 80 knots with flaps 'one' set, further reducing to 70 knots with 'flaps 2' set, and then stabilising the approach, trimmed at 60 knots.

To the right of the runway can be seen two concrete aprons. The far one is the commercial apron from where the airliners operate, the nearer one is the General Aviation (GA) apron for light aircraft. The Ravenair hangar where our Chipmunk lives is the nearer (green) one on the GA apron. The main taxyway is parallel to the runway, between the runway and the aprons.

Having vacated the runway at point 'Foxtrot', I slide the canopy back and pause to let an Easy Jet (taxying out from the commercial apron) pass before following it along the main taxyway. I'll be turning left up ahead where the yellow centre line diverges onto the GA apron, while the 'Easy' will continue straight ahead then follow the taxy way as it curves round to the right to the end of the runway, for departure.

It's lovely blattering along on the ground in the Chippy with the canopy open, the prop blast tugging at one's hair. Almost as good as flying it; but not quite!


Tuesday, 20 September 2011

A new toy arrives!

I went to Reading by early train this morning to collect this, 06:58 via Euston; thank heavens for the Old Git's Railcard that makes such a journey cost just over £50, as opposed to almost £300 that it would have been without.

The bike's a 14 year old but quite immaculate Suzuki F650 Freewind, and it's covered only around 6,000 miles from new. It's had one owner 'till last year, owned by a police motorcyclist since then. I rode it 180+ miles home today (through some atrocious weather in the Midlands making the heated grips most welcome). It's lovely and I got it very cheaply - a 650CC twin-spark 4-valve twin carb single (so it's got a bit o'character!). It was lovely and clean when I left Reading this morning, and filthy with motorway spray by the time I got home, so I washed and leathered it, and it's keeping the vintage Bonnie company in the garage right now.

A week or so later I've ridden this bike considerably more than a hundred miles since I rode it home 180 miles from Reading on the motorway. This later riding has been mostly in the Peak District (motorway riding tells you little about a bike) and I have confirmed that it is everything I hoped it would be. It has a high seating position so you can see over walls, hedges, and traffic, it has ample power for good acceleration, and it has lovely handling - just drops into the bends. And when opened up to enjoy the smooth power, it sounds nice too - not the muted roar of the parallel twin Bonnie, but the purposeful beat of a big single. And as I already knew from my ride up from Reading, It's also comfortable over long distances.

The picture above taken by Peter Helliwell of Wilmslow, one time revolutionary head of Lindow School, and now retired. He has a tradition of photographing his mates with any new cars or motorcycles they acquire.


A family wedding in Abersoch

We returned yesterday from several days in Abersoch, North Wales. The primary reason for the visit was to attend the wedding of my nephew Jim Nichols, but Chris and I decided to make it a bit of a mini break as well.

To see these pictures in all their glory, click twice on each image to view it full size:

The magnificent beach at Morfa Nefyn last Thursday

Setting off on Thursday morning saw us at The Cliffs Inn, Morfa Nefyn for lunch. For decades we came here when the children were young, hiring a local cottage for a week or two. After lunch we strolled along the magnificent beach a Morfa, paddling in the surprisingly warm sea which is always so clear here.

After checking in at 'Venetia' ( http://www.venetiawales.com/ ), our delightful 'boutique' hotel in Abersoch, we walked up towards the Yacht Club to visit my sister Elaine Nichols and guests Jan and Al who were staying with Elaine and her husband John.

The marquees on Thursday afternoon, in the process of fitting out for the reception on Saturday, as viewed from John and Elaine (Nichols) garden.

Jim was across the lane, just above the Yacht Club, supervising the installation of the marquees on the Abersoch headland for the reception on Saturday. There seemed to be a great deal still to do!

On Friday, the weather did not bode well for the wedding the next day. Before the atrociously heavy and prolonged blustery showers kicked off for the day we visited the church where the wedding would take place.

St Pedrog's Church, Llanbedrog, on Friday morning

We visited the art gallery nearby at Plas Glyn-y-Weddw before visiting Pwlhelli and then on to Aberdaron for lunch.

Saturday was the day of the wedding.......

The bride and groom, Anna and Jim, Saturday morning

The little church was absolutely packed, with some standing at the back or sitting on the floor of the aisle. We, the family, were OK though; we had reserved seats in 'Business Class' (the choir stalls) at the front of the church.

How pink is that waistcoat? Chris and I pose outside the church after the ceremony

Anna and Jim, the new Mr & Mrs Nichols

The location for the reception was quite stunning - on the Abersoch headland with sea views all around, and the mountains on the far side of Cardigan Bay clearly visible in the unstable airflow. There were no showers on Saturday at all, quite amazing considering this airflow produced some crackers on the Friday and the Sunday! Pictured above is a raised platform so guests could enjoy the fabulous views.

The 'reception' marquee; Jan and Sue (my sister in law) seated, my brother Phil bringing the drinks. The trio standing in the middle are Chris, Barbara (back to us) and the lovely Wendy. Just peeping over the marquee roof is my sister Elaine's and her husband John's house.

This was a surprise; at 16:30 two Yaks of the 'Yakovlevs' aerobatic team roared overhead from behind the venue with the fabulous sound of the two Vendeneyev 9-cylinder radials bringing back memories for me of our erstwhile group-owned Yak 52. A video of part of the display, and 'drawing a heart in the air', can be seen here:


Here is another taken by a bystander (not a wedding guest):


The champagne flowed - hundreds of bottles of it! And the caterers, 'Golden Goose', provided endless supplies of delicious canapes.

The meal and speeches were in the evening. Retired gynecologist, Anna's father gives his speech and manages to avoid (just!) any gynecology jokes.

Jim's speech did include a couple!

The Best Man's speech from Jim's brother Matthew was hilarious. Not to be outdone by Anna's father's and Jim's prominent eyebrows, Matt has brought his own! My brother in law John is centre and my sister Elaine on the right.

Reeeee - lax! ......Matthew and my mum.

Endless supplies of wine, champagne, and even draught real ale (Dunham 'Big Tree') helped to ensure a jolly time was had by all.

Jim and Anna take to the floor before we all piled in to bop to the pretty good live band.

On Sunday morning an informal get together in the reception marquee took place, with the booze still flowing and canapes being served

'Golden Goose' ran the bar and provided canapes until mid afternoon. After that, the bar was self service!

It's a good job the wedding was on Saturday. Some wicked showers rattled through on Sunday morning as they had on Friday, but later on Sunday the skies cleared. That's a pint of 'Big Tree' on the fence post!

We ate in Venetia again Sunday night and drove home the next day. Wow! I think we'd better lay off the food and booze for a while now - what a weekend!