Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Not so grim up north

I have two colleagues in training who do not know Lincolnshire well. Indeed although I have lived for all but ten years of my life in Lincolnshire there is a fair bit of the north of it that I do not know myself - see my post re Scunthorpe in 2014. I arranged a day to drive them around the towns and villages of south Lincolnshire which I have known from my birth, and later a rail tour of the north.

We caught an early train out of Stamford and changed at Peterborough for Doncaster. Travelling First Class we enjoyed breakfast on the train, remembering to look out of the windows while passing through the western edge of our county along the racing stretch through the Bythams and through Grantham. I ought to mention that we only claimed standard class fares on expenses!

At Doncaster we changed into a TransPennine Express train for Cleethorpes, the holiday destination in NorthEast Lincolnshire, but as this was February we were not anticipating much time on the beach.  The trip through Grimsby was remarkably pleasant, with a feeling almost of being on a tramway through a leafy residential area as the town centre was approached, then through a neat Victorian station and out through a dockland and industrial area clearly in need of substantial investment, before following the coast to Cleethorpes.

It was windy, but beautifully sunny and easy to imagine this place in summer with hordes of people. This terminus was once heaving with holidaymakers and was also on the direct route to London from Grimsby via Louth, Boston, Spalding and Peterborough: the closure of that line towards the end of the Beeching cuts has left the east Lincs coastal strip impoverished ever since. Access to London had once been swift and simple, but now it takes as long to drive to a main-line station as it used to take to get to London by train. For Grimsby and Cleethorpes there had at first been through trains via Lincon instead (though no such luck for the other towns on the route), but now these do not exist either. The beach at Cleethorpes looked fantastic and this may well be a place worth visiting if we ever get a decent summer day!

We caught a bus back into Grimsby to see another aspect of the two adjacent towns and bought lunch at the Wetherspoons pub which looked as if it was originally the railway hotel by the station. There we discovered that Grimsby had been the home of Archbishop John Whitgift who is greatly commemorated in Croydon, a place I know rather better. Grimsby had very pleasant shopping streets and a museum of the fishing industry which was once world-renowned but has been the victim of depleted fish stocks. I must return some time at leisure and explore the town a bit more.

We tried to visit St James's Church, Grimsby Minster, but found it locked when we were there, although I gather it is usually open on weekday daytimes.

We returned to our corner of Lincolnshire by the more direct but not necessarily faster route via Market Rasen and Lincoln, the way the through London trains used to go when the East Lincolnshire Main Line was first closed. There seemed to be a problem (or "issue," as they say these days) with the information display on the platform, but the train came and departed on time, taking us through the middle of north Lincolnshire through to the East Coast Main Line at Newark. Standard class only, single car diesel unit of a type common throughout the county on the rural lines, but comfortable and fast enough, we had a great view of the towns and countryside through which we travelled, which was the idea. When you know the south of the county, the north is another place; you'd never appreciate that you were so close to home. The great cathedral at Lincoln soon came into view and stayed with us for some time, through our stop at Lincoln station and beyond. At Lincoln our little train filled with passengers heading for Newark for the main line to London.

We had intended to have a short break while changing trains at Newark, there being a handy pub not far from the station, but there was some disruption on the main line and we were able to catch an earlier train there that we should have missed, so we caught this instead and made our way home via a change at Peterborough rather earlier than planned - for we had not missed anything of our educational tour of the north of the diocese, simply a sit-down and a pint of ale which we could really fit in some other time ...

Saturday, 18 June 2016

London to Edinburgh by train

Further to my earlier post Built on Three Hills, you may like to see The Man in Seat 61's video of a trip from London Kings Cross to Edinburgh Waverley.

I just ought to mention that the real trip is not noisy like this one, unless you, too, lean out of the door droplight to get a video recording! (Which you cannot do on the usual electric trains anyway.) This trip is really quiet, smooth and comfortable, and is especially relaxing in First Class.