England 2008 -a report

Mar 8th, 2008, 11:17 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 686
England 2008 -a report


It wasn’t long after my return from last winter’s trip that I started to plan for a return visit. As before I did want to visit some military museums and enjoy the views from the train. I like looking, as there is always something of interest, perhaps a pheasant or other birds, a farmer plowing or just the soggy ground with soggy sheep.

I booked my trip on United for the Sunday evening flight that arrives at 1:00 p.m. the next day.

Monday, 2/18 – As flights go it was uneventful. Had a nice seat companion, a young woman, originally from Chicago, now living in the South Bay area. She was on her way to a conference in Brussels. I had taken half of an Ambian and slept for 5 hours. We arrived 10 minutes late and ended up in the longest line ever at immigration at Heathrow. Still managed to get through in 30 minutes and found my way to the Heathrow Express, a train service to Paddington station in London. I needed to have my 8 day train pass validated before I could use it and when I reached the counter a long line snaked out to the hall. As it turned out every one was seeking information on either the bus service, the Tube or had other non-express questions. The line quickly went and armed with my useful pass I soon was at Paddington station. Boarded a train going to Oxford as I missed the earlier direct train to Moreton in Marsh.
The train departed on time and I did note that it was very well used and abused. Not far down the line the train was taken out of service and we walked over the lines to another train, much cleaner, to Oxford. We arrived at Oxford just before 4:00 p.m. and I knew that I needed to wait until the 3:51 from Paddington arrived from London. I verified that it would be at Oxford at 4:49. I could have waited for that train in London, but having my first beer in Oxford was pretty good. The train arrived and departed on time and being tired I found myself in standard class, not first as my pass covered, however, it was very satisfactory.

So at 5:21 I was in Moreton in Marsh, hailed a taxi and within a couple of minutes I was at the Tree Top B&B. Liz and a dog that looked like a miniature English sheep dog greeted me and I was shown to my large ground floor room. I had a full view of the garden area, a queen sized bed and a sofa. It was quite nice indeed.

I walked back to town taking only 5 to 10 minutes and entered the Black Bear pub on the main street. I took my whisky to the roaring fire waiting for my fish and chips. Dinner that came served with salad and peas. I washed it down with a nice chilled chardonnay.

As I finish my meal a tall very fit middle-aged man came over to my table asking if everything was to my satisfaction. We engaged in conversation where, it turned out, that not only was he the owner; he was a former professional football player. His name was Jim Steele and he was born in Edinburgh but played mostly in the South of England. To my surprise he gave me several golf magazine. After dinner and our talk and being more than a little tired, I made my way back to the B&B. Soon I was showered, had half an Ambian and was asleep by 7:30.

Tuesday, 2/19 – Awoke at 7:30 felling a bit off, but that’s what jet lag does to you. I had breakfast at 8:00 along with two young ladies from Malaysia studying at a local communications center. Liz said she has people from all over the world who train at this school and her place is their “home away from home.” We had a nice chat and soon they were off. Later I took a cold walk through town and, it being market day, stalls were being erected. I checked each one out but passed on the merchandise being offered. I found the local post office where I purchased a phone card and a few stamps. I had made prior arrangements to meet a local who ran a small military museum generally closed until Easter. However, he was to meet me and let me view his artifacts. Well, after hanging out well past our agreed meeting time I headed back to town. My body was giving me signs that a rest would be in order. On the way back to my room I stopped at a Tesco Express for a take away sandwich and a Stella lager. The sandwich was very good and filling. Took another shower, read for all of ten minutes and fell asleep for 2 hours. I returned to town, first to purchase some Contact, not so much as needing it, but rather to hopefully help in protecting me from all of the locals who seem to be coughing and wheezing. I walked the darkening streets as the market day vendors were packing, allowing for a better look at the town. Moreton in Marsh is a nice town, too bad a main road runs down the middle.

I purchased some post cards, wrote a few at the Black Bear pub. I sat next to the same fire as the T.V. played the top 20 songs from the days of yore. Evita, Grease and at the moment “I Need Your Love”. What great stuff for an old geezer like me! I had red wine of unknown origin and a form of cannelloni. Back to my bed and zonked out by 8:00.

Wednesday 2/20 – I slept very well then packed my bag prior to my breakfast at 7:30. Had just enough time to board the 8:14 1st Great Western train, back to Oxford. This train continued to London. I enjoyed my first class seating but you couldn’t see much due to the heavy fog. We arrive on time and I had a half hour to wait for the 9:36 Cross Country train to take me to Sheffield. I found out that this train goes all the way to Aberdeen. The first class section was only one car, clean and with good service. We passed through Lemington Spa, Coventry, Birmingham and Derby to my transfer station, Sheffield. All of the trees were covered with ice and all of the ponds were frozen solid. Later the fog began to lift so that you could see the sheep and an occasional cow. We finally arrived at Sheffield with 12 minutes to spare allowing me time to board the very old and dirty Northern train to Bridlington on the Yorkshire coast.

I had a short nap and woke up in the city of Hull where we had a fairly long delay, a normal, planned one. The bits of Hull were not impressive, however, to be fair not many towns are very pretty next to the stations .It was foggy again as we neared the North Sea. We arrived in Bridlington at 2:56, on time, where I had to wait a while for a taxi, but the guy who drove me was a real friendly fellow and made arrangements for my Friday morning pick-up. The Grantlea B&B was a 3 star place; sort of dumpy, well used and I should have checked it out better than I did. I decided to make the best of it and the owners were terrific people. So far I am the only guest and my room was on the top floor. I didn’t stay long in the room and headed out to a nearby pub for a pint of Foster lager. After I ordered one fellow asked where I was from, and well, we ended up in an hour’s discussion of what was wrong in not only Great Britain, but the USA as well. We had a grand time, but due to the fact they didn’t serve food, they directed me to the Stirling Castle pub. On the way I phoned Julie to let her know that all was well. She told me that it had been raining all day long. Here, not a drop! Once at the pub I had a steak pie which, as it turned out was just eatable, with peas and chips I got full. With the light fading I returned to the B&B for a shower and a little TV before falling to sleep.

Thursday 2/21 – I didn’t sleep well, but enjoyed my breakfast and a short talk with a chap who stayed over for two nights as it turned out. I asked him if he had heard of Jim Steele, the football player. He couldn’t recall him so we let it drop and talked about other things. I had no plans for this day and set off on exploration of the area. I walked the breath of the beach area, the old town, back up to the station and on the way back stopped at a barbershop. When I entered the shop I was greeted in an unfamiliar language. I just nodded and smiled. As it turned out the barber and his customers were Polish, but he spoke excellent English. For seniors he only charged 2 ½ pounds. Good haircut too!

This is where I became lost. I simply couldn’t find my way back to any place that looked familiar. Finally I spotted a local policeman who gave me directions back to the Stirling Castle pub. I purchased more post cards, had lunch and completed the cards. I returned to the B&B as a cold wind had sprung up making walking a chore rather than fun. I had a short nap, watched TV and worked my way through a “who done it” novel. Basically it was set in London in 1952, so it seemed approiate to have purchased it in San Francisco, brought it to here, and read it. Later on I walked back to the pub, making mental notes of landmarks. That night I had decent pasta with a half bottle of Chilean wine. Perhaps it was the wine that made the meal taste so good?

Friday 2/22 – I slept a little better than the previous night and at the breakfast room the other roomer mentioned that he had phoned a friend who indeed knew of Jim Steele. As it turned out he was fairly well known and was an accomplished player. As arranged the taxi arrived at 8:45 and for 2.80 pounds and in 4 minutes we were at the train station in plenty of time for the 9:06 Northern train to Doncaster. It was very cloudy and windy, but no rain.

The train arrived late making me miss the 10:53 to Peterborough; however, I boarded a new National Express train at 11:13. Had a Stella lager and a tasty sandwich.
I missed my scheduled 12:18 by 15 steps so managed to board a 12:43 train bound for Ely arriving at 2:00 and found my way to my nearby 4 star B&B, the Riverside Inn. What a contrast to the last B&B! Modern bath with white tile, satellite TV, and the owner was a delightful, attractive young woman originally from Lithuania. We had a nice chat and later I walked to a very close by and busy pub, again, on the water. I had a pint and struck up conversation with a businessman having a late lunch prior to returning to Cambridge. I walked to town center and it sure was a nice town. The Cathedral is a big tourist draw for the city and it didn’t have the gritty feel of Bridlington. The walk was good for me as it was up hill all the way. I can feel my lungs expanding and I am breathing much better and this is one of the reasons I do these trips – It forces me to be active and as a result I feel better and stronger.

I returned back to the pub at 4:30, had a whisky and hung out until 5:30 when I ordered a chicken Caesar salad for an early dinner.

Saturday 2/23 – I had the best ever, non-pill induced sleep. Eleven hours and I felt totally refreshed. The room was not only the cleanest, most fresh and quiet room; it was the best in a long time. Took a morning shower and then down to the dinning room for my usual breakfast. On my walk to the train station I noticed that it had warmed up so I returned to my room dropping off my hat, gloves and jacket liner. I boarded the 9:26 1st Capital Connect train to Cambridge then a bus to the Duxford RAF museum. As soon as we arrived I made my way through 6 hangers full of airplanes and my hips were so sore that I had to sit from time to time. It was a good experience and fun. Should this have been the only site I would have seen, it would have been worth the entire trip.

The bus back to the Cambridge station arrived and a woman, without a proper ticket boarded and refused to depart. No matter what the driver said, she just sat. Finally, with only 5 minutes before the next bus was due to arrive she abruptly got off and we were on our way. The driver said she would do the same thing with the next bus, trying to get a free ride! We had a fast return and even allowing for me to get the train back to Ely that I had planned. It amazes me how on my solo trips things always work out.

I ended up staying in Ely only because I had difficulty in finding a B&B near the train station in Cambridge, boy am I ever glad of that! The remainder of the day was spent in drinking at the local pub and talking with people as they came and went.

Sunday 2/23 – Slept the sleep of the well deserved or the pickled one, take your pick. Breakfast at 7:30 and my short walk to the train station, arriving early for the 8:56 1st Capital Connect to London. It was the same train that took me Cambridge the previous day. Still no rain and for this day we had full sun with clouds toward the West.

We arrived in London at Kings Cross station on time and the place was jammed full of fellow travelers. I worked my way to the tube to purchase my ticket for the short ride to Victoria station where I was informed that the Victoria line was closed and that I would have to take the much longer route on the Circle line. I had calculated 15 minutes, but now nearing the Victoria line it had taken over ½ hour and I had 11 minutes to board my next train. I climbed up the stairs to the main station and just managed to board, with just seconds to spare for the 11:03 Southern train to Whitstable. Later I need to move up to one of the front four cars as the front goes to Ramsgate and the back four cars go to Dover when they split at Faversham.

We arrived around 12:30 and no taxis were around meaning I had to walk the 1-½ miles to the beach area. After the haft waypoint I stopped for a cool pint and one of the fellows walked with me pointing out the direction to continue my long walk. Finally I was near the ocean, I looked around and spotted my B&B in an area that I didn’t think it would be. The B&B is 4 stars rated, but obviously an older and well-used place. I had a ground floor room with a large double bed and a bath area with tile. Later on I walked down some streets and I never saw so many tourist. The town near the beach area was crammed, making it difficult to walk the winding streets. I stopped at the Lord Cumberland pub for lunch. I didn’t care for it much has it had a loud, Live band practicing for their night gig. Afterwards I phoned Julie and headed back to the B&B where I had an hours nap, followed by a trip the Prince Albert pub, recommended by the B&B owner. The pub was small, however it being Sunday they had a constant turn over of people having the special Sunday dinner. I had the roast beef plate which, if you like gravy all over your food it would have been pretty good.

Monday 225 – I had a good nights sleep even after concerns about the ton of people and cars that must pass my bedroom. However, by 8 p.m. it was very still outside. My elderly hostess prepared my breakfast and later she phoned the taxi company so that I could meet by train to Chatham. I wanted to visit the Docklands museum, back towards London, about a 20-minute train ride. We had full sun to start the day and people, once they found out I was from California, thanked me for bringing the nice weather. Once in Chatham, a very large city, it was a longish taxi ride to the museum.

This former shipyard closed in 1986 and at its peak it had over 11,000 workers, which built only war ships, including Nelson’s ship, the Victory. They build modern battleships and nuclear submarines. The museum covered a large area and involved a lot of walking. You are allowed to board and climb the HMS Cavalier, a small war ship from 1945, the HM submarine, Ocelot and the 1878 sailing ship, HMS Gannet. They also had a large museum of artifacts of the original docklands, it was lots of fun and I had interesting conversations with two of its volunteer force.
I returned back to Whitstable in mid afternoon, and as the day was clear I walked along the ocean then a short nap back at my room. The streets were nearly empty as I walked down the main street finding the Quayside pub. I liked this pub, and as I had had a late

Lunch, I had a steaming bowl of potato and leek soup for dinner. I noticed that the B&B was full as the no vacancy sign was up when I returned.

Tuesday 2/26 – After my last breakfast in Whitstable and a chat with fellow boarders, I paid for my room and waited for the taxi to take me back to the train station. Soon I was off to London, and as my pass had expired, I cheated the train company. When I had my pass validated the person at the station failed to write in the date the pass expired, so, as no one really paid close attention when I showed my pass in past trips I decided to bluff my way for a free trip. I sat in my usual first class seat and the conductor, when calling for tickets, I showed him my pass and like on other trips, I was thanked, and he went on. Later on another conductor asked to see tickets and he also waved me off. The last hurdle was at Victoria station when I had the final check and was free to enter. Sorry Eastern Train Company. I promise not to do it again!!

I found my way to the Tube and purchased a one-day travel card for 5.40 and made it to Paddington station and then a short walk to the Darlington Hyde Park hotel, a place that I had stayed on last years trip and it was handy for the station. I was too early to check in so I left my bag and headed back to Paddington station. I purchased my return Heathrow Express ticket and worked my way to the Tube for a Northern line to Lambert North. For what ever reason I took the bus one stop leaving me further to walk than if I had just walked direct from the station. I entered the Imperial War museum and again enjoyed all of the fantastic displays. I had forgotten just how interesting the many exhibits were.

At this point I was fading fast and by 3:00 p.m. I was back at the hotel for some rest. I took a shower after I woke up from a nap, packed my bag and headed to the South Kensington station where I was to meet friends, Jody and David, for dinner. It was a very popular pub, just crammed full, and very good. I had Fish and chips, good conversation and house red, a tough combination to beat. I was back at my room by 9 :00 p.m.

Wednesday 2/27 – I was up at 6:30 and on the Express train to Heathrow by 7:00. It only took minutes to walk to the United check in counter when for 59 pounds I upgraded to Economy Plus. The regular economy seats were packed where in plus was almost empty. We had a two-hour delay in departing and made me miss my 2:00 p.m. shuttle bus, but Julie met me at 5:00 and we were home just before 7:00. A drink, a sandwich, a shower and a goodnight kiss ended this trip.

Later thoughts…did I have a good time? Yes. However, due to my own ignorance, I didn’t check out Bridlingon and Whitstable in the detail that I should have. Both were much bigger than what I though they would be. I guess I had the image of small fishing villages. Ely was tops and an unexpected highlight.

The Riverside Inn is high on my list of recommendations. The weather in the beginning was downright cold but it warmed up about the time I arrived in Ely.
Also, I think this is the only time that I didn’t get rained on. I met some good people, had lots of conversations and, well, had a grand, no, a terrific time.
rogeruktm is offline  
Mar 8th, 2008, 12:53 PM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 45,322
Hello rogeruktm, what a delightful trip report! I so enjoyed your style of writing and how you shared your adventures along with your thoughts.

You live in the SF/Bay Area it seems. Roger, we sometimes have Fodor's GTG's in SF. In fact we are having one to tonight at a restaurant in North Beach. And another one at John's Grill in SF this coming Monday for lunch.

The Fodor's GTG's are usually posted in the Fodor's Lounge. It would be delightful if you could join us at one of the GTG's. In fact if you are able to make the Monday GTG at John's Grill just go to the Lounge and find the thread and post that you will be attending, it is not to late to do so.

I was interested regarding the closed Naval Shipyard. It sounds similar to Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo which was closed around 1996. It is to bad that MI doesn't have that type of museum. There is a group trying to get to USS Iowa to MI but I do not know the uptodate status.

Thank you again for the lovely report. May you have many more trips in the future.

LoveItaly is offline  
Mar 8th, 2008, 01:07 PM
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 1,619
Hi rogeruktm,

What a great trip report. Thank you! It was a great read.

I have plans for more travels to England and prefer using public transport, as you did, so I was making some mental notes for later use. My driving skills are the family joke on this side of the Atlantic, no need to annoy the driving gods, I figure

scotlib is offline  
Mar 8th, 2008, 03:17 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 897
Enjoyed your report. The Black Bear is one of our favourite pubs in that area.
rickmav is offline  
Mar 8th, 2008, 04:37 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 2,472
Thanks for posting this report, rogeruktm. It's fun reading about the variety of places you saw. I'm making notes for upcoming trip(s) to England. We will be in London for a 5 day visit in April, and I'm thinking this might be the time for Duxford. I've always wondered how it is, and am glad to read that you really enjoyed seeing it. Docklands are another possibility (my husband loves that transportation/military stuff also. I'm intrigued by Ely, and that is now on my short list.

So, when do you go back? Any plans yet?
noe847 is offline  
Mar 9th, 2008, 07:03 AM
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Hi loveitaly. Thanks for the invitation, however, I live up north and only make the trip to San Francisco for travel these days. Have fun.
noe847. My next trip...Next will be up North to Scotland. I want to check out North Berwick, see friends in Aberdeen and a short stay in Nairn or someplace on that train line.
rogeruktm is offline  
Mar 9th, 2008, 10:28 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 488
I am thinking of flying into Heathrow and taking a train to a small town and stay a few days. Do you have a suggestion, we will be two ladies 65 and 78. We just want to be able to enjoy the town, and talk to the locals and rest. If I had more time and was younger, I would have followed your trip, as close as I could. I really enjoyed your trip summary. Thank you.
Nlingenfel is offline  
Mar 9th, 2008, 10:42 AM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 5,872
Mr Steele (the Pub owber) may or may not have mentioned it, but he played in the US as well for the "Washington Diplomats". He also has an FA cup winners medal (quite prestigious, and rare amongst players who spent their career in lower leagues).
willit is offline  
Mar 9th, 2008, 11:22 AM
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Nlingenfel, as far as age goes, I will be 69 next month and it really isn't all that difficult to do these type of trips if you take time to rest. As far as a place to unwind...It is reallt hard to give advice on this as we are so different. I think you know that once at Heathrow you need to get to the right station in London as the train from Heathrow goes to Paddington station. I liked Ely, not far, from London. Another place I like, but much bigger, is York. It is about a two hour train ride from Kings Cross station. Abit farther up would be Thirsk.
Willit, Yes, he did mention that he played in the States, something about Maryland as well.
rogeruktm is offline  
Mar 9th, 2008, 12:15 PM
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Posts: 488
Thanks for your information.

Nlingenfel is offline  
Jan 14th, 2009, 06:31 PM
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Enjoyed your report, roger! I know it's almost a year old now, but it will be useful in my planning.

soogies is offline  
Jan 15th, 2009, 02:30 AM
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Posts: 5,950
Loved reading your trip report. Did you avoid catching a cold from all those people who seemed to have one? How much did your first class pass cost you?
Carrybean is offline  
Jan 15th, 2009, 07:19 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 686
Thanks for bring my old report back to the top. First let me say that I am off again on 2/1/09. Flying from San Francisco to Heathrow to Edinburgh. I will take the train to North Berwick, a small village about 20 minutes away by trainbfor 2 nights. Then up to Aberdeen to see a dear friend. Will spend a night in St. Bees, small village on the Irish sea. Then 3 nights in York and then 2 nights in London
As for cost, this year $447. whick is 20% off of the regular price for winter travel. Check out Rick steves for prices, or any many other sites that sell passes.
rogeruktm is offline  

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