Archive for the ‘railroads’ Category

2014 Isle of Wight Marathon   7 comments

IOW signage

First, my thanks go out to the organisers and volunteers for allowing me to participate in their little pub crawl. The venue was great and the small field lent itself to social interaction throughout.

I arrived early from my hotel in Shanklin due to a scheduling anomaly and once I registered I walked back to Cowes quayside to find a pre-race pint. But, no one had a license to serve before 11 am so I walked back up to the Sport Club grounds and waited out their opening time. They were serving tea, coffee and snacks but I decided to leave it till 11 to ask for a beer. And, with that purchase, my esteem was either raised or dashed depending on the co-participant’s attitude. Strange: it was like I had gone much farther from England than the 20 minute ferry ride.

At the starting gate, I stripped off my disposable old clothes (sweats that have become threadbare) and cranked up the GPS in my phone a few minutes before the start, taking my place in the crowd. I didn’t do the excessive pre-scouting of pubs that I have in the past; rather, I planned on stopping at every licensed facility I came across, bar none.

IOW marathon start

The first was the Sportsman’s Rest, a nice little pub with a rude and completely incompetent bartender (hence my long layover–more than ten minutes here). Next up, we passed (or, THEY passed) the New Inn which was much more efficient and completely nonplussed by my stop. Not much farther along the way the Horse and Groom loomed and after service I stepped out to heckle my compatriots for the first time.

iowm first couple of miles

We turned onto an old rail bed and soon we came up on the old station for Yarmouth, or part of Yarmouth, which is now the Off The Rails bar and restaurant. I yelled up to some diners on the platform, “is this place licensed?” then, to drown out their laughter, I repeated, “no, really, do they serve adult beverages?” Served by bemused staff, once again, I went back out and heckled the other runners while I enjoyed my bottle on the platform.

There was a long stretch after that along the riverside and through quiet lanes back almost all the way to Cowes (with no new pubs, although we passed the Sportsman’s and the New Inn again) then the path split off and we started up a long and (at that stage in the game) steep incline that housed, off to the right and nearly at the top, the Traveler’s Joy. It was a truly welcome respite, indeed.

IOW marathon map

With something less than 2 miles left, I eschewed further interaction with my compatriots (for the most part) and focused on finishing in under four hours. Which I did (just barely). It was then I realised how nackered I actually was. I’ve had worse leg cramps, mind, but these came all at once despite my aforementioned carb, nutrient and fluid regimen.

Spectacular organisation in this race, really, and the small and friendly field and the lovely refreshments I found along the way were just a bonus. If I were going to repeat a marathon, this would be one of my top choices. But, now I am qualified for the Ultramarathons I have planned for next year.

IOW marathon special drinks bags

Heh -heh…special drinks, indeed

Happy Seafood, Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, Chippy Challenge #69   2 comments

Happy Seafood Schiphol Airport Amsterdam kibbeling kabeljauw

 

[The Chippy Challenge: to eat more fish and chips in 2014; see original post for details.]

Fish: kabeljauw (cod)
Sides: geen
Evaluation: My train from Swindon to Bristol was an hour late, then the bus was 15 minutes late. My plane was delayed, so I was fairly pleased to find that I had some time to grab a bite to eat.

I really miss kibbeling and the kabeljauw at Happy Fish in Schiphol was primo if a bit expensive (in the airport, so what else would it be?). This was generous, despite that, and chunky and juicy and lovely. I hurried off to my train, which turned out to be five minutes late…of course.

Days since last: 2 (Poseidon, Oxford)
Map link.

Happy Seafood Schiphol Airport Amsterdam

Monthly consolidations/compilations: January
February
March
April
May

The Railway Inn, Westbury, Wiltshire   Leave a comment

Railway Inn Westbury sign

 

With 45 minutes to kill before the train (the second time this dilemma struck today) I ducked into the Railway Inn for a pint. Loud and boisterous punters were gathered in clumps in the dark interior but I eventually negotiated the gauntlet to the bar where I found the only candidate for the Daily Tipple to be San Miguel lager (and it didn’t make the cut).

San Miguel Railway Inn Westbury San Miguel tap Railway Inn Westbury

I went to the tables outside and watched some youths yob it up and some folks that appeared to be having an affair come out for a smoke. The bar seems a bit rough-and-ready, but that’s much better than the alternative I expected (see the Three Horseshoes from this morning). Party!

Railway Inn Westbury

Dufus   Leave a comment

dufus

 

The train to Stroud was delayed and I eavesdropped on my coachmates.  I used the window reflections to see just what kind of doofus was sitting two seats away.  It seems I was right…he even labeled his child as such.

Railway Inn, West Hampstead, London   Leave a comment

railway inn west hampstead

It had already been a grand day out in London but our tour of Kensal Green left us starving and we decided to take the Overground to the next useful tube station up from Kensal Rise and scout lunch there.  It turned out to be West Hampstead and the Railway Inn beckoned.  Inside we found a lively bar with some friendly (no shit…in LONDON, but they were foreign) staff and I had easily the best burger I didn’t make myself since moving to this culinarily challenged island.

railway inn west hampstead bar2

Not in a giant hurry and enjoying the breeze on the warmest day we have ever spent in the big city, we ran a tab and watched the street action.

railway inn west hampstead bar

Posted 2013/07/28 by Drunken Bunny in food, pubs, railroads, tourism

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Three Horseshoes, Stibb Green (Burbage). Wiltshire   4 comments

three horseshoes stibb green sign

Just plain awesome.  Walking into the bar of the Three Horseshoes a half hour after opening time there is already a couple being served lunch, another two couples in the garden with drinks, more in the lounge and a friendly and helpful bartender.  All bodes well for the cross-country jog and pub crawl I have planned ahead of the Great Bustard 5 Mile Race over in Pewsey later in the afternoon.

three horseshoes stibb green lounge

Also a good sign (no pun intended), is the abundance of railroad memorabilia.  Walking around with my Corvus Stout (the Wadworth Breweries fine chocolate of beer), I soon realised the theme was everywhere:

three horseshoes stibb green garden

There are some awesome artifacts around the garden area like these obsolete signs:

three horseshoes stibb green rail sign 2  three horseshoes stibb green rail sign 1

and this old station lamp:

three horseshoes stibb green rail lamp

The one minor deference to the middle class influx of the area seemed to be the potpourri in the loo (noted whilst changing into my running gear).

three horseshoes stibb green loo

The earlier chat with the landlord was pretty useful in that he approved of the route I took and loves the “Brucie’s” where I planned to stop midway; he grimaced when I said I was going to try out the Moonrakers in Pewsey before the race and gave me a couple of options he preferred (a “tad more civilised”) but all this did was ensure my planned path.  Next up was the run to the Bruce Arms….

three horseshoes stibb green

GWR Bench Detail, Charlbury Station   Leave a comment

gwr bench legs at charlbury station

 

Spotted this Great Western Railway emblem on the benches at Charlbury Station during an earned rest out of the rain (though drenched).

The Railway Tavern, Hungerford, Berkshire   Leave a comment

railway tavern hungerford

I love a Railway Tavern and this was a pretty good one with London Pride on tap, pleasant enough rock on the speakers, and a bunch of tabloid papers on the table where I sat.  The barmaid was friendly and most of the other customers appeared to be regulars.  The house still looks like a 19th- or early 20th-century hotel and they have live music several times a week.  The only down side is the rail line doesn’t run to Swindon (you would have to change in Reading).

Four years in England   3 comments

res permit front

So, four years now (or, rather, next week it will be…here’s the annual reports for years Three, Two, and One for historical perspective).

We just received our new visas valid until 2016 but plan to take the next step toward citizenship in a year, Indefinite Leave to Remain…sort of the British Green Card.  There is an exam, first, but in general it is all downhill from here.

The view from Western Street near the new house...also all downhill

The view from Western Street near the new house…also all downhill

Additionally, we are in the process of moving house (which is why I rushed the annual report a week forward) from just north of the Oasis over to Old Town to a house situated close walks to either the Beehive or the Castle or the Globe (recently reopened!)—three locals instead of one and all three of high quality—and dozens of others a short walk. The new house has three bedrooms each larger than its counterpart in the old house, the two receptions are larger and made into more of an open-plan configuration, the bath is larger and has a tub (not just a shower), and there is a finished basement; on the down side, the kitchen is a little narrower and more primitive as is the small garden but everything we do and everywhere we normally go in Swindon (save for the butcher) is so close.

The only races I did this past year were the London Marathon (5 pubs plus a can of Carling on the last mile) and the Beerathon (5 miles with a pint and a hefty food item between each) and the mileage run for the year suffered from this lack of focus—1950 give or take about 25 (most estimates pretty good using gmap-pedometer), while the last several years (except for the year of the wreck) were in the 2200-2500 range.

year 4 pub graph

On the runs, I visited  255 new pubs with a stunning 67 new ones (steep part of the graph) in September when I took two weeks off work and ran at least 10 miles per day in new territory each day. The 1000th wasn’t as big a thrill as I thought it would be, but I saw some really nice places and met some really fine folk. The September holiday found me visiting Gloucester, South Wales, Slough (exotic, I know) and Exeter along with some nearer-to-Swindon trips. The 100 Yellow Beer Challenge was responsible for a lot of second visits to pubs I might not otherwise have gone to after an initial stop and many of these seemed better the second time around. Oh, and my Workingman’s Club appears to have failed or at least hasn’t been open the last several times I’ve popped by (I have a grand one scoped out for the new neighbourhood, though).

Best pubs in Year Four (reverse order by First Visit write-up):
The Southgate Inn, Devizes
Byron’s, Swindon
The Hop Inn, Swindon
Dicey Reilly’s, Teignmouth
The Brass Monkey, Teignmouth
One Eyed Jack’s, Gloucester
Ye Olde Red Lion, Tredegar
The Rose of Denmark, Woolwich
The Volunteer Rifleman’s Arms
The Green Dragon, Marlborough
The British Lion, Devizes
The Blue Boar, Alsbourne (for the Dr. Who connections)

Favourite write-ups:
Postboxes
British Citizenship Exam Prep
Risk Assessment-Bins
Oxford Tourists
Assize Court, Bristol

Cock Flavour
Paul Simon in Hyde Park
Edie’s Lawn
The hunt
The Bremen Musicians (German children’s story)
Sex Tourism in Wiltshire
Modern Algebra for Omid
Burns’ Day Lunch

There are others search for ‘made me laugh.’  The blog may or may not have made some of the over 100,000 visitors laugh, but the damn fools keep checking in (that’s you, that is).

The Tavern Inn, Kemble, Gloucestershire   Leave a comment

 

 

“Once upon a time there was a tavern
Where we used to raise a glass or two
Remember how we laughed away the hours
And dreamed of all the great things we would do.”
–credited erroneously to Mary Hopkin, above the bar at the Tavern Inn

The last mile of the run entailed dashing from the Thames Head Inn, down the Kemble/Tarlton Road, through the Kemble Station where I startled some boys doing a bit of Parcours on the rails and post box, over the bridge and out the far side of the station and up to the Tavern Inn where half the clientèle were out having smokes and were not a little bemused by my sunset arrival.

Inside, it was more folks just out from the fields in filthy wellies and talking bollocks to beat the band.  Some international rugby match was on but there wasn’t a good place to squeeze in or, rather, no place as good as the empty table near the darts alley.  I took by Donnington Two B’s and dumped my bag out to try to sort my dry clothing into an easy to deploy pile.  No one seemed to take the slightest notice of this behaviour except for the boxer (canine, not Cassius Clay) that came over for a scratch and a chance to sniff to poo covered shoes and socks while I slipped on my dry ones.

For a railway pub (which, 50 meters from the platform, this should qualify) it seemed particularly local but then again Kemble is tiny and it is surprising they even have a station anymore.  It’s worth a stop if you have an hour to spare on the ride between Gloucester and London, though.

The Queen’s Hotel, Newport, Gwent (pub #991)   Leave a comment

With a half hour layover in Newport, there wasn’t time to be choosy about the venue.  The Queen’s Hotel wasn’t my preferred sort of pub for a short stop, large and yet crowded, but even had I found a true local it was just after end-of-business on a Friday and I would certainly have sacrificed my advance ticket for the experience–this was better for my purposes.

When I say it is huge, you really don’t get that impression from the photo, below.  However, the streets on either side of this frontage are at 30 degree angles to each other and the house stretches back along both of these, expanding as it does, for about 200 feet.  Inside, it is a multilevel, gaudy and oddly disconcerting mix of drunken pensioners, yuppies, derelicts, and hybrids of the three.

Posted 2012/09/09 by Drunken Bunny in pubs, railroads

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The Red Lion, Cholsey, Oxfordshire (pub #969)   1 comment

The final train stop on this journey (seven pubs today starting with three on the 15 mile run then this rail-pub-crawl) put me in Cholsey where there are two fine pubs but they are spaced as far apart in the village as could be so I started with the Red Lion (as it closes at 3 until sometime in the evening).

I had a Brakspear Bitter and it was perfect BUT I still had the aftertaste of the Ringwood from the Catherine Wheel and the bitter was overpowered.  Shame, as the texture was awesome.

 

The staff and customers seemed pretty cool, too, even if we mostly chatted about the weather.  The five pubs prior to this one were starting to tell on me as I ranted about weather forecast accuracy being limited to about 6 hours. I had passed this sign on the way and noted that on my 7th pint I would actually be surpassing my THIRD Forty, but I think I kept it to myself:

Posted 2012/09/04 by Drunken Bunny in pubs, railroads, tourism

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The Great Western Railway Staff Association, Didcot, Oxfordshire   Leave a comment

Someone was hit by a train out between Cardiff and Swindon causing the train to come to a halt inside a tunnel; my train options were all delayed because of the limited traffic during the grim investigation.  I walked out of the station and into the open doors of the Great Western Railway Staff Association shack out near the south end of the platforms.


The signs near the bar said guests had to pay a pound and be accompanied by a member, but no one challenged me on this point nor charged me the vig.  I went to the porch but it was still hot in the late afternoon sun.  The interior reminded me a lot of my old union hall except the building was a lot sturdier there and there was no bar (although most of the old carpenters smelled like breweries).

There are GWRSA branches all over the west of England and bits of Wales.  A lifelong rail enthusiast (my grandpa was a signalman for Southern Railways in the States), I will try hard to weasel my way into a few more of these.

The Railway Inn, Culham Station, Oxfordshire   Leave a comment

As you do when you decide not to carry a map, I ran a longer route than planned and had to blow past another pub on the way to Culham rail station in order to make my train.  I ran a bit harder to make up the extra ground and was rewarded with fifteen minutes at the Railway Inn adjacent to the station.

There were several interesting ales on the pumps and I got a porter from Box Steam Brewery (a new-ish brewery and one of my favourites).  Rather than sit in the mostly dark bar, I joined the group of locals outside bemoaning the sort of landlord that puts on fancy food over serving the regular customers with consistency and the new ones with courtesy and a modicum of warmth.  In too much of a hurry to join in, I drained the glass and moved on.

End of the run (click picture for full map)

 

 

A trip to the STEAM Museum   2 comments

One of the best museums in the whole country and recently proclaimed THE best tourist site in Wiltshire (beating out the likes of Stonehenge, Avebury, and the Salisbury Cathedral), STEAM is on my doorstep…literally less than 10 minutes stroll from my front door and yet I haven’t been there this entire year…a matter corrected Saturday.

The crowds were heavy as there was also a Christmas market distributed amongst the exhibits; this prompted a special £2 admission rate and every yahoo for 50 miles (and their screaming yahoo progeny) was there.  Still, really well done exhibits of all aspects of steam engine and rail car manufacture and the lives of the men and women who did it (and who switched to bomb making during the wars).  I’m definitely going back soon with a clearer head.

Assembly exhibit, this locomotive used to haul coal in Wales

 

One of many engines

 

One of the few Diesel trains on exhibit, made here

 

The Ditchbay Manor

 

Dennis fire engine

Dennis from the rear

 

Ditchbay Manor works

 

The North Star

 

There's a walkway under one of the engines that is worth a look

 

More of the undercarriage

Slow week   2 comments

I’ve been sick with a vile upper respiratory infection for two weeks now; Jackie had it, too, but offset by a week so I can confirm by the matching trajectories (low grade fever for a couple of days overlapping ever-increasing congestion, nausea, and fairly high fever, then body aches and tightness in chest leading to, these last few days, a wracking cough and endless sneezing and what seems to be sudden drops in blood pressure) that I am on the mend.  I look forward to the end of the incubation period for all I have been in close contact with..sort of a perverse little advent calendar wherein each day I’m surprised by a new casualty.  Merry Christmas.

 

The NHS will probably track me down as Patient Zero when the audience at the Write Stuff all head off to hospital in a week or so.  We were in London Wednesday–when I had the one good half day before relapse–with plans to hang out in Kensal Green Cemetary on the afternoon then head over toward Broadcasting House; this didn’t pan out as Jackie’s train was delayed but she got there with time enough for a nice dinner before the shows.  We saw two tapings, and if you listen to the one with H. G. Wells as the featured author, that continuous barking noise out in the audience is me coughing out my esophagous.

Oxford Street at Regent Street--ooooh, pretty Christmas lights...

Miller’s Bar, King’s Cross, London   1 comment

On a one day consultancy callout to my old job at Cambridge I took two days to arrive early, relaxed, and to get a nice run and a few new pubs under my belt beforehand.  I had some issues with a new computer for the wife which put my escape from Swindon back a couple of hours later than optimal so I didn’t stray too far from the rail station in London (although I had some gems picked out).  Still, Miller’s Bar just around the corner from King’s Cross Station was pretty good if for no other reason than the Young’s Best on as a guest only set me back 2.70 in Central London.

A single room bar, it has the air of a local boozer in a much smaller city and with much less diversity of language and even accent spoken.  A Dutchie pulled up next to me and order ‘cold beer’ in a way that said he was older than he looked (my age or more) and from further out in the provinces than Amsterdam or the Hague: his English was shit, which just doesn’t happen until you get close to Germany.

A pair of American couples that seemed to be fresh off the plane for their first trips over came up and ordered lot’s of stuff separately and generally confused–but never shook–the barlady. I guess what I’m saying is there are a lot of foreigners in this one, but it is the real thing and it is three minutes from the furthest platform in King’s Cross (8 minutes in St Pancras).

Posted 2011/10/04 by Drunken Bunny in pubs, railroads

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Off the Rails, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset   Leave a comment

It is a small bar, but Off the Rails has everything you could ask of a local: good beer, friendly publican, a couple of good ciders and it’s right on public transport…literally on the platform of the rail station.  We had twenty minutes until the train so I got a Rich’s Farmhouse Cider and settled in to a comfy corner to watch other travellers and folks that just popped over for some beverage and chat.

The left side of the room is fairly sterile which is probably good as that is the station buffet, but the right side with the bar is dark and full of character.  The cider seemed watery with very little flavour other than a combination of pine resin and iodine, like cheap single malt, but its astringent quality made my teeth feel a bit cleaner than before I ordered it.  But, the price couldn’t be beat, at £2.20 for the pint of swill it was cheaper than a similarly sized bottle of water back on the beach.

Steamers, Chippenham Rail Station, Wiltshire   Leave a comment

I didn’t really need another beer and this was more of a café than a pub, but I couldn’t possibly resist a bar named Steamers (see this Urban Dictionary entry if you aren’t already smirking).  I got a Grolsch which was green.  Not the container but the beer itself: for the uninitiated, when you store a beer and it gets very warm then very cold for a couple of cycles it tends to become foul tasting and somewhat viscous.  Yum yum.

As a side note, several of the Atlanta area Hash House Harrier kennels (Southern Comfort was my first ATL HHH) initiate newcomers to their trails with a can of Non Alcoholic beer that has been driven around in the boot of a local hasher’s car at least one summer long (average evening temperatures exceed 80F/27C with sunny days regularly reaching upper 90’s F/upper 30’s C and an occasional weeklong period in excess of 104F/40C).   At least they serve it to you warm.  At Steamers it shows up cold and is as surprising and unwelcome as a turd on your chest (see this Urban Dictionary entry if you aren’t already smirking).

 

The Mad Bishop and Bear, in Paddington Station, London   1 comment

 

I met the wife after her conference and we grabbed a bite then an early train back to London, and as we were not only on advanced sales tickets for a late train from Paddington Station to Swindon (reserved seating means you can only use the train for which you are scheduled) but that train was delayed we had time to kill.  We made our way upstairs to the Mad Bishop and Bear which looked from the façade like an airport bar (and the prices were evocative of that, as well).  Inside, however, the venue complements the fantastic architecture of the station itself.  The Edwardian lighting and the art nouveau touches here and there made for a very civilised place to hang out and watch the Arrivals/Departure boards for the 20:55 to Swansea.

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