This should have been an easy day and it effectively was. But it could have been an absolute nightmare, due to signalling problems in the Wolverhampton area. Someone said it was cable theft, but I can’t find any reference on the web.
I’d taken the 10:23 from Euston and I knew I could change at either New Street or Sandwell and Dudley. I chose the first, which did mean a walk to Moor Street, but it was also a direct train to the station at The Hawthorns. The other route may well have been a couple of minutes quicker, but due to the signalling problems it might have been difficult.
West Brom ‘s ground is only a short walk from the station of the same name, with separately signposted routes for home and away fans.
As with most grounds this week, because of the International break, it was all rather quiet, so I took a couple of photos and returned to the station.
The trains seemed to be running erratically, so I thought I’d take one of Birmingham’s trams back to the city centre. In some ways, these are the UK’s forgotten tram system and it could surely benefit with some limited expansion.
It was a wise move as the tram accepted my return ticket, due to the signalling problems and it was only about fifteen minutes walk to New Street for the train home. It would have been nice if the trams had connected to Birmingham’s main station.
I had plenty of the day left and I came home first before I took the Overground to Whitechapel before changing to the District line for Upton Park and West Ham‘s stadium of the same name as the station.
The ground’s architecture is unusual to say the least. It seems to owe a lot to the Disneys of the world. I’d never seen this side before, as usuallyI’ve been to the stadium in the dark and the the away supporters are on the other side.
Tranmere should have been easy, as it was just a ride on the Wirral line out of Liverpool to Rock Ferry.
But it wasn’t, as the maps and signposting to the ground were virtually non-existent and the first few people I asked, didn’t seem to know how to get there. Perhaps, they were all Liverpool and Everton supporters.
As you can see it is a surprisingly large ground.
I then recrossed under the Mersey back to Lime Street and then took a train to Wolverhampton, where I took a train direct to the station at Walsall ‘s Bescot Stadium.
The picture shows the stadium from the station footbridge, with the M6 and a rather busy road in between. I didn’t feel like braving the traffic, so made a quick exit back to the station. But it’s certainly one of the easiest stadia to find by public transport.
The train was delayed by a few minutes getting into the station and I just had time to buy a ticket before catching the train to Watford Junction for Watford.
I did cheat and take a taxi at Watford, as I was starting to cough badly and didn’t feel the exercise would help. But I have walked it several times in the past and Ipswich have never won.
The picture isn’t good, but it was about 20:30 and getting dark.
Afterwards it was back to the station to take the Overground back to Euston.
I took this picture of myself by holding the camera, as far away as I could.
But where am I? Judging by the water and the state of the sea, it could be on a cross channel ferry or perhaps one going to the Isle of Wight.
But remember, I’m visiting all 92 football grounds and teams are all on the mainland. I think the only football club that isn’t is Canvey Island, but they play in the Isthmian League.
So the picture was taken at Dawlish between Exeter and Newton Abbot from a High Speed Diesel Train. Trains are regularly sprayed with sea-water and being diesel powered it usually isn’t a problem. But if the line was electrified, who’s to say what will happen. After all, they’ve got forty years of running these trains in this sort of weather.
They couldn’t close the line, as what would they do when they needed iconic photographs of trains for publicity purposes!
Who’d have thought that the High Speed Diesel Train would live on because of the British weather?
Swindon was surprisingly easy, as it was only about twenty minutes walk from the main railway station.
Or it will be when they finish the roadworks and sort out the pedestrian access around the station. There are a few maps and signs, but due to the location of the ground, the road signs are a great help once you get started in the right direction. They also have helpful distances on a lot of them.
I’d arrived on the 08:15 from London at 09:13 and had plenty of time to catch the 10:55 direct train to Torquay. I was surprised it was a direct train, but even more surprised that it was a High Speed Diesel Train on its way from Paddington to Paignton, via Swindon, Bath, Bristol, Weston-super-Mare, Exeter and Torquay. I hope that after electrification of the main line to Bristol and Cardiff, that they use these trains to run lots of holiday trains to the West Country.
I was meeting an old friend in Torquay, so I took a taxi to Torquay‘s football ground. I didn’t see one signpost.
I certainly needed the coat, as it wasn’t weather typical of the English Riviera. Afterwards it was back to the station to catch a train to London.
Afterwards, I was able to get a bus back from the ground to close to my house. Except for Arsenal, where I just walk, it is the easiest ground to get to from my home.
In some ways it was a day of three lessons.
- The High Speed Diesel Trains used on West Country services are a superb asset to the railways. Passengers like them and in some ways they are irreplaceable in serving the far-flung parts of the west and the Scottish Highlands. They may be forty years old, but engineers know how to keep them going for a few more years yet. Many of them will outlive me! I suspect too, that there is a strong cost benefit in keeping them running, rather than electrifying all the lines, where they run.
- The Pacers still used in various parts of the country are a disgrace. To make matters worse, they were a disgrace when they were built. They should be replaced with a modern train as soon as possible. The train used on the Overground from Gospel Oak to Barking would probably be an ideal replacement. And they would be built in Derby!
- The train from Liverpool Street to White Hart Lane station may have been thirty years old, but it had been well-refurbished. On that line it is the stations that are a disgrace which deny access to no-one but the fit to the railway. I wouldn’t like to try to tranport a baby in a buggy either on many of the stations. So perhaps, one of the priorities after the Tpttenham riots, should be to fix those stations.
This was one that I thought would be simple. Just a return on a Sunday to one of the furthest clubs from London; Swansea.
But I knew there would be problems because of engineering works on both the Underground and the trains to South Wales. So I decided to start early and just took a Super Off Peak Return to Swansea, having booked a seat on the 08:00 from Paddington. I had elected to take my chances about getting a seat on the return journey. But I thought I’d have a reasonable chance, as the train started its return journey in Swansea and I knew there was an unreserved coach.
So it should have worked out well and mostly it did.
Because there was no Underground trains to Paddington, I had to take a couple of buses. Which wasn’t too much of a hardship, but the journey wasn’t as easy as it would have been on say a Monday.
When I got to Paddington, Marks and Spencer wasn’t yet open, so I couldn’t buy any sandwiches for the trip. As they are the only place to buy any gluten-free food in stations and there is nothing on the trains, I would have to wait until Swansea.
The journey was uneventful except that it took just over four hours instead of just under three. This was because it had to go via Bristol Temple Meads and Bristol Parkway, rather than straight through, because of the engineering works.
On arriving in Swansea, I walked straight to the Liberty stadium in about half-an-hour. There were no signposts for either walkers or drivers until you could see the stadium.
Swansea share the ground with the rugby club; The Ospreys, as you can see from the picture.
I think I caught the remains of a car boot sale, so I thought I’d get back to the city centre and try and locate some food.
I did get a bus, but of course I had to pay for it, as English bus passes are not valid in Wales. Are we a United Kingdom or not? I don’t mind paying incidentally and feel that a UK wide scheme with perhaps a small charge outside your home are, would be the fairest way to do it.
But I couldn’t find any food. Marks & Spencer told me, that they had no gluten-free sandwiches, although they do stock them. but they are not the best of sellers! In the end I get some EatNakd bars from Holland and Barrett. They may be nice, but coffee and chocolate bars isn’t the best diet, even if it is gluten-free!
So I got back to the station and took the 14:00 train home. Paddington was in chaos because of the Underground engineering works, so it was buses to Oxford Street and then the Central line and another bus to Islington for supper in Carluccio’s.
All I say is roll on CrossRail, as this will make getting to Paddington so much easier; engineering works or not!
As an aside, I took this picture of the stadium from the train from London.
It strikes me that this is a ground that could benefit from its own station.
It was a day though that showed me the problems of travelling as a coeliac unless you plan ahead and take your lunch with you!
The real reason was to see Ipswich play at home to Doncaster, but I also had to go to have a blood test taken before the match.
I had to go to the doctor, so I took this day off. I also wanted to see a debate on the media in the evening in the local church.
We were all sitting drinking glasses of wine in the nave.
I can start to see the end now, as there are only fourteen clubs to go.
So where are the awards this week?
Hero of the Week
This has to be the Scottish Nurse, who sat beside me all the way from Newcastle to London on Day 34, as I coughed my way home. Not for one moment did she complain either about that or my incessant chatter, as I tried to keep quiet.
Most Surprising Stadium of the Week
It has to be Sunderland‘s Stadium of Light, as the weather was so bad and it was about five in the evening , you couldn’t see it in the dark. Seriously though, it hasn’t put me totally off the place. And I’d certainly go if Ipswich were drawn away in a cup.
Best Stadium of the Week
Some will say that because it has an athletic track, it shouldn’t be used for football. But then the Don Valley Stadium that Rotherham use, is a well-designed stadium, with good transport links everywhere. Not having seen a match there, I can’t tell how it works, but it shows that it might be possible to design a smaller stadium for both football and athletics. After all, experience in the UK of dual-use stadia is generally memories of the old Wembley or Stamford Bridge, which featured a greyhound track. Neither were an experience to be treasured. Unless you were a real masochist!
Best Signposted Stadium of the Week
The only way is Essex on this one!
Worse-Signposted stadium of the Week
In the taxi from the station to the ground, I didn’t see a single sign post.
Dump of the Week
Before I started, I thought that several towns and cities I visited thisweek would be contenders. How about Rochdale, Rotherham, Scunthorpe, Stoke or Sunderland?
But in the end there was an easy winner; Stevenage. To say it was a town that was actually designed and didn’t grow organically, just shows how bad they did their job in the 1960s. Especially, as they had the examples of some nice garden cities nearby from just a few years earlier. So what is wrong about the town?
- It is not an easy place to walk anywhere. There are too many steps and lots of places where a pedestrian crossing might help.
- The buses seem numerous, but I didn’t see a map or information on a stop.
- The signage is not very good, even where it exists.
- I did find a map, but it was rather out of date.
I shan’t be returning.
But fro what I’ve said here, they’d probably ride me out of town on a rail, if I did return. Obviously, if I was in a train going to London, I wouldn’t care.
Gates of the Week
These just have to be those at Roots Hall, where Southend play. You can get a taste of them here.
Best Train of the Week
The Trans Pennine Express out of Scunthorpe.
Worst Train of the Week
The Pacer trains to Sheffield and from Sheffield to Scunthorpe.
At least from Manchester to Sheffield, I was on the Hope Valley line.
Hopefully over the next few days, I will not see any more Pacers on routes I need to take.
Stevenage should have been easier than it was, but the siugn-posting was a bit patchy and sent you the wrong way on the way from the station.
Typically, too, as Stevenage is a new town, cars come first and pedstrians nowhere. I did see the odd bus stop and a few buses, but there was no information of any use. At how many places could I have said that? Perhaps, it would be better to ask at how many places were the buses understandable to a visitor?
I lost a few minutes waiting for the train back to London, but I made the time up by catching the 11:00 at Euston, which stopped en route at Stoke-on-Trent for Stoke City. I took a taxi to the Britannia Stadium, as I’d experienced Stoke’s buses before and only a local or a determined masochist would have enough knowledge or fortitude to attempt the journey by bus.
I do hope they run a shuttle bus from the station on match days!
I struck it lucky on return to Stoke station, in that I was on another Virgin train immediately to Manchester. But as ever, I was let down in Piccadilly, by their stupid train display and missed the next train to Newcastle by about a minute. So it was change at Leeds, where they have displays that work.
Sunderland should have been easy from Newcastle Central, as it has its own station at Stadium of Light.
But as to the stadium it was out there somewhere in the dark.
As it was chucking it down, I decided that as it wasn’t signposted from the station, as far as I could see, that this would have to be the end of trying to find the Stadium of Light in the Dark.
Perhaps I should have risked pneumonia.
By 18:00 I was on the train going home Kings Cross. Sadly, it was half-an-hour late into the capital.