The Bluebell Line


Continuing a theme of stepping back in time, today’s post is about the Bluebell Railway which runs between East Grinstead & Sheffield Park in East Sussex.

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Bluebell Railway – Sheffield Park Station

This was another “wrinklies” trip, organised by the IBM Retired Employees Club. And what a fine day out it was.

A coach trip through some of the finest countryside that Hampshire and Sussex have to offer. You see so much more from the high vantage point that a coach provides. Seeing much that is missed, hidden behind hedgerows when sitting in a car.

On arrival at Sheffield Park, we had time to wander the station, the gift shop and cafe.

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Bluebell Line – Sheffield Park – Platform view with some rolling stock in the distance.

Over to the right you can just make out a brown locomotive. This is the Fenchurch, the oldest engine on the Bluebell Line.

Fenchurch was built in 1872 for the London Brighton and South Coast Railway.

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It was sold in 1898 to the Newhaven Harbour Company where it worked for many years. It finished its working life on the Hayling Island branch where the light weight, at 28 tons, was valuable due to the limits on the bridge over the estuary.

Whilst wandering the platforms, browsing the souvenir shop and raiding the restaurant for some chilled water, our train arrived.

The walls of the station buildings are adorned with the advertising posters of yesteryear, many stirring quite strong memories.

Before we could board, the existing passengers had to disembark, and then the engine had to be moved from the one end of the train to the other.

While the engine swapped ends the carriage for our group was also being prepared for our luncheon. We were to enjoy a ploughman’s lunch and fresh brewed tea.

Once our engine was re-attached to our train there was just time for a few more shots before boarding.

And then we were off. Not the smooth running of todays diesel/electric trains. Rather a gentle pulsing which comes from the steam-driven pistons driving our locomotives wheels. Then there was the aroma, coal fire mixed with steam. Once experienced, never forgotten.

The line passes through some beautiful countryside. We saw cows, sheep, quite a few pheasants. I even saw, what I assumed was an owl box, shaped like the gable end of barn, mounted in a tree close by the railway.

We were sat across our table from a nice couple of gents with whom we nattered about all manner of subjects. We all enjoyed our ploughman’s lunch although perhaps it would have been more appropriate to have had an engine drivers breakfast. Bacon, sausage, eggs and toast cooked on a shovel in the firebox. But I guess that would have been too much to ask for. Even the tea could have made using steam from the boiler.

Ah well, perhaps another time. All too soon our journey was over and we all left the train and headed back to our coach for the drive home.

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Journeys End – an almost deserted platform

And finally, when we had a nationalised railway system, we all moaned and wished we could go back to the days of the independent and local railway companies. Now we have a national rail network with franchised companies running the trains. With the current, recurring railway network chaos headlining our newspapers and television news, it seems we are all wishing we had our old nationalised system under British Railways ……

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Pemberton / Second Best Western


Our second day of travelling, south of Perth, found us bidding farewell to Margaret River and aiming for Pemberton. Travelling along Warner Glenn Road we crossed the Blackwood River where we stopped so that I could take a couple of photos. By coincidence a couple of kayakers were passing through…..

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Kayaks – Blackwood River, WA

The figure in the bow of the yellow kayak is that of a dog, proudly acting as lookout. As I walked up the slope from the bridge, back to the car, I noticed a small yellow sign…… lower left corner of the photo below.

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Bridge – Blackwood River, WA. Little yellow sign in bottom left corner indicates flood water levels.

The sign has a line, indicating the flood levels in January 1982. Which means that the bridge would have been totally submerged. Given the height of the bridge, over the current water level, that’s a significant amount of water.

Back on the move again we continued towards Pemberton. The “satnag” had routed us through quite a remote region and once again, well for Gerry and I, we found ourselves watching the fuel gauge.  However, it wasn’t really an issue and we were soon in the centre of Pemberton.

Pemberton is a small town named after original settler Pemberton Walcott. The main industry of the town was timber and there were a number of sawmills processing timber to supply half a million railway sleepers for the Trans-Australian Railway. There are a number of associated artifacts dotted around the town.

Log Carriage c1914 - Pemberton, WA

Log Carriage c1914 – Pemberton, WA

Steam Locomotive c1914 - Pemberton, WA

Steam Locomotive c1914 – Pemberton, WA

Before touring the town we hunted down a cafe where we could have a bite to eat. There are a number of cafe’s and we soon settled ourselves on the veranda at the Crossings Bakery. This establishment self promotes themselves as the “Home Of The Great Aussie Pie” and advertises “Home Made Chunky Meat Pies” “All $5.00”.

Well I don’t know if they are “great” or if this the home of the pies but they hit the spot and when washed down by coffee’s and iced teas our little group were fighting fit to go and hit Pemberton’s tourist hotspots.

Suitably Refreshed - The Crossings Bakery, Pemberton, WA

Suitably Refreshed – The Crossings Bakery, Pemberton, WA

As per usual we headed for the visitor centre where we fought off the urge to purchase copious amounts of Koala Fart5J7A2559_edited5J7A2559_edited.jpg, but discovered that we had about ten minutes to get aboard the Pemberton Tramway which was about to set off on its last trip of the day. This journey is well worth the time spent and, if nothing else, means you get a cooling breeze as you trundle through the forests. In their own words ….

This unforgettable 1¾ hour service shuffles out of Pemberton, past the Saw Mill and descends deep into the Karri forest.  The tram meanders through the forest, crossing six bridges, stopping at the Cascades and ending at the Warren River Bridge where the Lefroy Brook Joins the Warren River.  Your tram then returns to Pemberton.

This is not the most comfortable ride you will ever take but it is fun and informative, the drivers dialogue will have you laughing, well smiling perhaps. We were lucky enough to see a Kookaburra take off from a tree branch and keep pace with the tram for quite some distance before zooming off into the trees.

I See No Ships - Waiting For The Off - Pemberton Tramway, Pemberton, WA

I See No Ships – Waiting For The Off – Pemberton Tramway, Pemberton, WA

The tram ride takes you from one side of Pemberton, across the main road, past the remaining sawmill before plunging into the forest. The following photo’s were all taken from the tram.

Timber Yard / Sawmill - Pemberton, WA

Timber Yard / Sawmill – Pemberton, WA

East Brook Bridge, Pemberton Tramway - Pemberton, WA

East Brook Bridge, Pemberton Tramway – Pemberton, WA

Lefroy Brook - Pemberton Tramway, Pemberton, WA

Lefroy Brook – Pemberton Tramway, Pemberton, WA

The tram ride paused at the Cascades where we were invited to disembark and explore the river below.

Tram - Cascades, Pemberton, WA

Tram – Cascades, Pemberton, WA

Apparently, at the Cascades, the Lefroy Brook transforms from a gentle flow in mid summer to a raging torrent in winter. I guess being December it was summer time and the flow was decidedly tranquil. Definitely a pretty spot, only spoilt by the hoards of tourists just dumped from their tram ride.

Hordes at the Cascades, Pemberton - Pemberton, WA

Hordes at the Cascades, Pemberton – Pemberton, WA

Oh yeah, I was one of those bloody tourists too.

I held back to take some shots when the tram horn blew, calling all the passengers back.

Cascades - Pemberton, WA

Cascades – Pemberton, WA

Cascades - Pemberton, WA

Cascades – Pemberton, WA

Cascades - Pemberton, WA

Cascades – Pemberton, WA

After a twenty-minute interlude at the Cascades the tram carried us further to Warren Bridge, the end of our outward journey. After a few minutes admiring the view …..

View From Warren Bridge - Pemberton Tramway, Pemberton, WA

View From Warren Bridge – Pemberton Tramway, Pemberton, WA

….. the tram headed back to Pemberton. The return journey was a lot faster, and with little or no commentary.

Once back at the Pemberton station I thought this grand only veteran railway engine was deserving of a mention.

W.A.G.R "V1213" - "V" Class

W.A.G.R “V1213” – “V” Class

This engine was built in England at  Robert Stephenson & Hawthorn’s Darlington works at a cost of some £55,019 . It was in service from 20th December, 1955 through to its retirement on 17th June, 1971.

This class of engine was designed to haul coal from the Collie mines to Perth and Fremantle and were also used for heavy freight on the Perth – Bunbury and York – Albany lines.

From the station we headed back into town to search out the hotel. All of us were feeling the need to freshen up. Our hotel was very easy to find, situated as it is, right on the main road as you drive into Pemberton.

First let me say that the photos on the  Best Western Pemberton Hotel website bear little similarity with our rooms. Dull, tired, dated, these are all descriptors that I would use for our accommodation. Certainly not bright and airy as the photos seem to imply. At least the room was clean.

Having freshened up we headed out to take a look at the Gloucester Tree. None of us had any plans to climb the tree which, at 58m, is way out of our league.

Gloucester Tree - Pemberton, WA

Gloucester Tree – Pemberton, WA

We stood and watched a number of people set off up the tree. Quite a few made it fairly quickly. A couple stopped part way and returned to the ground after only 10m or so. What really had us bemused were the number of apparently sane adults who were allowing their 8-10 year old children to climb, when they could barely span the step between the pegs. And, I know this is Australia, but climbing in thongs (English “flip-flops”). Come on folks.

After the Gloucester Tree we went exploring and came across Big Brook Dam. This is a man-made lake, built in 1986, to provide water for the Pemberton region.

Big Brook Dam - Pemberton, WA

Big Brook Dam – Pemberton, WA

This late in the evening the area was very quiet but looked to be a great place for  walking and picnics.

As time was moving on we thought we would find somewhere to eat and returned to Pemberton centre. Much to our dismay we found that all of the earlier eateries were now closed. The only choices seemed to be our hotel, a fish and chip bar, and a curry house. It seems that Pemberton goes to sleep between 16:30 and 18:00.

Second Best Western Pemberton Hotel

Second Best Western Pemberton Hotel

So, it seemed to us that the Pemberton Hotel is the “only show in town”, unless you want a curry or a fish supper carry out. Because of this the restaurant / bar was very busy and the food service was poor. There were four in our party and two of our starters didn’t turn up. Oddly it was the first two dishes we ordered. I had to go and enquire, seems they had lost / forgotten part of our order. Then we had to wait for nearly an hour before the mains were delivered. It felt like we were being punished for having the temerity to ask where our food was.

To be quite honest, the  quality of the food left a lot to be desired and wasn’t worth the wait. It was very poor, probably the worst we have had in WA. Over cooked, bland and the seafood batter was heavy, way too thick. I had Salt & Pepper Squid which seemed to have been cooked with out the Salt & Pepper !!!

When ordering our meals I had considered having the salad bar instead of a normal starter. The one and only healthy thought I had during this week away. When I looked at what was on offer I quickly changed my mind. There were just four dishes with some sort of coleslaw,  some tomato slices, some beetroot and some kind of pasta salad that had seen better days. It was like a time warp back to the seventies.

During our meal, my wife pointed out  to a waitress that someone was smoking, despite signs clearly stating that was not allowed. The waitress ignored my wife who was left to confront the offender who thankfully was compliant and moved away to the smoking area. In general the rest of the waiting staff were friendly but I think they were overwhelmed by the work load.

Somewhat depressed by our meal experience we headed off to our rooms. The room Gerry and I had been allocated had two single beds. It transpired that the wheels on my bed were not locked and the bed, like a supermarket trolley, had a mind of its own,moving around the room at will. Also, as I subsequently found out, the mattress hadn’t been set on the bed properly so the edge wasn’t supported. After having laid down for a while, when I first went to stand up, the mattress tilted down and I was spilled onto the floor. I sorted the mattress out but, overnight, it seemed to have moved again.

And a general note, the car park is limited for space not enough spaces for the number of rooms. Although we managed to park on site for check-in later in the evening when we returned we had to park out on the street.

So for the hotel I’d rate it as the Second Best Western. Pemberton gets a thumbs up although the early curfew is a pain. Many of the cafe’s could make a bomb if they opened a bit later in the evening.

Many of the properties in Pemberton are heritage listed. Some are in dire need of some TLC but all add to the charm of this country town.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amberly Museum


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On Sunday we visited Amberley Museum & Heritage Centre and took a trip down memory lane. The weather was kind unlike the previous Saturday and the following Monday. Here are a few photo’s to give you a feel for this venue if you have never visited before.

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One of numerous Swallows that have taken up residence in and around the Amberley buildings.

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A long long way from home.

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A desirable residence.

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Aveling-Barford Road Roller 758, “Gisela” Built in 1946. How many of you, like me, remember these fabulous beasts rumbling down the road and the smell of fresh, hot, tarmac being laid ?

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Detail from Gisela

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Detail from Gisela

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Being a Sussex lad, I have ridden on many busses bearing the distinctive Southdown livery.

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During my pre-teens our local garage, in Westfield, was very much like this.

Hastings / Bodiam


Saturday Afternoon

A weekend in Hastings to celebrate my sister’s birthday was never going to be quiet but we had a cracking time.

Saturday was not  very nice weather wise, grey and cool. It didn’t matter much since we spent some time wandering down George Street browsing the shop windows  until we met up with my sisters friends. Then we whiled away some time loafing in  Ye Olde Pump House, a pub which looks much older than it really is.

 That’s if the old gent who harangued us outside can be believed. Anyway, it’s old enough and was very popular even when I used to visit back in the late 60’s. Had a couple of pints of Early Bird, a really tasty brew from Shepherd Neame.

A pale golden beer, with floral aroma, Early Bird is full-bodied and takes its name from the Early Bird variety of East Kent Goldings hops, grown in hop gardens near the brewery.

It gets my vote and certainly seemed to live up to the brewers description which I have quoted above.

Due to much gassing with my sisters friends, time passed rapidly by and we ended up spending more time in the pub than we had intended. This is what happens when you are having a good time. We were supposed to be having a meal before going on to a show. In the end we had to by-pass the meal and  sprint to make the show.

We were going to see Chas Hodges, you can read my post on that HERE

Sunday – Wow ! What a day out !!!

For Sunday we had chosen to get together with my other sister and had arranged to meet up at Bodiam Castle. The weather was fabulous, blue cloud free skies and beautiful spring sunshine.

Bodiam Castle is in a wonderful setting, sat as it is on an island reached only by the bridge across the moat.

We meandered around the perimeter of the moat enjoying the warmth of the sun and the attentions of the many ducks. Sis decided that she would become the Birdwoman of Bodiam and broke out the butties. She was immediately surrounded.

Once they knew that she was a buttie free zone they abandoned her. Cupboard love I believe it is called.

We continued to tour the castle surrounds before heading inside. Here are a few facts that I have dredged up. Bodiam is a 14th Century construction. It was built in 1385 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge who apparently was one of Edward IIIs knights. It was intended to defend the area against those nefarious French during the Hundred Years War.

Those pesky ducks get every where, especially when they think there is food to be had. You only have to dangle your arm over the bridge railing and a collective shout of “incoming” goes up.

Of course, what goes up must eventually come down…..

Once we were across the bridge we were met by a most unusual couple. We were accused of using the devils machinery and of stealing their spirits but they were quite friendly really and welcomed us into the castle courtyard

While we were there the locals were telling of the castles history hence the unusual attire. This fellow was the main orator.

Bodiam is a “pretty” castle now and it doesn’t take much imagination to see what it would have been like when it was first built.

It is possible to get many different perspectives of the castle.

After much strolling and climbing we found ourselves to be a bit peckish. So we took ourselves across the road to the nearby pub. Strangely enough it is called the Castle Inn

We were surprised to find that there were outside tables available and sat ourselves down for a spot of lunch. Considering this was 1st April, to be sitting outside to eat was a rare treat. The food was good and we didn’t have to wait too long and it was hot when it arrived. By a happy coincidence this pub was also serving Early Bird which was a suitable lubricant for the meal.

While we were having lunch we were treated to the spectacle of a helicopter coming into land on the pub lawns.

After lunch we walked up to the railway station. All day we had been seeing the smoke and hearing the whistles of the steam trains.

When we arrived at the station we determined that the next train would be arriving within a few minutes and duly positioned ourselves across the road and the level crossing ready for the steamer we knew was coming. Imagine the big disappointment when we were presented with this…..

Yup. A diesel loco. OK it is a piece of vintage rolling stock but it wasn’t what we wanted. Never mind, as they say, there is always next time. After taking a look at some of the old goods wagons at the station we headed back to our cars.

Drove back to my sister’s house for a cup of tea and some superb lemon drizzle cake. All taken while sitting outside in the sunshine. I still have to remind myself that this was the first day of April.

A fitting close to a fantastic day. All that was left was for us to drive the 90 or so miles home. I didn’t need any rocking when I hit my pit.