Shugborough snaps

A first visit to the Staffordshire estate, former residence of a certain late well-known photographer. I’d better do my best today, but they’re only snapshots of a brief visit. There’s too much to see in a single afternoon – we’d better come again, perhaps mid-week when it might be quieter…

Shugborough Estate NT

Silver birches

Thursday 5 Jan: We have to be in Wolverhampton briefly, late morning. It’s a perfect January morning – quite the wrong kind for being in Wolverhampton, so we’ll continue on to Cannock Chase, for a snack lunch in the visitor centre, followed by a walk to make the most of the weather. To do that, we’ll need to drive away again (it’s fairly densely forested there), to a more open part of the Chase, where scattered silver birches predominate, their trunks really catching the light. It’s pleasant by the Sher Brook too – in places, the water is mirror-like, the reflections perfect. We could have walked further, but that would take us into the forest, so we’ll head back to the car as the shadows lengthen.


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To Fairoak Pools

Early November in Staffordshire: it’s cold but it’s sunny, and there’s little wind – Cannock Chase could be good, we can have bacon rolls* for lunch at the visitor centre… We’re ringing the changes slightly – starting from one of our usual spots, we’re taking in a detour to Fairoak Pools – they look good on the map, and we can loop around them. They’re man-made – dammed, in other words – but they’re very attractive in the sunshine, the autumn leaves of birches and oaks contrasting with the dark pine forests beyond. After lunch, tall beeches glow beside the track as we head back towards the car; in the last half-mile, we look out past silver birch trunks to the grassy plateau beyond. “There could be lions” says my wife, just as the word “savanna” pops into my mind.

* We were too late. They don’t serve breakfast items after 1pm. (Have they been raided by the diet police?) The wraps and rolls, it has to be said, were pretty good, but not the same…

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Teddy’s 75th birthday

TeddyNo, not a bear – this Teddy is a Peckett 0-4-0ST, one of the smallest conventional standard gauge steam locomotives ever built.  He was bought, many years ago, by the late Rev. ER Boston, better known as “Teddy” Boston (who, as a friend of the Rev. W Awdry, appears in the “Thomas the Tank Engine” series as one of the two vicars – the fat one…). The Rev. Teddy died some 30 years ago, but his Peckett (inter alia) lives on. Now residing at Chasewater, Teddy Peckett is clearly in fine fettle – a very fit 75-year-old, celebrating his birthday today in great style. For more on the day’s fun, visit “Teddy’s birthday” on Geoff’s Rail Diaries.

Summer sunshine at Foxfield

DSC_0828…and despite the warmth, there’s plenty of visible steam*. It’s the weekend of the annual summer gala, and the weather forecast suggested Sunday would be the best day. It was – an excellent day out. Visit “Foxfield summer gala” on Geoff’s Rail Diaries for more photos and a short video clip (remember to turn up the volume!)

*I know – steam is invisible. The fluffy white stuff coming from the chimney is water droplets, suspended in the air, which don’t always form on warm days…

Ancient internal combustion

DSC_0748It’s Burton Brewery Locomotives day at Chasewater – three interesting old diesels are in action, the oldest built 87 years ago – and there’s a visiting steam locomotive on the passenger service – Rosyth No 1, from Blaenavon. We’d better have a day out! For more pictures and info on the event, visit “Brewery diesels” on Geoff’s Rail Diaries.

Chasewater Railway

100 years later

Motor Rails galoreApedale again – for Tracks to the Trenches: six fine steam locomotives in action, mostly dating from WW1, and an uncountable (they won’t stay still for long enough) number of Motor Rails of similar vintage. The first TTTT was in September 2014 – the icon of the event proved to be the Motor Rail in the shell crater. There it was again! Has it been there since the last event, poor thing? If it has, Joffre at Apedale Roadit’s turned itself round in the intervening period. An excellent afternoon – well done, once again, the Moseley Railway Trust. There will be a “Rail Diaries” page in a day or two, in the meantime, here are a couple of tasters.

Apedale Valley Railway

The Chase in May

It’s hard to believe that Tuesday, yesterday and today could have been consecutive days. After a day and a half of almost continuous rain, the skies are clear and blue, the sunshine warm and the breeze very pleasant – we need to be out somewhere… We’ll go for Cannock Chase – there are one or two wet places, but it’s mostly well-drained, with shingle and sand underfoot. It’s a great place to be on such a day, with plenty of bright green new growth everywhere. The bacon rolls at the visitor centre, conveniently half-way round our circular route, are pretty good too.

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On the Chase

It’s a good place for wandering on a cold, bright and sunny day – even when it’s half term. The numerous parked cars are evidence of other people (and their children / grandchildren / dogs), but there’s plenty of space here. We only really become aware of others at the visitor centre, where (conveniently) it’s lunchtime, and despite the crowds (that’s a relative term – it’s not quite Blackpool beach), there’s a table where we can sit indoors. Fed and watered, we’re heading back towards the start. Like the trees, there are paths galore here – no need to retread our steps.

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I’m walking-in some new boots, though I suspect they don’t really need it. A slightly-extended circuit of Chasewater is just the thing on this cold, bright and breezy afternoon. It’s an interesting and popular spot. There are swans, ducks, geese and coots by the dozen. There are deer (at least, there are the heads of deer). There are dog-walkers, families and cyclists: some are quiet, some have to talk very loudly, and some chat with invisible people using little hand-held gadgets. Two of the cyclists are pushing their machines, for no very clear reason (other than the obvious “push-bike”). Close to the car park, there’s a truly crazy golf course – but surely that can’t be the hole? Back at the car, the boots appear to be suitably muddied – and though they didn’t need walking-in, their owner enjoyed a walk out.

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