Watercress Line

The UK has a large selection of preserved railways.  The cuts in the second half of the twentieth century that closed many branch lines provided opportunities for the preservation movement to get going and the result is a lot of lines that you can visit and ride on.  They are usually very well run operations.  The Watercress Line runs from Alresford to Alton in Hampshire.  We wandered past the station in Alresford when we were visiting with some friends there but it wasn’t operating that day.

However, since we were nearby and staying for a long time, I did take the opportunity to nip back out at some point to see the trains in action.  I got to see one of the services departing from the terminus at Alresford but, I was a little thwarted on that occasion because the locomotive was billowing steam forwards and almost totally obscuring the view of it from the bridge I was on.

I also stopped off at an intermediate station which had a passing location which allowed trains operating in opposite directions to pass each other and continue on their way.  A steam locomotive is quite an impressive thing to watch as it works and a little video does a better job of conveying the impression than stills.  Neither will give you the full sensation, though.  The smell and the feel if it passing beneath you is hard to replicate.

Our schedule was pretty full and didn’t leave time for playing with train rides but it might be fun to have a ride on this line or another like it when we are next in the area.  I’m sure it would be quite fun.  However, watching one of these old things at work seems better from the outside than the inside.  (The line does run along a ridge that parallels the main road and I would like to go back at some point to try and get some shots of this location too.)

Not Often You Get To See A 747 These Days

Passenger 747s are few and far between these days but the freighter world still has plenty of them.  Even so, seeing a 747 is coming in is a nice addition to an afternoon.  Heathrow’s arrivals included a Cathay Pacific Cargo 747-8F which was a nice bonus.  I haven’t had much luck with the Cathay 747-8Fs over the years so was looking forward to it showing up.  I had positioned a lot closer to the approach path when it came in and I wondered whether I might have too much lens since the 8F is the longest variant.  Fortunately, it all worked out just fine and the sun played ball too.

Biddestone (Edge Of Raison)

The pun in this title will only mean something to you if you have seen the TV show Agatha Raison.  If not, this will just be a picturesque Coltswold village post.  After visiting Devizes, we drove on into the start of the Cotswolds.  This is truly lovely part of the UK and it looks like it was created by film set designers.  Needless to say, it is popular with TV and movies.  Agatha Raison is set in the area and is filmed in Lacock and Biddestone for a good portion of the show.

We had been to Lacock before but did drive through.  However, it was absolutely heaving with tourists and we decided to keep moving.  Biddestone was the exact opposite.  It was almost deserted.  This is the center of the village in which the TV show is filmed and the titular character’s house is alongside the green.  All of the villages in this area look very pretty and you can get quite blasé about it after a while.

P1A Tucked In The Back

The Boscombe collection has a couple of interesting testbed airframes.  The Avro 707 was in a previous post but another fine jet is the English Electric P1A.  The precursor to what was to become the Lightning, the P1A is very similar in some respects but quite different in others.  The nose is a pitot inlet without the shock cone that the Lightning adopted to house its radar.  The rest of the front fuselage has quite a different shape while it also feels lower to the ground than the Lightning was.  It is nice that a Lightning front fuselage is displayed alongside it for comparison.

Back To The Island So Back To The Hovercraft

We left plenty of time to drive to Portsmouth to catch our ferry to the Isle of Wight so, naturally, traffic flowed smoothly and we got there with an excess of time.  Nancy wasn’t in the least surprised that I decided to park up on the seafront at Southsea to kill some time.  Oh, was this next to the Hovertravel terminal?  Well, that’s lucky.

We had just enough time for one arrival and one departure before it was time to head to our ferry terminal.  That wouldn’t be all though.  The hovercraft passes the car ferry during its crossing so I was able to get some shots of it in operation from the deck of the ferry as we left Portsmouth.  We also took a walk along the front at Ryde after lunch with Mum.  Just enough time to see the hovercraft arriving and departing there too.

One interesting addition was Solent Express.  This was used on Hovertravel’s services a few years ago but was withdrawn when the new hovercraft were commissioned.  I had understood it was stored somewhere.  Apparently, they needed space wherever that was because it is back at Ryde but still looks stored.  There is plenty of seaweed around it making it look like it hadn’t gone anywhere for a while.  I wonder what its future holds?

The A380s Aren’t Dead After All

Aviation enthusiasts are an odd bunch.  They love aviation but they can really hate certain types.  The emotions can really run high and no type exemplifies this more than the A380. The project hasn’t been a success by modern standards and production has now ended.  This provides much glee for some people for some reason.  I’m not sure why they feel the lack of success for a plane makes their life better but whatever.

I have flown on the A380 a couple of times and it was a great experience.  I always like seeing them.  Variety is sadly lacking in modern aviation and anything different is welcome as far as I am concerned.  The onset of the pandemic resulted in many airlines parking all sorts of types and the A380s were clearly a target.  If there are no passengers, the largest capacity jet is not going to be helpful.  The death of the A380 was widely proclaimed.  However, it turns out that this was a bit premature.

A few airlines have been reinstating their fleets and more are coming back out of storage.  British Airways has their fleet back in action.  Emirates is using theirs heavily.  At Heathrow, I also saw Qatar and Qantas using theirs again.  (Qatar might be more related to their spat with Airbus over A350s and the need for any capacity they can get.) It is good news that they are still around.  We shall see what the future brings for some of the other jets that are still stored.

Caen Hill Locks

One of the items I had put on my list of things to do while in the UK was a visit to Caen Hill Locks.  Located just outside the town of Devizes in Wiltshire, this is part of the Kennet and Avon Canal and it is a sequence of locks to get over the hill into the town.  When you think when this was constructed and that it was all done by hand, you find it all the more impressive.  From the bottom of the hill to the café at the top (where we stopped for lunch), there are 29 locks.  Getting through will take a boat a fair amount of time.

Alongside each lock is a large basin.  These are blocked off from the boats so I assume their purpose is to provide water capacity to prevent the traffic through the locks causing the water levels to fall too much.  There were signs indicating some limitations on lock usage as a result of water shortages.  The locks themselves are pretty small and the narrow boats fitted in snugly.  Everything is manually operated with the boat owners operating the gates and the valves to release the water.

Walking to the bottom of the hill provided a great view back up at the alignment of the locks.  From the bottom, the canal continues across the plain to the west and off towards Bristol. On the day we were there, a few boats were making their way through.  Their crews were having a relaxed time and beer seemed to be prevalent!  It was interesting to think back to the times when the canals were the motorways of UK commerce and these locks would probably have been quite congested with freight traffic.

Lufthansa NEOs

Lufthansa was a launch customer for the A320neo and took delivery of some of the earliest airframes.  They now have an extensive fleet of the jets and they seem to be flying in to Heathrow very frequently.  I ended up shooting a bunch of their jets in my brief excursion.  I am not a big fan of their newest livery but, while it looks dull on the bigger jets, I actually feel like it suits the A320 a little better.

Shells, Shells and More Shells

The beach in Eastsound seems to be made up heavily of shells.  Walking across it felt like a very destructive act as the shells crunched under foot.  I don’t recall ever being somewhere that was made up of so much shell material.  It looked very attractive but I didn’t like the breakage that came with it!

Specials Coming to London

Shooting at an airport you don’t normally get to shoot at means you have the opportunity to shoot airlines that you wouldn’t see otherwise.  What can be even nicer is if you get a special livery on one of these jets.  (There is a small element in the back of your head that worries about not having shot the normal livery and that you still won’t have because of the special but that churlish thought needs to be suppressed!) Three of the jets coming in from overseas were in special finishes as was one of the locals.  British Airways had an A320neo in a paint finish that was sky blue.  I actually watched it depart too when waiting to board my flight home.

Kenya Airways flies their 787s in to London.  The jet that came in on this day had a graphic of rhinos on the rear fuselage.  Not a totally different livery but a nice addition.  Brussels Airlines flies their A320s in to Heathrow and the airframe I saw was in a Tintin scheme that covered the whole airframe.  It looked really good.  Royal Jordanian was the last of my specials.  Its 787 had a graphic advertising the city of Petra which covered the side of the jet.  All nice efforts by the respective airlines.