Friday, May 17, 2013

Planes, trains and the bus to St Bees

This trip has been quite difficult to organize. Not only are there two house exchanges, but there is the walk across England as well.

The night before I was due to fly to England, I got a call from US Air saying that the flight would be delayed by over two hours. It turned out that the flight left a little early. In any event, the flight from Philadelphia to Manchester went fine, much better than the flight across the Atlantic on Delta two years ago, The service was friendly and there seemed to be reasonable leg room. My only complaint is that the seats don't have the head flaps which you can adjust to lean your head against. I got very little sleep.

Immigration at Manchester Airport was very slow. There would have been over 300 people on the plane, split 50 - 50 between UK / EU citizens and non UK / EU people. There were only three counters in operation, two of which serviced the UK people. The third counter for the foreigners appeared to be manned by a trainee with a trainer standing next to him. This trainee must have been told to extract the life story and proposed travel plans from every traveler. Some interviews took close to five minutes and the line hardly moved. The line for the UK people went a little faster. Meanwhile, there appeared to be quite a few other people hanging about letting airline staff through a special gate or taking the people in wheel chairs to the head of the queue. Eventually after about 45 minutes, all the UK people had been processed and about the same time, some extra counters opened up. It took an hour, just for one planeload of people.

Manchester has a train line going to its airport. It's a bit of a hike from terminal 2 to the station but the exercise feels good after sitting for hours. 

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Roof at the Manchester Airport Station.

It took about 15 minutes for the train to get to Manchester. Fortunately, my train went all the way to Barrow in Furness so I was able to sit and watch the scenery. I was intrigued by some of the buildings in Manchester.

There were canals everywhere. Some of these bigger England cities have more canals than Venice.

The colour scheme at the stations in the area appears to be red and green. Quite distinctive.

The countryside is incredibly green with plenty of cows, sheep and lambs. It never ceases to amaze me how much open country there is in the UK with most of the population living in the cities, towns and villages. 

Restoration projects at Steam Town at Carnforth Station. I didn't see much evidence of steam engines. Most of the projects seemed to involve diesels and carriages. They had enough projects to last a very long time.

Eventually after heading north, the train turned a corner at Amside and headed west beside Morecambe Bay.

The train now follows the coast line a good part of the way to Barrow. It's a spectacular journey.

Notice the five sheep in a line towards the back of the photo. There were probably another ten sheep behind them, all in the same line. They were the most organized sheep I had ever seen. The train was moving too fast to allow me to capture the whole scene.

Interesting seat at a station.

As you can see, it was low tide. I suspected this is an area where the tide comes in with a rush and on reading the Wikipedia article on Morecambe Bay, I found I was correct. (it is said that the tide can come in "as fast as a horse can run")

Ominous looking rain clouds. Weather is very changeable here and I wondered what was in store for me further north.

There were lots of older people walking along a long promenade beside the water at Grange over Sands. It appeared to be a popular sea side resort.

Eventually we headed in Barrow-in-Furness where I was due to catch another train that would follow the coast line up to St Bees. 

Unfortunately, the train was cancelled and we had to take a bus. Let's just say I was very disappointed.

I am sure Barrow has some nice spots but the area in front of the station is not one of them.

The train line follows the coast line but the bus mostly travels inland with occasional views to the water.

By train, this would have been spectacular. Fortunately, the bus occasionally came down to the water's edge.

As usual, the roads are very narrow, windy and hilly and there are villages dotted all along the road. I was amazed at how the bus driver negotiated it all with such a big vehicle. He really moved along as fast as he could but I realized that there was no way he could do the journey as quickly as the train.

Since many passengers had made arrangements to be picked up at the appropriate station, the driver had to divert from the main road and drive down to the station at the water's edge.

One of the diversions was to Seascale.

Just to the north of Seascale is the nuclear reprocessing plant of Sellafield

If I wasn't aware of the train line, the journey by bus was actually very scenic with lots of green fields and forests. It would have been a good route to take by car.

There is a station at Sellafield and naturally there was somebody who needed to get off there. The bus driver had never been there before and managed to get to the entrance to a restricted area where the road was blocked by concrete blocks designed to slow traffic to a crawl. He did a wonderful job of maneuvering the bus through the maze and eventually turning around.

There were guards everywhere, no doubt amazed at this bus turning up.

The plant is huge with apparently a lot of workers. It must have been time for a shift change since there were people driving home everywhere.

That is a secure fence.

The train was supposed to leave at 1:30 and get into St Bees at 2:38. It arrived almost two hours late and caused a traffic jam in the St Bees main street. It was just too big a vehicle to cope with the 'rush hour' traffic and the narrow street.

I got off the bus and walked up the steep hill to the B and B where I received a warm welcome as well as a pot of tea and a scone with cream and jam.


  1. Beautiful scenery from the train and the bus ride does look interesting even if it was a dreaded bus.

  2. wonderful photography Ray. A couple of years back a whole group of chinese cockkle pickers got surprised by the tide and they all drowned. A huge scandal. i find the coast around Furness to be extremely beautiful. Did you see Piel Island where they still have a king? thanks for sharing your photographs. Loved them.