Thursday, 2 August 2018

Airshow season - half way already!

We've reached the mid season point in the UK airshow season and what fantastic weather we've had for it so far!

My season this year started at Shuttleworth in May - I was getting itchy feet and when someone mentioned the first of their "evening airshows" I couldn't resist getting started! As well as the usual Shuttleworth residents there was also a visit from this beauty:

A few blank weeks after that as we headed off to Lundy with a big group of friends for a week (there is a blog post half written on that, to!) but our return to the mainland tied in nicely with the lovely Torbay Airshow - having attended their first show a couple of years ago it's become a bit of a favourite of mine so I was pleased to be able ton get there for a day again this year. It was also my first time this season seeing the Red Arrows display:

A lovely day in the sun with Maxine watching the flying, chattering lots and making the most of access to cheap ice cream!

From June things start getting busy as a rule - although I had made a conscious decision this season that I was going to step things back a bit simply because there are just too many things I want to cram into my summer" - still, Cosford was up next - one that I'd previously ummed and ahhed about doing, but this year the line-up made it an easy decision.

So many highlights it's tricky to know what to pick out but seeing these guys do their full landing display is also good:

Mid month was the first Great Yarmouth Airshow - and I debated long and hard about whether to go or not. In the end I decided to judge it based on the weather, and as the date grew nearer the forecase wasn't looking great. Then a few days before a couple of this year';s Red Arrows Circus chaps started encouraging me to head up to Norwich to see them at the airport which was what I decided to do in the end. I was very glad I did too - thanks to the lovely Caz, and the kind chaps at Saxon Air, I ended up spending a full day airside with the team and the jets - which of course meant that this year's "Circus At Work" project is very much on!

Another trip to Shuttleworth followed - warbird heaven! then into the "big" shows again with Yeovilton arrivals and the show itself. The arrivals day there has proved to be a really nice chilled day and for its £15 price tag, great value too, so friend Gary & I pitched up on a blazingly hot sunny day before being joined by Kim & Jade the following day for the show itself. The absolute highlight for me was finally getting to see this for myself:

My much loved and missed Uncle Bob's name on the tail of RAF Red Arrows Hawk XX322. Thanks to the fundraising "Names on a plane" scheme Bob had been whizzing around the skies of the UK and beyond since last season but for various reasons this was the first time I'd got to see it up close. There was a shriek, and then a tear or two when I realised it was visible - very emotional indeed and I just know how excited Bob would have been at this!

Flying highlights were probably the Belgian Air Force F16 display I think - with their stunning "Dark Falcon" scheme complete with the additional of flares for this display:

The following week was of course the biggie - The Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford - a great three days of incredible displays but most of all the years best chance to catch up with oh-so-many great friends that you simply don't see enough of! So many highlights on the flying front - the RAF BBMF's incredible "Trenchard Plus" display where they got all the toys out of the toybox to fly:

Awesome is a much over used word but this really was. See also "emotional". Very very special indeed - I'm incredibly glad to have seen it for myself. Another "Special" was a 617 Squadron Formation with the BBMF Lancaster, the Panvia Tornado and "new kid on the block" the newly arrived to the UK Lockheed Martin F35b Lightning II.

Spectaular and another great tribute to both the #RAF100 anniversary and the anniversary also of the Dams Raid, of course.

This end of the season got wrapped up with a visit to Farnborough. Now this is a show I've never been sure about visiting - tickets tend to be on the expensive side and the public days at the weekend are often said to be not great. However, the draw for me was that they had secured a Spanish Navy Harrier jump jet - and this one was going to be FLYING! The decision was made and I duly met up with another pal - Simon - shortly after bacon butty time for a good old wander about the show. We found the prototype model of the newly announced RAF jet the Tempest which was interesting, then  separated for a bit to find our chosen spot top watch the star of the show:

What a star it was, too! I'd forgotten how unbelievably loud these are! Thank goodness for earplugs - they really were much needed! She flew, and she hovered and yes I confess that it must have got quite dusty as I definitely had something in my eye! In spite of not being greatly impressed with the rest of the show, this was actually well worth the ticket price, for me. Probably not a show I'd got back to though, on the whole.

So next up for me after mid season break will be Eastbourne - this is one for the "usual suspects" gang - Claire, Anthony and I are all in the same hotel I believe, and Tom & Alysha are staying elsewhere in the town. Lots of other friends will be about as well so it's going to be a sort of combined mini holiday and big get together, hopefully! Planning is happening apace and we're all thoroughly looking forward to a great few days! Bring it on!


Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Going Underground...

A couple of years ago we were introduced to the "Hidden London" tours - organised by the London Transport Museum, these take small groups of people to the parts of the London Underground system that your regular commuter doesn't get to see. The first one we did was to the old Down Street station -  this station sat between Hyde Park Corner and Green Park on the Piccadilly line but due to the proximity of the other two stations it simply didn't get the footfall and so was closed in 1932. That was far from the end of its life though as it was later to see service during world War 2 as the Headquarters of the Railway Executive committee and even provided refuge for Winston Churchill!

In February we did our second Hidden London tour - this time the disused tunnels at Euston. Our little group met in the old Leslie Green designed station on Melton Street - no longer in use apart from providing ventilation to the active tunnels below:

From there we had a short walk across to the Mainline station and down the "shortcut steps" known to most Londoners to the tube station where we were ushered through the barrier (no Oyster cards required!) and on to one of the Northern Line platforms where a door at the end lead to the tunnels we were after. 

Unused by the public for over 50 years, these tunnels were closed when construction for the Victoria Line started - since then they have been used to run additional ventilation pipes, and for storage and access for those working on the station, and as a result the tunnels are astonishingly well preserved exactly as they were when the last commuters passed through. 

As well as the history of the tunnels themselves we learned about the way the tube stations were constructed in those days - basically they were  built in "kit form" from a standard pack of parts - which leads to oddities like this ticket window - designed to allow commuters to purchase tickets to change lines without having to return to the main booking hall... it is a single window the "in" and "out" make little sense and it can only been assumed that they were in the parts supplied and therefore got used regardless!

Some more posters...who is Spartacus?! ;-)

Originally there were lifts running from these platforms to surface level at the Mainline Station - here is the view up one of the shafts...

These tours are absolutely fascinating - not cheap, we paid £85 each for the Down Street tour and £45 each for this one I believe - but good value for money, nonetheless, and the money supports the London Transport Museum helping to ensure that these sorts of tours continue to be available. since starting to write this post (yes, writing,m and actually getting around to posting can be spread over a l-o-n-g time period!) we've actually done yet another - so I'll try to tell you about that one before all that long too! There is a feeling of visiting somewhere that has been frozen in time when you explore somewhere like this - and some of the small details are absolutely fascinating - for example did you know that all the rings that line the tube tunnels are date stamped with at least their year of manufacture, and sometimes with the day and month also (If you happen to be exiting a Jubilee Line Extension station any time soon take a look at some of the rings that are visible from the escalators for examples of that.

I'll leave you with a picture that pretty much sums up the Euston tour, for me - this is the tunnels as they were abandoned when this section of the station was closed off. The colours on the tiling still so vibrant, and those amazingly preserved posters - there is almost a feeling that it could have a bit of a clean up and swing back into action!


Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Being brave...

I've always had a fear of setting goals for myself, and no more so than in any environment that could vaguely come under the heading of "sporty" - at school being shorter than average, bookish and with no great turn of speed I got accustomed to being among the last to be chosen for almost anything that involved teams. Indeed the only two sports I excelled at in school were hockey (surprisingly) and long-jump (even more surprisingly) - I represented the school at a minor level in both of those. The mention of netball or rounders sent shivers down my spine though, and cross country running was always one to be dreaded as not only did I tend to get left behind but I got out of breath too - there were no programmes to build up slowly back then - it was keep up or don't - and I didn't.  No great surprise that I stopped doing any kind of organised sport with a huge sigh of relief as soon as I left school and aside from brief periods of going to the gym, it's only in the past couple of years that I've felt any real inclination to have another go at being a "sporty person".

Accustomed as I was - in my head at least - to failing at anything "active" it came as no surprise when I first attempted the Couch to 5k programme and couldn't do it. It just felt as though it underlined my long-standing aversion to setting proper, solid goals - I wouldn't achieve so there was no point in trying, I'd just make a fool of myself. This time round though something was different - and the nagging voice in my head kept on at me to have another go. Each time when I started I took a deep breath and thought that maybe, just maybe if I could get through the programme I could do a parkrun "or something" - and then each time I failed I kicked myself AGAIN for being gullible - for being brave enough to stick my neck out. Of course I now know why I was struggling so much in the first place! In February I did my first 5k "race" and last week I did another - knocking a massive amount off my previous 29:36 time on the same course, coming in this time at 27:47! (Yes, remember those sub-30 people I "wasn't fast enough" to line up with? Now I'm one of them! I've also been doing regular Metafit classes - after years of running a mile at the idea of doing any form of group fitness this was another huge barrier broken down.

I recently photographed a friend's baby's christening - which also took a degree of "being brave" -  I'd be the first to say I'm no event or portrait photographer - it's a long old way outside my comfort zone and I hesitated like mad when my friend asked me. Not because I didn't want to do it, but because I was frightened of messing up, frightened of letting him down and frightened to take the risk. As I said to him while I was hesitating "I'm trying to work out if I'm brave enough" - back came the reply with absolute confidence "of course you are!" - and yes, I was, mostly because of the pure sense of belief HE had in me. I probably only have two friends who I would even contemplate taking on something so important for - and I've now shot the wedding for one of them and this christening for the other - and in both cases it was their absolute faith in me that gave me enough confidence to take a deep breath and say "OK then!" Two people, both of who's judgement I trust - if they reckon I can do something, they must be right, yes? Another huge first at the christening was that I said to MrEH (Who was using the second camera to pick up on extra shots I might not see or be able to get) that I didn't mind if he got me in any photos - now bearing in mind my aversion for having my photo taken this was also a massive thing. In the past with anything like this he's had to be careful to shoot around me and I've been constantly conscious of the other camera. This was definitely "being brave..."

Yesterday I posted this on Instagram...

...for a long while I've been admiring other people's Transformation posts - being super inspired by how well they've done and what they've achieved, but it was only as a result of a comment from someone else that I finally felt brave enough to post my own - and only then as a result of the prompting from the photo on the right - taken by one of the official photographers at the 5k last week. Taking the step of posting the two pictures also made me brave enough to go into a little more detail about my state back in 2015, when the left hand photo was taken. Having been hit out of nowhere with crippling anxiety and struggling significantly with depression as well - and no real idea how to handle either - the holiday that this photo was taken on, along with our trip the Hebrides a few weeks before between them I am certain saved me from sliding fully into a deep black hole. Spending time both alone and with MrEH in the Hebrides, and with him and other friends on this trip to Lundy forced me out of the repetitive cycle I'd found myself in and on return home I managed to pin down both the cause and a way of working through things, and claw my way out. I'm not "cured" - it's not that easy, but I have coping strategies, and the knowledge to see when things are becoming problematic and deal with them early on. The most valuable thing I read when I got the diagnosis was "You're not going mad - even if you think you are" - I cried with relief at that one. Add to that having been able to take up regular exercise which has itself been superb for my mental health, it's also had effects physically as well of course - I'm finally back to a size that is entirely more natural for me and, as I said in the text above, that means getting back to feeling more comfortable with myself all round.  Previously "wanting to lose weight" was back there with the "setting goals" thing - set an over-ambitious goal > fail to meet it > give up > not bother trying again as "I'd only fail". This time round there were no goals beyond "do a bit more than I did yesterday/last week/last month" and that worked for me. I'm a long way from being "confident" still - but I'm on my way there, hopefully.

There's more bravery to come I'm sure - but now I really AM brave enough to face the idea and set goals - yes, proper ones - to achieve the things I want to, and indeed to admit that there are things I want to achieve too. Covering both the "not being sporty" and the "group exercise" thing I'm joining in with a running group for a run after work tomorrow (weather permitting, but the forecast looks good!) and actually looking forward to covering 6.5 - 7k with other people - none of whom I have even met before! MrEH and I are starting to make steps towards our long-term dreams, and I'm starting to think about stepping up my running distance towards doing a 10k later in the year too. It's actually starting to feel like those targets for the year that I set myself are taking off - I'm pushing myself outside my comfort zone and I'm definitely doing it with a smile on my face!


Wednesday, 2 May 2018

More walking...

We decided almost on the spur of the moment on Sunday to go and walk a bit more of the Jubilee Greenway in London. We did section 1 a few weeks back - from Buckingham Palace through to Little Venice, near Paddington, and it's been on our list to do for so long that having started we were keen to get some more of it walked. It was a bit of a grey day but the London walks always feel like they're a bit less affected by less than brilliant weather, to be honest, so we weren't going to let it stop us! 

Exiting Warwick Avenue tube station we headed for the Canal - almost the whole of these two sections are walked on the towpath which is great - always nice to get in a London walk a bit away from the traffic, noise and bustle of the capital. In fact this first picture - taken from the Canal Bridge at Warwick Avenue - sums up pretty well what the walk was going to be like.

MrEH spotted the first thing of notable interest - this blue plaque on the wall of a house at Aberdeen Place - always nice to find an unexpected reference to a total hero and this is no exception...

That felt like a really nice way to start the walk actually - we saw it within the first few minutes and for me it felt really good to have two of my hobbies tied together with something like that.  Always good to have a reminder of those who gave their tomorrows, too...

Finally after quite a lot of walking parallel to the canal but not actually alongside it we reached the point where we dropped down onto the towpath - and were immediately confronted with this - look

The boats moored alongside here are all people's homes too, and the owners have adopted the towpath as their gardens. It's a riot of colour along there with beautifully planted pots and wisteria climbing everywhere - so pretty! Also some really clever re-use and recycling - I loved this planting wall...

Yes, that's the ends of pallets cut off, attached to the wall, filled with soil and planted, it looks amazing! The planks from the pallets are in evidence being used for various things as well so clearly nothing has been allowed to go to waste on these boaters watch!

Onwards and under the first of many railway bridges. This is the Marylebone mainline running ovder the top - later in the walk we would also go underneath both the West Coast and Midland and over the East coast Mainlines too.

When I was little my Nan and I used to make regular trips to London Zoo - usually during the winter as we always felt it was better then, the animals were more active and there was more to see. I can remember many times looking across at the canal and feeling quite sorry for the people walking along as they weren't at the zoo and we were - well on Sunday the tables were turned! Yep - these buildings are indeed part of the Zoological Society of London's London Zoo - we walked past the Giraffe house, some creatures that looked like Dingos perhaps, and on our side of the canal the famous huge aviary with masses of birds that we couldn't identify at all!

Not long past the zoo we saw a cow on a roof you do! We wondered whether this might have been one of the Cow Parade cows from a few years ago.

Another railway bridge - west coast mainline this time - and some standup paddle-boarders too. we kept seeing this group all the way from when we first joined the canal right through to Camden - sometimes we were in front and sometimes they were - they looked to be having a great time anyway!

Camden Lock and its market are, next to the Zoo, probably the most famous stretch of this walk, and as ever it was heavingly busy! Oddly we'd passed someone we know a bit further back along the path and she'd told us to leave the towpath and cross over the bridge at this stage as the market was so crowded it was impossible to get through - handily that lead us straight past a pub so we decided to pause for a pint - particularly once MrEH spotted the Adnams Oyster Stout that they were serving!

A bit of a detour to get back to the towpath at the other side of the road as just past where you can see in the shot above it's closed while some building work is going on - yes, where those cranes are!  When we did rejoin it though we were amused to see this reminder of the Zoo that we'd passed not so long before!

On to St Pancras Basin - and this clever use of gas holders. The holders themselves are listed apparently so the company that wanted to build the flats had to incorporate them into their plans - clever eh? The nearest one to me has been left open and planted as a garden with a fantastic mirrored arbour all around the bottom - it looks utterly amazing!

Look carefully and you can just see St Pancras Station here! The lines on the right of the shot include the Eurostar tracks and we did in fact see a train heading off to France...or possibly Belgium!

Approaching the Islington tunnel now but just time to stop and look at this brilliant Bookshop on a boat!

And then for the Islington tunnel - an 878m long stretch with no towpath, originally boats would have had to unhitch their towing horse and the boat would be "legged" through the tunnel by a man lying on the boat roof and pushing with his feet against the tunnel roof to propel the boat through - now engines take the strain which I imagine comes as a bit of a relief! Rather like the men leading the horses we had to find our way through the streets here - thankfully it was brilliantly well signed...

...with these rather lovely blue plates set in the pavement at regular intervals. We did however make a planned diversion to another pub - one of the Craft Beer Company outlets.

Back onto the canal and this coffee stall's signage made us laugh! Very witty and it was clearly paying off as he was doing a good trade! 

Almost immediately after that we came to the corner of Victoria Park and that was the end of the sections we'd planned to walk - but we still had to get back to the tube. A brief discussion weighed up the options - to backtrack to Bethnal Green or walk on - although not still on the Greenway - to Mile End. Mile End won so we turned right in through the park leaving the next section of Greenway off to our left....then came across another Greenway marker on the path...hmmmm. Turning back to the Canal - and there was another one - very curious! We continued to Mile End Park, all the way seeing the Greenway markers and getting more and more mystified...*

Just before Mile End we got to do something we have both wanted to do for years - crossing the green bridge over the Mile End Road - we used to live in Bethnal Green and have driven under this so many times, almost always saying "we must walk over that one day!" and now finally, we have!

A really enjoyable walk this one - a bit over 12 miles with our odd detours, but almost all really pleasant walking, away from traffic. In spite of the weather this is probably one of the nicest walks we've done, although I think part of that might be down to me feeling so much more confident about my abilities to walk longer distances now. Can't wait for the next section now!


* The mystery of the extra Greenway plates was solved when I re-looked at the route map on Tuesday morning - dog-legging off from the point where section 3 ends and 4 starts is section 10 - and that was what we walked approximately half of at the close of our walk! 

Friday, 13 April 2018

Snails...and other interesting objects.

I took way too many photos on our Underground Overground Walk on Sunday - I actually joked to MrEH that I reckoned I was going to have to do multiple blog posts if I wanted to share them all with you as putting them all into one would just make that post far too slow to load up. Then I thought about it a bit more and thought "Why not?!" - it would be great to think that someone else thinking about walking the Victoria Line might find my post one day and get some inspiration from it, so I'll link this and any subsequent ones into it - our "interesting things seen" are mostly different to those of the other people that have completed the walk so I reckon there's space for some more posts on the subject!

When we arrived at Walthamstow Central we walked across the road to the Bus Station so I could use the loo there - I felt a pre-emptive visit might be a good plan. In the event they were closed for repairs, but while I was finding that out MrEH spotted that around the glass enclosure that surrounds the escalator shaft to the tube were a whole load of china garden-type ornaments. When I saw this one...

...I took a photo of it saying to MrEH "You'll see why later in the walk...And so will scrolling now! (Unless you're a vegetarian, in which case you might like to scroll on past the next photo...)

I loved the section of Walthamstow Market we walked along and was telling MrEH all sorts of interesting odds and ends that I remembered about it, both about the history and things I remembered from my childhood too. Manzes Pie & Mash shop is an East London institution and I can clearly remember the delicious smells emanating from it as we used to walk past. It's a beautiful shop front too - very traditional of its type, and I was pleased to see that it's now been given a Heritage Plaque. (My parents can remember the "eel man" outside chopping live eels into portions for customers to purchase, take home and cook - all the little individual sections used to wiggle around on the board as the nerves took a while to catch up with the fact that the creature itself was dead!)

We veered off the route that a lot of others had taken when we got to Pretoria Avenue - I knew exactly where the route of the line ran at that point - because of this...

That is one of the ventilation shafts that helps to keep the air fresh down at platform & tunnel level, and it happens to be right next to the school I attended for 4 years when I was little - you used to be able to hear the noise of the trains from it occasionally, although not since it's been fitted with a fancy-pants water cooled cooling fan I'm guessing - although that 3 degrees of cooling it apparently achieves is  much needed in those deep level stations! It's not the most attractive of buildings but I do like the fact that they've painted it Victoria Line Blue - and I wondered whether perhaps more of them had been painted similarly.

Onwards and from Blackhorse Road station came what I suspected would be the dullest bit of walk being on busy main roads and without any backstreets to divert through to add a bit of interest (and some peace and quiet!). Part way along Ferry Lane though you pass by the reservoirs/Walthamstow Wetlands nature reserve which makes for a bit of a better view..

...and crossing to the other side of the road we crossed over another walk we did a while ago - the Lea Navigation - you might remember that we walked that back in 2014 - this time we kept walking on down Ferry lane though, tempting as that towpath looked even in the rain! 

Finally just up the road from Seven Sisters station and brightening a very dull stretch of the Seven Sisters Road, we reached it...

This snail has been painted on this wall looking exactly the same for as long as I can remember. It must have been repainted a number of times I imagine but always in the same colours. A quick search on Mr Google has confirmed that it has in fact been there for pretty much as long as I would remember as it dates back to 1976, it was painted for the Jubilee. The Silver one, that is, not the two we've celebrated since. Oh and it's called Sid - next time we pass I shall be sure to greet it by name.

I'll be back with another of these posts at some stage - goodness knows I've got plenty of pictures to share still!


Tuesday, 10 April 2018

A quick fix...

By the time we got home from our Underground Overground walk on Sunday and had a bite to eat, all I wanted to do was to soak in a hot bath for a bit and then head to bed. It had been a distinctly long, if triumphant day, so I took my book, had a nice read until the heat started leaving the water, hopped out, dried off and then fell into bed and pretty much straight to sleep. Fast forward to the following morning and MrEH dashing around looking harassed "There's no hot water!" he exclaimed grumpily. Never something you want to hear before 7am, I instantly found myself thinking of the nuisance involved in needing to get plumbers round and all the hassle that entails, never mind the cost.

Then I remembered. Blast - of course, I'd put the immersion heater on at the same time as running my bath the night before, and since we've had the in-line pump fitted to the feed from the hot water tank to the taps, the water pressure is high enough that the tank gets emptier than it should, which means the element in the tank gets above it's prescribed temperature and the thermal link trips out. I know about thermal links from my time in the construction industry - back then they were often a physical link, which blew, but now the immersion heater ones at least are an electronic style trip that works to cut the power to the element in that circumstance. I've had to reset ours once before, and was aware of the issue with it, but being tired after our long day I simply forgot and just did everything in the wrong order. We agreed that it would have to wait to sort until the evening, got ready with the aid of some boiled kettles for hot water, and headed to work.

Yesterday evening I grabbed my spare and current iPhones - the thermostat on the tank is buried in the airing cupboard and you can't actually see it without a phone camera to look at it with. It's dark in there though, which also means you need a torch, By stacking the phones one on top of the other held in my left hand I can use the torch from one for light and the camera from the other to aid vision, leaving my right hand free to do the re-set. I then turned off the switch to the heater - although it has no power feed during the day I didn't want to take chances. Safety first with electrics, always. If I had been doing this job at a time the power to the circuit was live I would have flicked the main trip switch off while I did the job as well, just to be certain.

This is the first thing you'll see - with that little nut on the bottom right corner being the key - undo that and set it aside CAREFULLY, and then lift that black plastic cover clear of it's retaining bolt. Bingo - everything becomes clear.

What you're looking at here is the thermostat itself - the larger red disc is used to set the required temperature (there is a slot in the centre of the disk which allows you to turn it to your required level) and diagonally up and to the left of that is the tiny red "reset"button - at first glance I wasn't sure it had tripped and my heart began to sink, but I gave it a little push with a ballpoint pen nib (the perfect size) just to see and heard a very audible small "click" - hurrah! All done - I popped the cover back on, carefully replaced and tightened the nut, then switched the power back on and set the over-ride to the circuit for half an hour to see what would happen. Sure enough when I checked back 30 minutes later - we had hot water again! 

This sort of small job is a great example of where the internet can be super-helpful. The first time this happened I admit I really didn't have a clue - I knew what had gone wrong, but not how to fix it, but a quick google search and there was a YouTube video just begging to help. There is something deeply satisfying about being able to carry out this sort of little household fix without needing to call someone in though, even more so when it's ME that's effected the fix, not MrEH! (And who knows, in the future maybe someone will find this post and be able to make use of it in exactly the same way!)

Have you encountered any minor household repairs that gave you a small sense of triumph for being able to complete them? 


Monday, 9 April 2018

Underground, Overground...

I may have mentioned on here before that MrEH is exceptionally good at buying books that turn out to be a really good read. One example of this was a book about the shipping forecast which was utterly fascinating. And another was Mark Mason's excellent "Walking the Lines" book - the story of one man's decision to walk all the lines of the London Underground system overground. For a born-and-bred Londoner the tube is an endless source of fascination - we're fiercely proud of our rather excellent subterranean transport network, whilst utterly taking its presence for granted! Of course we're all familiar with walking between the odd station here and there - I grew up near Blackhorse Road (Victoria Line) for example, and frequently walked to Walthamstow Central as it wasn't quite far enough to justify paying for a tube ticket. When living in Bethnal Green the walk to Liverpool Street was a regular feature, and all Londoners are aware of the various journeys in the centre of the city where it is quite simply quicker by far to walk, than to undertake the necessary changes required for a journey on the underground instead. Mr Mason's book however made me think about the system in a rather different way, and while we harbour no particular ambition to try to walk ALL the lines, I did find myself wondering whether perhaps we could walk "my Childhood line" - the Victoria - from end to end in one go.

I mentioned in a previous post that I'd signed up for a challenge which involved me covering 100km under my own steam inside 7 days, and suddenly that gave a bit more purpose to the mused-on idea of the Victoria Line walk. We played about on Google maps - Walthamstow to Brixton as a walking route, dragging the route to all the stations en-route, and it gave us a distance of 14.5 miles - not so bad (The actual line distance is 13 miles) although we were well aware that the physical route walked would end up longer than this by the time we'd meandered off course to look at things, or taken a slightly more zig-zaggy route in places to stay a bit closer to the line. We found a few other accounts online of other people who'd done the walk including this rather jolly Canadian chap who's made a bit of a habit of tube-walking and doesn't look likely to stop any time soon! When we started thinking about potential locations to stop for breaks, and what sort of food to carry with us, we knew that we were hooked on the idea and the walk was definitely going to happen!

My 100k challenge meant that I had to do a fair bit of walking in the days running up to tackling the Vic Line - that would only account for (playing safe) 16 or so of those 63 miles. My week didn't start well with a Bank Holiday Monday featuring a lot of time in the car and horrendous weather meaning only 2 miles clocked up that day. The following days picked up a lot - with a low of 7.15 miles and a high of 10.16 meaning I was very much on track so long as the Vic Line was doable at the end of it... 

Wanting to keep "off walk" mileage as low as possible on Sunday we elected to drive into London, parking the car close by where I work and hopping on the bus to Walthamstow where we'd decided to start. The main reason for doing the walk this way round was that it meant we dealt with the bit we knew best at the beginning, meaning that by the time tiredness and sore feet started to bite we'd be onto areas which would hopefully be a bit more interesting. 

The bus stops directly outside the original Tube Station entrance - there is a new one across the road in the "new" bus station (it was opened in 1987 if I remember rightly, but it still feels new to me!) but this will always be the entrance to me.. 

We were off! Along Selborne Rd, past the shopping centre (also "new" - see above!) and then right and left onto High St - or "Walthamstow Market" as it's known. (Think "I'm goin' dahn the market" for context here). No market on a Sunday though - it was blissfully quiet. We then strayed off the route that others have taken as I knew exactly where the line ran at this stage - outside one of my old schools is a Vent Shaft that rather gives the game away - more on this in a future post! Onto Forest Road and a left turn up to Blackhorse Road...

This one probably has to take the award for best station exterior thanks to the plaque of the horse. I loved that when I was a kid! Of course this is the design continued on the platforms below - each Victoria Line Station has its own design, linked in with the area the station is in - so Walthamstow Central has a William Morris design, Victoria has a picture of Queen Victoria, Brixton has a picture of, just kidding with that last one! ;-) The next part of the walk is along a busy road with a brick wall one side (concealing the overground Barking to Gospel Oak line) and a palisade fence on the other beyond which are a succession of reservoirs which are also now home to the very new Walthamstow Wetlands Nature Reserve. Crossing over the Lea Navigation brought us to our next station. Tottenham Hale is undergoing refurbishment (again) so this was as good as I could get for an exterior shot. The place seems to have been constantly pulled apart and put back together again for years now - and in the process has gone from an easy to use station to one that simply doesn't work, sadly.

Onwards - round the busy Broad Lane one way system and past the retail park - a short section of zig-zagging through back streets and we encountered the first entrance to Seven Sisters station - there are entrances at all sides of this busy road as well as the "main" entrance (although I suspect used by far less folk than the satellite entrances) so I opted for photographing this one.

The next bit of the walk was probably the part I was least looking forward to. Seven Sisters Road is mostly dull and dreary, very full of traffic and generally not somewhere we'd choose to walk. The distance between Seven Sisters and Finsbury Park is also the longest between two deep-level stations on the network other than out at Heathrow - for me, psychologically, this was the tough bit. This was also the section we encountered our first tube station not served by the Vic Line - Manor House on the Piccadilly line. It also gave us our first bit of "off road" walking as we were able to come off the main road and walk through Finsbury Park itself which was a nice diversion if rather muddy. Finally after a lot of steps we arrived here...

Suddenly there were a lot of people around with red & white scarves and shirts on - yep, Arsenal had a home match in the afternoon! Finsbury Park is the closest Vic Line station to the Emirates Stadium - home of the Gunners - and we were about to walk right past it, but we'd done our homework and knew that as long as we were past the stadium by around 12.30 we'd be fine, and we were well ahead of that. We encountered another Piccadilly Line only station on this stretch too - Arsenal Station. That also gives the game away as to the road we were on - Gillespie Road was the original name of this station until it was renamed Arsenal in October 1932. The football fans continued milling around but we continued onwards and shortly afterwards were able to tick this one off our list...

We decided this would be a good time to stop for a bit of a break so popped into a handy Wetherspoons pub for a sandwich and a glass of juice. 6 stations done and about half the total distance covered. From Highbury we chose to zig-zag through the back streets of Barnsbury to cut across to the Caledonian Road as this kept us closer to the actual route of the line than the online suggested route would. By this stage we'd realised that Google's "public transport" map overlay showed the rough "real life" routes of the lines so were consulting with that on a regular basis to see how we were doing. I deliberately photographed Kings Cross with St Pancras in the background because that is of course the correct name of the Underground stations - the two mainline stations share it so it serves both.
 This was probably the easiest stretch on the line in many ways as within a very short stretch of straight-line walking we ticked off three stations - the beautifully refurbished KXStP above, then the hideous concrete nightmare that is Euston...

(The statue of Mr Stephenson used to prevail over the "Grand Hall" in the original station - he looks like he wishes he was still there to be quite honest!) Then on to Warren Street in the shadow of the BT Tower just beyond...

The route we took led us past the base of the tower - the closest MrEH had ever been I believe - and then a further bit of zig-zagging to get us to the madness of Oxford Circus while missing as many of the crowds as possible! Tube nerds will instantly spot that this is a Leslie Green station - with its distinctive Ox Blood tiling!

A short stretch of crowd-dodging on Regent Street followed - before we shot off down a side street and subsequently onto the VERY Smart New Bond Street past some rather expensive looking boutiques. We short-cutted through The Royal Arcade, stopped briefly to drool over some rather nice chocolates (we decided that even with 50% off the Easter Eggs we still didn't want to know the price!) then stopped under cover at the end of it to eat a rather more downmarket banana each!  A few more left and rights and we emerged on Piccadilly opposite The Ritz and just a few steps from our next station - Green Park.

The next stretch was straight across the park itself to Buckingham Palace - and was probably the most pleasant stretch of the walk. A brief stop to look at the St James' Park lake even netted us a new bird for our year-list with a sighting of a White Fronted Goose. An almost straight line then brought us to Victoria where we decided another break and a cup of tea was in order - once again Wetherspoons came to the rescue!

Once we started walking again we were both aware of starting to feel a bit tired in the legs but this really felt like the home stretch which fired us up to keep going. Google wanted to take us straight along Vauxhall Bridge Road, but instead we chose a slight detour which would bring us straight past Pimlico Station. As well as being the only station on the line that only serves the Vic Line with no other interchange at all it is also without question the most uninteresting station of all those we passed. 

Over Vauxhall Bridge, being sure to pause and peer over the parapet to find the emergence of the River Effra into the Thames - it comes out under the MI6 building - you know, the one that got blown up in Skyfall? ;-) Thankfully they've done a great job of the repairs...

Vauxhall underground station sits in the middle of a teemingly busy one way system - even on a Sunday it took us a while to cross but finally we were over and heading for South Lambeth Road.

This brought me back onto a route I knew - I spent a fair bit of time in Stockwell years ago and so knew this last stretch of walking with no need to look at the map. Across the road from Stockwell Station, past the Swan (we didn't bother going in - the far better Priory Arms is not far away and had we been wanting a pub right then we'd have aimed there instead)...

...and on down Stockwell Road. Nothing remarkable here, although there are some really beautiful houses in the streets off to the left. Finally towards the very end of Stockwell road we took one final short cut through Stockwell Avenue and it's little alleyway that pops out onto Brixton Road itself - a right turn under two railway bridges, and there it was...

Two people have probably never approached Brixton Station wearing quite such broad grins!

I tracked the walk using my FitBit - apart from the stretch from Victoria Station where I only realised at the bottom of Belgrave Road that I'd forgotten to restart it again - and the mileage tracked at 16.59 miles - that stretch that didn't track was probably about half a mile. We managed to keep a quite impressive pace of 3.1mph which was a little faster than I was expecting - unsurprisingly our first mile was the quickest - with the slowest being mile 11 for some reason. (I suspect because we stopped for longer at various places on that stretch). I burned 1,997 calories, and we were walking for 6 hours and 9 minutes. I'll do a subsequent post with some of the interesting things we saw on the way - for now though I just intend to say "We did it!" and feel smug! 


More posts on this can be found at : Snails and other interesting objects...