Saturday 8 October 2022

Some Practical Little Journeys

Train trips to events official and personal

Sometimes I travel for fun, sometimes because I have to be in other places to do things of varying importance. Either way I always try to travel by train or bus whenever I can (or walk or cycle for short journeys), for all sorts of reasons I have been through elsewhere in this blog. 

Recently I have taken a trip to Lincoln for an event at the Cathedral where our Acting Bishop wanted to thank those of us who continue to provide ministry in our retirement. The value of retirement ministry was illustrated when I arranged a meeting in Lincoln on the same day, planning to go straight from the meeting to the cathedral service, which was followed by a sandwich lunch (I walked in to the service just as the Bishop was starting it!). Fitting in the meeting before an 11:00 event meant that I had to leave Stamford much earlier than usual. It was tempting to drive, but I had so much I wanted to get done and driving the car seems such a waste of time even though theoretically it would get me to Lincoln nearer to the time of my meeting and in less time, and would enable me to leave whenever I wished. The ability to get things done won out, though, and I booked train tickets to leave Stamford on the 06:57 after a hurried breakfast.

This gave me a simple connection into the 07:31 East Midlands Railway service to Lincoln via Spalding and Sleaford. I said Morning Prayer on the train to Peterborough and then worked the rest of the way, partly on preparation for my meeting and then making my way through a rather full email inbox - retirement has not stood in the way of busyness! I arrived in Lincoln in plenty of time before my meeting and had a cup of coffee at the Grand Café at the bus station before taking a bus up the hill to my meeting.

I had a good time catching up with old friends and making new ones over the lunch after the cathedral worship and then it was time to walk back down to the station. I had booked Anytime tickets and had seats reserved on a 15:27 departure, but was ready to leave well before then. There was a LNER Azuma standing at the station bound for London with a stop at Peterborough, so I boarded that and was taken smoothly and swiftly back to Peterborough, this time via Newark and Grantham. The reason this train was not shown as an option for travel to Stamford is that it would have connected with the one westbound train per day which Cross Country is presently not running between Peterborough and Stamford: a "Covid Keep" I'd rather lose! There is now a much better service than ever between Peterborough and Lincoln, but it is of limited value to Stamford people because of the gaps in the timetable, one each way, on our local line. Anyway, it worked for me because I knew there was a bus that I could use to fill the gap, and being old enough for free bus travel it did not cost me anything - but it did not leave until just before the train, if running, would have arrived in Stamford, and it was very much slower than the train. Still, it worked and I was still home in reasonable time and had had a good day's work and play.

The other recent short trip was to Nottingham with my wife to attend the funeral of an old acquaintance. Again it was tempting to take the car but in the end we decided to travel by rail which would allow flexibility to have drinks with friends afterwards if appropriate and to travel together for part of the way back with those from farther away whom we knew to be travelling by rail. Getting there turned out to be much quicker than anticipated: our train to Leicester was on time, but the services from there to Nottingham were running just a touch late, two or three minutes, which made it just possible, if we hurried, to get a connection half and hour earlier than planned, and it was also a quicker train, non-stop to Nottingham. We had planned plenty of time in Nottingham for coffee and a tram to the church for the funeral, but after the coffee we actually had time to walk to the church, and even to take a detour through the arboretum which was rather pleasant, and still be in plenty of time. We met one friend there, and another couple arrived a little later on a train from London.

Afterwards, when memories had been exchanged over food and drink we made our way back. This time we joined our three friends on the tram which took us straight to Nottingham rail station. One was taking a Cardiff train from there, and the rest of us boarded the next train for London which was calling at Leicester. There we left our London friends and awaited the train home. There was almost an hour to wait, so we left the station and enjoyed a cocktail (buy one, get one free!) at The Merchant of Venice, the Shakespeare-themed Italian café-restaurant almost opposite the station, which is rapidly becoming our usual stopping place in Leicester. Trains between Leicester and Stamford are not especially quick, the route being a "pasting together" of what remains of several former branch lines, but it is a useful line and they are fast enough for our purposes. Again, they suffer from the gaps in service that I mentioned above, but for us these do not matter on this part of the route because we never travel out in the afternoon or home in the morning: it is when we are going out towards Peterborough or Cambridge and returning in the afternoon that the gaps are an inconvenience. Perhaps when the strikes are over and people have the confidence to travel again (and Cross Country employs enough drivers!) the full timetable will operate once more and we'll be able to travel when and where we like.

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