Thursday 9 March 2023

You Walked?!!!

By Train and on Foot in London

I wrote some time ago about travelling by train to a meeting in Cambridge, but although that venue for a meeting was very handy for me, for most people attending it involved a lengthy car journey, so to make it easier for most, the venue was moved for the most recent meeting to London, which everyone could more or less easily reach by train. For me it was less convenient, but for most it was much more convenient, so I could hardly complain. It was in Southwark where there was a handy Franciscan house at which we could meet, and we were advised that Southwark was the nearest Underground station.

A trip to London with a little time to spare was handy for me because I had just renewed my Senior Railcard and needed to take a few moments at an Underground station to have it linked to my Oyster card to give me cheaper travel on TfL services in London - this is something only staff can do, and so I chose an early enough train to give me time to get this done.

Changing at Peterborough - that's the train from Stamford behind me!
I left Stamford on the 07:57 Cross Country train to Peterborough and then caught the 08:29 LNER train to London: this was from Lincoln and was just a five-coach "Azuma" train, making a very neat connection with the train from Stamford. It arrived on time at Kings Cross at 09:23, just 90 minutes I had left Stamford and less than two hours after leaving my house, which is not at all bad. While only claiming Standard Class fares from the Order (Third Order, Society of St Francis), I booked Advance First Class tickets both ways and so enjoyed the bacon roll and coffee as a second breakfast on the way to London.

At Kings Cross St Pancras Underground station I easily found a member of station staff by the ticket machines where he was on hand to help intending passengers, and he took my Railcard and Oyster and poked the necessary numbers into the machine along with his staff ID card and behold, the Oyster computer system should now charge me about one-third less for my travel in London!

I then had plenty of time to get to Southwark and consulted the map on my iPhone: it was almost a straight line! I could easily do this on foot and in fact I had at various times in the past walked most of the route for various reasons, and it would be interesting to see it again. I needed to acquire a packed lunch on the way and knew that I would be passing several shops where I'd be able to buy something for this. So off I went, across the road outside the station and along the right-hand (west) side of Grays Inn Road towards the Inns of Court at Holborn. I noticed, as I never had before, that there is an amazing number of dentists in Grays Inn Road! I bought my lunch from a small Co-operative "corner shop" somewhere along the road, a very decent meal deal.

When I reached Holborn I crossed the road and turned left to head towards Blackfriars, passing the end of the famous Hatton Garden jewellery quarter (as visited by James Bond in Diamonds are Forever!) and then heading southwards towards the river. There was a glimpse of St Paul's Cathedral as I crossed Fleet Street, and then of the Tate Modern gallery as I walked over Blackfriars Bridge. Along Blackfriars Road I glanced at the frontage of Southwark station just to see if anyone I knew was coming that way, but no-one was. I noticed for the first time that it really is just a very short walk from there to Waterloo station: indeed, Waterloo East is connected by a walkway to Southwark Underground Station.

Soon I was approaching the venue of my meeting and coming the other way were two of my colleagues who had come by train from Kettering to St Pancras and had continued to Southwark by taxi ... they were amazed that I had walked all that way but I am younger and fitter than they, and intend to keep the fitness for as long as I can, which does require the exercise. We were among the first to arrive and as everyone gathered it transpired that some had walked from Waterloo, just a nice walking distance, but the others who had come into Liverpool Street, Kings Cross, St Pancras or Marylebone had all taken buses or the Underground - and my friends who had taken a taxi. 

I had thoroughly enjoyed my walk but at the end of the day I did use the Underground to go back to Kings Cross. By then it was becoming dark and cooler and, of course, I was no longer in need of quite so much exercise! From Southwark I travelled just one stop to Waterloo and then changed to the Northern Line to Warren Street where I left the Underground and walked the rest of the way to St Pancras station. Having allowed time in the morning for my little task with the Railcard I had also allowed plenty of time in the evening for odd jobs, and one odd job that really needed to be done was to buy a supply of St Pancras Blend tea from Fortnum and Mason, only available from their shop at St Pancras. Once that was done I browsed around a little more and then made my way across the road to Kings Cross to await my LNER train to Peterborough where I made the change once more for Stamford; home by early evening after a very satisfying day. The waiting room at Peterborough was busy: from platforms 6 and 7 there were trains for Norwich, Ipswich and (mine) Birmingham within the next half-hour, and all were clearly going to be fairly busy. My train came in more-or-less on time and left on time, reasonably full but not overcrowded. People are travelling, and we need to get our railways up and running properly, with full timetables and without random cancellations caused by staff shortages (which in truth are usually overtime unpopularity!). It surely cannot be long now before we have a decent railway again?

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