Robert Hampton

Another visitor! Stay a while… stay forever!

June 2010

4th June 2010

Inverie good condition
Posted by at 7.57pm | Out and About | No responses

For someone like me, used to the Mersey Ferry, the Knoydart Ferry is something of a contrast. I’d guess it has a capacity of about 40 or so, and we climbed aboard via a flight of steps from the pier at Mallaig.

"MV Western Isles" ferry

We had to travel in by ferry as the peninsula of Knoydart is completely inaccessible by road. The only way to reach it is by boat or, for the brave, a 16 mile walk. Perhaps that’s why it is described as “Britain’s last wilderness”.

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9th June 2010

Pride Comes Before the Falls
Posted by at 8.05pm | Out and About | No responses

Walks around Knoydart

Knoydart is an excellent place for walkers, hikers and Munro baggers to explore. Once the confines of Inverie are left behind, you are soon in wild country with the only signs of civilisation being a few dirt tracks used by the rangers, and the occasional deer control fence.

Deer Control Point

The Knoydart Foundation had helpfully supplied a leaflet showing some of the walks available from Inverie. The Folach Waterfalls, at a “moderate” seven and a half miles return, seemed like a decent way to spend an afternoon (i.e. the picture in the leaflet looked good) so Nuno and I set off, armed with sandwiches, water and sundry snacks.

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12th June 2010

The Englishman who went up a mountain and came down a mountain
Posted by at 4.46pm | Out and About | 1 response
Ordance Survey Map of Knoydart
Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

Before visiting Knoydart, the idea of heading straight up a mountain would have horrified me. Check out that map! Look how close together the contour lines are! I remember school geography lessons – that means it’s steep.

When Nuno first suggested ascending Sgurr Coire Choinnichean, I will admit I felt a small shiver of anticipation. However, three days into my Scottish adventure, I was in the mood to try just about anything. We’d walked to Folach falls the day before, and I felt fully ready for something more challenging.

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14th June 2010

Steamy Business

Jacobite TicketOn Thursday it was time to say goodbye to Knoydart and head back to Glasgow. We boarded the morning ferry at Inverie Ferry Terminal (a fancy name for a small hut containing a bench and a toilet).

The boat deposited us safely back in Mallaig just before 12 o’clock, and we immediately headed back to the station to work out our plan of action. Our goal: secure a place on the Jacobite steam train to Fort William. We had tried to book tickets online but had been told they were all sold out. The web site did offer a slim ray of hope, however: some tickets are sold on the day by the train crew. I therefore wanted to meet the train as it arrived from its inward journey.

We had about half an hour before the train was due, so I took the opportunity to have a look around, as our rushed connection on Monday afternoon had left no time to explore. I was pleasantly surprised that Mallaig station, despite only serving five trains a day, had a fully fledged station building with toilets and a staffed ticket office.

I was just relieved to have shelter from the rain, which was coming down rather heavily at this point. While Nuno hunted for somewhere to leave our luggage, I sat observing as the lone ticket clerk dealt patiently with a procession of foreign tourists who needed to get to London (impossible unless they stayed somewhere overnight or had sleeper tickets, as they couldn’t reach Glasgow before 9pm, well after the last London train would have left).

I wasn’t the only one making use of the station facilities, as some seagulls had decided to nest on the track! The rails they were using appeared to be disused, thankfully.

Seagull on the line at Mallaig station

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15th June 2010

Glasgow-ing home

Friday morning, and time to prepare to head home. There was time for one last indulgence, however. My train wasn’t until lunchtime, so we had a couple of hours free: just time for Nuno and I to take a spin round the Glasgow Subway. I dropped my suitcase at Glasgow Central’s left luggage office — where the world’s most bored-looking attendant asked me sleepily if I had explosives in the case — and headed for the underground.

Glasgow Subway ticket

No messing about with complicated prices here, just a simple £1.20 single fare to any station.

The subway originally opened in 1896. Although refurbished in the 1970s, it has never been expanded beyond its original circular route, and doesn’t completely fulfil the transport needs of modern Glasgow. There is only one direct interchange with National Rail (at Partick) and many important parts of the city are not served.

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21st June 2010

Posted by at 8.27pm | Television | No responses

I was aware of Frank Sidebottom but only recently did I start actively seeking out stuff on YouTube. As with most aspects of pop culture, I was far too late.

Bonus footage here of Frank holding fort on Manchester’s Channel M overnight.

28th June 2010

Taking the strain
Posted by at 9.35pm | Trains | No responses

Merseytravel seem quite pleased that new transport secretary Philip Hammond is to pay Liverpool a visit to speak at the National Rail Conference in a couple of weeks time.

Mr Hammond will reportedly deliver a speech on the cuts that are about to be imposed on the railway. Hopefully some of the other speakers at the conference will take the opportunity to school him about basic railway principles, including why trains get priority at level crossings.

The government is planning to slash the amount of subsidy directed at the railways. This has resulted in a swathe of projects being cancelled: the station improvement programme announced last year has been abandoned, with Liverpool Central’s refurbishment hanging on by the skin of its teeth. The Liverpool to Manchester electrification looks doomed as well.

Of course, you can only go so far with cuts, and it looks like the railways will need to find the money somewhere else. As is often the case, the long-suffering passenger will pay: the newspapers are full of warnings of steep fare rises.

It’s fair to complain about the amount of taxpayers money being swallowed up by the railways, but I’m annoyed that no-one ever mentions reforming the insane mess that is the privatised railway system. Privatisation promised a new era of efficiency; instead we got endless red tape and bureaucracy. A lot of the taxpayer’s money is being used to fund the profits of the private companies, rather than being invested in services.

But any meaningful reform seems to have been filed under “too hard”, so instead the government will screw the passengers and allow the gravy train to roll on. Nobody will benefit in the long run, except perhaps those with shares in Stagecoach, FirstGroup and Arriva.