Riding the rails again.

Hello again everyone and a warm welcome back to my ramblings, both physical and verbal. I don’t quite know where this sudden bout of productivity has come from but I do seem to be getting quite a lot done here which I suppose makes up a little for the time recently when I went incognito for rather too long.

My much appreciated regular readers will know where I am but if you have just randomly landed on this page I should explain briefly that it is to do with a trip I took in May 2022 which was initially meant to be four days meeting some travel writing friends in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in Northumberland but has rather stretched on since then. If you wish to read the story from the beginning, you can do so here.

I wasn’t really going to go that far, merely to the adjacent County of Cumberland which, due to England not being particularly wide at this point meant that I was going from the County on the East coast of the country to the one which sits on the West Coast, at this point the Irish sea. Again it was a decision that had been taken the evening before when I had decided to go to Carlisle, I really don’t like to plan too far ahead.

My logic for this decision was, as always, pretty flimsy but good enough for me. Carlisle is yet another city in the UK I had never visited and I knew there was plenty of history so that was all I needed. I have mentioned before that with my altered circumstances I have decided to restrict my travelling to the UK for the moment, not that I really have much choice. I had long planned to do more exploration of my own country and if this trip so far was anything to go by, it wasn’t a bad call. There are just so many places I have not seen here.

I had booked accommodation but I knew I could not check in until late afternoon and the train journey is about two hours so I reckoned I would have a last look round Morpeth. As I was leaving my hotel I managed a quick peek in the breakfast area which looked spotless as you can see, and then I was on the move again.

First things first though and breakfast back at the Electrical Wizard where on this occasion I plumped for the American small breakfast, a real favourite of mine. As always, it was delicious although I really do not know where this new-found appetite had come from but I certainly wasn’t complaining. As you can just see from the image I had got “the office” out to do a bit of work and spent a very pleasant time in a pub I really liked.

I knew it was a bit of a trek to the station so I set off in good time but I did take a moment to take an image of this rather fine building called Morpeth Court which is now luxury holiday lets but , as the name suggests, was originally the Courthouse for the town.

It was completed in 1822 to the design of John Dobson who we met in the previous post in relation to the “Telford” bridge and who was very prolific although he is little known outside the Northeast. He was responsible for designing a large proportion of central Newcastle including Eldon Square (now sadly mostly demolished), Grainger Market and the magnificent Central Station which is perhaps my favourite large station in the UK.

The Courthouse was originally a much larger complex including a jail complex which served the entire County but this was demolished in the late 1800’s when they built a new police station. The building you see here continued to do duty as the local Courthouse until as recently as 1980 when they re-located.

I eventually made it to the station and caught my train by which time the weather had turned nasty again as you can see in the above image taken from the train window in Newcastle where I had to change. Bearing in mind that June was only a couple of days away it really was a bit annoying but you get used to this in Britain. Due to cancellations, which seem to be the rule in UK now rather than the exception and even that is on the days when the Unions are not holding the nation to ransom, the train was fairly packed but I was lucky enough to get a seat which I was glad about.

I got to Carlisle which has another fine Grade II listed building built to the design of William Tite who was another of the architects of the time who seemed to be able to turn his hand to nearly anything. His buildings were varied but perhaps his most famous structure is the Royal Exchange in the City of London, an imposing building which stands to this day. As well as commercial buildings he also designed several cemeteries and numerous railway stations in both England and France.

Although trains started departing here in 1847 the station was not even finished until the following year such were the demands of the burgeoning Railway Age. There were initially two companies operating from here although later this was to rise to a staggering seven. In those days the companies were all in the hands of private owners, often competing fiercely for the same markets and this became so confusing they eventually had to form a committee to regulate the whole operation.

When it did open in 1848 the station was called Carlisle Citadel due to it’s proximity to that medieaval building which still stands. Due to the volume of traffic there had to be a major expansion of both tracks and facilities as there had originally only been one through track. The work was begun in 1873 and completed in 1881 which increased the number of through tracks to three with an additional five terminal bays and platforms.

The building was also considerably expanded as all seven operating companies insisted on having their own ticket offices, parcel depots and whatever else, it must have been chaos. The situation was improved considerably with the Railways Act 1921 which was the Government’s attempt to stop the serious losses being made by the 120 operting companies that were still in operation that far into the 20th century. Five of the companies using Carlisle were amalgmated into the London Midland and Scottish (LMS) which was one of the “Big Four” created by the Act.

Further major investment occurred in the 21st century, including making the entire station fully accessible, which was handy for me, and led to the very pleasant travel hub it is today.

It was still too early to check in and so I set out in search of a pub. Passing the rather smart looking hotel opposite the station, which I didn’t think I’d be allowed across the door, of I was pleased to find that I didn’t have far to go to find exactly what I wanted which was a JD Wetherspoon pub, in this case the William Rufus. I won’t get into the whole argument about Wetherspoons as I have done it several times before and it gets repetitive so I’ll tell you about this one.

The pub was clean and tidy, service was prompt although it was pretty quiet and once again I was amazed at how cheap the drink was, it really was coming as something of a shock to me. The William Rufus (William the Red) is named for the third son of William the Conqueror, subsequently King William II.

Remember that we are still very close to the Scottish border and the English had been fighting the Scots over the borderlands for some time and were to continue for centuries after. William had quelled a rebellion by King Malcolm III of Scotland and entered the strategically important city of Carlisle through Botchergate which no longer exists although the street on which the pub stands still bears the name. Having taken Carlisle he began building Carlisle Castle which effectively allowed him to control the Counties of Cumberland and Westmoreland.

William’s death was a strange affair. On 2nd August, 1100 he was hunting with a group of other nobles in the New Forest in Hampshire where he was shot in the back, the arrow, piercing his lung and killing him. Whilst hunting accidents were common then and this was generally accepted at the time but some later historians are increasingly coming to the conclusion it was murder for a number of reasons.

Firstly, and most damningly, the nobles just left William’s body in the forest where it had fallen which seems very strange behaviour towards the corpse of the monarch. It was later found by a simple arrow maker who, along with some other peasants, took the body which eventually found it’s way to Winchester Cathedral where it was interred. Secondly, later chroniclers named the man who fired the fatal shot as Walter Tirel and if so it seems unusual as he was renowned as an excellent bowman who would be unlikely to loose such an inaccurate and dangerous shot.

The final reason regards politics and power struggle as usual. On hearing of the death and with indecent haste, William’s brother Henry went immediately to Winchester to seize the Royal treasury which he then took straight to London. William had always had a fractious relationship with his siblings and there was certainly no love lost besides which, Henry had much to gain, which he did. It is interesting that he was in the fatal hunting party. Within days, and before an archbishop could even arrive, he had himself proclaimed King Henry I by the Bishop of London, a position he held for 35 years.

I am not a great one for conspiracy theories and, as usual, I shall leave the reader to make up their own mind but back now to Carlisle. It was a bit of a trek to for me to where I was staying but slow and steady got the job done and I arrived at check-in time at the Carlisle Youth Hostel where I was met by the joint owner Jono (the other owner is his partner Cath) and I immediately spotted his Dublin accent so of course that led to a good old chat. I stowed my kit in the room, which was a six bed dorm, had a quick look round what was to prove to be an absolutely superb place and headed out for a pint.

I could tell you about the hostel now but if I do I will get all out of whack with my images so I shall tell you about it in a future post and content myself here with an image I did take later of the outside of the building and which was taken from the charming gardens just across the road. Apologies for the errant finger!

Another day, another city and the trip was still going well, I had no idea how long it was going to last for nor was I worried as I can live literally for months out of an aircraft compliant suitcase which is not exactly huge. In the next post we shall go for a wander round Carlisle so if you fancy that then stay tuned.

Author: Fergy.

Hello there. I am a child of the 50's, now retired and had been enjoying travelling pre-virus. Now I am effectively under house arrest. Apart from travelling, I love playing music (guitar, vocals and a bit of percussion) as the profile pic suggests and watching sport, my playing days are long over. I read voraciously, both fiction and nonfiction I'll read just about anything although I do have a particular interest in military history of all periods. I live alone in fairly central London where I have been for over 30 years since leaving Northern Ireland which was the place of my birth. I adore cooking and I can and do read recipe books and watch food programmes on TV / online all day given half a chance.

21 thoughts on “Riding the rails again.”

  1. Hello, Fergy! What an interesting blog! I quite like the royal intrigue! Hope to read more of your blogs soon. It’s been far too long. Hope you’re doing well — it would have been nice to meet in person in Newcastle-upon-Tyne this year!


  2. I’m going to be interested in all you have to tell us about Carlisle. Apart from once changing trains there I have never been.

    By the way, I think your photos may have got muddled! The one you describe as being ‘taken from the train window shortly after we had departed’ is of Newcastle 😆

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello mate,

      Carlisle is very interesting although it gets very lively at the weekend, a bit like a cut-down version of the Bigg Market.

      Because my memory is so awful I always rely on my images to even remember what I did next! As always the images were spot on, I just had not properly described it. For some reason lost in the mists of time I travelled on a service which changed at NCL.

      When I was including it I did look at it long and hard and I was sure it was the Toon as I love all the bridges there but I trusted my little compact and I was right to.

      Thank you so much for pointing it out, most helpful. Incidentally, are you going to invoice me for acting as my proof-reader?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Actually I think going via Newcastle is probably the only option, which would explain why you did it! And no, I proof-read for free – I just can’t help myself 😆

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I was checking the National Rail Planner site (which I use a lot) as I was writing the piece and was confused but I think I have finally sorted it out.

          I could not understand why I would have gone on the changing train as it is perversely considerably more expensive than the non-changing. I had been thinking there was a direct line that did not involve NCL but I reckon now that they all must. Logically thinking, why would there be a direct cross-country line between those two places?

          A free proof-reader, bargain! Honestly, I do appreciate it. I go over everything again and again but here are always going to be things I get wrong and it is nice to have an independent eye cast over my efforts.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. I was the same but Carlisle is definitely worth a day or two.

      On a totally different subject, I have just spent several hours ensconced in the excellent Crown pub in Broadstairs reading your USA blog which, I have to say was infinitely better than the gloomy Sunday newspapers.

      The stupid website won’t allow me to comment for some reason even though I am logged in on my WordPress a/c. It keeps telling me to “Fill in the required fields when I have filled everything I can see. It does, bizarrely, allow me to “like” the posts which I have done as I am liking it immensely. The photography is superb and the writing so well observed and enthusiastic, I love it.

      I am currently (several hours later) in Chamula with the weird church and will continue later. A brilliant piece of blogging, keep it up.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well thank you so much for those lovely comments Fergy. On occasion I get the same problem with comments – it’s usually been because the wifi isn’t strong enough, a conclusion I reached because when we moved on to the next location, all was fine. Maybe commenting needs a stronger reception than liking. And Broadstairs is actually notorious for weak wifi. I dunno, I’m no expert! Shame though, would have been interested to hear your comments on certain aspects, that’s for sure, it’s been a very varied and interesting trip so far. I wonder if it will work any better if you “follow” our blog. I don’t know the answer to that either!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I do not know about the wifi thing as I am a complete technophobe but I know I have little chance of getting a signal from about the Prince Albert pub all over the main part of town. I believe much depends on your provider and I am with Vodafone who are notoriously bad here. A lot of my friends are on EE which is reckoned to be the best of a bad bunch.

          Your journey has indeed been an eye-opener for me and the photography is stunning. I thought I had already followed your blog but, as above, I am a complete technophobe and probably got it all wrong. I shall attempt to rectify the situation but it is pretty much in the lap of the Gods in my case! I’ll get back to it shortly.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I’m pretty sure the comments issue will be down to the weak wifi then. Thank you for your compliments Fergy – Michaela does all the photography. In fact she does all the camera work and all the IT and all the page layout. In fact I just do the words and Michaela does everything else!

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Well, whatever way you go about it the both of you are doing a fine job. Does Michaela have a background in IT as the page always looks wonderful?

            Liked by 1 person

          3. Well… firstly, would you believe, I’ve just tried to comment on someone else’s blog and I’ve got the same response as you….unable to comments as fields require completing…so maybe it is WP at fault after all! As for Michaela, no she absolutely doesn’t have a background in IT…she attended a WP course at one point but the rest she does by trial and error. We do work together on the final layout but she does 97% of it really, I just help with final tweaks. My talent only goes as far as wordsmithery!


          4. My pleasure, I am renowned for speaking my mind, often to my detriment, and that is what I think. I do believe in credit where it is due.

            From putting together my own scribblings here I know exactly how much effort it takes and you guys obviously put the effort in.

            When I retired I was genuinely terrified that I would die of boredom but now I wonder now where I found the time to go to work for all those years!

            Liked by 1 person

          5. I know the feeling. Actually I was lucky enough to love most of my working life, but I absolutely know I finished at just the right time. Put it this way, I haven’t yet been in an exotic location, or on an aeroplane, or fumbling through an undecipherable foreign language menu, and thought…”I wish I was back at my desk”……!

            Liked by 1 person

          6. Oh, my word no. On my deathbed, I doubt my final proclamation to the world will be, “I wish I could have worked more”.

            We seem to be so alike in that I thoroughly enjoyed my working life but towards the end there were a lot of changes internally and none of them for the better. It was time to go.

            Things actually worked out quite nicely as there were three of us, Sheila, Phil and myself, all about the same age but they were terrified as we were all on final salary pension schemes as all bosses were running scared so we did a bit of collective bargaining and got a very good package.

            I am certainly not a rich man (not sure if I would even like to be) but I will certainly not starve plus which I am mortgage free as I paid it off with my lump sum and that is a great help.

            I am most certainly not complaining and I have very, very few regrets. I consider myself lucky really.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Great to see that you are out rambling again Fergy. Life just has a lot more spice ti it, when one is on the road. I am myself on the Azores right now. Doing a little job for a tour company. Austria will be my port of call next week. So I am not complaining myself either.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good to hear from you Claus, it’s been a while.

      Yes, travelling is one of my great loves as you know and even now with my limited mobility this trip was proving to me that I can have a great trip close to home and without too much distress to my poor old body. It is amazing how much of my own country I have not seen.

      Enjoy the Azores (I believe it is lovely) and Austria and we shall speak soon.


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