Category: Basingstoke

Train Trouble

This has been a week of train trouble for me. And it all started on Monday.
 
I had an interview at Meltsham which is on the way to Gatwick Airport. The trip would mean that I had to change trains at Clapham Junction and board a Southern Trains local to East Croydon, and then catch another local to Meltsham. The train times I had selected had enough time built into them for me to find out where to go, and to get there without a last minute dash. Theoretically.
 
Clapham Junction was the easy part, however, I did not have my camera with me, so some images were taken in January.

Clapham Junction passageway

I managed to grab an earlier local for East Croydon and was soon on my way. Unfortunately Southern Trains is having a lot of bad press lately regarding delayed trains.

A typical Southern Trains local

A typical Southern Trains local

 

I had not travelled with them much before so I could not really comment on their punctuality. However, once we reached East Croydon chaos reigned. There was a signalling fault somewhere on the system and trains were delayed, cancelled, missing and all permutations in between. To exacerbate matters renovations were being done at the station so information signs were not legible or hard to see. I was directed to platform 5 and when I got there was told that the train would arrive on platform 6! That was difficult because platform 6 was occupied by a train going to Gatwick. The poor platform attendant was having a hard time doing his job and trying to assist with enquiries. It also did not help listening to announcements as they were either too soft, or happened as the train was leaving. By some miracle I caught a train, and it turned out to be the right one, although it was running 45 minutes late and some stops were cancelled. I just hoped that things would be less chaotic on my way home.
 
Later that day, on arrival at Mertsham to catch my train back to East Croydon, I found that it too had been delayed. 
Merstham Station

Merstham Station

In fact 3 trains went past while I was waiting, although had I dashed into the loo you could have bet that the train would have arrived at the most inopportune time.
 
 
The trip back to East Croydon was punctuated by long pauses and the ever diminishing time left to catch my connection. By the time we arrived it was time that my connection would have arrived too, although that was unlikely as we were occupying the space it was supposed to be occupying. The ever unhelpful information boards were not being informative at all, and the poor platform attendant was being harassed by all and sundry. 

 

In the image on the left you can see two trains, in fact there were actually 4, two already occupying the platform on both sides.  I could not make any sense out of this, but by chance heard an announcement that the train to Clapham Junction would now be arriving on Platform 1 and not the one where I was or where it was supposed to be. Thanks for the advance notice! I arrived at Platform 1 as said train left. In fact the “Welcome to East Croydon” sign on the information board  did not help me, or any of the other people who came running down hoping to catch the train we had all missed.  I decided to hang around there because it did seem as if this was where trains to Clapham would leave from, and 10 minutes later one arrived (probably 45 minutes late). Clapham Junction was like paradise after that mess, and it is unlikely I will go through East Croydon ever again, which is maybe a good thing.
  
After the chaos of Monday, I was very tempted to stay in bed on Tuesday, but I still had some graves to find in Reading so I headed there instead. There is a First Great Western local that goes between Basingstoke and Reading, and I had had a bad experience with it early in February when the train had failed and we were stranded for almost 90 minutes at Mortimer. Surely something like that can’t happen again? or could it?
The trains currently being used on that line was 150001 and 150002, a pair of 1984 BREL built prototype 3-car Class 150/0 units. 150002 proved to be the worse of the two for reliability. Both sets were  in service with London Midland until 2011. 150001 entered service with First Great Western in January 2012, with 150002 to follow after refurbishment and relivery. 
 
 I had travelled with 150001 and 150002 the previous week when I had been to Bramley, and thought that they were very noisy and uncomfortable compared to the usual 165 or 166 class I had used before. Their interiors were an odd purple colour and reminded me of a kitchen.
 
 
Once I had completed my graves in Reading I headed back to the station, and as I arrived I kept an eye open for any new trains in the station. When we had arrived that morning I had caught a brief glimpse of something other than the usual FGW intercity HST, and I was hoping to see another. I was lucky because there was one at the platform and I quickly grabbed some pics. 
 
It turns out that this was a British Rail Class 180, and reading between the lines these were troublesome beasties.  This particular one was 180 102, and it pulled out just as I headed back up the escalators. 
  
When I got to my platform I saw my train was in so I could get on board and head off home. How wrong I was! A train had broken down at Bramley and we were not going to Basingstoke unless we went via Guildford and Woking. The train just after 14H00 was cancelled, as was the one at 14H30 and the next one may have been leaving at 15H00, although that was unlikely.  150001 joined its sister and neither was going anywhere. 
  
I knew that there was a Cross Country train that used to leave Reading for Basingstoke and then onwards to Weymouth, and it left at 14H45ish, so I decided that it was a preferable option to going to Guildford so headed down the platform to see if there was anything else interesting in the station.  I soon discovered another train that I had not seen before, and it was wearing a Southwest Trains livery.
 
It turns out that these are Class 458’s, and they too were not very successful. I must admit they were not good lookers either, and during my wait I saw 8026 and 8016 in the station. 
 
Heading back to my platform I was unable to get an answer as to whether I would be able to catch the Cross Country train as the platform it normally used was currently occupied by 150002. In fact the customer service person did not know either and she dashed off to find out, just as the Cross Country pulled into Platform 8. 
  
I had never caught one of the Cross Country trains before, although had seen them quite a lot in Southampton. They tended to come and go and generally lead separate lives from the other Southwest Trains all around them. It could be that I now had an opportunity to catch one, assuming I could get to Platform 8 before it left.     
 
We all dashed across to the platform and hurriedly boarded the train, although whether it was going anywhere was another story altogether. Just then another Class 180 pulled in and I was tempted to bail out and go photograph it, but they announced that we were holding for awhile and would leave as soon as the line was clear. Bailing now would mean I would have to hang around till 15H30 for one of the 150’s to leave.  Then we started to move, and I was finally on my way home, and with Cross Country too. They aren’t too bad interior wise, and they definitely were quick, but I was really just glad to finally be on my way home. Two days of train troubles in a row was asking too much.
 
Hopefully I was done with train troubles, or had I?
 
This morning I had to go to Southampton to see the maiden arrival of the Britannia. Would my train timings be correct?  Lo and behold when I got to Basingstoke Station I discovered that the trains coming from London via Clapham Junction were delayed. The Salisbury train was running 19 minutes late, and my Southampton train was running equally late. However there was a Cross Country leaving at 10H10, and it came via Reading and not Clapham Junction so theoretically it would not be delayed so I crossed to platform 1 to catch it (followed by half the people from the platform I had just left).
  
I arrived at Southampton in time, and by co-incidence I caught another Cross Country back home. It was kind of odd because in the two years I had been in the UK I had never been on one of these before, and suddenly in a week I had traveled on three!  Maybe it is my reward for all the other train trouble I had been having this past week? 
 
So that was my week of train trouble. The moral of the story? the rail system in the UK is not perfect, it is subject to delays, and things do go wrong (and there are leaves on the line, the wrong snow and even trampolines to muck it up further). The delay at Clapham Junction was as a result of a woman threatening to jump onto the tracks, thousands of people ended up being delayed as a result. The difference is in how passengers are notified of a problem. The East Croydon mess could have been handled so much better, and I think the Reading delays could have also been dealt with a bit better, but it is really a lot to do with customer service and service levels as a rule. Lets put it like this, in South Africa they would have set fire to the train. 
 
© DRW. 2015-2018. Created 06/03/2015, images migrated 27/04/2016  
 
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 09:24

Messing around in Bramley looking for graves

With my time running short in Basingstoke I was hoping to grab as many of the outstanding CWGC graves in some of the churchyards between Basingstoke and Reading. The problem is that they are not easy walks, being out in the countryside and far from the stations. I had intended to grab two separate churches on this day, with a possible third depending on time and energy.
I started my excursion from Bramley Station, which is the first station on the local line between Basingstoke and Reading.  The train that arrived was not the usual one that I had been catching lately, instead it was a different DMU, and I must admit it was also a noisy bugger.

 
 My walk would take me to the village of Sherfield-Upon-Loddon, which was about 3,5 km away and then down the A33 to the church of St Leonards which was a further 1.6 km away, ironically in the direction of Basingstoke. My initial planning had erred somewhat as I had placed the church in the village whereas it was really quite far from the village.  

Navigating through the country lanes is always risky and at one point there were roadworks that really messed me around. There is a lot of water in this area too, and I kept on coming across streams and bridges, as well as the village pond. Eventually though I came to the village and had to backtrack a portion to find the church.

 
The one good thing about my detour was the discovery of the village War Memorial, and that in itself made the detour worthwhile. I don’t mind detours if I can discover something on  them, and this memorial was a unexpected bonus.
  
Eventually I reach the A33, which was really like a mad racetrack in parts. And I walked and walked and walked until I started to question where I was going. My mapping app was not helping too much because it kept on trying to take me to the United States! But, I saw a sign ahead, and my destination was listed on it. Finally!
  
The church is called St Leonards and it has four CWGC graves in it’s churchyard. 
 
Like so many of these old churches it is difficult to really date the building, although according to their website the church was extensively restored in the 19th century. Unfortunately as I arrived so did somebody with the keys, but by the time I had found my graves they had left so I was unable to access the building. It is quite a pretty building, with a nicely proportioned spire and quite a large churchyard that has some new burials in it as well as a lot of older ones.  I also discovered that I was going to have a mud problem on this trip. I had noticed large pools of water on my walk to here, and parts of the churchyard were also wet.  
 
There was also a new addition to the church which blended in quite well, although I was not too keen on the front doors of the church, and the sign that informed that all valuables were removed from the church overnight. It is sad that things have come to this. 
 
The dominant grave site was of the Piggot Stainsby Conant Family
 
My CWGC graves were all grouped together which made my life so much easier, and there were no private memorials that I could see in the churchyard.
 

One last look around and I was on my way again. It had been a satisfactory visit, and the goal was achieved. In fact the day was still young and I was ready for number 2 on my list!

Hartley Westpall St Mary was next on my list, it had one solitary CWGC grave in its churchyard.  Distancewise I had to return to Sherfield upon Loddon via the A33, carry on for a distance and then at the  Hartley Westpall sign turn turn right and continue until I found the turning to the church. It was roughly 2,5 km from the Sherfield roundabout. I had considered that I would probably be able to make one more visit after this one depending on how I felt, it really depended a lot on what I found at the end of this stretch. 
  
It was a bit of a dicey walk though because there was quite a lot of traffic, and oddly enough it was always groups of vehicles that came hurtling up behind me. The signs on the road are a bit misleading though because that really is the boundary of the village, and not the village itself. In fact I was not too sure how big this village actually was because there was so little in front of me I even had to check the satellite image to see if there were any likely targets. 
 
Eventually I reached the church, and it was a quite a small one, constructed of flint and wood, it was almost unassuming. 
  
And my war grave was easily spotted amongst the snowdrops. 
  
The church is called St Mary The Virgin and it was being cleaned so I went inside, and the woodwork nearly knocked me over.  The exterior walls may be newish (although that could mean anything), but the heavy wooden beams that hold the roof up could be original and could date from 1330. 
  
Make no mistake about it, those roof beams are of the same standard as I saw on board HMS Victory.  It is a solid structure, rough in its finishing, but amazing to see. You do not get woodwork like this very often.
 
hartley_westpall21The church also has a really nice collection of stained glass windows as well as an outstanding wall memorial which would not seem out of place in a cathedral. Unfortunately the legibility of it is poor, but the artwork is museum quality.
 
There were also a number of wall memorials to past rectors as well as soldiers, and I was very happy to see an original article about the funeral of the soldier who’s grave I had just photographed. It was really a unique memorial and the inclusion of his “Dead Man’s Penny” was an even more poignant touch. 
 
I like finding small memorials like that because they do bring a personal touch to many of the graves that I photograph. Often there is no real history to a grave, it is a name and a number with no real story behind it.  Private Thomas Elliott was an individual, he served his country and he is buried in this really quiet part of Hampshire, and he is remembered in this small ancient church with the wonderful roof.
  
I have to admit I enjoyed this church a lot, it was a really surprising building.  Doing more reading about it, I discovered that there are registers dating from 1558, and considering that in 1558 South Africa had not even been discovered. 
 
It was time to leave this wonderful old place, with its beautiful woodwork and friendly atmosphere.  I had a decision to make soon and had about a 1.5 km to make it in. I had decided to walk back to A33 and either go left for home, or right for Stratfield Saye St Marys. It was still quite early and while I was a bit pooped I felt like it may be worth my while to try for this church which was about 4,5 km from the turning off to Hartley Westpall. The problem was that I was unlikely to make a standalone trip out here again, and I was technically “in the area” so I decided to head in that direction. 
  
At some point I encountered that map above, and I wish I had encountered it much earlier, and had been able to take it with me to where I was going. It really laid out the area much more logically than the small screen image I was using on my phone, and if ever I do return to this area I am going to print this map out. 
  
My biggest problem came when I reached The Wellington Arms. At this intersection the A33 goes off to the right, while another road heads off to the left. Inbetween the two was a path that I was hoping to take to reach my destination. 
 
Unfortunately the path was gated off and was marked “Private Park” which meant I had to make quite a detour to get to the church which was technically on the path that I could not access. It was either go on or go home, and I had come this far already so the road to the left I did take.
It was a long road. It did not have a pavement, but it was not too busy so I did not have to hop into a handy bush each time a car came. 
 
I crossed the River Loddon again, I was getting there. I reached the end of the road and was faced with more road. Where was the church? I changed to satellite view and headed towards what I thought was a cluster of buildings, but before that I saw a sign which said “to the Church”, but I could not see the church, instead I was facing a set of gates which were closed. A small sign read “No entry, access to the church only”. Aha! I was getting somewhere. 
 
Inside was all quiet, there was a largeish house on the right of the road that I was following, but still no church. I kept walking and then saw the lychgate. I had arrived!
  
The church is called Stratfieldsaye St Mary and it has one CWGC grave in its churchyard. 
 
It was not a good looking church, if anything it looked like a modern version of a temple. However, according to what I read it is quite old “1758 possibly designed by John Pitt (Calvin p 639), restoration 1965. Replacing a medieval church in a new site, the building has a Greek Cross plan, with an octagonal tower above the crossing. There is a copper dome (with a finial) and copper roofing of low pitch to the arms” (http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/en-139116-church-of-st-mary-the-virgin-stratfield-)
 
The church has a very large churchyard, although there were not too many graves that caught my eye. I was more interested in why was this church in this park in the first place. 
 
The churchyard was still in use too, so there must be a congregation here, it is just a pity the building was not open because there were a lot of interesting memorials inside of it.
  
But, it was realistically time to to head off home. I had a very long walk ahead of me and frankly was not looking too forward to it. I had two choices. I could hoof it to Bramley which was 4.3 km away as the crow flies, or I could cut across to Mortimer Station which was 3,5 kms distant. In both cases the crow could cheat and take a short cut, I had no such choice. I checked my phone and Bramley was as much as 2 hours walk away whereas Mortimer was 53 minutes. I decided on the latter and set off on my epic trek across the countryside. It went quite well initially,  I passed Strafield Saye House in the distance and it may be worth looking into how it ties into the church and park I had just come from.
  
But then things began to go pear shaped as the lady in the GPS directed me to turn left onto a footpath that was only 50 metres long and which ended in a muddy field. I eventually took her advise and headed across the field, aiming for a gate in the distance (Why didn’t I take pics of this?), then I waded through a path of mud until I hit a road and that road said “Mortimer Station.—>” and 29 minutes later I was at Mortimer Station. I had stood here for ages after my visit to Strafield St Mary not too long ago, although I was not as tired on that day as I was now. Surprisingly I only waited 6 minutes for a train.
 
And I was home just after 3.15.  
 
Did I mention I was bushed? It had been quite a long journey, all for 6 graves. There are still more graves in that area, but I probably will not get to photograph them, which is a pity because I put a lot of mileage into getting these graves photographed. I had seen three very different churches, and seen one remnant of workmanship that left me amazed. The countryside is very pretty, although it can be wild in parts. Weather had been favourable, and for once I had not run out of battery life on my phone. There are a few lessons here that I need to learn. Preparation, navigation, information and of course proper maps and  more information. Having completed this I could probably redo it in half the time, and walking much less. But that is the old hindsight thing. 
 
Basingstoke is pretty much wound up when it comes to CWGC graves now, although I still have 2 weeks before I leave here, so just maybe I shall try for those last few graves, although I really want to return to Reading Cemetery. 
 
Who knows, maybe next month you may see one more post about this area.
 
© DRW 2015-2018. Created 27/02/2015, images migrated 27/04/206
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 09:28
DR Walker © 2014 -2019. Images are copyright to DR Walker unless otherwise stated. Frontier Theme