All caught up! And forthcoming All Line Rover trip

Blog finally up to date – for the moment

For the first year or so of this blog, I kept pretty up to date with writing posts: whenever I visited a new map area, I’d write and post a blog entry about that trip within a month or so. However, as you can tell from the visiting and posting dates in my List of Posts, after the end of 2018 I got very behind: for example, I visited Blaenau Ffestiniog – one of my favourite posts on this blog – on 29th March 2019, but didn’t post about it untl 15th December 2020.

I’ve been posting a lot more in 2022, publishing 37 posts before this one, but in reality a lot of those posts were already mostly written before that. You see, when I can, I write up a post soon after making a trip, but since I post visits sequentially, a written post could often end up waiting a long time for an earlier visit to be written up before I could publish it. It was writing a few long-unwritten posts in 2021 that really unlocked my 2022 posting spree!

I’m therefore happy to announce that, following posting about my most recently visited map area, to St David’s, and my long-delayed Histon post, 🎉🥳🥂 I have finally caught up on my blog backlog, and as of today, this blog is fully up-to-date 🎉🍰🐐!

All Line Rover trip

That said, this glorious state of affairs is going to be short-lived, since I have some intense travelling coming up, which will give me a lot of new places to write about: from Friday 16th to Tuesday 27th September, I’m going to be travelling around the UK by train on an All Line Rover ticket!

My 14-day All Line Rover (with 26-30 railcard discount). Acknowledgements to Vesper, who owns the plant I picked up off her desk in my attempt to give this photo a slightly less unaesthetic background

The All Line Rover, as you might expect, is a ticket that gives you unlimited travel on Great Britain’s rail network during its period of validity. I can get on almost any train, and without pre-booking, the only exceptions being that I can’t get on or off certain intercity trains at a few major stations in the South East before 10am, and that getting a cabin on the Caledonian Sleeper or the Night Riviera requires paying a supplement. Trams and metros aren’t included.

I’ve been intending to do a trip like this for a long while, and in 2020 the Dearest Progenitors very kindly gave me an All Line Rover ticket for my birthday – well, the promise they’d buy me one once I decided on some dates. Then, of course, the pandemic interposed itself, and following a busy 2022 so far, it was only in September that I found a convenient period to go on the trip. I’m excited about it!

I’ve created a plan of what I intend to do each day, and a fairly detailed one, including some specific train times; I’ve also booked accommodation for each night. However, given the flexibility that the All Line Rover offers me, this is very much a guide rather than a fixed plan – I wanted to have one idea for a precise itinerary sketched out, to get a sense of what was possible, but I’m not at at all wedded to the details. I’ve also made sure to book accommodation that can be cancelled at the last minute if the mood takes me – I’m a fan of Travelodges’ policy allowing cancellation until midday or 1pm on the day of arrival!

My current sketch itinerary, from which I may depart significantly, is:

  • Friday 16th: Finish work in London, and get the Night Riviera sleeper train to St Erth (Cornwall). Before the sleeper, go down to Croydon for a ride on the trams.
  • Saturday 17th: St Erth to Tavistock, via St Ives, the Falmouth to St Mawes Ferry, and using a couple of bus links: from St Mawes back up to Truro, and from Bere Alston to Tavistock.
  • Sunday 18th: Tavistock to Yetminster, starting with a bus to Okehampton, then Exeter, Axminster, bus to Weymouth, and then up to Yetminster on the Heart of Wessex line.
  • Monday 19th: Yetminster to Manchester, via Bristol, Cardiff, Ebbw Vale, then a bus to Abergavenny, Wrexham, Bidston via the Borderlands line, then to Liverpool on Merseyrail, and over to Manchester.
  • Tuesday 20th: Exploring from Manchester, fairly short day for a rest. May go to Glossop/Hadfield, Blackpool or just ride around on Manchester Metrolink.
  • Wednesday 21st: Manchester to Edinburgh, via Lancaster and the Settle and Carlisle line. Edinburgh trams.
  • Thursday 22nd: Edinburgh to Hull, starting on the Borders Railway to Galashiels, then a bus to Berwick, then trains to Hull from there.
  • Friday 23rd: Hull to Middlesbrough via Scarborough and Whitby (bus between those two).
  • Saturday 24th: Middlesbrough to Haltwhistle via Newcastle, some exploring on the Tyne & Wear Metro, and possibly visiting Saltburn and/or Bishop Auckland.
  • Sunday 25th: rest day in Haltwhistle before my long journey home
  • Monday 26th: Haltwhistle back home to Cambridge. Could go via the Cumbrian Coast line, or if I’m up for a very long day visit Blackpool, Sheffield, Nottingham and Birmingham so that I go on every British tram system!
A drawing of one version of my current tentative itinerary. Pink is rail, green is bus. In some cases I don’t know exactly what line the services I’m thinking of take, so just picked one, could be wrong. The map is the rail map from Merritt Cartographic – I think I’m okay to use it as it says it’s based on OpenStreetMap data, but I’m not really sure how it works when someone else has visualised the data.

My goals for the trip are:

  • Firstly and by far most importantly, I’d just like to have a good time travelling around on trains, and get to see some interesting new places! I’ll change anything else I need in order to let myself have a good time – if I’m getting too tired I’ll travel less per day, for example.
    • Currently, to strike a good balance between exploring, travelling, and not being too tired, I’ve pencilled in to spend about 5 hours per day on average on the train (or bus, tram, or ferry), though with a lot of variation – my Yetminster to Manchester day, for example, currently has about 8 hours of travel, while my penultimate day is a zero-travel rest day in Haltwhistle, to let me unwind a little before I go home!
  • Spend time both in cities and in isolated countryside, and see some nice scenic rail routes.
    • That said, I haven’t currently planned on visiting some of our most famous scenic rail journeys – no Heart of Wales, no Scottish Highlands etc. That’s because their far locations or infrequent trains proved to mean I had to drop a lot of other things just to do one of those, and I’d prefer to get to see a lot of new places, and come back to those another time. I could always do a Highlands rail trip, for example – maybe on a Spirit of Scotland travelpass!
  • Have time for a few shortish scenic walks when I’m in the countryside
  • Try out some of our few tram systems and metros – Manchester Metrolink, the Tyne and Wear Metro and so on. As mentioned above, I may have a go at visiting every tram system. I probably won’t go for every metro, but then the Glasgow Subway is the only one currently not on my list, and a diversion between Carlisle and Edinburgh would be pretty simple – so you never know!
  • Ideally I’d prefer not to do much travelling back on myself to keep things from getting monotonous, i.e. not travel the same line twice where it’s easy to avoid doing so.

As mentioned, I’d like to get time to explore a good number of the places I’m travelling through – I’ve read a few great All Line Rover trip reports on the internet where the travellers are exclusively interested in the rail travel itself, and travel for 10+ hours a day, but personally that’s not for me! I am very much interested in the railways, but usually not on such a technical level of appreciating particular classes of train and things like that – for me it’s more about the railway as a system and a public service, and the occasional quirky fact, and of course I love travelling in Britain generally and want to see lots of new places!

Now, I’ve not chosen necessarily the most auspicious time of my life to do this trip: the railways are not fully recovered since the pandemic, with a significantly lower service on some lines, and there’s a lot of disruption this summer: the strikes, widespread cancellations at e.g. Avanti and Transpennine Express and so on. So we’ll see how much I end up affected by these issues. Recently, strikes were announced on the 17th, 26th and 27th of September, during my trip, and I did a scrambled rearrangement of my plans, extending the trip at the beginning and end and inserting some remote work days in the middle, so that I could stay in one place on the strike days. However, with the sad news of our dear Queen’s death, [1] the unions involved called off these strikes, so I reverted to my original plan – fortunately the Airbnb hosts whom I changed my booking with and changed it back again 2 days later were understanding!

I am planning to take my laptop with me on the trip – if nothing else, along with my e-reader [2] it’ll help keep me occupied on less scenic train journeys – so I will try to draft blog posts as I go. However, I’m unlikely to actually post these entries while I’m travelling, since getting the photos off my camera regularly would be a mild faff, it would only work when I have a reliable internet connection, and I’d prefer not spending time writing the Previous Visits sections for maps I get to that I’d visited before starting this blog, when I could be writing up the recent occurences in the next map area. I will therefore be getting rather behind with the blog again, just a week after I finally cleared my backlog – but I’m optimistic that it won’t take me that long to catch up again, since I’ll be writing entries as I go, even if not posting them.

I’m not planning to certainly post live updates as I go, but if I do so occasionally, it’s most likely to be on my Instagram feed – admittedly I haven’t posted anything there since January, but I should see photographically interesting things on my travels occasionally!

See you again soon – if I stick to my current plan, my next post is likely to be about South London, followed by somewhere in Cornwall!

[1] I was actually on the train back from London to Cambridge after work when I heard the news on Thursday. If I’d heard a couple of hours earlier, I might’ve gone to join the crowds outside the Palace for a short while. Oh well.

[2] I’m a fairly heavy reader, and am generally much more of a paper book than e-book person: I’d say I read paper books around 90% of the time. However, I appreciate my e-reader for a few reasons:

  • It’s good for reducing weight on longer trips, especially if I’m carrying all my stuff on my back.
  • Some things I read don’t exist in physical form – particularly fanfication or original internet fiction. I also sometimes load particularly long web articles onto my e-reader using the excellent Send to Kindle Chrome add-on. Firefox is my usual browser, but since this add-on doesn’t exist for Firefox I’ll open Chrome just to use it!
  • If I’m deeply impatient for the next book in a series, usually immediately after finishing the previous one, I can get it instantly!

8 thoughts on “All caught up! And forthcoming All Line Rover trip

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