The man and I are wrapping up our time in England. With the flexibility of a hire car, we have travelled up and down the country, from the Thanet region of South-East Kent to Barrow-in-Furness in North-West Cumbria, and back again. On the way we had a dinner in the docklands revitalisation of East London, had a couple of nights in Cambridge to visit and go punting on the river Cam, had eight nights near Bradford for research, four nights on the Yorkshire/Lancashire border visiting again, and venturing into the Lake District in the search for even more ancestors, a splendid Italian meal in Birmingham with friends, and two nights in Oxford for more visiting and sight-seeing, and it was there that the long Indian Summer finally broke into heavy rain. Watching the nightly weather forecast reminded me what a narrow island this is. As the weather squalls go around and around in circular lows, the colour coding on the map changes from clear to rain to clear again. Which explains why the same town can be sunny in the morning and raining in the afternoon or vice-versa. We had experienced a short rainfall in Cambridge the previous week, and being Aussies unaccustomed to needing umbrellas, we of course, left ours behind when it had fined up by the time we were leaving that visit. We only just bought a replacement yesterday.
England is a small island, but densely inhabited, quite a different experience to our road trips in New South Wales, which can be long and lonely. The motorway system criss-crossing England is amazing. The pin-point accuracy of the postcodes is doubly amazing, and Gary – the Irishman who lives inside the satnav we borrowed – got us to our destination every time just on that basis. Although he did sometimes take us on bizarre small roads to get there, for example, arriving into Bradford, he felt compelled to show us some of the most narrow and run-down streets of the entire area. Not properly representative of the city at all. The only negative with the motorways, and maybe all driving in England (not sure?) is that it always takes longer than it should, because, if you are travelling any distance, no matter which day of the week, or which time of day, there is always a moment when one finds oneself crawling in bumper to bumper traffic. By a quick ‘back of the envelope’ calculation, I determined that car ownership is currently 0.7 vehicles per capita, and that is before trucks and tourists are added to the equation. What happens when that increases further? it does not seem possible that even more motorways can be added to the already comprehensive system. It seems a pity that a country which pioneered the railway system (circa 1840s?) could now have spurned public transport. Well, maybe not spurned, but it did not seem the transport of choice. We found it hard to choose on economic grounds. We were able to hire the car for twelve pound per day, and spent maybe one hundred and fifty on petrol. That sounds like a lot of money, but is a fraction of the cost of train travel for the two of us. And of course, the more people sharing the car, the worse the cost-benefit analysis becomes from the public transport perspective. Of course, if you lived here and could plan ahead, you could reduce the cost of the train ticket. And if you want to think laterally, train travel is probably safer than being on the road. But there is still the question of what you do at the end of your journey to get to your final destination.
As an aside, while the CAR only cost us twelve pound per day, had we hired the satnav from the same company, that item would have cost us fifteen pound per day. Go figure.
We didn’t spurn rail travel entirely. We did have a ride on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway. Five miles of nostalgia. We travelled a diesel engine outbound and steam engine on the return. Each station is a nod to their Victorian hey-day, and we got off at Haworth for a morning exploring the Bronte Parsonage Museum. Very interesting. Then we got back early as we needed to catch up with the washing. So we toured the laundrette at Shipley. Not so interesting and we kept running out of small coins 🙂
Since it is time to up stumps I will leave off there for the moment. Hopefully the next post will be a photographic story board of our time in the Old Dart. We have Just time for one last visit to our “almost” new grandson and then next stop is France for a bit of R&R at a farmstay in the Dordogne region.