I rode the dangleway and joined the Navy

The Cutty Sark Greenwich
The Cutty Sark Greenwich

Today I am off to London to do a couple of things, a trip on the Dangleway which opened in June, and hopefully a look around a Royal Navy boat which has been moored up near Greenwich since Friday. The boat is part of the Olympic build up, it will be used by helicopters. I found out about the boat from the Ian visits web site which is always worth a look of you are planning a trip to London and want something to do whilst there.

I anticipated that the boat tour would be popular so o got the 08:39 train from Berkhamsted, then the southbound northern line to Bank, make sure you get the right platform, then the docklands light railway to Greenwich.

The queue for the Tour round HMS Ocean was about 400m long but I decided it was worth the wait, as the ropes were only available for the one day, and I had arrived early enough at 10:05.

Whilst waiting I checked out Wikipedia to find out a bit more about HMS Ocean, HMS Ocean of the Royal Navy is an amphibious assault ship (or landing platform helicopter) and is the sole member of her class. She is designed to support amphibious landing operations and to support the staff of Commander UK Amphibious Force and Commander UK Landing Force.

HMS Ocean and river boat
HMS Ocean and river boat

She was constructed in the mid 1990s by Kvaerner Govan Ltd on the Clyde and fitted out by VSEL at Barrow-in-Furness prior to first of class trials and subsequent acceptance in service. She was commissioned in September 1998 at her home port HMNB Devonport, Plymouth.

The queue went through a couple of tents the first was filled with chairs and was showing a Royal Navy promotional film, however no one day down they just stayed in the queue we didn’t want to join the navy we all wanted to have a look round the big boat!

I reached the front of the queue a surprising 30 minutes later, and it soon became clear why, the 2 boats ferrying us to the vessel were quite big. We looped round the back of the vessel before pulling along side so we could disembark. Once on board we were ushered up a stairway and into a large area within the heart of the boat, there were demonstrations going on you could, put on an army pack, or learn about reasons and guns. Took the opportunity to climb up the ramp to get some pictures of the helicopters on the deck, then went back in to follow the Tour round the rest of the boat. We were told all about the landing craft that they had strung up on the side then we ended up in an even bigger hangar arts on the bowels of the vessel, where there were more demonstrations and helicopters. I took as many pictures as I could buy the light was very poor.

In the bowels of HMS Ocean
In the bowels of HMS Ocean

Then it was time to get back on the little boat and go back to the Greenwich quayside, where I took a few pictures of the Cutty Sark, before heading off along the Thames path towards the dome. The path is a bit in a state of disrepair and in one place I even saw someone lose a show in the mud, o think the whole thing needs some money thrown at it to bring it up to the standard of the path on the other side of the river. Once at the Dome I stopped off to have some lunch, a humous sandwich which because it was a cafe rouge came with French fries, and welcome it was too. Next stop was the dangleway.

You might be wondering what I am talking about well it seems that the Dangleway is what people have started to call the Emirates Air Line, which is a cable car which goes over the Thames.

Emirates Air Line (also known as the Thames Cable Car) is a Transport for London (TfL) gondola lift cable car link across the River Thames in London built with sponsorship from the air carrier Emirates. The service opened on the 28 June 2012.

On 4 July 2010, TfL announced plans to develop a cable car crossing over the River Thames. It is the first urban cable car in the United Kingdom. Designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects, it crosses the river at a height up to 90 metres (300 ft), higher than that of the Millennium Dome. The cable car provides a crossing every 15 seconds carrying up to 2,500 passengers per hour in each direction, equivalent to the capacity of 50 buses. The cable car can also convey bicycles and passengers are able to use Oyster Cards to pay for their journeys.

Southbank of the Thames
Southbank of the Thames

A planning application was submitted to the London Borough of Newham in October 2010 for the “erection of a cable car for the length of 1,100 metres [3,600 ft] over the River Thames from North Woolwich Peninsula to Royal Victoria Dock at a minimum clearance of 54.1 metres [177 ft] above mean high water springs”. The application listed the structures planned for the service on the north side of the Thames as an 87-metre (285 ft) north main tower at Clyde Wharf, a 66-metre (217 ft) north intermediate tower south of the Docklands Light Railway tracks roughly mid-way between Canning Town and West Silvertown stations, a two-storey gondola station and “boat impact protection” in Royal Victoria Dock. South of the river there is a 60-metre (200 ft) main support tower and a boarding station within the O2 Arena car park.

When the project was announced, TfL initially budgeted that it would cost £25 million and announced this would be entirely funded by private finance. This figure was revised to £45 million, and by September 2011 the budget had more than doubled to £60 million, reportedly because TfL had not taken account of the costs of legal advice, project management, land acquisition and other costs. TfL planned to make up the shortfall by paying for the project out of the London Rail budget, applying for funding from the European Regional Development Fund and seeking commercial sponsorship.

In January 2011, News International were planning to sponsor the project but subsequently withdrew its offer. In October 2011, it was announced that the Dubai-based airline Emirates would provide £36 million in a 10-year sponsorship deal which included branding of the cable car service with the airline’s name.

The Dangleway, Emirates Air Line London Greenwich end
The Dangleway, Emirates Air Line London Greenwich end

Construction began in August 2011 with Mace as the lead contractor.[13] Mace built the cable car for £45 million and will operate it for the first three years for a further £5.5 million. TfL stated that the initial construction funding and Emirates sponsorship will cover £36 million of the cost; the rest will be funded from fares. The cable car will be the most expensive cable system ever built.

In May 2012, TfL said that the cable car would be ready for people to use by summer 2012, and that while there were originally no plans to have it open before the 2012 Olympics, there would be plans in place in case it was opened in time. The public opening took place at 12:00 BST on 28 June 2012. TfL reports that the total cost of the project was about £60 million of which £45 million went towards construction. TfL estimates that the service can carry 2,500 people per hour.

The queues were long and there was some confusion, first you needed to join a younger queue of which there were two, one for humans and one for the ticket machines, I did not realize at first and ended up in the human queue but soon transferred to the ticket machines queue when it became obvious it was shorter and quicker. In all it took me about 45 minute to get a ticket, then I was able to join the boarding queue!

The Dangleway, Emirates Air Line London in flight
The Dangleway, Emirates Air Line London in flight

Once there it was all over in a flash, we were ushered up the stairs and into a pod then at 8.6 miles per hour we were up and over the river and disembarked on the other side. The journey is really smooth apart from when you go over a pylon, and the view is great liking down on the Dome.

Next it was back on the docklands light railway to head back home. I quite enjoy the DLR as most of it is over ground, do you get to see where you are going a bit like when you take the bus in London. Anyway the journey home went well all train waits were about a minute or two and then when I got to Euston the next train was in five minutes so I was was back to see the end of the days stage of Le Tour.

The weekly commute to London (this time to see Warhorse)

The new roof at Kings Cross Station
The new roof at Kings Cross Station

I got Helen tickets to see Warhorse, at The New London Theatre Drury Lane, March 24 was the first Saturday available with decent seats. Theatre is not my thing, but the show seems quite different to the norm so I am quite intrigued. We did not get off to our usual early start as we were out late in Tring at Olive Lime for a curry, with friends.

We got to Berkhamsted station at 10:28 just in time to get our tickets and miss the 10:30 train to Euston, so we grabbed a paper and cappuccino (triple shot!) and took a seat in the sun. The 10:45 left on time with us on board searching for a seat on the crowded train. Not sure if it was our tardiness or the sun that had got everyone out for a trip to London. We eventually found some seats and settled in to the brief journey to London Euston.

Apart from the new Wembley stadium there is not much to see except for embankments, brick walls, and peoples back gardens. The gardens can be quite interesting, some are nicely manicure but most are just back yards left to their own devices except for the odd mow now and again. Some we completely concreted over.

I lost Helen this is the last picture I have
I lost Helen this is the last picture I have

Kings Cross station has reopened and has a new roof, so we thought we would take a look. We walked via the back streets to get there they are far more interesting and a lot less busy. The roof is very impressive, check out the pictures. From King Cross we headed to the Brunei Gallery, at the School of Oriental and Asian studies, to take a look at a photographic exhibition of Japan after the Tsunami, many of them were very moving. Some just out of this world such as a large ship sunk into the side of a building and cars on top of 3 storey buildings. After donating to the relief fund we jumped on a bus to Aldwych and headed towards Neal’s Yard to find some lunch. Near by we passed a nice looking restaurant, but we passed on it and ended up in a not so good one in Neal’s Yard. I ordered tuna salad and Helen a Pizza. The food was reasonable for London £25 for the two of us. I had water melon juice which was freshly made and delicious, Helen had apple which was also tasty.

We had 30 minutes to spare before the show so we took a leisurely stroll in the direction of the New London Theatre. We got to our seats not too early after Helen had to queue for a pee. I read the paper while Helen warned me of the dangers of rustling sweet containers at the theatre apparently it is not allowed! The set was pretty minimal but there were enough props to set the scene. The animated horses were very clever requiring three people to operate them. The show was bought to an exciting effects scene for the interval leaving the audience wondering what was going to happen next.

At the Tsunami exhibition
At the Tsunami exhibition

The second half had even more effects, there was a happy ending that bought made the audience shed a few tears. All in all I enjoyed the show but not enough to go rushing back to the theatre. I’m still a theatre Luddite.

We both wanted to drop into a book shop so the obvious choice was Foyles so we walked in the general direction of Charing Cross Road. On the way we passed a trendy publication shop (coffee table magazines) that also sold some good T-shirts, two that caught my eye, were one that listed the percentage constituents of a human body and another that had bird silhouettes. I took their website details www.mymagma.com

The Masons Grand Lodge
The Masons Grand Lodge

In Foyles I bought a book called Swiss Watching by Diccon Bewes, it won The Financial Times book of the year. It is about the idiosyncrasies of the Swiss, it sounds interesting, watch this space for future book reviews. We got a bus from outside Foyles to Holborn then you can walk round the corner and catch a bus to Euston. Finally we have figured out the easy way to get a bus from Foyles to Euston, on many occasions Helen has cracked and hailed a cab or we have ended up walking to a bus stop on Tottenham court road which is not too far but withe the crowds and tiredness at the end of a day in London is not fun.

We arrived at Euston station with enough time to spare to get some thing to eat when we got home, then we sat on the floor of the train to Berkhamsted. All in all we had a great day out in great weather. We have a BluRay to watch later called Drive, you may see a film review later.

Spring is here, a trip to Kew Gardens

Frittilary
Frittilary

The weather has been great all week, at work I have been doing timelapse videos of a new sewage treatment plant all week, but more of that later. I suggested that we go to Kew to see the place in all its spring glory. We decided to go and take the mother in law.

Woke up this morning early the day looked like it would be blue skies and sun all day. We headed off just before 10am, picked up our guest and headed off towards the M25. The traffic was OK and we were soon round the M25 and onto the M4 heading towards London. We exited at J2 and picked up the road that crosses the Thames at Hammersmith Bridge. Just after the bridge if you take the first right and then follow the signs to the Kew car park, (tight and narrow left between two houses), we arrived just short of 11am and easily found a place to park. Parking ticket is £6 and if you like you can park for free on Kew road but it can be a bit tricky.

Entrance to the Gardens was quite steep at 10p short of £14. The car park is on the Thames side of the park and there were no queues. Any way £40 worse off and we were into the gardens. The river side of the gardens is not really on the main drag so we headed east towards the pagoda end and took in all the plants and trees. there were some fritillaries, which are a lovely flower they come in purple and white and look like bells hanging from a bent over stem. fritillaries are quite rare and declining, but are native to the Thames valley and Suffolk. Another highlight was two types of wild garlic, Ransomes and Few-flowered Garlic. I have come across Ransomes in our local woods but I have never see the Few-flowered ones, which were not as pungent as the Ransomes.

Tulips
Tulips

There were lots of trees in bloom including Rhododendrons, Magnolias, and plenty of cherry like blossoms. After a trip up the treetop walkway, (Helen and her mum chickened out) we headed over to the most easterly green house. After looking round the green house the plan was to meander our way back towards the west end where we entered. We stopped off at the botanical art exhibition and I managed to miss the bit that connected the old building to the new building, so that pleasure will have to wait until next time.

After looking round the middle greenhouse I struck up a conversation with a lady who was taking a panorama shot using a panoramic attachement on a tripod. We exchanged tips and I passed on the name of the software I use Hugin (here is the link http://hugin.sourceforge.net/). I took a good look at the camera bracket she was using because my one made from B&Q angle irons is not up to the job. If you are reading this can you send me a picture of your bracket. She she was a member of the Muswell Hill Photographic Society, and had got a couple of pictures commended in the Kew gardens photo competition.

Pond panorama
Pond panorama

We had lunch at the Pavilion, where there was lots of nice food on offer including plenty of veggie options. As it was only 12 we opted for a lighter lunch of sandwiches, followed buy the obligatory day out cake. Once refreshed we headed over to the last of the greenhouses the Princess of Wales conservatory, where all the tropical stuff is housed. Helen did not like the humid atmosphere she claims it makes her hair curl so she looks like Bonnie Langford!

Turns out there was another green house to look round, the one with the giant lilly pads. Today however they were not giant, they had obviously had a clear out and started again as the pad were only up to a foot across. I tried taking a panorama shot here as I thought it would be a bit like the St Pancras one with roof offering an interesting pattern. If it works you may see the results here, but at time of writing it needed a bit of tweaking to get the handrails to line up correctly. Sometimes you wish you had the tripod and pano head with you, but when you set out you just can’t be bothered to lug all the gear around.

Boule do neige
Boule do neige

We stopped for Tea/Coffee before a look round the obligatory shop, then headed back to the car with a brief stop to look at the river and eat and ice cream. The drive back was a breeze and we stopped of in Tring to get some tea (salad and stuff) and to place a bet on the Grand National, I choose the favourite and a rank outsider. The favourite came in 3rd so I might get some money back but not as much as I bet, there is probably a life lesson there, a £10 in the hand is better than one passed over the betting shop counter.

All in all a great day out with great weather, Oh and I forgot to mention we added a bird to the life list, Ringed-necked Parakeet, Helen’s mum spotted it at first I thought it was a sparrow hawk, it was travelling fast and had hawk like wing silhouette, but the give away was the slim pointed tail. When it circled round you could clearly see it was a bright green bird so there was no doubt, about the identification.