Thursday, 18 September 2014

To Hull and back

Despite the mist yesterday, I utilised one of my new Northern Rail Family & Friends tickets to visit Hull, with the plan of buying some shoes from Primark, checking out a nice pub, and crossing off four stations on the former Victoria Dock branch line.

I got the 10am service from Scarborough, complete with a cup of tea from the Pumpkin cafe, for when Mum boarded at Filey, and settled down to read about the forthcoming apocalypse due to be course by the Scottish independence vote, courtesy of an abandoned copy of the Daily Mail.

The train was on time into Paragon Interchange, so on arrival, armed with a printed-out copy of an Ordnance Survey map from about 1950, we strode off along a busy road lined with takeaways and phone-unlocking shops to the first station on my list - Botanic Gardens...

Botanic Gardens
Time has not been kind to the railway heritage of Botanic Gardens station (also previously known as Cemetery Gates) - during its existence it was mostly made of wood, and with having a fairly urban location it has completely disappeared without a trace. The site is now occupied by a pub (Pearson's), and a large sculpture of a toad, dedicated to the poet Phillip Larkin. 
Those of you who know me well may be surprised I didn't take time to avail myself of a pint at this point, but it was early in the day, and I was only a quarter of my way through the quest, so I continued onward. After a more shops and exotic foreign restaurants (who knew there was such a thing as a "Full Lebanese breakfast"?), I turned off down a quiet residential street and was soon at the former Park Street level crossing, where the trackbed of the Victoria Dock line has been turned into a footpath and cycle route.

After a short distance, the path passes between the overgrown platforms of the old Stepney station - the buildings on the southern platform have survived here, and according to various books are now a private house, but they didn't look very lived-in to me...

Stepney (not in London)
Dodging dog turds (brown ones, not white - we're not in Teesside you know), and the odd scattering of smashed glass, we continued across another busy suburban road, at another former level crossing, and pressed on eastward.
Not sure what this used to be...

Quickly the landscape either side changed - instead of shops and back gardens, it was now industrial units, barbed wire, and nettles. The bridge where the Hull & Barnsley line to Cannon Street passed overhead has long since been removed, and the embankments now resemble some sort of ancient Iron-Age earthwork, but with added litter. 

According to the Big Tile Map, the next station was Sculcoates (which, believe me, is just as glamorous the name suggests), but like Botanic Gardens, it's been virtually wiped-out, having closed to passengers all the way back in 1912. Luckily, my photocopied OS map still showed it as a goods depot, so I was able to work out where to stand to take my photo, while Mum attempted to entice a stray kitten out of the brambles.
Not overly impressed with Sculcoates...
Although the station has gone, across the next road is possibly the most impressive abandoned railway feature in the whole of Hull - the splendid Wilmington swing bridge. Even though the train service finished a long time ago, the bridge remains open, solely for pedestrians and cyclists, and even more surprisingly - hasn't been welded shut, so  very occasionally can still be opened for the tiny amount of river traffic that still passes up the River Hull. 

Today was not one of those days - the bridge-man (I don't know what his proper job title would be) on duty, was standing on the balcony round the back, having a fag and watching the world go by. Can't be bad!

Nearly at the end of the station-collecting part of the journey, there was just Wilmington itself left to go. It used to be on an embankment, which has nearly all been dug away, so obviously that wasn't an option for my photo, but luckily the ground level booking office still exists, as a cafe marooned in a sea of dusty concrete and weeds. 
Time for refuelling :D
It didn't look much from the outside, but Mum-ra was getting a bit peckish so we stepped inside. So glad we did! I had a large sausage and black pudding sandwich and a mug of tea (with milk from a proper glass milk bottle!), and she had a bacon sandwich and the whole lot was just over four quid! Yes, the other patrons were all factory workers and truck drivers, so we looked massively out of place, but for great tasty food at those prices, who cares!

The walk back towards the city centre took us back across the Hull, past a wide range of urban decay. Clearly regeneration money has not got this far - it was a bit like a gritty 1960s drama, but without the cast. I don't think any people walked past us for at least half an hour - the only other living things were a large colony of pigeons, roosting in the girders underneath an abandoned lifting-bridge next to a grain warehouse. By the look of the road surface it had been like that for quite a long time...
Gradually, the old factories and warehouses started mingling with the occasional pub, office block or residential development, and further on there was a big new college campus, and then a trendy wine bar or two. Civilisation was approaching fast - and a good thing too, the cups of tea were threatening to cause a severe disturbance in my bladder. Luckily we got to the loos at the Slavery Museum before any deluge!

Didn't go in any of the museums - but had a wander round the grounds - Mum-ra was very fond of this mosaic toad: the twin of the one I'd already made friends with at Botanic Gardens. 

By now, if it hadn't been so cloudy, the sun was probably somewhere over a yard-arm, so it was time for a pint. Faux-Bro had previously recommended a place called Wm. Hawkes, and it just so happened that was right around the corner from where we now were. A total coincidence - honest!

It was a lovely atmospheric old boozer - a bit like the one in Titanic where Leonardo DiCaprio wins at cards, and thus inadvertantly saves the lives of the two pleasant Scandinavian men - with stuff all over the ceiling (all pubs should have stuff all over the ceiling), horse brasses, a dead fox, and guns on the wall. And to cap it all - my pint of "Hoptimism" came in a pint pot with a handle! Fantastico!

So then, the only thing left to do was buy some shoes (I got two pairs, amongst other things) and get the train home. 
A successful day.

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