I attended the Fully Charged Show at Farnborough (leaving R and her new hip behind) to take a look at the new EVs on the market. The show was mainly boycotted by the big manufacturers, leaving the space open for the new upstarts and Chinese to exhibit. I also visited to get some inspiration on what was available to generate and store electricity for the home.
I was impressed by the new wave of Chinese vehicles which are coming to market in Europe. The ORA Funky Cat was one such. One British EV also impressed me. It looked very much like what an electric Land Rover should look like. It was one hell of a beast. Built in Scotland, it is called The Munro.
There were a number of conversion companies, converting old minis and other classic cars to run on electricity.
Another company was converting the new VW ID Buzz to be a campervan. Not sure how practical this is, the van was rather small with very little storage space. Maybe, the newer van which is larger, will be a better way forward.
I did see a Rivian and the Ford 150 electric trucks. These are not sold in the UK, but a company imports them, and rents them out. Maybe a birthday treat for me??? [Oh, R has seen the rental prices. Am I worth it??]
We have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of this year’s fox cubs, and on the 25th of April we were delighted to catch a glimpse of one cub. The little furball popped out of the den for a few seconds, curious about the world above ground. The next day, we saw two cubs emerge for several minutes, stumbling around on their tiny paws. The video shows how the vixen visits the den regularly to feed her babies. You can also see how the rabbits seem oblivious to the danger lurking nearby. This could prove fatal for them; the previous video shows a fox carrying a rabbit back to its family.
Fox cubs are born blind and deaf, with dark grey fur and floppy ears. They weigh only about 100g at birth. Their eyes open after two weeks and change colour from blue to amber after a month2. Their red fur starts to appear on their face and their muzzle turns white as they grow older. By six to eight weeks, they are weaned from their mother and start to explore outside the den. They are incredibly smart and have a keen sense of sight, hearing, and smell. They are also very adaptable and can survive in a wide range of habitats, from woodland to urban areas. Foxes are social animals and live in loose family groups, sometimes helping each other to raise the next generation.
A couple of videos of our foxes from Christmas until April. We believe these are the same two foxes starring throughout both videos. The Fox with the bushy tail is a dog fox, while the fox with the skinny tail is the vixen.
Hopefully the next video will be some fox cubs. Now the sun is out, I am assuming they will be venturing out from their den.
We have several rabbit holes under and through the compost heap. Often, they get taken over by foxes and badgers. Here is a video of one rabbit digging some earth out of its burrow. Instead of digging and scattering the dirt into a mound behind itself, this rabbit also pushes the soil forwards using its front paws, spreading it out into a low flat low layer. Very neat. It worked alone over a couple of days. Starting just before sunset on January 28th, and then over a period of 40 minutes on the morning of the 29th. It was amazingly neat. Finally in the last minutes of digging, a Redwing bird comes and helps out.
We had booked a Steam Dreams trip on the London Euston to Carlisle via The Settle and Carlisle Railway, with the Royal Scot. Today was the day. Alarm clock set for an early rise. We were catching the trip from Milton Keynes at 6.55am but allowing plenty of time to park and navigate the HS2/EWR inspired roadworks and the Bucks CC potholes and failed roads.
We were greeted by Steam Dreams as we walked through the doors of Milton Keynes station and directed to our platform. (How did he know we were with his company?!) Despite our early start we were not the first to arrive. The train arrived on time, hauled by a 1972 86101 Sir William Stanier FRS. The class 86 locomotives started production in 1965. In 1970 three class 86 locomotives were modified and converted to run 5000 bhp with a top speed of 110mph. These were a test bed for the class 87 locomotives. The conversions were renumbered 86101 – 86103. 86101 was bought in 2019 by Locomotive Services Limited which operates the Saphos, Steam Dreams, Midland Pullman, Statesman, and Intercity rail excursions.
We were seated at a table of four in Carriage B, one of five Pullman class carriages. Our amiable traveling companions also boarded at Milton Keynes. They were from Kent and preferred to board here rather than Euston. The man was a train enthusiast and had a large model train set up at home and they were organising another Steam Dreams trip for sixteen people later in the year.
Very soon we were offered and consumed a glass of Champagne, with optional peach syrup, to start our breakfast. We were offered porridge, with whisky soaked raisins. as an extra item to the menu below:
Glass of Champagne
Tricolour melon and fresh blueberry salad in a minted syrup. served with Tiresford Farm natural yoghurt and seeded granola
Grilled back bacon, Cumberland sausage, Stornoway black pudding, griddled flat mushroom and vine tomato with Freshfield Farm scrambled eggs
Loch Duart smoked salmon, toasted English muffin, Freshfield Farm scrambled eggs and a chive hollandaise
Morning bakery basket
served with a selection of preserves and Netherend Farm salted butter
Freshly brewed tea and coffee
Late morning offering
Freshly brewed tea and coffee, and a selection of Danish pastries
At Crewe we were due to change locomotives to the Royal Scot (46100). Unfortunately, due to some track/signalling/fire issues, this was not going to happen. The announcement went on to suggest that the change almost did not happen, but they had managed to get the Royal Scot out of its locomotive shed and up the line to Warrington Bank Quay Station to wait for us there. We stopped at Crewe for a few more travellers to embark. Here at Crewe there was many railway anoraks with their cameras. While we waited here, we saw another excursion train, pulled by a diesel locomotive “Steel on Steel”. We saw it again at Warrington Bank Quay. I think it too had an issue with its star locomotive.
We set off again, stopping at Warrington Bank Quay Station where our 86101 headed off to Carlisle, where it would power us back. As soon as she left, the Royal Scot manoeuvred to the head of our train, and we headed off to Carlisle. It was difficult to find a good place to see the manoeuvring of the engines. There are quite a few Youtube videos showing this happening, but I have yet to spot myself in the crowd of photographers.
We headed on North, stopping on occasions to allow fast electric trains to pass. At Lockstock we left the mainline and joined the Settle Carlisle line, passing through Blackburn, Settle, Ribble, the Ribblehead Viaduct, and stopping at Appleby to load up with water a second time, and then finishing in Carlisle. (First water stop was near Chatburn.) If we had not been able to use the Royal Scott, it probably would have been unlikely we could have gone across the Viaduct, because the line there is not electrified. There were quite a few walkers by the Viaduct. I bet they were delighted to see a steam train go over it.
At the water stop, in between the rain showers, I managed to get a few more pictures of our train. (I later learned that R had noticed me on the next platform and decided I was a train nutter, but wondered why I was focussing on her.) Tea and cake materialised.
In Carlisle we had two hours to explore the city. We ventured up to the cathedral. A quite different cathedral to most, quite small. Someone was practising on the organ, which lent a good atmosphere. Superb organ pipes.
Walked back in the showers, vising the secondhand shops in what looked like a rundown city centre, to make our way back to our carriage. We set off being towed by the 86101, down the main line to Milton Keynes. This was a much faster trip, reaching speeds of 155 kph (96 mph), quite good for an aged locomotive and rolling stock. On the way back we were treated to a glass of Champagne before our dinner, which also included a bottle of wine.
Assiette of native fish.
Beetroot cured salmon and halibut fishcake dill, caper and citrus mayonnaise with a pickled cucumber salad
There was of course coffee and chocolates to finish, and we were each given a special presentation pack of chocolates to take home.
The staff on the trip were superb. Despite the long day, they were jolly and helpful. It appears most of them were from Crewe where the company is based. They travelled to Milton Keynes and stayed the night in a hotel there, getting up early to be coached to Euston Station to get the train ready for a 6am departure. On the return they would be coached back from Euston getting home at 3 am. A pretty long day for them. It was tiring enough sitting there eating and drinking.
The food and drink serving is all coordinated with where you get on and off, so no one misses out on the full day’s meals.
Other thoughts about the trip. Surprised by the number of freight trains on the rails. Of course, we passed by Rugby where there is a terminal and interchange with the road network. Even saw a large train where the wagons were exclusively Tesco. I didn’t know Tesco used the iron road for transportation. I suppose there will be more room on the lines when HS2 is fully operational. Fully meaning the lines all the way up to Manchester.
Short Video of the trip. Please subscribe and Like.