Dear readers, let me start by apologising for the lack of posts. I am afraid I simply ran out of material to write about, and did the only thing one can – bugger off somewhere else.
I made my way, through a cheap but nonetheless not especially cheerful Centrebus service (and there’s a whole other article), to Nottingham. Nottingham, the city of Robin Hood, the capital of the East Midlands if ever there was one, and the proud home of several universities. I was not, however, on my way to celebrate any of these things. As one might expect, upon stepping off the bus I made straight for the nearest tram stop.
Having bought my ticket, I settled down with a trusty copy of that day’s Metro to enjoy the delights of the Nottingham suburbs. It started very well. The newer tram I was on was clean, quiet, comfortable and not full of crying babies. In the end, I regretted going to Toton Lane – there is little there, save for a huge, tarmac car park, and a small food and drink stall. The attendant at the food and drink stall showed little interest in me as I walked by.
Alas, I went back up to the centre of Nottingham, on an older tram whose floor, once just green, now green with a liberal sprinkling of brown, told me it had seen better days. Luckily I got off at Old Market Square, and, after a small misunderstanding involving a Burger King drinks machine, I was back on the tram, this time heading for the impressively named Pheonix Park, only to find that it contained a car park rather than a firebird. One bonus was that the Phoenix Park bit is a little single line section, with a very cute stop called Cinderhill.
Next was Hucknall, one of Nottingham’s less reputable suburbs. Here, the tram is right next to the Robin Hood line which goes off toward Worksop. It too lacks romance, as 1980s Diesels (1990s if you’re lucky) work their way out of Nottingham and into the countryside. East Midlands Trains, bless them, are trying their best, and there’s a train each way every half hour.
The most interesting thing here is the enormous Tesco, so large it’s more of a department store than a supermarket. Weekly shop? tick. New computer? No problem. New wardrobe? Sure. Oh, and, as well as the Tesco, there is another vast car park (something of a theme I’m afraid). Leaving Hucknall, I left, intending to go to Clifton South, making my way back towards Old Market Square.
I quickly realised, consulting my watch, I would just miss the bus home. Due to Centrebus’ aforementioned un-cheerful service, I would have to wait over 3 hours for the next one. Happily, Nottingham has a Waterstones, and a ruddy good one at that. 4 floors of books, magazines, stories and even a Costa coffee. A good hour and a half of time (but no money) was spent looking at lovely books, before I continued.
The line out to Clifton South, like the line to Hucknall, has a fast section (70 fine kilometres per hour, you know) following a beautiful crossing of the Trent, which few of my fellow passengers seemed moved by. To the surprise of absolutely no-one, Clifton South proved to be yet another car park. I’ve been a bit harsh on Nottingham Express Transit – their service is perfectly acceptable. Smoother and quieter than a bus, and considerably less polluting, I did express to them my gratitude over email.
A couple of days went by and I journeyed to Sheffield, courtesy of a train operated by Northern. £8 from Nottingham to Sheffield, with a railcard, is not a bad price at all, and, while the interior hadn’t seen much attention in the last decade, it was at least clean. Despite all Northern’s troubles, the train hadn’t been cancelled, and led to my arriving in Sheffield 4 minutes late. I then once again made for the trams.
Unfortunately (or helpfully, depending on one’s outlook), you have to buy a ticket from a real person (the conductor) on the Sheffield Supertram, whose colour scheme is certainly hard to miss. The even crummier suburbs of Sheffield beckoned, but after a strange look from the conductor (who was about 6ft 6 in every direction) at Malin Bridge, I was soon heading back to the city centre.
I had already learned I would be denied my chance to be pedantic about Halfway (the stop of that name, that is) being at the end of the line, as all the track was shut for maintenance from Gleadless Townend onwards. I wasn’t too put out though, as the view from the hill is quite something. I was able to make a quick getaway on a tram already waiting there, without a look of any sort from the conductor.
Sheffield’s trams differ from Nottingham’s in that they feel more like a train with some low bits than a tram in its own right. The ancient moquette may be tatty on the old trams, but the ride quality pips Nottingham to the post, and you really do notice the lack of padding on the newer seats. Sometime soon they’ll start running some of them up to Rotherham on the conventional railway, so I guess this might be intentional.
And then there was Meadowhall, which was not as I expected. From the outside, the buildings are made to look quite in keeping, old fashioned even. I was thus expecting the inside to be something like the Trafford Centre in Manchester, but in reality it was more like the Starship Enterprise. After a short but expensive pit stop in Five Guys, I carried on back to Sheffield and my train, which was promptly delayed by a late running Cross Country train.
Back in Nottingham, I then practiced the art of waiting for the next 50 minutes. Part of it was spent watching an old High Speed Train rumble in from St. Pancras (2 minutes late, if you’re interested), but the rest was spent wandering around aimlessly, something I’m getting really rather good at. I then boarded the Centrebus, and went home.
These past thousand or so words are really just a (rather shoddy) explanation of what I have been doing, rather than the usual article on here. Mind you, if you enjoy this style, I might even try more of them.