The Anonymous Widower

The Return Of The Best Gluten-Free Sandwich From A Supermarket

Marks and Spencer do very good gluten-free  sandwiches. In my experience, the only better gluten-free sandwiches I have had, have been in a couple of dedicated gluten-free shops, where the sandwich has been made in front of me.

This was my lunch today, bassed on a gluten-free egg sandwich, that has been brought back after about five years.

Incidentally, I suspect that egg seems to have a complimentary taste with good gluten-free bread.

I’ve also had excellent gluten-free egg sandwiches in several places including the Tate Britain, Tate Modern and Cafe Northcote in Blackburn cathedral.

January 8, 2018 Posted by | Food | , , , , | Leave a comment

From Blackburn To Liverpool

I took these pictures as I went from Blackburn to Liverpool by a rather roundabout route mainly using a Lancashire Day Ranger.

These are my notes on the pictures.

The North Wakes Up Slow

I usually wake up about five and listen to the early news and Wake Up To Money on BBC Radio 5.

One of the reasons, I stay in Premier Inns, is that when I’m in one, I don’t have to change my routine.

I often leave home around seven and get my paper from the shop on the corner, which opens at the same time. Even on Sundays!

But in Blackburn and many places in the North, try getting a paper at that time and nothing’s open.

The Morrisons in Blackburn Town Centre didn’t open until 08:30, which is almost the afternoon for me!

Clitheroe Station

I did take one of the first stations to Clitheroe station, which cost me just £2.70 with my Senior Railcard.

Clitheroe is the sort of station, that has a homely atmosphere and serves as the terminal for the Ribble Valley Line, with a ticket office, four-car platforms and an underpass to get across the tracks.

To Southport via Bolton

I took the train back to Bolton station and I just had time to buy a Lancashire Day Ranger in time to get a train to Southport station.

Southport station has a direct entrance to the town’s Marks and Spencer, so it must have the biggest food hall in any UK station.

I took the opportunity to pick up some sandwiches for an early lunch.

Kirkby Station

Kirkby station is like Ormskirk station, where the Merseyrail third-rail electric trains meet Northern’s services from Manchester or Preston.

It is not the best of designs, but Merseyrail are aiming to move the interchange to a new station at Headbolt Lane, which will hopefully have electric trains to Manchester on the Kirkby Branch Line, via Wigan Wallgate and Atherton stations.

Kirkdale Station

Kirkdale station is architecturally unusual, in that everything is on a step-free bridge across the tracks. Liverpool has another similar one in Wavertree Technology Parkstation, but why haven’t we got a standard station like this for lines in cuttings?

St. Luke’s Church

I always visit St. Luke’s Church, if I have time, when I pass through Liverpool.

It was one of C’s favourite places in the City and to me, it sums up Liverpool’s attitude to the troubles that beset us all!

Sadly, it would appear that La Bussola in old Street is no more, as it’s reincarnation as a Starbucks has been turned into a clothes shop.

The places of 1960s Liverpool are disappearing. At least Phred seemed to still be standing tall on the shell of the former Lewis’s Department Store.


March 10, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

An Excursion To Clitheroe

On Saturday morning before the football, I took a train along the Ribble Valley Line to Clitheroe and back to have a look.

On the way back I stopped to have a look at the 48-arch Whalley Viaduct. Whalley is also a village with an ruins of an abbey.

Clitheroe reminded me very much of a Lancashire version of several I know well in Suffolk.

From the new houses, that I saw in the area, I suspect it’s becoming more important as a dormitory town.

The later history of the Ribble Valley Line between Manchester Victoria and Hellifield via Bolton, Blackburn and Clitheroe, is one of closure and reopening.

  • Blackburn to Hellifield was closed to passengers in 1962.
  • The only train, other than freight and diversions, was a once a week train between Manchester and Glasgow, which stopped in 1964.
  • Blackburn to Bolton was reduced to a single-track.
  • Public pressure led to a service between Blackburn and Clitheroe in 1994.
  • Later a Sunday service was started between Blackburn and Hellifield.
  • The line became a community rail line in 2007.

In the last few years, Network Rail have spent millions of pounds on improvements.

  • A five million scheme renewed the permanent way between Blackburn and Clitheroe in 2008.
  • Sections of single track have been doubled.
  • Signalling has been improved.
  • Line speed has been increased.
  • Platforms have been lengthened.
  • The passing loop at Darwen has been lengthened.

Builders certainly seemed to have been at work on the stations between Clitheroe and Whalley.

It All Happens In 2017

All of this should mean that two trains per hour (tph), can run between Manchester Victoria and Clitheroe in December 2017.

Probably by design rather than co-incidence, December 2017 is also given as the opening date of the Ordsall Chord and the completion of the electrification of the Manchester to Preston Line.

A year later, in December 2018 there could be the extra two through platforms into use at Manchester Pioccadilly, which will help alleviate  capacity problems.

I don’t think we’ll see direct services between Clitheroe and London, but an improved Ribble Valley Line connecting with Manchester’s new cross-city line can only be good for passengers.

Things that could or should happen include.

  • Two tph between Manchester Victoria and Clitheroe has virtually been promised.
  • The service will become faster because of track improvement and new trains in a few years. Applying a conservative estimate reduces the end-to-end journey time from seventy-five to somewhere  around fifty minutes.
  • The Manchester Victoria to Clitheroe service could probably run two tph each of four carriages by December 2018. It all depends on rolling stock deliveries.
  • TransPennine services will go through Manchester Victoria and any sensible train planner would arrange a decent link between Clitheroe and TransPennine services.

It will certainly be a big improvement.

Manchester Airport And Clitheroe

One journey that illustrates how the Ordsall Chord will improve services, is getting between Clitheroe and Manchester Airport.

Currently, these are typical timings.

  • Clitheroe to Manchester Victoria – 75 minutes
  • |Cliteroe to Manchester Airport via Bolton – 126 minutes
  • Salford Crescent to Manchester Victoria – 9 minutes
  • Salford Crescent to Manchester Airport – 30 minutes

As Manchester Victoria to Manchester Airport, is effectively via Salford Crescent with the train taking a short cut, it’s probably reasonable to assume that Manchester Victoria to Manchester Airport won’t be more than 39 minutes.

Current services take about twenty minutes from Manchester Piccadilly, but it’s not a proper airport service, which the full route to Victoria could be.

  • It doesn’t use the same platforms every time.
  • The trains are not built for heavy luggage.

The service certainly doesn’t say Manchester is open for business.

Wikipedia says this about services to Manchester Airport after the Ordsall Chord opens.

On completion, it is anticipated that the chord would allow four trains per hour to travel between Manchester Airport/Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria in each direction, with a further eight trains per hour possible from Manchester Victoria towards the west via Chat Moss, and six trains per hour from Manchester Piccadilly towards either Chat Moss or Bolton and Preston.

So this means that even if you just miss the connection at Manchester Victoria, you’d only wait a maximum of fifteen minutes for the next train to the Airport.

As I think we can reasonably assume that there will be a Clitheroe to Manchester Victoria time of around fifty minutes, this means that Clitheroe to the Airport could be about ninety minutes plus how long you wait at Victoria for the Airport train.

But I suspect there could be a better connection for Manchester Airport at Bolton.

If you opt for a route with only one change, then the journey takes a few minutes over two hours, often with a wait of thirty-five minutes, whilst trains are changed at Bolton.

  • A  route with only one change at Bolton, takes a few minutes over two hours, often with a wait of thirty-five minutes at the change.
  • I wouldn’t be surprised to see Clitheroe to Manchester Airport in under ninety minutes via Bolton, with the current trains, after the Ordsall Chord is opened.
  • But hopefully in |December 2017, Bolton to Manchester Airport will be served by 100 mph electric trains.
  • December 2018 could bring the extra two through platforms into use at Manchester Pioccadilly.

Incidentally, various web sites, say it takes an hour to go by car.

One project that will speed up these services is the updating of Bolton station. I showed pictures and made some small assumptions in this post called Bolton Station.

I think it would be possible to have same- or cross-platform interchange between the following services.

  • Clitheroe and Manchester Victoria.
  • Preston and Manchester Piccadilly/Airport
  • Preston and Manchester Victoria
  • Wigan Wallgate and Manchester Piccadilly/Airport

This happens to a certain extent at Bolton already, as the Windsor Link Line  allows trains to go direct from Bolton to Manchester Piccadilly and onto Manchester Airport.

If it could be arranged that the frequency between Bolton and Manchester Airport was 4 tph, then this would mean a maximum wait of fifteen minutes.

Currently, the frequency is a miserly 2 tph, which explains the long waits at Bolton.

Manchester Piccadilly

I suspect that because even with the Ordsall Chord built, that Piccadilly with its completion date a year later could be the main bottleneck.

You could say run twelve-car semi-fast  Class 319 trains from Preston to Manchester Airport,, but if Mancunians are anything like Londoners for ducking and diving, then this could just add to the congestion at Manchester Piccadilly.

It all shows the problems of how the adding of the two extra platforms 13 and 14 in the 1960s was not a project that had any degree of future proofing.

When I see those draded numbers 13 and 14 against my train to or from Manchester Piccadilly, I breathe a sigh and ask myself, why I came this way.

Trains always seem to be late through the platforms and sometimes, I feel the platforms aren’t the safest.

Onward From Clitheroe

I have not taken the line northward from Clitheroe to Hellifield, where it joins to the Leeds to Morecambe Line with its connections to the Settle and Carlisle Line.

At present the historic Settle route is closed after last winter’s storms, but Network Rail is spending £23million to bring it back into top condition.

With the new franchise saying it will run extra trains on this route, I feel that the Settle route will have a busy future.

Blackburn to Carlisle via Settle is certainly a trip I want to take.

You have to ask the following questions about the current services to Clitheroe

  • When two tph are going from Manchester Victoria to Clitheroe, should one tph go on to Hellifield?
  • Given rivalry across the Pennines, do loyal Lancastrains feel that Leeds has no right to services along the Settle route and some should start in the county of the red rose?

From what I saw of the Ribble Valley Line at Blackburn, Whalley and Clitheroe, the track and stations would certainly be up to the increased footfall.

All the line needs is modern trains.


Without doubt, the Ribble Valley Line is ready to take its place in that group of secondary and rural rail lines across the North, that will take be good for the locals and will attract tourists to the area.







October 16, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

Around Blackburn Station

I stayed in the Premier Inn by Blackburn station and I took these pictures of the area around the station and the nearby Blackburn cathedral.

It is an arrangement, that gives the visitor a good welcome to the town. It has the scent of the unexpected about it.

Note these points about the station and the trains.

  • The station has recently been rebuilt, but the new trains won’t arrive for a couple of years.
  • There are a lot of direct trains across the North from the station to places like Blackpool, Leeds, Manchester, Preston and York, with a couple of rural branch lines in the interesting category.
  • Station staff are not very numerous, when you need them.
  • You’ll have to hunt the ticket machine.
  • There is a Booking Office for buying Ranger and Rover tickets.
  • Some parts of the station are showing poor quality construction.
  • A return ticket up the Clitheroe Line to Clitheroe cost me £2.50 with a Railcard.

I think with the new trains and some more services, things can only get better.

I might even close the Booking Office, put two ticket machines on each main platform group; 1 to 3 and 4, and get the staff more visible.

In the morning, I had a walk around the part of the town centre nearest to the station.

  • There are no maps and just a few finger posts, but it’s not really a place to get lost.
  • I bought my paper in a convenient Morrisons about two hundred metres from the station.
  • I made the mistake going into the large Shopping Centre, but it was designed like a maze and I didn’t find what I was looking for.
  • One gem, I did find later was Cafe Northcote in the Cathedral, where I had an extremely delicious gluten-free egg sandwich.

You could certainly waste an hour or so enjoyably in Blackburn, whilst waiting for a train.

If I compare it to various mid-size towns and cities, where you might miss an hourly train home or get seriously delayed, you get the following.

  • Brighton, Cambridge, Liverpool Lime Street, Oxford and Reading – Acceptable for everybody including gluten-free, as there’s an M&S Simply Food in the station.
  • Colchester, Ipswich and Norwich – Except for hot drinks and sandwiches, there’s nothing. And you’re away from the centre!
  • Derby, Doncaster, Leicester, Nottingham and York – Dreadful, if like me you’re gluten-free.
  • Rochester – You’re just across the road from the centre.
  • Romford and Southend – You’re in the large town centre, with an M&S, pubs and cafes nearby.

In addition to being better than many in my list, in my view, Blackburn is certainly a better place to get stuck than Blackpool, Burnley or Preston.

Blackburn has certainly raised the stakes about creating a welcoming station.


October 16, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | 3 Comments

Catching The Todmorden Train At Blackburn

These pictures are from Sunday and Monday, where I caught a train at Blackburn station for Manchester Victoria via Accrington, Burnley Manchester Road Todmodern stations.

As the pictures show it has recently been rebuilt to an island design, with a separate platform 4, which is generally used for the services between Blackpool and Colne.

I met a reporter from BBC Radio Lancashire today and said that there is no information at the station on how to get to the football ground. I then asked him about getting to the hospital from the station and he said it was difficult, especially as parking at the hospital isn’t the best.

Towns like Blackburn should have a frequent bus that calls at the station, that visits the important places in the town where visitors might want to go. From personal experience of getting to Ewood Park from the station, Blackburn is not one of the best and a bus service should be provided on match days, that is well-signposted as to how it is used at the ground and the station.

May 17, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Where Is The Todmorden Curve When You Need It?

In my view, one of the biggest sins in good project management is to do jobs in the incorrect sequence.

In recent months, two important projects have been scheduled in the north of Lancashire.

Todmorden Curve

The Todmoden Curve is a short stretch of railway that will improve train services between Burnley and Blackburn to Manchester Victoria, by way of Todmorden and Rochdale.

The first train ran in May 2014 and from May 16th this year, there will be a full service.

Farnworth Tunnel

The Farnworth Tunnel has to be enlarged for electrification and it means that for the next few months, the direct route from Preston to Manchester will be very much reduced in capacity.

Work on this will start soon and the new reduced service kicked in today.

My Journey Today

At Preston on Friday, I asked if there would be a normal Blackburn Manchester service by the Ribble Valley Line. I was told yes and on reading the handouts from Virgin, there was no mention of any diversions or altered services.

But when I arrived at Blackburn station, I was told there was a bus to Salford Crescent, from where I could get a train to Manchester Piccadilly.

The bus took nearly ninety minutes and then I had to wait another twenty to get a train to Manchester Victoria, from where I got a tram to Piccadilly. There I got a train to Euston, which although it did go by a roundabout route because of engineering works, brought me safely to London.

It would have been so much easier to get from Blackburn to Manchester if the services by the Todmorden Curve were started before the partial closure of the Farnworth route.

The fact that the curve wasn’t opened before work on the tunnel started was a disgrace and it unnecessarily inconvenienced lots of passengers.

May 2, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Match Forty-Six – Blackburn 3 – Ipswich 2

For the last match of the normal season, in some ways this was a bit of a disappointment, as Ipswich only needed a point to be certain of the play-offs.

But at least we got through as Reading surprisingly beat Derby. In the end the Ipswich fans were singing “Come  on Reading”

May 2, 2015 Posted by | Sport | , , , | 1 Comment

Mill Hill Station And Ewood Park

Ewood Park, the home of Blackburn Rovers is not the easiest ground to get to from the main station for the town.

Normally, I take a bus from the station, but it is not the easiest way as there is no relevant information, despite the fact that the bus station is outside the train one. Obviously, the natives are psychic in Blackburn.

So today, I decided to go via Mill Hill station as it looked like a downhill walk to the ground. This Google Earth image shows the area.

Mill Hill Station And Ewood Park

Mill Hill Station And Ewood Park

Mill Hill station is in the top left of the picture and the football ground is to the bottom right. These are some pictures of the station.

I didn’t post any of the maps and signposts at the station, as there isn’t any meaningful information on how to get to the football ground.

I don’t think I’ll bother with this route again, as it has little to recommend it and a station that desperately needs more information and disabled access.

It is a truly dreadful station and after the Todmorden Curve is fully open, you’ll need to change trains at Blackburn to get here from Manchester.

May 2, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Manchester’s Disorganised Public Transport

Coming from London, you get to know, what properly connected and information-rich public transport can do for you.

Arrive at any Underground station and they’ll be staff to speed you on your way, with proper ticket information booths at many mainline stations like Euston. Nearly every bus stop, in the capital, also has a local map and a spider map for buses in the area. And of course every bus stop now has a full text message information system.

Yesterday, I went to Blackburn to see Ipswich play. I chose to go the direct but slower route via Manchester, as this would allow me to have a decent lunch in Carluccio’s in Manchester Piccadilly station.

I arrived at the station courtesy of a Virgin Train’s Pendolino  just before twelve and without any difficulty, bought myself an Off Peak Return from any Manchester station to Blackburn for the princely sum of £6.15, from a well-staffed Virgin Trains ticket office. At least I didn’t have the ticket problem, that I had at Liverpool on this day, where staff seemed to be non-existent.

I had an excellent brunch in Carluccio’s before setting off to Manchester Victoria by tram to get the direct train to Blackburn. Piccadilly to Victoria is a standard tram journey across the city, if you’re going onward like I was, after coming up from London, but as seems to be common on all Manchester transport, the system assumes everybody knows where they are going. There was no staff on the tram station to ask either.

Some might object, that there was no specific Senior ticket and you have to pay the full fare. I could afford the £1.10, so what does it matter.  But other visitors might not be so affluent. After all, Sheffield allows me on their trams with my Freedom Pass, which of course doubles as an England-wide bus pass. But not on Manchester trams!

The train to Blackburn was one of the clapped out Pacers and Sprinters like these.

Two Clapped Out Trains

Two Clapped Out Trains

It was clean and worked reasonably well, but the passenger information system was very nineteenth century. It was a new line to me and I was no idea, where I was and which was the next station. As it was Blackburn was obvious.

Blackburn station has had a bit of a makeover, but this does not apply to anything to do with the buses.  I was thinking about getting a taxi, when I saw a 1 bus, which said it went to Darwen via Ewood Park. Again, there was no-one to ask about which bus to take and where to get it.

It was then the usual rigmarole of getting a ticket issued on the bus, which I felt like promptly dropping amongst the litter on the floor of the bus. Why can’t we have a UK-wide system for bus ticketing based on London’s successful Oyster?  I hate to use the term no-brainer, but if ever there was one, this is it. But I suppose cities, like Manchester, wouldn’t want to use a London-developed system, just as they won’t use two-door buses or fit good on-board information systems.

I’ll deal with the match later and then it was repeating the process on the bus to get back to the station. There was just a list on the shelter of times and no text message information system, to know how long we’d have to wait in the cold.

Luckily, I just caught a train to Manchester Victoria and the helpful inspector, said it would be easier to change at Bolton station. I did change, there but there was no chance of a cup of tea, whilst I waited.

The Closed Buffet At Bolton Station

The Closed Buffet At Bolton Station

Finally, I ended back at Manchester Piccadilly, in the little satellite station at the back. I knew where to get the London train and made it with perhaps two minutes to spare. I paid the £15 upgrade to First Class and was one of four in the carriage.  I suppose the television presenter, Garth Crooks, was pleased, as he could just fall asleep for most of the way, without being bothered by large numbers of football experts. I did laugh though, as he pulled a cap low over his face and would a thick scarf round his neck, as he walked through a fairly deserted Euston station.

So if I was the Mayor of Manchester what would I do?

1. Put a proper Manchester Transport information booth in Manchester Piccadilly station. After all, the main bus interchange in Manchester is in Piccadilly Gardens, ehich is not a short walk away.

2. Make sure, it’s obvious how you get a tram from Piccadilly to Victoria.

3 Bring Senior Tickets on the trams into line with the rest of the country.  I would also like to see the ability to use Oyster and bank cards as payment on the buses and trams, so that it is easier for visitors.

4. How about moving to London’s two-door disabled and passenger-friendly information-rich buses?  This one might even get more people out of their cars, as I believe they have in London.

5.  Manchester needs maps everywhere! Or at least somewhere!

6.  A few more staff would help too!

I know Blackburn is outside of the Greater Manchester area, but a lot of the same things apply.

I suppose the problem, is that if you use public transport in large parts of the north, you’re a loser, so you should get lost and not be a drain on car-owning tax-payers!

Manchester public transport, must be a nightmare for the blind. Or don’t people go blind in the north?

February 10, 2013 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Match Not To Be Missed

After what I’ve been through in real life and also watching Ipswich Town, I think the match of February 9th at Blackburn might be worth a visit.

Unless of course Blackburn get their act together.  But they do appear at present to be the team with the worst management off the field in England.

They might appoint a good manager, but even if they could persuade Jose Morinho to join them, I don’t think he’d be able to pull a team together.

December 31, 2012 Posted by | Sport | , , | Leave a comment