Category Archives: 2013 England

Dr Who Exhibition, Cardiff

11034594806_974bbc7e36_cI’ve been to the Dr Who Experience once before but since then it has moved to a bigger space and the show has got even bigger. Also I was visiting on 23rd November, the day of the 50th anniversary so I had assumed that it would put on a bit of a show.

It was certainly busy with many having chosen to come in costume – most adults I should add and without even a passing resemblance to the character they were trying to emulate. A multi-coloured scarf does not make you Tom Baker.

The “experience” is made up of two parts. The first is an interactive guided tour where you and the other visitors need to help the 11th Doctor to escape from another Pandorica. This was fun even if it was exactly the same as last time and the references to the episodes now a bit dated.

The other half is a static display now covering two floors including costumes of both the Doctors and his enemies, a few consoles from TARDIS’ and other materials showing how the series is made.

If I am honest this part was a little disappointing. It was certainly soulless after the first half interaction but it just felt a bit lost and was spread out over what felt like a hanger. I’m not sure how this could be improved but the fact that it was so empty spoke volumes given the number of people waiting to get in and in the shop.

The other slightly odd thing was that there was no reference to the 50th anniversary that I could see anywhere. No posters advertising the programme that evening, no special guests and no celebratory merchandising, which given what you can buy I found amazing. I think that they were missing a trick.

So an enjoyable afternoon but I was just left feeling that it needed more excitement.

Mary Rose Exhibition, Portsmouth

IMG_7594Having lived and studied in Portsmouth for four years I have been down to the historic dockyard a number of times and seen the Mary Rose.

While it has been undergoing its restoration over the last 30 years it has been housed in what was little more than a plastic hanger. That has now changed with the opening of the new exhibition centre which is just marvellous, as you might expect having had £27M spent on it.

The last time I saw her she was still being sprayed with chemicals to preserve her but that process has now stopped and she is going through a drying phase. This means that you can see the hull properly for the first time without having to look through a fine mist, albeit through smallish glass windows.

Once the drying phase is complete I believe that the wall separating the viewers from the boat will be removed and you will be able to see the hull in all its glory finally. Hopefully all the pipes will also be removed. That will be in three years time so we will be back to see her once again then!

Whittington’s Tea Barge, Reading

Whittington’s Tea BargeReading has been my home since 1988 when I  moved here for my first job. In the intervening years there have been many changes and almost all have had a positive impact on the town (no, it’s still not a city).

One of the great things about Reading is the river Thames and Kennet and Avon canal running through its heart. This year we have made much more of both with walks and cycle rides along their banks. This weekend we tried out a relatively new addition to the Thames – a tea room and one with a difference, Whittington’s Tea Barge.

As the name suggests and the pictures show this is a barge, moored on the banks of the Thames at Caversham, just over the Reading Bridge, serving teas, coffees and light snacks and it is great. A real slice of traditional Britain. You can either sit inside or on the bank and enjoy your cream tea in the delightfully crockery that wouldn’t look out of place at your grandmothers.

Whittington’s is less than ten minutes from the centre of town but is so relaxed you will forget where you are. If you are in town I highly recommend it.

Saltaire and the Five Rise Locks

Just on the way back from a long weekend in Yorkshire. It is bright and sunny as we approach Birmingham and not like the winter wonderland we left behind in Harrogate. However, the weather we fine yesterday when we went over to Saltaire and the the Five Rise locks at Bingley.

Why anyone thought that it was a great idea to run a canal through there beats me, it is one helleva drop and some kind of engineering feat to complete no doubt. All for what must have been a short-lived venture to get goods out to the waiting ships in Liverpool. It wasn’t long before the railways made the canals redundant.

Its a short (c. three and a half miles) walk from there to Saltaire, the model village founded by Titus Salt who had a very progressive view on how to treat his employees building housing and facilities for them not found elsewhere at the time. The village is now a world heritage site and well preserved, although I wouldn’t want to be living there with all the tourists gawping thorough my kitchen window!


20130224-162001.jpgSo I’d be the first to admit that Birmingham wouldn’t have been my first choice as a destination for a weekend break, it’s hardly mentioned in many travellers top 10 but then we had an ulterior motive for coming as we have a son studying at the university here.

The first issue Birmingham has is that if you arrive by train as we did then the immediate thing that you are presented with is New Street station which is no looker at the best of times but even less so when it is being remodelled as it is now. However, as you walk only a short distance to the Bull Ring things improve considerably. The Selfridges building is fascinating to look at with its futuristic bauble lined exterior. Inside is a modern, up market, shopping centre (although we did discover a link bridge tucked away in a corner that led to a distinctly down market set of shops!)

There was also a wide variety of restaurants all of which had long queues Saturday lunchtime. Resigned to a long wait we join the queue in Cafe Rouge. We were greeted by the manager who on discovering that our party size was three immediately ushered us through to a vacant table much to the annoyance of those waiting in front of us no doubt.

Birmingham has more canals than Venice. Did you know that? Nope, neither did I until it was pointed out shortly before we were due to travel here. It might have a lot of them but boy are they difficult to get to. We wandered under it, beside a wall that we knew the canal was the other side of but could we find a place to get alongside it? However, once we did get there it was worth the effort. Particularly the Gas Street basin which looked lovely although was probably a dirty and dangerous place when it fulfilled its original purpose rather housing up market appartments, shops and restaurants as it does now. It’s also the only canal that I have ever seen with a roundabout (see the pictures below). Proving what a feat of engineering it was it is possible to get to Worcester some 30 miles and 58 locks away.

So as I travel away on the train home I have to say that Birmingham is much maligned (but it’s still no Venice).