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December 2014

3rd, North Cave Wetlands
We went down to North Cave this morning on what was a sunny and frosty morning with patches of ice on some of the lagoons. The usual array of winter wildfowl dominated the scene, though a GOLDENEYE was a real bonus (my first of 2014), as was a particularly large number of Wigeon (over 55), this handsome duck being one of my favourite wildfowl species. Other wildfowl species included Shelduck (c.9), Shoveler (c.15-20), Pochard (c.6-8), Gadwall (c.10), Tufted duck (numerous), Mallard (numerous), and Teal (abundant). Waders included abundant Lapwing, a good number of Redshank, at least 6 Snipe, and a couple of Curlews overhead. Other sightings included 7 Cormorants, Fieldfares, Redwings, Bullfinches, a winter CHIFFCHAFF, and a single Roe deer. However the highlight of the morning would come north of the reserve, with a trio of BEAN GEESE being located on Hotham Ings, the Bean Geese showing all the characteristic features of the Tundra race. This are not only my first Yorkshire Bean Geese but also my first "Tundra's"!

3rd, North Cliffe Wood
Our visit to North Cliffe this morning was largely uneventful with little of note, bar bands of roving mixed tits (including Marsh tits) and a small flock of SISKINS overhead, but nevertheless it was a very pleasant stroll on what was a sunny December day.

6th, Swinemoor
Paid a brief visit to Swinemoor prior to dawn on what was a sparklingly clear and frosty morning with a large winter moon setting over the largely frozen floods and frosted pastures of this common on the eastern edge of Beverley. Obviously it was to dark to see the birds but listening to the calls I identified plenty of Wigeon, Teal and a large number of Redwings in the area. Flocks of Greylag geese also passed overhead whilst a trio of Roe deer were encountered along the road as I cycled southwards from Hull Bridge to Weel.

7th, Grosmont
A couple of salmon seen jumping in the Murk Esk this morning (at least I think they were salmon), whilst a Dipper was feeding on the opposite bank. Also a few Bullfinches, a Nuthatch and a couple of Marsh Tits.

9th, Wold Garth
3 Bullfinches on the feeders today with two females and a single male. The Greenfinches also made a welcome return today (the new feeding station was only erected last Thursday) and with Goldfinches and Chaffinches also visiting it would prove a good day for finches. Also spotted today was a solitary Treecreeper.

10th, North Cave Wetlands
An afternoon visit this week on what was a cold and very windy morning with icy showers of rain in the area. Wildfowl were numerous, most taking shelter against the worst of the wind, with approximate numbers being Pochard 13, Shoveler c.38, Gadwall c.48, Shelduck 12, Tufted Duck >30, Wigeon c.70, and Teal >250. The Wigeon count is one of the highest I have ever made at NCW and it is great to see this duck doing so well again at this site. Meanwhile an immature male GOLDENEYE was on reedbed lake whilst a male and female pair of GOOSANDER were on island lake. Further sightings of note included 7 Curlews, a single Snipe, a half dozen Redshanks, a beautiful Green Woodpecker with a stunning red crown, and a very large number of winter thrushes (mostly Redwings).

13th, Swinemoor
A cold and frosty morning with the bright half moon illuminating the winter floods. About a 100 Greylag Geese were seen leaving the floods and heading north-east shortly after my arrival whilst Teal were the most numerous bird, with even a few on the river itself. Wigeon also heard but seemingly not as numerous as last week with other observations including Redshank along the river and plenty of Redwing.

13th, Christmas Steam at York
On a sunny and frosty morning I joined my father at York station where two heritage locomotives were due to visit. The second of the two locos was to be the LNER A4 No.4464 'Bittern', a loco we have seen a few times this year, though this occasion was special for the fact that the Bittern's boiler ticket soon expires and this could well be the last time we see it for a number of years. When it comes back into service it may also revert to a BR livery instead of an LNER one so this was very much a case of catch it while you can.

The second loco meanwhile was a new one for the pair of us, coming in the form of GWR No.5043 'Earl of Mount Edgecumbe', a fine example of a Great Western Castle class. This loco had come up from Tyseley with the annual 'Christmas White Rose' run up to York (and back), and since locos of this type are relatively rare up here a large number of railway enthusiasts had turned out to see the handsome piece of engineering.

14th, North Cliffe Wood
6 WOODCOCK counted today, mostly in the hazel coppice area of the wood. Also a couple of Buzzards, a Green Woodpecker, a Jay, a number of Goldcrests and both Marsh & WILLOW TIT.

16th, Whitby Harbour
Herring Gull baring the orange/yellow ring '1716' on the harbour wall. Research indicates that this is a long time resident of Whitby with records dating back to May 2008, though it was originally ringed at Seamer Carr landfill in March 2007 and has been seen as far afield as Warrington in Cheshire.

18th, Wold Garth
Despite grey skies and a blustery SW wind a Bumble bee was spotted in the garden, a testament to the mild temperatures today (13 C at midday).

22nd, Wold Garth
Yet another male joined the garden Bullfinches at the sunflower heart feeder today with a total of four males and two females brightening what was otherwise a grey, windy and obscenely mild December morning. Other visitors included a few Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Blue tits, Great tits, Coal tits, Dunnock, and Blackbirds.

26th, North Cave & North Cliffe
A Boxing Day stroll around North Cave this morning on what was grey, murky and chilly morning. I didn't do any counts this morning (my family were with me) but noteworthy observations included an immature GOLDENEYE on reedbed lake, three GOOSANDERS (two drakes & a duck), a good number of Shelduck (c.25), 3 Snipe, and a few SISKINS amongst the more numerous Goldfinches.

Meanwhile North Cliffe was largely quiet with highlights including a trio of WOODCOCK, a number of Marsh tits amongst the bands of roving tits, a single Teal in the boggy pool on the south side of the wood and at least two Buzzards.

26th/27th Wold Garth
Persistent sleet and rain overnight with 9.9 mm recorded. Snow reported from the higher ground of the Wolds, Moors & Pennines, though nothing particularly significant with just a decent covering.

28th, Wold Garth
Very icy this morning as rain which fell yesterday evening froze upon the cold ground. Meanwhile the higher parts of the Yorkshire Wolds had a bit of lying snow today, the snow line being around 200 metres.

28th, North York Moors
Usually the NYMR has a period of winter running during the Christmas holidays and this year was no different. Indeed despite ongoing problems with many of the locos the railway was able to provide a service throughout the period. On the 27th we were lucky enough to receive a slight snowfall up here on the Moors, and with the higher parts of the railway looking splendidly seasonal it was a joy to photograph the trains on the subsequent morning with crystal clear winter skies and temperatures deliciously below freezing.

Meanwhile a lovely male STONECHAT beside the Pickering to Whitby road was an unexpected bonus, an indication of perhaps just how mild this winter has been until recently, with the white snow making the attractive plumage of this 'chat' species look even brighter & striking than usual.

Up on Rosedale Moor the snow was beautiful and crisp with the roads still covered in icy snow in those areas above 300 metres, and here Red Grouse were seen in plentiful numbers. At Hartoft Rigg flocks of SISKINS were seen passing over our heads on regular occasions, the characteristic chattering call alerting us to their presence. I did check for any Redpolls but drew a blank.

Visiting our cottage at frosty but snowless Grosmont was an adventure, the steep 1 in 3 hill down which one accesses the village from the south being covered in sheet ice in places. Indeed we did almost lose control of the car at one point but eventually brought it back under control before the sharp left hand turn which takes you into the village. As usual the best of the birds were down beside the Murk Esk where Grey Wagtails and Dippers were noted, whilst a Buzzard or two were spotted over the woods to the west.

29th, Wold Garth
Very frosty this morning with the rural roads covered in white crystals which in places were like snow. However the overnight low was a modest -0.8 C (30.6 F) with a light breeze preventing temperatures from dropping particularly low.

30th, Wold Garth
Very frosty again, the local countryside looking like a winter wonderland at dawn. The temperature would reach a minimum of -3.5 C (25.7 F), the lowest temperature recorded so far in what has otherwise been a mild winter.

31st, Wold Garth
Another frosty morning and after several days of accumulated frost many places do look like they are covered in a light covering of snow.

November 2014

2nd, Grosmont
We cleared out much of the garden today and revealed a good stone pathway leading down to the lower part of the garden. A Newt was found amongst the thick grass whilst woodland birds abounded in the trees. A few Grey Wagtails were also seen and heard in the surrounding area. Meanwhile about a dozen WHOOPER SWANS were seen heading south between Flylingdales and Goathland, my first wild swans of the winter, whilst a couple of Nuthatches were at Darnholm.

4th, Wold Garth
A ground frost at dawn, the first of the winter 2014/15 season. Meanwhile in the evening a skein of PINK-FOOTED GEESE were heard passing over at around 6.30 pm, undoubtedly heading back to the Humber estuary on what was initially a clear, cold and moonlit autumn evening.

5th, Wold Garth
A Bumble bee was seen amongst a clump of cyclamen this morning.

5th, Beautiful November
I love November, I always have, and as I wandered through the late autumn woodland near my home yesterday afternoon on what was a beautifully cold and sunny day with mist hanging over the surrounding fields I was in heaven. The Saami people of northern Scandinavia and the Kola peninsula believed that heaven was a place which was just like their own terrestrial homes, but with just more reindeer, and for me this is an appealing concept as I for one would love to spend eternity wandering the lands which I call home, though instead of more reindeer (though that would be nice) I think my heaven would contain far fewer people! Of course the reality of modern life is somewhat different but having come to know many hidden backwaters in eastern Yorkshire over the years I have found a few places where such dreams are almost reality, the 100 acre woodland of birch and willow carr which I frequented yesterday being one of these rare gems where time itself seems to stand still.

The turning back of the clocks at the end of October is a time I look forward too, the return of dark, quiet, and cosy evenings by the warming hearth bringing forth a wealth of happy memories of winter’s past, whilst the sight of the warm glow of lamp lights shining through the windows of a country cottage when returning home from an evening walk brings an emotion which is hard to describe in mere words. Indeed I like the dark and the cold, and consider that the short days of winter are nature’s way of telling us the importance of reflection, rest and togetherness, though unfortunately the outside world has increasingly little time for such basic and rustic pleasures, partially indicated by the now annual campaign to have ours clocks put forward an hour by self-interested and largely urban based politicians.

Meanwhile I was down near the river Humber last week, arriving at my destination just as the sun was rising above the muddy waters of this industrious estuary, and as soon as we started our walk we heard the distinctive sound of PINK-FOOTED GEESE in the distance. A few minutes later we were treated to the sights and sounds of repeated skeins heading inland towards the nearby Yorkshire Wolds and only in north-west Norfolk have I seen so many Pink-feet in one place. This does possibly confirm that large numbers of Pink-feet have arrived in the British Isles this year, as I have seen more skeins this year than ever before, and hopefully this means that the numbers which winter on the Humber may be on the increase again after slowly dwindling in recent decades.

5th, Beverley Westwood Fireworks
Good weather meant it was a good night for the annual firework display at Beverley Westwood, the final climax being particularly impressive from our viewpoint near our home.

6th, Wold Garth
First air frost of the season with a minimum of -1.2 C (29.8 F). Mist and fog patches in the morning as well, dense in low lying areas.

8th, Beverley Parks
Heard my first FIELDFARES of the winter near Woodmansey.

15th, Wold Garth
Thick fog in the morning with everything dripping wet.

19th, Darnholm
A couple of Dippers showed well at the ford at Darnholm, one almost landing right beside us as we enjoyed an impromptu picnic beside the beck. Nuthatches were additionally seen, as was a single Grey Wagtail.

19th, Beverley Parks
A brightly coloured GREY WAGTAIL was seen on the temporary fence beside the still under construction bypass, the large areas of mud and new area of open water seemingly acting as a draw to this usually riverine species. The aforementioned pond/lagoon/lake also hosted about a dozen Mallard.

23rd, Great Central Railway
We decided to attend the end of season gala at the Great Central today on what was a grey November day down here in the East Midlands. All the locos on show were from the railways own stable of heritage steam engines including the former NYMR 9F, the lovely red 8F and my favourite the little 'Jinty'.

26th, North Cliffe Wood
An enjoyable walk around North Cliffe Wood with my father on what was a grey and murky kind of day, but nevertheless the wood was as beautiful and interesting as ever with not a soul to be seen other than ourselves. Wildlife highlights included at least 5 and possibly 6 WOODCOCK, a couple of which were seen in excellent detail, whilst a noisy Jay was also heard many times, a bird species becoming noticeably more common in the East Riding. Fieldfares were also observed in the fields, this winter thrush having not been particularly common so far this winter, at least in the Beverley area anyway.

October 2014

1st, Autumn Notes
So one month of autumn has passed and thus far the season has seen little in the way of what one would call ‘autumnal’ weather with the past September seeing temperatures above average, little rainfall and barely any winds of any real note. However despite this unseasonable weather the countryside has continued its steady march through autumn with a fine crop of Horse Chestnuts, tasty & plentiful Blackberries, and an increase in autumn tints from those tree species which generally turn that bit earlier such as Chestnuts and Birches. Up on the Moors the once green and thick bracken is now rapidly turning copper hued, especially in the smaller dales and valleys where cold air pools on the clearer nights, whilst the Mountain Ashes are laden with bright red berries. Fungi too is appearing in ever greater variety and the other day we found our first FLY AGARICS of the year, always a special treat.

In our moorland garden the resident Nuthatch has been visiting more frequently lately, though whether this is due to the shortening days or the greater provision of food on our part is certainly open for debate, but the witnessing of a few skeins of PINK-FOOTED GEESE heading southwards in the past week or so certainly was a genuine sign of nature’s restlessness as autumn becomes ever more assertive over the northern regions of our wonderful, dynamic and ever changing world. The sight of such skeins of geese is something I always find incredibly emotive every year and now I await my first Redwings of the year, which for me are like the first Swallows of the year as the coming of these handsome northern thrushes herald the crisp and wintry days of the months ahead, something which I at least look forward too.

Back in East Yorkshire the countryside is still relatively untouched by autumn, the mosaic of green, golden and brown fields which reflect the agricultural wealth of this part of Yorkshire now busy with farmers ploughing, drilling and spraying as one farming year ends and another begins. In the hedgerows a variety of wild fruits can be observed, from edible or semi-edible ones such as Blackberries, Haws and Sloes to those definitely not edible unless one wants an unscheduled trip to the nearest hospital. Butterflies too remain a common sight, Red Admirals being particularly numerous this year, though I was very pleased, to say the least, to stumble upon my first PAINTED LADY of the year, this migratory species being very variable in the British Isles and especially up here in the north-east of England.

4th, A wet morning in Grosmont
With work now beginning at the cottage we were up to see our builders and work out a plan of campaign, though since I had my camera with me I also decided to take a few photos of the trains as they departed outside our new home. With daily running now coming to an end and the imminent departure of the GWR 28XX it was nice to capture these activities before the end of the season.

10th, Autumn Gala at the Keighley & Worth Valley
On a lovely sunny day we made our way across to the West Riding of the county this morning to attend the annual KWVR autumn gala. The main attraction was the return of the SR West Country Class "City of Wells", this impressive loco having only recently returned to service after lying idle for several decades. Other attractions included the "WD" and a variety of locos from the KWVR home fleet.

12th, Golden dawn at Beverley
There was a spectacular sunrise this morning, the golden October sun lighting up Beverley Westwood as I made my way into town. A low mist made the countryside doubly attractive, the Minster and Black Mill looking quite dramatic.

15th, Wold Garth
First Redwings of the autumn seen in the garden with approx. half a dozen feeding on the abundant yew berry crop.

17th, Wold Garth
Despite all the recent rain a couple of Red Admirals were seen enjoying some autumn sunshine this afternoon. The resident Fox was also disturbed when I was giving the grass its last cut of the year.

19th, Kilnwick Percy
Marsh Tits heard in the woods of Kilnwick Percy, whilst the woodland floor hosted a wealth of fungi species. The autumn colours in the woods around the Buddhist retreat were also rather spectacular and were a delight to wander through.

22nd, An autumn stroll around Grosmont
As phase 2 of the re-development work on our moorland cottage is about to get under-way, during which we will not be able to actually live in the cottage as pretty much the whole building will have to be gutted inside, we have been enjoying a few quiet days in the National Park before moving down to East Yorkshire for the winter months. It would have been nice to spend Christmas at the cottage but that’ll just have to wait another year, though what with the ongoing works we will probably be up in the village fairly frequently to see how things are getting on (if everything goes to plan all works should be finished by April, weather permitting).

The recent rains have meant that the Murk Esk, the river which runs right beside our garden, has risen up and down quite a bit, though as of writing it is now back to more normal levels, whilst the autumn colours are now approaching their best despite the relatively mild and frostless season so far. Along the river Dippers and Grey Wagtails are frequently seen, whilst the woods host Jays, Woodpeckers and Nuthatches, the former two species now regularly visiting our garden bird-feeders. I also hope to install a new weather station at the cottage by the end of the year and speaking as a bit of ‘weather nut’ I am really looking forward to seeing how the climates of the Moors and the Wolds compare, especially as regards temperature and rainfall.

Other nature notes recorded recently in my personal diary included my first Redwings of the year on the 15th (though a week before these first sightings I had heard them passing overhead), a few late Hawker species of dragonfly (probably Migrant Hawkers), the odd Red Admiral flittering through the garden on any sunnier days, and plenty of fungi in the local woods.

23rd, Wold Garth
A large skein of Pink-footed Geese passed over around 7pm.

25th, North Cave Wetlands
Thousands of Pink-footed Geese seen heading north or north-east over North Cave this morning, seemingly birds from the Humber heading to the Wolds to feed. Otherwise few birds of note at the reserve apart from the usual wildfowl, though it was nice to see Redwings whilst Goldcrests were also quite numerous. Other notes included a single Stoat and a Shaggy Ink Cap.

26th, North Cliffe Wood
A decent number of Darters still on the wing both on the heath and in the wood, whilst a single Red Admiral was also spotted. Bird highlights included Marsh/Willow Tit, Redwings, a Green Woodpecker, and a single Jay. Fungi also numerous with two emerging Parasols and many others beyond my ID skills.

28th, Wold Garth
A couple of Red Admirals and a single Comma seen on the site. Bumble Bees also still around whilst a rather old and battered Feathered Thorn moth was found on the ground.

September 2014

1st, A day at the NRM
With the summer holidays coming to a close we spent a family day at the National Railway Museum at York, enjoying the locomotive heritage of this superb museum which is always a treat to explore. Indeed two visits are rarely the same, thanks to the fact they move the locos around regularly, whilst in the workshops it was interesting to see the tender and boiler of the "Flying Scotsman".

2nd, Wold Garth
Three species of Hawker dragonfly were seen on the site this afternoon, whilst butterfly species were represented by Large & Small Whites, a single and rather faded Holly Blue, Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells, a couple of Red Admirals, and a few Speckled Woods.

5th, Beverley Parks
A Spotted Flycatcher was seen this morning near the livery along Long Lane, a species which has proven very elusive this year.

12th, NYMR Diesel Gala
On Friday we attended the first day of the ‘Diesel Gala’ up at the beautiful North Yorkshire Moors Railway on what was a largely cloudy but nevertheless bright and warm sort of mid-September day. Unfortunately two of the locos which had been booked to attend this year’s gala had to pull out, with works on the Class 47 having not been completed whilst the Class 50 ‘Valiant’ suffered from Network Rails dreaded ‘gauging issues’. This did mean that this years gala was to be honest a little light as regards locomotive variety but despite this we had a good day, further good news coming from the fact that the cottage at Grosmont should be legally ours by the end of next week.

Of course the star of the show for me was the Class 55 Deltic No. 55002 ‘The Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry’ (or KOYLI), these former East Coast Mainline beasts being my undisputed favourite class of diesel locomotive. As I have written before the distinctive sound and sheer presence of these fast accelerating locos always makes for an impressive spectacle and I only wish that the NYMR had one as a member of its home fleet.

The two other guest locos were also interesting, with a Pioneer Class 37 D6700 looking superb in British Railways Green livery, while a Class 31 was represented by 31466 in EWS Maroon and Yellow colours. The latter loco had come from the Dean Forest Railway via the East Lancashire Railway whilst D6700 had come from the National Railway Museum at York.

From the NYMR home fleet two locos were also in action, with Class 37 37264 and Class 25 D7628 ‘Sybilla’ providing additional traction, the 37 looking particularly striking in its BR Large Logo livery when it ran as a double-header with the Pioneer Class 37. All in all an enjoyable gala and it was a just a shame that other commitments meant that we could only attend the first day of what I am sure was a successful gala for the NYMR.

14th, Mixed Traffic Gala at the NVR
On Sunday we made the two hour drive down the A1 to the Nene Valley Railway, a small heritage railway which operates from Peterborough in the east to Yarwell in the west. This would be our first visit to this 7 and a half mile long railway in the north of Cambridgeshire and with the promise of some interesting and varied locomotives and rolling stock we were very much looking forward to a good day out. The weather, as has been the case throughout most of September so far, was a mixture of sunny spells and intermittent cloudier periods with temperatures in the mid to high teens.

Soon after our arrival at the railway’s HQ at Wansford we unfortunately learnt that the LNER Class A1 No.60163 ‘Tornado’ had been declared a failure with what was a relatively minor but nevertheless a significant enough problem which could only be fixed once the loco had had time to cool down sufficiently. This was obviously a major disappointment, especially as this may be my last opportunity to see this loco before it goes for its intermediate overhaul after which it will be reverting to a green livery (whether this will be BR green or LNER green I don’t know yet), but at least it was out in the yard at Wansford so that we and the other visitors could see and photograph this beautiful piece of engineering.

Despite the loss of the ‘Tornado’ plenty of motive power was provided by a variety of locos, including a 9F in the form of No.92212, a Standard 5 No.73000, a Hunslet Austerity 0-6-0ST No.3844 (working as United Steel Company No.22), and a visiting USATC S160 in the shape and form of No.6046. This last locomotive is one which we are quite familiar with, the loco having spent much of last summer up on the NYMR in which it time it performed admirably, and it was nice to see this powerful and well-travelled engine once more. The rolling stock is also worthy of mention here at NVR, especially the dark blue liveried carriages of ‘The Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits et des Grands Express Europeens’, certainly a welcome change from the otherwise generic range of BR carriages found at most heritage railways.

20th-21st, SVR Autumn Gala
Last week we enjoyed a very enjoyable stay down in the beautiful rolling countryside of Shropshire and Worcestershire with our principal reason for visiting being to attend the Severn Valley Railway’s Autumn Gala, which this year was four days long rather than the usual three. However since we only arrived on the Friday afternoon we only managed to attend two days of the Gala, but we did at least get to see the night-time running on Saturday night, a wonderful spectacle which will not be soon forgotten.

The weather was pretty grim on the Saturday of the gala with low cloud and periods of drizzle, hardly brilliant photographic conditions, but thankfully the weather changed dramatically for the better on Sunday with clear blue skies and sunshine for a good part of the day.

Locos on show were primarily of western origin, not really surprising given the SVR’s Great Western Railway heritage, with GWR Class 7800 No.7812 ‘Erlestoke Manor’, GWR Class 2800 No.2857, GWR Class 1500 No.1501 (a loco which was up at my home in Grosmont this past weekend for the NYMR autumn gala), GWR Class 1400 No.1450, and GWR Class 4500 No.4566 (all these GWR loco classes are a nightmare to remember!). A bit of extra diversity was provided by a S&DJR 7F, with No.88 looking good in its inaccurate but nevertheless attractive S&DJR dark blue livery, as well as a number of locos from the Southern Region, including LSWR M7 No.30053, re-built West Country/Battle of Britain Class No.34053 ‘Sir Keith Park’, and a few LMS type locos including LMS Ivatt Class 4 No.43106, LMS 4F No.43924 (familiar to anyone whom has visited the K&WVR), and finally BR Standard 5 No.73129.

As an LNER man I was somewhat out of my element with all of these ‘Western’ locos but nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about these beautiful pieces of engineering which one can’t deny look very handsome indeed with their dark green livery and copper rimmed chimneys.

With this also being our first ever visit to the SVR it was an additional pleasure to simply explore this beautiful heritage railway, which along the Moors, the West Somerset, and the Bluebell is considered one of the premier railways in the United Kingdom. For the most part the stations were very pretty, especially the ‘rural’ stations such as Arley, Bewdley, Highley and most of all Hampton Loade which looked glorious with an abundance of late summer and early autumn flowers, though Kidderminster and Bridgnorth were somewhat disappointing and dreary in comparison. However the yard at Bridgnorth was interesting to see and the ‘Railwayman’s Arms’ was a good place to enjoy a relaxing drink during any of the quieter periods on the railways schedule.

24th. Welshpool & Llanfair Railway
During our holiday in Shropshire we also crossed the border and visited the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway (WLLR) in Powys, this being my first visit to Wales since my childhood, and despite initial misgivings I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed myself in this undoubtedly beautiful country. In fact the recent referendum in Scotland, in which my former fellow countrymen thankfully voted for common sense (though only just!), has in many ways made me appreciate the UK even more than I used too and this of course includes the Welsh just as much as it does the Scots and the English.

25th, Iconic diesels at the SVR
As I am sure I have written previously heritage diesel locomotives are one of my great passions and interests, these massively powerful workhorses being oft overlooked by many railway enthusiasts in favour of the ‘kettles’, and indeed the Severn Valley Railway for the most part reflects this general attitude with diesel running being kept very much to a minimum along the line. Now I fully understand the reasons for this as undoubtedly the vast majority of visitors to the SVR are hoping for steam-hauled services, but when the line currently possesses two of the most iconic diesel classes in British railway history in the shape of a Class 52 (aka ‘Westerns’) and a Class 55 (aka ‘Deltics’) then one feels they could make better use of them. Indeed I am sure there would be other lines out there which would greatly appreciate such high quality locos on their railways.

Though Deltics remain my favourite diesel class, I have to say I was really excited about seeing my first ‘Western’, as these western region locos do have a look and sound all of their own. Only the Class 42 ‘Warships’ have a similar profile, these two classes and the Class 35 ‘Hymeks’ being often referred collectively to as ‘Hydraulics’ thanks to their unique hydraulic transmissions, but it is the ‘Western’ Class 52 which is the peak of this unique motive power experiment which in the end was doomed to failure for reasons not entirely the fault of the locos design.

The other iconic diesel was the Class 55 ‘Deltic’ No. 55019 ‘Royal Highland Fusilier’, a loco I saw back at Barrow Hill earlier in the year, and though it was strange to see one of these East Coast Mainline powerhouses on a small western branch-line deep in former GWR territory it was nevertheless a special treat. The Deltic design was by and large a far more successful design than the ‘Westerns’ and when they were unveiled they were the most powerful diesel locomotives in the world, producing 3,300 b.h.p but weighing ‘only’ 100 tons. Only six of the original 22 have survived into preservation but with a strong following and an enthusiastic fan-base (myself included) the future looks good for the ‘King of the Diesels’.

27th, NYMR Autumn Gala
It was the autumn gala up here along the North Yorkshire Moors Railway today and with plenty of sunshine and fine weather the gala appeared to be a huge success with massive crowds here in Grosmont on Saturday afternoon. The theme for this year’s autumn gala was distinctly ‘Great Western’, with all three guest locos coming from the GWR stables, but the NYMR’s home fleet ensured that a real mixture of locos would be on show for the visiting public with NER, LNER, LMS, and BR classes all being represented. It was an additional relief that all the locos, by and large, performed faultlessly with no significant failures to report (in contrast to the Spring Gala!) and this additionally allowed a number of freight runs between Grosmont & Goathland, for me always one of the highlights of any gala.

The star guest, at least to my eyes, was the beautiful GWR Castle Class No.5029 ‘Nunney Castle’, this iconic class of 4-6-0 steam locomotives from the Great Western Railway stable being one of the most successful designs in the history of all British railways which even I as a LNER fan have to admit is a superb and absolutely beautiful piece of engineering. In fact my recent exposure to GWR locos, both up here and down at the Severn Valley, has made me appreciate them more than I used too and I have to admit they continue to grow on me the more I see of them. Indeed fortunately another two were up here at the Gala this past weekend, with GWR 2800 Class No.2807, a 2-8-0 loco class designed for heavy freight work throughout the former Great Western region, and GWR 1500 Class No.1501, a 0-6-0 pannier tank loco which is the last remaining example of its class.

From the home fleet the star for many visitors was of course the LNER A4 Pacific 4-6-2 No.60007 ‘Sir Nigel Gresley’, this iconic class of locomotive always being a crowd favourite what with their distinctive curved and stream-lined appearance which makes them instantly recognisable. Indeed before anyone accuses me of becoming a GWR fan-boy I would happily point out that the only two locos that most members of the public have ever heard of, ie. the Mallard and the Flying Scotsman, were both LNER locos and that is something that no LMS, SR or indeed GWR fan can really realistically argue against! Further LNER or NER traction was provided by my personal favourite the LNER B1 No.61264 (which is still running as No.61034 ‘Chiru’), as well as recently restored NER Q6 No.63395. Other home locos included the two LMS Black Five’s of No.45428 ‘Eric Treacy’ and No.44806, BR Standard 4MT No.75029 ‘The Green Knight’ and the ever popular Lambton Colliery tank of No.29 ‘Peggy’.

30th, Grosmont
A Nuthatch was seen in our yard and in the little riverside garden today. Meanwhile a skein of Pink-footed Geese were seen heading south at Darnholm.