... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Touring the Towns

DG had his Random Boroughs, in which he picked a - guess what - random London borough from his special jam jar to visit and write about. His latest random visiting project is the 'Herbert Dip' - the fifty two putative boroughs originally recommended by the Herbert Commission in 1960. While DG takes his randomised journeys in and around London, he travels further afield pretty frequently too - today he writes about Middlesbrough, for example.

Now, I would like to see more of this country. Until fifteen or so years ago, I'd hardly seen any of it, isolated in the little corner of the south east that for so many people is England. Since then, thanks to a couple of jobs I've seen a few bits of West and South Yorkshire and Derbyshire, and thanks to boating, quite a few places strung out along the inland waterways. But there's more, so much more. I have never, for example, been to the Lake District (not that my proposed project will help with that), although I did once live in a Windermere Road.

I like railways. I am fascinated by the fact that the large Grand Union boats were apparently named after towns randomly selected from a railway gazetteer. I have often idly thought about visiting the stations of those places - and some of them are no longer active of course; some may not even still exist.

Yesterday I came back from Newport (Gwent) on the train, and instead of changing as I usually do at Bristol Parkway, I changed at Temple Meads - the first time I've been there. It looked like a very fine station and I was right down the end of the platform about to take a photo when my train came in. Whilst on the journey home, a thought began to form in my mind...

What if I set my favourite random number generator to pick a number between 101 and 186 (we'll stick with the motors for now) and plan to visit the town or station after which that boat was named. It might not be practical, of course, to visit, say, 115, 128 or 165 on a whim, but I could still research them and plan a fantasy trip. Plenty of others though would be a realistic weekend outing. Many of them are places I've already been (103, 105, 111, 112, 113, 116, 120, 121, 122, 143, 146, 148 (of course!), 156, 160, 163, 167, 168 (many times), and 175) but in many cases it was a flying visit and/or a long time ago. Most likely it wasn't by train, and I didn't photograph the station, let alone write it up for the blog. So any one of them would be worth a second visit, plus there's a nearly 80% chance of picking somewhere I've never been.

At the very least it will give me something to write about (you may have noticed there's been a dearth recently). I'm thinking that any visit and research would have a strongish railway focus, looking also at any waterways connections and industrial history. So once I've posted this, I will pick my first random Big Town (some of which of course are really quite small) and see where it takes me. There's a good chance it will be somewhere in England - seventy seven of them are - but it could be one of the seven in Scotland, or the one in Wales, or even the one in Northern Ireland.

So come back tomorrow to see where the Big Town Tour will take us first.

To put you out of your misery, a key to the mysterious numbers may be found here.


  1. Sounds a great plan Sarah.
    Don't forget Scotland - a vast country full of suprises.
    If you can make try sailing on the Waverley from Glasgow to Oban on 30th May - hard to think of a better introduction to Scotland.

    1. Hah... The other year I planned to sail on the Waverley from Gravesend to Tower Pier, only to be thwarted by the wind.

      The only places in Scotland that the Big Town Tour will take me to are Greenlaw, Ladybank, Kelso, Renton, Renfrew and Stirling. I have visited Edinburgh and Glasgow...

  2. You're in luck!

    Waverley sails right past Renfrew and the Renfrew Ferry.

    Does NB Greenock count in your quest?

    1. Oh goodness, how did I overlook Greenock? I was too busy checking out where Greenlaw was. That's seven in Scotland then, and seventy-seven in England.