UK rail trip – 2022
Day 33 – 5th May, 2022
Today I’m off to Windsor. I checked out of Prime Backpackers Hostel and made my way to Angel station. Since I’ll be checking in to a different London hostel this evening, I’ll be dragging my suitcase around all day. This isn’t really an issue, as I’d still be dragging it with me if I were moving to another city or town. Once I arrived at London Waterloo, I grabbed a litre bottle of orange juice and made my way to the appropriate platform. A South Western Railway class 458 was waiting for me.
When introduced, the class 458s were one of the most unreliable trains in Britain and forever breaking down. At one point, all sets were in storage as no train operator were willing to lease them. Over the years, after much work having been done on them, their reliability greatly improved. My train arrived at Windsor & Eton Riverside station nearly an hour after leaving London Waterloo.
There are two stations at Windsor – Riverside and Central. As I’d arrived at Riverside, I had a bit of a walk up the hill to reach the entrance to Windsor Castle.
After arriving at Windsor Castle, I realised I’d arrived just before a Changing of the Guard. As this does not happen every day, the timing was fortuitous (even though I don’t believe in luck). There were a decent number of people waiting. It wasn’t long before they closed the road by the castle, to allow the ceremony to take place. I found myself in the right place at the time time – I was used as a marker for the crowds to remain behind. Yes, I was at the front of the line!
About ten minutes later, I started to hear drums and music. A few seconds later, they came into view.
With the Guard passed, we were all soon asked to move off the road so that it could be reopened to allow traffic flow to resume. With suitcase in tow, I followed the signs to The Long Walk, which pretty much took me just around the corner.
If you’ve seen a Royal Wedding or two, you’ll have most certainly seen images of The Long Walk. This road runs between Windsor Castle and the King George III statue. It’s roughly 4 kilometres in length. I decided that I was going to walk it – even with my suitcase in tow (as there really wasn’t anywhere to store it).
While walking along The Long Walk, there was a steady stream of aircraft flying over. Windsor Castle is pretty much right under the flight path of Heathrow Airport. I wonder how much planning went into that!
I arleady knew, when initially planning my 2,500 km UK bicycle trip (which was ultimately abandonded), that bicycles aren’t allowed on The Long Walk. Despite The Long Walk being a little hilly, it would have been quite a nice ride along it. I’m not sure why bicycles aren’t allowed. These signs are located where the A308 passes through The Long Walk. Looking from the Castle, it seemed that this crossing as the halfway point – it was probably closer to only a third of the way along. Still a fair way to go!
Three quarters along the Walk began a sustained uphill. Dragging along my suitcase certainly provided me with a decent workout!
I finally made it up the hill to the King George III statue. In addition to the distance and the baggage, it was also a very warm day. I didn’t bring any water with me. 🙂 At the top I met a couple of people who were only too happy to take a photograph of me.
The return trip was a little bit faster, as it was much more downhill. I made my way back to Windsor and walked into Windsor & Eton Central station. Trains run very frequently between here and Slough (where I would have to change for a connecting service to London Paddington), so I decided to drop in for lunch at a local pub first. A very tasty fish and chips (and mandatory pint of cider) at the Duchess of Cambridge pub. After lunch, I walked back into the station and caught my Great Western Railway class 165 to Slough.
It was a short, six minute trip from Windsor & Eton Central to Slough. Shortly after leaving Central, the line crosses a viaduct which passes parkland and over the River Thames. A few minutes later, the train arrived at Slough.
I could have chosen to take the first train to London Paddington, but I decided to hang around Slough station for a bit and watched trains go by. But I decided not to hang around too long, as the hostel I’m checking in to this evening does not have assigned beds – this means first in first served. So I hopped on a Great Western Railway class 800 service to London Paddington.
I was becoming quite taken with these hybrid class 80x trains. A lot of people have complained about the uncomfortably hard seats, but I’ve found them not too bad. However, any seat will be uncomfortable after many hours. These seats weren’t any worse.
After arriving at London Paddington, it took me a couple of minutes to work out which station I’d have to get to for the hostel. In the end, it was quite simple. A short trip on the Hammersmith & City line to Aldgate East, without any changes, was all that was required. From there, it was just over a five minute walk to the hostel. I checked in, found my room and grabbed one of the lower bunks. What delighted me most was the railway line just outside the window. Not directly outside, but to the left. With the windows open, what could be better than the sounds of trains passing by!
I decided to go walkabout, now that the important task of grabbing a bottom bunk had been successful. I walked down to the nearby Docklands Light Railway (DLR) station and caught a train east. I had no real destination. But I saw something that piqued my interest: a cable car system, called the Emirates Air Line, crossing the Thames. I decided I’d take a trip on it. What’s even more convenient is that it’s part of the Oyster Card system. This saved me from having to buy a separate ticket (which I would have anyhow). After hopping on board, I thought I’d record a video of the ride.
After a quite enjoyable ride, I walked to The O2 (formerly the Millennium Dome) and caught the London Underground back to the hostel and turned in for the evening. Tomorrow, I’m off to Hull.