Today, I stretch the boundaries of my Freedom Pass to its limits as I travel from Gidea Park to Reading for free. This will be an uninterrupted route courtesy of the Elizabeth Line, once it starts operating, but today, I have to change at Liverpool Street and Paddington.
I have ‘fond?!’ memories of Reading Station as I travelled through here during different stages of my life. In my early working career I spent 6 weeks in Reading so the weekend commute to/from my home in Aberystwyth was always a challenge. And again, some 30 years ago, I passed through the station on my weekend visits back to Cardiff as I waited to move my family up to London. And more recently as I visited nearby IT and Telecoms providers in Newbury, picking up connecting services here.
Over the years, I’ve seen the station change, and I have to say its current incarnation is a significant improvement on what was once a severe bottleneck for the weary traveller. The station was remodelled in 2015 and it now boasts 15 platforms serving four train operating companies: Great Western Railway (GWR), South Western Railway, Cross Country (by Arriva), and Tfl.
I’m no train geek when it comes to spotting trains, but being one of the top 10 busiest stations across the country, this is an ideal location to see the variety of trains passing through. Some of today’s trains include: the sleek bullet shaped electric trains recently introduced by GWR, the stylish electric Tfl Rail trains introduced as part of the Elizabeth Line; the familiar South Western electric trains; and the more laboured Cross Country (diesel?) trains.
Alongside the 15 platforms, there’s a new inter-platform walkway, complete with shopping experiences and wide covered stairs and escalators to each platform (there are lifts too). All colour coordinated throughout in a ‘pleasing to the eye’ themed blue and grey.
It’s a bitter cold day and even though the inter-platform walkway is covered, access to the platforms and stairs/escalators is open to the elements. So as I crouch down taking a few shots, I’m approached by a very pleasant and chatty Interserve supervisor who’s intrigued by what I’m doing, so we chat for a while. She’s an Irish girl quite used to the cold, but a little surprised when I tell her tales of having to scrape the ice from inside my bedroom window when I was growing up. As we part company I remark on her cold hands, to which she responds…’ah but I have a warm heart…’
Passengers come and go, with little regard to their surroundings as they work out which platform to head to. But their heads popping into shot through the angular structures makes for an interesting collection of pictures. I wonder what they’re thinking?
Before leaving the station, I notice that the Tfl Rail returning destination shows Ealing Broadway, even though the scheduled destination is Paddington. I’m intrigued and when I ask a Tfl platform guard, she helpfully explains that it’s done to prevent those journeying through the station thinking that it might be a fast service to Paddington. I speculate this may have been the case when this service was first introduced just before Christmas.
As it’s been a bitterly cold morning, I decide a short respite in The Three Guineas pub which backs onto the station is called for. I rest my feet whilst enjoying a coffe and as I leave I try to work out what’s the time?
Out of the station, heading to the river, I pass under the brightly coloured railway bridge with repeating geometric shapes that are formed from the girders spanning the road. A combination of having a back-lit footpath on the opposite side and pedestrians from a nearby building site wearing high-vis jackets helps to make this picture. I also notice a couple of stranded birds roosting up above too.
The River Thames
A walk along the south and north banks brings a different Reading into perspective, and here are a few of my highlights.
Thames Water Property Searches: not necessarily everyone’s idea of a landmark, but this open circular building has some interestingly shaped access stairs. No doubt purposely designed to reflect the circular shape of the building, but in my mind also mirroring an Archimedes Screw designed to move water, and now used in some hydropower schemes.
Christchurch Bridge: this is a relatively new foot and cycle bridge built in 2015 to connect Reading and Caversham through Christchurch Meadows. A cable-stayed bridge with one mast and 14 pairs of cable in a fan style. I’m sure this looks very attractive at night time lit by its 234 LED’s, but this monochromic shot helps to show off its simplistic beauty.
Caversham Weir and Lock: continuing along the north bank I return via Heron Island and View Island, a once derelict boatyard now converted into a wildlife haven. There’s a footpath running through it which brings me out at the Weir. An impressive water feature used to manage the water flow at this point on The Thames, and with the sluices wide open, the water flows rather fiercely.
The footpath across the weir is quite popular, and standing in the middle peering over the edge, I get a strong sense of the water’s power. And I can understand why the local community has successfully lobbied to build an environmentally friendly hydropower scheme utilising two Archimedean screw turbines here.
The Thames Path: I only cover a minute part of the 215 mile path, which at Reading runs along the south bank from Caversham Bridge, under Reading Bridge and past Caversham lock and weir before meandering easterly towards Henley-on-Thames. There’s one peculiar river boat moored along the path and as I say farewell to Reading, I reflect on the achievements of my sister-in-law and her sister who both completed the Thames Path challenge recently. Well done ladies…
A few birds catch my attention as I walk along the riverbank. On the Caversham side walking through Christchurch Meadows I pass a small copse and hear some rustling in the undergrowth. I assume it to be a squirrel so I decided to ignore it, but the sound seems to follow me. Looking around, I could just make out a bird ground feeding around the copse. It’s unperturbed by my presence, although I did keep my distance, and this short animation captures its movements. I didn’t recognise the bird instantly, but my suspicion was confirmed once I looked up the RSPB Identify a Bird site. Some of you will recognise it instantly as a Redwing.
Further along I arrive at Heron Island, and no guesses what I see here.
And in the middle of the river, there’s a trio of Seagulls perched on a rather faded Danger sign, no doubt placed to warn anyone approaching of the nearby weir and reminding boaters to keep right towards Caversham Lock.
Picture of the Day
This is a view of the footpath over Caversham Weir. I waited for some cyclists and pedestrians to pass by and crouched down to get the low view shot. The railings on either side help to guide you through the picture and the Vista filter adds strength and starkness.
Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ4.5; Shutter Speed – 1/100; Focal Length – 28mm; Film Speed – ISO125; Google Photo Filter – Vista