In September we finally paid a visit to somewhere (or is that something?) that had been on our local photography bucket list for some time – the Leigh Guided Busway. Or to give it it’s official title The Leigh – Salford – Manchester Bus Rapid Transit…….
Doesn’t sound that glamorous does it? I guess it isn’t but it is rather unique and, if you’re in the right place, offers great opportunities for some very different photos.
My home town of Leigh used to have a train station up to 1969 and the oft quoted "fact" is that it is the largest town in Europe without a train station. In reality it’s actually the 7th largest in Britain. However whether it’s the largest or smallest doesn’t matter, for years the town felt a bit cut off to put it mildly. So the transport planners came up with the idea of the guided busway and after years of opposition and the usual legal battles it opened in April 2016.
Since then a quiet revolution has taken place with over 2.7million passengers per year now using the service.
The first part of the service from Leigh through Tyldesley and onto the East Lancs looks like one of those Mattel Hot Wheels tracks from my childhood Christmas mornings except this one has the distinctive purple buses zooming up and down every 10 minutes or so. In addition the track has been built with a substantial walking/cycling path and bridleway at one side allowing all manner of people to take exercise through some glorious countryside, once scarred by numerous pits and spoil tips (rucks as we used to call them) now completely transformed.
When we posted an image on our Instagram account we were amazed by the number of people, all quite local, who didn’t know it existed.
There’s loads of local, and in our case, personal history around this part of the world and the Busway acts as a thread joining it all together.
So, something as mundane as a public transport system can be transformative, interesting and in our view photogenic too. That’s a win in our book!
For more photos of the busway (it's not just buses!) visit our gallery page.
At the end of our Scottish roadtrip this year we spent a few days at the tip of the Kintyre Peninsula in Southend at the delightfully quirky and remote Lifeboat Studio.
After driving for 800 miles and visiting some fantastic places, that sense of a journey coming to an end (although we still had 300 miles to drove home!) was palpable as we sat that Thursday afternoon, taking in the sea view after a few hours out walking. Our minds were subconsciously already thinking about the journey home, had we got everyone presents, when should we fill up, where was the dirty washing?
As we sat there and talked away the afternoon in the sun, around us a family of Swallows kept us company, delightfully chirruping away treating us to dazzling display of aerobatics as they swooped and chased each other around the eaves of the building.
Every so often one would land and preen itself in the glorious sunshine giving a chance to look at the sparkling colours and sheen of its plumage – adults in full vibrant colours the juveniles a little less so.
Like us, they too were getting ready to move on – though not home in any real sense. I guess a migratory bird has no real home – they winter in the south and summer with us in the north. Their young, born here, those duller birds flexing their wings and practising their flight skills, would shortly be undertaking an epic flight to Southern Africa for the first ever time, crossing the Sahara along the way.
Hopefully some of those birds, fellow travellers, that we shared that afternoon with will make it back next year and, hopefully, someone else will be sat on that step one afternoon in early August looking up admiring these fantastic birds that grace our skies every Summer and wonder what journeys lie ahead?
The end of one journey just brings the start of the next that much nearer.
I doubt anyone thinks of visiting Scotland as ‘going abroad’. No passports (currently!) needed to get there; you don’t need to take a plane unless you want to; don’t have to change your currency (although you will invariably bring some Scottish money home with you - we never change ours just to make sure we keep going back..) and after all aren’t we just one big happy ‘United Kingdom’ family? A free and easy border (again currently!), speak the same language and have shared so much together for centuries.
If you’ve not yet made your way up north to see the spectacular scenery, taste the whisky, discover that your family (despite no apparent Scottish connections!) has its own tartan , bought something in the aforementioned tartan and of course gone on a Loch Ness Monster hunt then what are you waiting for?!
White sandy beaches, crystal clear water, empty roads (apart from the glut of motorhomes), history, mystery, forests, mountains and wildlife everywhere. A photographers dream from oil rigs to sunsets, otters, seals and dolphins, barrels, bridges and boats. We love it!
So, next time you ask us where we are going on holiday, try not to look too sympathetic when we say ‘Scotland’ – so it might rain, but it might not; we might have no phone signal or wifi for a while, but we can watch a sunset or a thunderstorm; we might eat a lot of battered food, but the fish will be the freshest.
So we’ll keep on getting our tartan blanket and trusty roadmap out and taking off to a country we love. Don’t feel sorry for us not having a foreign holiday and if we don’t come back with a tan don’t worry! We’ll be busy planning our next trip to Scotland.