So, this Friday just gone was an interesting day.
As some of you may know, I spent the last week staying at my Grans place in the sleepy village of Burlescombe. After relaxing in the countryside for a week, we returned home yesterday.
Most of the stay was fairly uneventful, with the exception of Friday 20th.
The day started off with a rare and special treat, in the form of a solar eclipse, which was partially visible across Northern Europe. The full eclipse was only visible on the Faroe Islands and the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, located in the Arctic Ocean, but for those of us in the UK, the eclipse varied between 85% to about 97% coverage. The further North you were, the more of the sun that was covered.
For me, being in the South West, the percentage of coverage was in the 85% region. As I've already stated in the comments section of my latest uploads (Link and Link), the eclipse started off with partial cloud cover, which was thick enough to allow for safe photography without the use of high ND filters, but not so thick that it made the event unviewable. Unfortunately, as the eclipse reached its peak, the cloud cover disappeared, making photography much harder, but I was still able to get some usable shots.
In celebration of what had turned out to be a rather productive photography session, I decided that later on, when my Mother and I ventured out to the nearby Grand Western Canal to search for the nesting site of the resident Swans, I would treat myself to a fine cuban cigar (A Por Larranaga Petit Corona, to be precise). The swan nest didn't take long to find, as this year they had nested much closer to Burlescombe then before. In previous years they had nested near to a stone bridge about a miles walk from the village. This year though the nesting site was much closer to the village, on a bend in the canal just over a half miles walk from the village.
At this location the canal rose up over the neighbouring fields on both sides. The side of the canal they nested one was inaccessible from any pathways. Running along the opposite side of the canal was the canal path, and beyond it the main railway line was clearly visible on the other side of the field below the canal. With the swans nesting in this location, it meant that not only could I get good photographs of the nest, but at the same time too I could turn around and have an excellent view of any passing trains, something that was not possible when the swans has been nesting further up the canal.
Prior to finding the nest, we had already seen (and fed) the male swan, who was off feeding. While he was away, the female swan was tending the nest. We did offer her some food, but she wasn't all that interested. After taking a few shots, I decided this would be the best time to light up my cigar, and enjoy it while watching the swan and njoying the bright sunshine. Not long afterwards, the male returned to the nest. With the male back, the female was now quite happy to come off the nest, and the two promptly came over to our side of the canal to be fed by my mother, while I photographed them and enjoyed my cigar.
We hadn't been doing this for long though, where a loud rumbling filed the air. I looked up just in time to see an impressive sight, an RAF C-130 Hercules, flying at tree-top level, heading right for us. Instinctively, I pointed the camera upwards, and snapped off some shots of it as it fly overhead. I then watched as it flew off, then went back to watching the swans.
Barely ten minutes later, I heard another rumbling, this one being the familiar sound of an approaching train. I turned around and saw another interesting sight. Instead of the usual sight of a Class 43 HST, or a Class 220 Voyager, what I saw approaching was a Class 67, hauling a set of what appeared to be Mark I carriages in a dark coloured livery.
Thinking it was perhaps a diesel hauled rail tour, I once again raised my camera and snapped off a few shots of the lead locomotive, followed moments later by a few shots of the tail locomotive. It was only today that I learned how wrong I was when it came to the true nature of this train, but more on that in a bit
With that done, I turned my attention once again back to the swans, who didn't seem to have taken any notice of the low flying aircraft or the passing locomotives. They had just carried on feeding, prior to heading back to tend to the nest. After taking one final batch of photographs of them, we too turned and left, eager to get back to Grans place for lunch. During the walk back we would be treated to one final interesting sight (which I sadly wasn't quick enough to catch on camera), the sight of a bright red Fox, being pecked at and chased away from the canal, by a rather angry ducky.
That is the story of Friday. A day which started off with a partial eclipse which saw "The Sun Smile" (to quote the BBC), and ended with me being buzzed by the RAF, minutes before seeing what I thought was either a diesel rail tour, or possible the movement of heritage rolling stock. Only it wasn't a diesel rail tour. When reviewing the photo's today, I noticed an interesting theme in the names of the locomotives. The lead locomotive was 67005 "Queens Messenger", and the tail locomotive was 67026 "Diamond Jubilee". My curiosity peaked, I looked online to see if there was any mention of what these locomotives had been used for recently, my thought being that if it were a rail tour, other rail enthusiasts would have photographed it and uploaded their shots online, and from these I could learn more of it. I soon found the answer to my questions.
It wasn't a mere diesel rail tour I had seen, it was actually the Royal Train, which earlier in the day had transported her majesty Queen Elizabeth II down to Plymouth for the rededication ceremony of HMS Ocean.
So, all in all, quite an interesting day I think. Although, despite being the Queens birds, the Swan's didn't seem to care that much. They were more interesting the bread we'd brought for them