Month: August 2017

Trip to Cardiff and the Dr Who Experience

Me standing next to the "war Dr" Tardis

For a while I’d wanted to visit Cardiff and especially visit the Dr Who experience.

I got an email 6 weeks ago explaining the Dr Who experience was closing for good.

With that piece of information, I got organised and booked my tickets.


After a 3 and a half hour train journey, I arrived in Cardiff. I hadn’t realised, that Cardiff Bay is actually about 30 minutes walk from the centre of Cardiff.

In no time at all, I was standing in front of the iconic Cardiff Bay heritage centre. I’d see more of it later.

BBC Studios in Cardiff where Dr Who is made

As I wandered towards “The Experience”, I passed this expanse of water.

In the background is BBC Roath Lock, where Dr Who is made. Half of the building you can see is taken up by the “new” Tardis interior.


As I arrive, I’m surprised at just how big this place is.

Its the size of several large warehouses.


The Experience is split into 2 parts. An interactive session and then a museum of artefacts from the series.

We were asked not to take pictures of the interactive part, so that new people could enjoy it.

What I can say, is that it ended in the entrance to the museum, with a re-creation of scrapyard at 76 Totters lane where the very first episode “an unearthly child” started in 1963.


And inside the museum.

This was incredible. I’d expected to see a lot of things considering the time and energy put into it, but this was much more than that, it must have taken years of planning to put all of this together.

It featured 4 different Tardis interiors including a massive re-creation of 9th Dr’s Tardis which was destroyed at the end of his tenure.

It was put back together by the museum. Interestingly, in a later series when they wanted to bring back David Tenant and his Tardis, they had to film at the Dr Who experience with the re-created one.


The Dr Who theme is considered by many to be the first piece of electronic music.

They had all the original instruments from the sound department where it was created by Ron Grainer. They also had some of the tools used to create noises like the Tardis.


A green screen arrangement allowed people to be photographed with Daleks and stuff like that.

It looked like fun, but there was a large queue and I was keen to get on.


And there was so much to see.

The costumes of the Paternoster gang.


The Dr’s outfits.

I couldn’t photograph everything, so I got this shot of Christopher Ecllestons leather jacket and jumper (the first Mancunian Dr, a matter of personal pride).


And old favourites, like 3 generations of Daleks.

The information next to each artefact was really good as it could be read by laymen who knew nothing of the series, whilst having interesting insights for people who know the series well.


And a 4th generation of Daleks in nice colours.


A picture of the Brigadier from UNIT.


Some of monsters costumes from the original series.

The Ice warrior’s, The Sontaran’s, K1 robot and the Zygon’s.


And some more contemporary monsters and a better manufactured Zygon suit.


On the left, the gown of the Gallifrayan time-lords (who I’ve always found quite dull if I’m honest)

Next to it a picture of Clara Oswald, the Dr’s previous assistant and above the Raven that’s significant in her story line.


Although everyone raves about the Daleks, the Cybermen are my favourite’s.

On the left, the “newly designed” ones that remained the same for the 80’s.

In the middle, Cybershades made from stray dogs and cats and on the right, Human 2.0 from the new series.


Even newer developments, on the left the latest modern version, and on the right one made of wood.


In season 10 of Dr Who, the Dr is stationed at a University to act as a lecturer.

While there he meets his new assistant, Bill Potts (her costume is on the left of the picture).

In the background is a re-creation of the Dr’s study.


And the latest version of the Cybermen, is actually the original.

The Mondasian Cybermen were made with bits of tin and latex rubber, but they were really scary.

In the final episodes of season 10 they are brought back to life, in a heartbreaking finale.


With my visit to the museum over, I had 40 minutes before the filming locations walking tour started, so I went to get a drink at this nice pub.

I’d find out later that like just about everything in the local area, it had been used as a filming location.


The tour begins.

At the back of the museum, we see this view across Cardiff Bay.

Our guide explained that much of the work in Dr Who, is done post production.

In the first episode of season 10 – Pilot, the Dr takes Bill to Sydney harbour.

They were actually standing here, and the background altered to make Cardiff Bay look like Sydney harbour.


There were 20 of us on the tour of all ages.

The girl on the left had a t shirt with the names of all the people who’d  played the Dr.

In the background is the staircase from runaway bride.

There were about 60 locations we saw in total, I’ve just put up photo’s from the ones I thought were interesting.


The Welsh Assembly building has been used multiple times.

Our guide explained that Cardiff council were always incredibly helpful and supportive with filming of the show.

He said it was a shame the same couldn’t be said of the Welsh weather 🙂


Back inside the heritage centre, these wooden balcony’s look familiar.

Turns out this was the hospital used in the episode New Earth.


Our guide Connor was very friendly and well informed (which was significant considering the 20 people on the tour were borderline fanatics themselves).

One minor disappointment was the talk was normally given in pairs. He would speak, and his assistant would show a section of film from Dr Who or Torchwood to compliment the place we were seeing.

As the attraction is closing in 3 weeks, they are so short of staff that they are no longer able to do it.


These stairs were where the Master (played by John Simm) been elected as Prime Minister with his famous line “What this country needs is a Dr”.


Outside, the Torchwood Hub had a sort of seaside event going on.

But you could still see the water tower, which local estate agents call the Torchwood tower.


There were a few “wow” moments on the tour.

We were taken to a hotel called the Coal exchange.

Inside the guide asked if anyone recognised it. We didn’t…

Turns out, this is the vault where Missy is locked up in the early parts of season 10.

Once we’d been told that we instantly recognised it.


And best of all, the American Diner.

With post production help, its the place where the Dr says goodbye to Clara in the finale of season 9.

It was incredible to think that this could be re-rendered to look like its in the Utah desert, but that’s exactly what had happened.


Upstairs, the fine restaurant where Blon Slitheen asks the Dr not to report her and spare her life.

Realising that she has killed someone and taken their body. He replies “your begging for your life through a dead woman’s lips”.


In Torchwood season 3, a key character called Ianto dies.

This area is where (in the series) Ianto opened the door when pizza’s were delivered.

After his “death”, fans put up messages and pictures and setup Ianto’s memorial.

The council took it down, the fans put it back up, rinse and repeat.

Council message Ianto Jones not being real

In the end, the council gave up, but insisted a sign be put up to explain that Ianto isn’t actually a real person and the actor who plays him is alive and well.

The tour ended here. It felt quite sad, as the Dr Who experience would end 3 weeks later. I say my farewells to Connor and the other Dr Who fans.


But, it’s a beautiful day and I’m in Cardiff bay.

I wander around, get a few drinks and a bite to eat and celebrate.

Hill walking, old friends, old phones and dealing with disappointment.

Frank and Na come to visit me in Chester

Frank and Na standing outside Chester Cathedral.

After last months meet up with Julie and Nick in Manchester, my oldest friend Frank and his lovely wife Na came to visit me in Chester.

I took them to the remembrance garden. It features a flower display which renders as the medal of the Cheshire regiment.  Every time Frank’s been before it was winter and there was nothing to see. On this day, all the flowers were out and he finally got to see it.

Inside Chester Cahedral showing the massive open spaces.

Speaking of things to see, I’d worked out an interesting itinerary of things to do including the newly re-opened castle, Chester’s amazing Storyhouse theatre/library/cinema and a visit to the official Liverpool football club merchandise shop, as Na had a number of requests from friends back in Thailand.

The main event, was the Ark exhibition in Chester Cathedral. As you can see above, the Cathedral is spectacular in its own right, but with the addition of some spectacular exhibits, it came to life.

Wallboard showing list of attractions at Ark exhibition.

Featuring 90 works of art, by 50 world renowned sculptures, the exhibition is free (although obviously, we bought the optional map and made a donation).

Damien Hurst sculpture showing an animal in a tank of formalyehyde.

Most interesting to me was “False Gods” by Damien Hurst.

Frank had always wanted to see this and was quite delighted (I remember commenting, that I never thought I’d get to see it, but definitely not in Chester Cathedral !).

Frank and Na are back home safe in Thailand now, and I look forward to catching up with them the next time one of us is in the others country.

Peak district walking: Bleaklow

Brian standing on some rocks.

The following day, we head off to the Peak District, to go hill walking with the Chester and District Walking Group.

Bleaklow is an iconic hill in the peaks. I was looking forward to returning as the last time we were here, the weather was appalling.

Nikki standing on a path on a hillside.

An early start, we drove there with a full car of keen participants and parked at the Mill (which once made textiles and is now filled with web developers).

Some of the path was muddy, but there were clear trails throughout the day.

Group of walkers stopping on a hillside for a rest.

After a morning of trekking and friendly conversation we stop on the hill side for lunch.


One of our group, Brian is an excellent navigator.

He had worked out where an American plane had crashed nearby and he had worked out a route to the site.

Amazingly, after all these years, some wreckage still remained.

Steel plaque fastened to a rock.

A plaque to the crew of the Superfortress, nicknamed Overexposed.

Large aeroplane engine parts.

Some of the larger engine parts from the plane.

We wander back down the hill, have a pint in the Bulls Head, Glossop. We like to contribute to the local economy (and we like pints as well).

Another fab day out with the walking group then its the usual routine, drive home, bath and dinner at Artichoke.

New First aid and safety equipment

The classic Nokia 3310 redesigned.

I’ve been upgrading some of my equipment recently (you may remember a new hard torch and duffel bag).

I’ve actually bought a new first aid kit by Ortlieb. When I say first aid kit, its actually just a bag, as I’m going to fill it with my standard travel first aid kit supplies anyway,

The Ortlieb bag is a lot more hard wearing than the Life venture one I have at the moment and is fully waterproof.

While researching first aid kits I was delighted to discover the Nokia 3310 has been relaunched.

Time was, when you saw a police officer or a fireman, they always had a Nokia.

With a weeks worth of charge available and amazing signal strength, this is the ideal emergency phone.

A new experience at Urbano 32.

Menu and drink list for the Urbano 32 Gin tasting evening.

Urbano 32 in Chester is somewhere I go frequently, and I’m a regular attendee of their wine testing hosted by their supplier Rodney Densem wines.

It normally involves 5 wines and 4 food courses (food and wine are matched to make for an amazing experience).

Table filled with contemporary food and drink.

One this occasion, they had the same format, but decided to opt for a Gin tasting evening.

I like to try different things.

I enjoyed myself, but the joys of Gin are lost on me, as it felt like eating a 4 course meal, with lemonade in between every course 🙂

Crib Goch – a date with destiny.

Climber walking the Crib Goch ridge.

Crib Goch near Snowdon, is one of the most spectacular ridge walks in Europe.

A girl called Jane Smith gave me a framed picture of it 30 years ago, it’s hung on my wall ever since and for reasons I can’t explain, I’ve never gotten around to doing it.

Probably because, this isn’t easy, requires perfect weather and planning (and a suspension of a persons fear of heights!).

I’ve been talking to a few friends at work and we’ve got a date set to go and do it.

A mixture of health trepidation and immense enthusiasm. I’ll post updates when its completed.

The other side of my day at work.

Merseyrail train at Chester railway station.

I was asked the other day what I do at work, when I’m not working. So, for no particular reason, I thought I’d write a bit about it.

Amazingly, it takes 2 trains to travel the 7 miles from Chester to Ellesmere Port where I work.

Instead, I get on this train with my bike, get off 9 minutes later at Capenhurst then ride for 20 minutes to my office at EP.

I usually do the same in reverse on the way home, but if the weather is nice, I join the canal and peddle the 10 miles along the towpath, where I get to see fishermen, people walking dogs and other people smoking Marijuana.

A bench in Overpool cemetery.

At lunchtime, if its raining, I find a quiet corner in the warehouse and read.

If not, I go out for a walk.

A circuit I do, takes me through some quiet industrial places, some forested areas and on the way back, I get to sit on this bench in the graveyard where I usually eat my lunch and drink mineral water.

As I’m walking, I usually listen to the Smiths or the Happy Mondays.

A plate with Fish and Chips and a pint of San Miguel.

Occasionally, I don’t cycle to work and just do the 2 train combination.

Because of the way the train times fall, I usually have 28 minutes to wait, so I pop to a pub across the road.

It’s full of balloons (the human kind) but I find a quiet corner and relax with my tablet or notebook before getting the train.

Sometimes, I treat myself to dinner in the pub and the tasty Fish and chips above cost only £3.99

One of the most advanced laboratories in the country help me out with a personal problem.

Scales with a gas canister on it.

Speaking of work, some of my friends in the lab have been helping me with a conundrum.

How do I know, how much is left in the gas canister for my camping stove ?

The answer, weigh a full one and then weigh the one you’ve been using.

Obviously for the full scientific solution we’ll need an empty one as well.

For the time being its a great little solution, so thanks for that Alison.

The Beggars Opera and humble pie on the menu.

Upper aisle looking down at the stage.

I’ve been to Chester Storyhouse several times to watch films, get coffee and study in the library.

I recently got my first chance to watch something in the theatre.

A reworking of the Beggars opera with the musicians on the stage joining in, some incredible vocal work by the actors and instead of the tragic ending, the audience are invited to choose an ending just like Wayne’s World.

Great day out in the Ogwen Valley.

Hill walker at a shop buying coffee.

Following day, were back in the Ogwen valley, Snowdonia, in further pursuit of the Welsh 3000’s.

One of my favourite people: Tracy, who seems like a typical mum with grown up daughters who likes to bake cakes.

Which gives little clue to the amazing adventure life she’s lived.  She was stationed all over the world with the British army and spent 2 years in northern Ireland.

These are the kind of people you meet when you go hill walking 🙂

We got coffee before setting off, but when we got back, the kiosk was closed so we missed out on the sausage rolls I’d been dreaming about all day.

Some mountains and a lake.

The mountains and lakes around here are stunning to look at.

Some people sitting on a mountain side.

We stop for a breather.

Dave E in the front of the picture and Andy in the back.

The woman in blue standing up, is a Russian lawyer who lives in London. She’d travelled up for the weekend but got lost.

We invited her to join us and we spent the day on the hill together (she had come on the trip straight from work, so was carrying her work laptop and other unnecessary stuff for the whole day).

A valley with a lake in the middle and mountains all around it.

Our goal’s for the day Foel Grach and Foel-fras (2 more Welsh 3000’s to tick off the list). Our task finished and a day of interesting conversation complete, we head for home.

Disappointing start to my sailing career.

Some small yachts sailing in a row.

But not everything goes to plan.

For ages, I’ve wanted to have a go at sailing. I’ve been on bigger boats in the past, but the idea of having a relaxing afternoon sailing up and down in your own little boat seems pretty attractive to me.

A training centre that was highly recommended was the Wirral Sailing Centre at West Kirby, where they have a large marine lake.

I’d signed up and had been looking forward to it for weeks (they only run 4 courses a year).

Showing how to tie a round turn and 2 half hitches.

I was so enthusiastic that Nikki’s sister Lyn got me a book and DVD from the Royal Yachting association and I’d been learning theory and practising knots for weeks before.

An then, the night before I wake up and start being sick (I’m still unsure why) and with that, my sailing hopes for this year are dashed (the next and only other course this year is on the same day that Nikki and I are due to give a talk at the Chester Globetrotters).

After calling the centre and telling them I couldn’t attend I was overtaken by despondency. Why do I set my sights high. It only means when something goes wrong, I’m miserable.

Why don’t I do what many of the masses do, watch x factor, tidy the garage , sit in the garden and just goe through the motions of life. I doubt they feel much dissatisfaction.

But then it hits me, I couldn’t live that way, even if I wanted to. I’ve booked to do it next year and I should have a tidy compliment of sailing attire to wear when I do it.

Enemy’s become friends

A domestic pigeon sitting on a nest.

For a long time, Pigeons caused me all kinds of problems in my garden (back yard).

They had a nest on my Sky dish and since its a 3 story house, I couldn’t move them and they would poo in the garden which required frequently cleaning up.

Over time, the dish was removed and the problem went away.

The other day, I noticed that the pigeons had built a nest on the ground, next to my storage cupboard (oh the cliche of motivational speaking) and were using my garden chair as a sort of porch.

Having read up on it, I know that both parents will take turns to incubate their 2 eggs. It will take 17 days and then another 30 for the young chicks to learn to fly, find food and annoy me.

In the meantime, since I was responsible for them being homeless, I’ve let them stay and I put a little bowl of water and some bread out for them each night.

But once the chicks are grown, as Americans say, “your outta here!”.

Counting down the days to the Dr Who experience in Cardiff.

Building at Cardiff bay.

Well, one more weekend at home, and then I’m off to Cardiff to see the Dr Who experience.

I’ve even signed up for the walking tour. I’m only sorry there isnt more time, as I’ve found out there are other Dr Who filming locations that are a bus ride away and I won’t have enough time.

I’m sure I’ll go back, Cardiff looks like a fab place. I’ve even found a nice bar featured in Torchwood where I can get a drink before I head for home.

Don’t forget that Nikki and I are giving a talk on Burma on Saturday the 16th of of September at Chester Museum.

Near and far, the search for adventure continues…