Monday, 4 January 2010


Well here we are.


I hope it treats you as kindly as it possibly can.

Now let's get on with this year's insanity.......

Today was the last day of the school holidays so I decided to end them as they started - i.e. with a day trip out somewhere memorable which would live with my kids forever.

On the first day of the holidays I took them to the sub-zero, sleet-blown, deserted seaside on a clapped out diesel train with no heating (which was running 50 minutes late, got out the station, got stuck on frozen points, came back into the station, waited10 more minutes and set off again.....) where we were befriended by a train-nut (like attracts like) who spent more than half the journey filling me in on fascinating facts (e.g that those particular diesels are named after Thunderbirds characters. I was on the edge of my seat....), spent an hour in a steamy Cafe getting dirty looks from old ladies (well up until somebody came in with 6, yes SIX, boys - never have I been happier to see a half a dozen unruly lads descend on an eaterie), bought a (subsequently found to be) potentially deadly (for that read NAIL FILLED) toy in a charity shop that stank of smoke and (for the finale) got a very slow, uncomfortable train home.

It was the highlight of my eldest son's Christmas. I have a photo of him standing on the freezing platform, clutching his ticket and appearing to pray. His eyes are alight with the kind of magic usually reserved for visions of Saints.

Anyway - where can you go from there?

I felt we had perhaps peaked too early but then today (when I was booted out of my own house on the grounds that a fleet of builders arrived and started knocking down walls.... yup we are doing building works and living in the house at the same time. More on this to come....I'm sure), we found ourselves at something of a loose end.

It was too cold to spend long periods outside, many roads were inaccessible due to ice, I couldn't really afford (or bear) something like a 'softplay' centre, I'd had it with ice-delayed trains so that left.............

....going to look at a nuclear power station!

Well of course it did.

You see the one thing my son loves (almost) as much as railways and railway paraphernalia, is pylons and all things electricity related. So a nuclear power station was potentially IDEAL. It is impressively large, it is surrounded by various electricity-transmission 'things' and (very important this one) it's at the end of a gritted A road.

Yup it's at the end of a gritted A road indeed.

It IS the end of the gritted A road.

You sweep round the bend and that it is it - you are going through the razor wire surrounded gate and being informed (numerous times) that you are now in a BRITISH NUCLEAR FACILITY and if you haven't got a right to be there you need to go, NOW, and not come back or you will be in a whole load of trouble. I have since found out that the site is protected by the country's only permanently armed Police Force - known as the Civil Nuclear Constabulary - and it can easily take 2 or more hours to gain access even if you've been invited.


Ok we'd better turn round.....Only we can't. There are a few small gateways but they are shiny with frozen ice and I don't have a 4x4 and can't risk getting marooned inside the gates of a 'Nuclear Facility' (that really would send my dad 'nuclear').

Now the nuclear power station has always given me the fear (funnily enough). We once had a school trip there (shortly after the Chernobyl nuclear reactor meltdown....) and such was the hysteria amidst our class, that I think several of us tried not to breath during our whole tour of the facility (even though we knew enough to know that 'not breathing' is no defence against Gamma rays......).

Being back there, amidst the ice, with 2 small children and nothing else but scrub land and sea as far as the eye could see, I wasn't feeling great about it all. In fact I realised that there was a fundamental floor in my use of a 'Nuclear Facility' as a day out. Under, normal, post 9-11 circumstances, you aren't going to be able to rock up and have a jaunty look round the control room followed a slice of Swiss Roll in the Canteen.

No Siree.

You are more likely to be arrested. Or shot.

Just as I was stealing myself to approach the checkpoint and impart my story about 'a small boy obsessed with pylons' I spotted an overspill car park, manged to turn round and fled. My numberplate is probably currently being logged in some kind of government database.

I then had to drive the whole way home battling a barrage of moaning about not being allowed inside the nuclear reactors and attempting to answer 3,000 ridiculous questions about power stations (example: what would happen if the power in the electricity cables started to flow backwards and went back IN to the power station? And let me tell you now, providing the answer 'I don't bloody know now please just listen to the music' is not the right answer.....).

Seriously I would rather spend every day of the next holidays riding the ancient, wee perfumed, slightly damp rail network than EVER attempt to gain access to a British Nuclear Facility again.

If any of you were thinking about putting it on your 'Things to do in 2010' list then I'd seriously advise you don't.

There isn't even anywhere for a nice cup of tea.......


  1. Ah, I was all set to say you CAN go inside Dungeness Power Station in Kent but a google reveals you can't anymore :-( If you ever find yourself Kent-wise though then I'd recommend it - even if you can't go in you CAN ride the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch miniature steam railway right up to the power station, and can then go inside and up the old lighthouse to get a wonderful view of said power station :-D

  2. I love the way they got a beautifully gritted road, but in my borough, the road to A&E isn't an A priority for gritting - WTF??

    Happy New Year, Sticky!

  3. Happy New Year!
    Pleased to see the year has started "well" for you!
    I remember those days of fascination with trains - oh, the days out at Quainton to ride the steam train and meet Thomas and the Fat Controller - the days of knowing every Thomas video by heart...
    Thankfully we missed out on Nuclear Power Stations .
    Keep smiling!
    Sue xx

  4. Oh my word Ruth - a TRAIN ride TO a power station!!? And a LIGHTHOUSE. I don't know if we will be able to cope with the excitement!!

    P - well I guess having people to tend to splitting atoms is kindof important - but then again so is getting very poorly people into hospital!! I can't believe they haven't gritted the road to the HOSPITAL. Actually, sadly, I can....

    Hi Sue! Oh yes I know a lot about Thomas videos!! xxx

  5. I know, I thought it might appeal....;-)

  6. If you ever head up to the Lakes, Sellafield has what is now a conference centre that used to be the visitor centre that is open to the public at selected times. That might be as close as you get.

    Failing that, I think some non-nuclear ones have visitor centres or offer arranged visits.