From Euston To Ecology, Engineering And Enterprise With The Virgin Trains Windowgazer

Travel takes many forms. The idea behind the ‘Windowgazer Guide’, a booklet explaining what can be seen as one’s train travels from London Euston northwards, is excellent. Here is a concept which can take us not only on physical journeys, but also on journeys of discovery of many sorts, scientific, environmental, cultural and much more.
How many people know that, as their train passes Stafford on the way northwards from London Euston, they are right by the 360 acres of the Doxey Marshes, an especially important breeding ground for lapwing, redshank, snipe, yellow wagtail, sedge, warbler and pochard? Or that a short while thereafter as they get to Crewe they are at the centre of a town celebrated in 1936 by W H Auden and Benjamin Britten in a documentary (Night Mail) extolling the work of the Royal Mail trains?
These are two of the interesting facts which I learnt from the Train Manager as he read from a travel guide over the public address system, on my journey home from Euston just this week.
It’s one of those odd co-incidences that the same day I ‘discovered’ the Windowgazer Guide I also learnt that today (9 April 2006) is the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of one of Britain’s greatest bridge builders, Isambard Kingdon Brunel – the man, so my Windowgazer Guide tells me, who came with his colleague engineer Thomas Locke especially to observe the installation of Robert Stephenson’s pioneering Britannia tubular bridge, now spanning the Menai Strait which divides Angelsey from the rest of Wales. My interest already alerted by the commentary on my train journey, I found the story of Brunel immediately relevant and memorable.
Always something new
This has set me pondering the many ways in which we can learn something new every day.
The Windowgazer Guide I saw is a free publication available on the Virgin Train North West line from Euston to Wolverhampton, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow. You obtain it from the refreshment carriage bookshelf, and it offers all sorts of interesting information about your journey.
The scope for this sort of publication, drawing together information across the whole range of arts and science is enormous. And it’s not ‘just’ trains which offer opportunities of this sort. Almost every journey does the same.
Bringing local knowledge to bear
The trend towards local access to the internet, be it via schools and community centres, libraries, housing associations or whatever, affords huge scope here. It would be great to see projects across the country which encourage local people to share their knowledge via the internet so that we can enjoy journeys illuminated by fascinating facts and ideas, wherever we go. What we learn might sometimes spark new and beneficial ideas of all sorts, who knows?
Perhaps there’s a way that someone could use the ‘Grid‘ to make available a route map of the U.K., with trainlines, roads, canals and whatever else marked out, onto which individuals and local communities could add their particular knowledge of where they live and work?
Getting from A to B is one form of travel. Sharing information and enjoying new ideas is another, perhaps even bigger, adventure.

Posted on April 9, 2006, in Arts, Culture And Heritage, Education, Health And Welfare, Events And Notable Dates, Knowledge Ecology And Economy, Regeneration, Renewal And Resilience, Sustainability As If People Mattered, The Journal. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. No need for the Grid; head straight to Google Earth for more on the faciltity for folks to comment on geographically indexed information.
    But I’m with you on the value of serendipity!

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