Brighton by Train
It had been some while since I had travelled on a train, so when I was invited recently by Thameslink trains to take a day trip to Brighton, I was really looking forward to experiencing this mode of travel for a change. It's only a 15 minute car journey to Parkway station and the parking charges are a very reasonable £2.50 for the whole day at the weekends and so a quick coffee and a cake in the station cafe and we boarded the train for a two hour journey to the coast.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much these new trains have changed, with a nice airy feel to the interior design and an open plan that no longer has lots of doors to negotiate if you want to move down the carriages. Plenty of spaces available at the weekend and so we settled down to take in the views on this bright winter morning. After passing through Harpenden, St Albans and West Hampstead before too long we were in the capital. The nice part of this journey for me was crossing Blackfriars Bridge across the River Thames where you get a stunning view of all of the iconic London landmarks, St Pauls Cathedral, The Shard and Tower Bridge. The toilets on board were very modern and offered baby changing facilities.
The second part of our journey saw us pass through East Croydon and Gatwick Airport before arriving at Brighton.
The plan was to let the girls catch up with their Christmas shopping leaving me about four hours to go and photograph the sights of Brighton. But first we stopped at Buddies which is a 24 hour Cafe and Bar directly on the seafront. Once suitable refuelled I made my way to the new attraction on the promenade, the British Airways i360 which at 450ft is the worlds tallest moving observation tower. Designed by the architects of the London Eye you ascend in a futuristic glass viewing pod, where visitors can admire 360 degrees views across Brighton, the South Downs and on the clearest days, all the way to the Isle of Wight.
The experience is a gentle ascent to the top of the structure where you can either sit and take in a glass of champagne or cocktail or if you are like myself stand by the glass windows and see the coastline from a completely new perspective. I paid £16 for my ticket but you can reduce this by buying in advance, my only disappointment was the the fact that so much light reflected back from the glass to allow me to capture the shot that I had anticipated, very similar to The Shard in London. There is an excellent exhibition that you can view whilst you are waiting to board that details how the structure was devised and a timelapse video of the construction.
After the ride had finished I headed up the beach to the Palace Pier where I had some images in mind that I wanted to photograph. Setting up on the pebble beach I wanted to capture the end of the pier with the iconic Helter Skelter, which I managed to get but not before I managed to get both my feet and my Manfrotto tripod soaked as a wave caught me out.
After spending the rest of the afternoon on the pier and the seafront, I headed back to the West Pier. This pier was destroyed by fire some years ago the skeletal remains have now becoming Brighton's most photographed building. I was so fortunate too because I managed to capture the murmaration of starlings that have become a spectacular sight at this area. It was sight to behold seeing these thousands of bird swaying and dancing above the West Pier as the sunset on the horizon...a truly magical experience.
If you are thinking of a trip to Brighton I would definitely recommend letting the train take the strain, from Parkway we were on the beach within two hours, the station is right in the central area of Brighton with just a short walk along a high street to the seafront and all of the attractions. Brighton is also a very vibrant seaside resort even at this time of year, with shops, bars and restaurants in abundance.
Our day trip to Brighton was complimentary, with thanks to ThamesLink trains. As always, all opinions are my own.