Olympic Torch Relay, St. Albans

Sunday 8th July, 2012



Although the weather wasn’t brilliant, a few showers with the threat of sun, Emma and I took Erin to St. Albans to see the Olympic Torch Relay. We left the house and took a slow walk into Watford Town centre, where we bought lunch, before heading on to Watford Junction. We bought our tickets and headed for Platform 11 from which we would take the Abbey Line, or ‘Abbey Flyer‘ as most people refer to it, to St. Albans Abbey Station. (The Abbey Line originally opened on 5th May, 1858 and was operated by the ‘London and North Western Railway’. It was the first railway line to St. Albans and had only two stops, Bricket Wood and Park Street. In 1910, another station was opened at Callowland, now called Watford North. Garston station was opened in 1966, followed by How Wood in 1988. This was the same year that the line was electrified. The line is now operated by ‘London Midland’.) While we were on the train, Emma fed Erin and managed to change herm before we arrived at St. Albans Abbey Station just before 13:30. We crossed Holywell Hill and walked passed the Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre and the Athletics Track amd continued into Verulamium Park. We walked through the park and, for a brief moment, the sun came out. We exited Verulamium Park on St. Michael’s Street and headed up Branch Road and onto Verulam Road, to scout out a good viewpoint for the Olympic Torch. Since the relay wasn’t due to reach Verualm Road until 16:50, we had some time to kill, so we headed along Verulam Road and onto Bluehouse Hill. Along Bluehouse Hill is the Roman Theatre of Verulamium, a place that I hadn’t visited since school, so in we went. (The Roman Theatre of Verulamium was built in about 140AD and it is the only example of its kind in Great Britain. The arena would have been used for anything from religious processions and dancing, to wrestling, armed combat and wild beast shows. In 180AD the stage came into greater use and the auditorium was extended. By about 300AD the Theatre could seat 2000 spectators. In 1847 the ruins were unearthed and subsequent excavations have revealed a row of shop foundations, a Roman Villa and a secret shrine, all thought to date from the First Century.) As we entered the sky cleared and the sun came out and the temperature rose dramtically. After a good walkaround, where I took lots of photos, we headed back onto St. Michael’s Street and wandered around looking at all the old buildings, with their small doorways and wonderful architecture. We then made our way up to Verulam Road, just as the crowds were starting to form. We found a space on the corner of Verulam Road and Branch Road and waited eagerly for the Torch. Erin had some yogurt and then gave her first proper wave, which I managed to photograph. With more people arriving all the time, I knew that getting any good photographs of the Olympic Torch was going to be a real mission, so I decided to video it instead. This proved to be a mission in itslef. As the entourage of cars and sponsorship vehicles approached, all I could do was set my phone to video, raise my arm above the crowds and hope. This actually worked and I managed to get some great footage, which was even more surprising as I couldn’t see the phone screen when my arm was raised. After Sarah Toll, the Torch Bearer, had passed us, and before the crowds started to dissipate, we headed off down Branch Road. Once we reached Verulamium Park, we realised that the ‘Abbey Flyer’ would be busy, so we slowed our walk and sat down to feed Erin some food.  Once Erin was fed, Emma and I had an ice cream each and took shelter beneath an Oak tree, while a rain shower passed over the park. We then made our way back towards the station and immediately took shelter on the platform as the Heavens opened. Ten minutes of the hardest rain came down with people scattering in all directions for the tiniest bit of cover. And as suddenly as it had started, it stopped. The rain had been so hard that not a cloud could be seen in the sky. Instead, the sun shone and the sky turned blue and the heat was incredible. The train arrived just before 18:30 and we boarded and headed for home. Emma took this time to change Erin and within minutes we were back at Watford junction. We then took a slow walk home. Another great, but unique, Sunday day out with my family.


Until next time,


May it be well with you.


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