I have written before about my enthusiasm for heritage railways and recently I have been out and about on a couple more, which couldn’t be more different. On a recent trip to the Peak District Mr PP and I broke our journey near Market Bosworth and visited the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field (1485). A beautiful site with views aplenty and a circular walk around the alleged battle site. I say ‘alleged’ as more recent archaeological evidence has thrown into doubt the authenticity of the site dedicated to the battle and where the visitor centre stands, is not the actual site at all, this being some 2 miles to the southwest. Either way, it is a lovely spot to rest and walk.
meadow at the Battle of Bosworth Field heritage site
Sculpture throne commemorates King Richard III who fell at Bosworth
Sundial in the middle of the memorial garden at Bosworth
About a mile from the battlefield site lies the tiny hamlet station of Shenton which is the southern terminus of the Battlefield Line heritage railway. (https://www.battlefieldline.co.uk). This tiny and tranquil station has as it’s main platform building a building which once stood at Humberstone Road station in Leicester, and which was demolished and relocated brick by brick to Shenton. It is also the workshop and showroom of Richard Golding Glassmaking. Opposite on the other side of the track is the only remaining original station building on the site which is now home to a local pottery business. The engine running on our visit was a visiting engine, Cumbria and this took us through the attractive fields and countryside along to Shakerstone. On our approach to Shakerstone we heard the sound of aeroplane engines overhead and then had the treat of seeing an air display by a Hurricane from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Shakerstone Station itself is quaint with several engines in varying states of restoration, a tea room and a tiny museum jam packed with railway memorabilia of all kinds.
Cumbria taking on water at Shakerstone
Just one small corner of the museum at Shakerstone
Midland railway tiled logo
Lamp on the platform at Shakerstone
Although only 5 miles long the Battlefield Line was delightful, and I really enjoyed this trip.
A few days later Mr PP and I found ourselves at the much larger Severn Valley Railway at Kidderminster (https://www.svr.co.uk) where we boarded a steam hauled train bound for Bridgnorth. This line is some 25 miles in length and travels through some stunning countryside much of the line following the route of the River Severn. The station at Kidderminster is also next to the mainline service and it is quite interesting to see modern trains pulling in on adjacent tracks. The first station stop is at Bewdley an attractive market town about 10 minutes walk from the station. Next up is Arley, much smaller and more rural, a proper ‘heritage’ station. A bit further along is Highley where there is a large modern visitor centre which houses engines and other rolling stock in preservation. Here you can see an engine actually named Gordon (fans of the Rev W Aubrey stories of Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends will know about Gordon the blue engine) and this particular engine is also painted in blue livery. Gordon is a WW2 ‘Austerity Class’ engine built for the military railway at Longmoor in Hampshire, otherwise known as LMR600 it was the second engine in a fleet that eventually numbered 150. It’s nameplate alone is worth thousands of pounds and has been stolen but later recovered. The next stop is Hampton Loade which is the passing place for trains going up and down on the single track line, again a very rural station. It was here that we were held for about 20 minutes because the other train was running late. Finally the line terminates at Bridgnorth, where after a walk across one of the longest and widest spans of footbridge I have ever seen you end up in Bridgnorth and quaint Georgian market town full of character. All went well until the return journey which was delayed due to earlier lateness, so after sitting on the train for half an hour (and then a bit more) we finally got underway. What all this meant was that the time you get to spend at the various sites is reduced because you have to be ready to board at the timetabled time even though the trains are running late. Mr PP dared to enquire of the conductor what was causing the problem and was given very short shrift indeed. It seems that unlike most of the other heritage railways we have travelled on, who pride themselves on their timekeeping, Severn Valley Railway adopts a more ‘modern’ approach where timetables are probably only rough estimates and customer service is practically non-existent. We were disappointed because due to the lateness of the trains we were unable to visit the museum at Kidderminster as it had closed for the day when we finally arrived back, some 45/50 minutes late. If I was to score the experience it would be 10/10 for length of line served and variety of stops with a poor 4/10 for customer service information and punctuality. Still, it probably wouldn’t stop me visiting again sometime.
Pushing the carriages into the station at Highley
Gordon the Blue Engine
Royal Mail rail sorting van
pigeon holes for sorted mail
a bit of fun!
Fruit truck in sidings at Kidderminster – return empty to Weymouth!
road sign at Highley showing the county as Salop
Finally I have always been puzzled as to why Shropshire is known as Salop. The road sign above shows the county as being Salop. Apparently it is derived from the old Anglo-French “Salopesberia” with Shrewsbury being the county town bearing the motto “floreat salopia”. Apparently in 1889 when a local council was set up for Shropshire it was called Salop County Council and after the reorganisation of local government in 1974 the county was officially called Salop but reverted to Shropshire in 1980. Personally I prefer Shropshire. (Locals are still known as Salopians).