ADVERTISING FE A TUR E S Spring into gardening
Memories of a lost past: our models India and Chloe at the lovingly restored Sandford Station complete with train; below from left are images of Cheddar, Congresbury and Sandford stations in their heyday. Next page: the end at Congresbury. The images of Cheddar and Congresbury are from Derek Phillips excellent book Steaming Through The Cheddar Valley
Goodbye Strawberry Line The line closed 50 years ago this September. Harry Mottram reflects on its demise
It’s 50 years ago this autumn the Strawberry Line was closed by the infamous Beeching axe. A regrettable and wholly unnecessary act of industrial vandalism. Now the line is partly a forgotten and overgrown track and partly a walkway and cycle path. It’s slowly being rediscovered by a new generation who never knew the rail service that connected Draycott to Didcot and Winscombe to Westminster. Those of a certain age can still recall those long lost days when steam trains puffed their way through Shute Shelve tunnel or up the branch line to Clevedon with a carriage full of revellers from a night out in Yatton.
Reading back through the archives of the summer of 1963 Britain seemed like a different country. The media was gripped by the Profumo affair, the Great Train Robbery and the naming of the ‘third man’ in the Russian spy case as being Kim Philby. Closer to home a trial was about to get under way with a hearing in Axbridge following the murder of a girl in Banwell, the Hillman Imp went on sale in garages in Weston-super-Mare and Bristol Lulsgate Airport’s runway was extended to cater for the passenger jets connecting Somerset to Spain.
The previous winter had dominated life in the first months of the year with the Big Freeze. It left the county looking like Siberia as trains were snowed in at Draycott, the A38 was blocked for days at Redhill and the sea froze at Clevedon. By March there were still mountains of slushy ice piled up in the streets as the thaw finally set in. On 27 March the Western Daily Press reported an announcement by Dr Richard Beeching on behalf of the Government. It called for massive cuts to the nation’s rail network with the closure of more than 2,000 railway stations, the scrapping of some 8,000 coaches and the loss of 68,000 jobs. As the year progressed more details were released and a feeling of gloom
descended on those employed by the railways, the passengers who depended on the service and the scores of strawberry growers who used the line to move their produce to market. The reason according to Beeching was simple: the railways were losing money – and being in Government ownership it meant the tax payer was picking up the bill. However, many at the time disputed the way the railways were run. The Government didn’t look to privatise parts of the network or even to turn some over to heritage lines – or simply to mothball some of the track with an eye to reopen them in the future. With railways being upgraded, high speed trains being planned and passenger numbers at an all-time high it seems from today’s perspective the Beeching axe was a big mistake. But that was then and the Government of the day didn’t have today’s hindsight.
Jim Lukins of Axbridge who used the line for transporting farm produce said the railways were slow to modernise – with no facilities to forklift goods on and off the train. Everything took ages to load compared to the convenience of lorry transport - with the eternal problem of shunting goods wagons into place - something that was very time consuming. Many farmers and small holders had at one time owned their own rail wagons - but it was a practice that was dying out in the 1950s. By 1963 much of the freight that had been carried by train had transferred to road including milk. Under the Milk Marketing Board most milk in the district was collected by lorry and taken to either Cheddar Valley Dairies at Rooksbridge or to the London Co-operative Group Dairy at Puxton. There is was purified and pumped into milk tankers and driven to London. Before the war there had been eight daily milk vans from Wells alone heading for the capital - so it was a big loss to the railways. Other
Continued on page 22 Picture: Elaine Turner www.elaineturner.co.uk
Spring is in the air – crank up the mower and dust off your garden tools! Now is the time to put ideas into action. If it’s new sheds, fencing, gates and all things timber in the garden, then why not pay Somerlap in Mark a visit? A massive range of garden timber products including fences, decking, ground cover, pagodas, sheds, gates and summerhouses. See the quality and value of the timber used in their manufacturing process and chat to their staff about your requirements and get lots of helpful advice. They can even recommend skilled installation contractors.
For more details visit
Somerlap Forest Products, Wells Road, Mark, Somerset TA9 4NR. Tel: 01278 641671, or visit the website: www.somerlap.co.uk/
Based in the Strawberry Line District, Confidence in Colour finds the right colours for you to bring out your natural beauty. Combined with a natural range of nutritional products from Nature’s Sunshine (free from pesticides and additives) Confidence in Colour will enhance your health and well being.
We come to you for make-overs, Confidence in Colour Parties, Top to Toe Bridal Packages, girlie nights in and Hen Parties. Tanning also available.
Check out our YouTube demo at http://www. youtube.com/watch?v=lk6SOpj9Pf4
Confidence in Colour. Tel: 01278 760363; Mobile: 07530160279; Email: chloe@confidenceincolour. com; For details visit: www.confidenceincolour.com
Careers in the great outdoors
The land-based sector is very much at the forefront of public awareness with programmes such as Countryfile serving to highlight some of the issues facing the industry. But what is less well-known is that this industry is facing a massive skills shortage that could jeopardise its future, with an estimated 250,000 new entrants required by 2020.
Bridgwater College in Somerset offers a varied curriculum to prepare students for roles to address these gaps, ensuring that students reach the end of their training equipped with the competencies to progress into relevant employment. Excellent links have been developed with businesses to ensure that the curriculum is in line with employer requirements and fully embraces new knowledge and technologies.
18 Strawberry Line Times May 2013
If you are looking for a career which takes you into the great outdoors, then Bridgwater College might just have the training programme for you. Call 01278 441234 for more information. Strawberry Line Times
Join our August jam
On Sunday 4th August 2013 Weston Hospicecare’s Strawberry Jam cycle ride once again returns to the Strawberry Line and the North Somerset countryside. Now in its 4th year, riders can choose from a 10, 25, 50, 75 or 100 mile distance and join friends, family and colleagues on this fantastic day of cycling and celebrate the berry best of the beautiful scenery. The charity hopes to raise over £7,500 to fund patient care. Emma Wheeler, Hospice Community Nurse Specialist, explains why she is riding this year: “The support that the community shows our charity is incredible, and this has enabled me to support hundreds of patients, their families and their carers who are each coming to terms with what is probably the hardest thing they’ll ever have to deal with. Events like this are vital to funding these services.” To enter today call 01934 423960 or visit www.thestrawberryjam.org
. uk. Entry starts at £5.
@WHCHospice Weston Hospicecare Fan Page
Get walking in May!
4 – 11 May sees the annual Get Walking Week, Britain’s biggest short walks festi- val when Ramblers groups are organising thousands of free short walks around the country – the perfect opportunity to discover the freedom, fresh air and fitness that comes with exploring the great outdoors. You can improve your physical and mental health, spend time out- doors and enjoy the company of others. One short walk may lead to many more miles in the future. You never know…… you might quite like it!! For walks in your area visit: www.ramblers.org.uk/getwalk-
ingweek or pop into Country Innovation in Broad Street, Congresbury (01934 877333, www.countryinnovation.co.uk
) where you can also get kitted out with boots, jackets fleeces, poles etc.
Sunday 4th August 2013 Cycle ride with Weston Hospicecare and help raise £7,500 on a 10, 25, 50, 75 or 100 mile distance
Sign up today and join friends, family and colleagues on this fantastic day of cycling and celebrate the berry best of the North Somerset countryside
Call 01934 423960 or visit www.thestrawberryjam.org.uk
Entry: From £5 to £30
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