Seasonal Area March 2012

We apologise for the delay to this post and any disruption it may have caused to your entertainment.

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The latest Seasonal Area went online at the beginning of the month, bang on time (unlike this post). It features one of a very small batch of scenic non-railway pictures which I have taken in March in recent years.

Several trips out around Cornwall, Gloucestershire and Berkshire this March should remedy the situation for next year.

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The Wye Valley Railway section of the website is probably also due an update since the line’s status has changed again. It is now the centre of a scheme to convert the southern bit (it’s always the southern bit) into a narrow-gauge line. This attracted remarkably little attention in the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley Review’s letters page, unlike 2010’s cycleway scheme, despite it getting a front page headline.

The cycling lobby is apparently now too extinct to have bothered to tweet on the matter. I have the excuse that I have been separated from the ntlworld network so can’t upload anything in my normal efficient manner at the moment. The website is also a bit big for its server just now.

Also, I’m busy with the Big Railway.

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Finally managed to lay hold of a book on the North Devon and Cornwall Junction Light Railway. Opened in 1925, it’s a serious contender for the status of “Last railway in Britain to open up all-new journey opportunities.” The rest of the network had been completed before the First World War and rather a lot of it had been shut again before the ND&CJLR opened.

It joined the Bere Alston and Calstock Light Railway – also part of the Southern Railway’s Withered Arm network – in the slim ranks of light railways which made a profit. This accolade was not achieved courtesy of its passenger service, which consisted of two trains each way each day through stations situated in glorious isolation from civilisation – although from time to time the solitary coach of the afternoon service, calling at Hole, Hatherleigh, Petrockstow and Torrington plus intermediate halts, could claim to be a through service from London Waterloo via Salisbury, Exeter, Okehampton and Halwill Junction (where it was detached from the through coaches to Padstow and Bude). On very rare occasions the whole through train from Waterloo to Bude and Padstow managed to run that way as well. The service survived into 1965 because it was so basic that there were no savings to be found in cutting it.

Rather, the line ran off revenues from the local china clay business, which was sufficiently successful to keep it going into the 1980s with trains coming up from Exeter via Barnstaple and Torrington. In the 1980s the line was in a poor state of repair and the wagons needed replacing, so the Government offered a grant to help fund the work. The rail unions then went on strike, the clay company bought some more lorries and the line abruptly closed in 1982, leaving the remnants of the Bere Alston and Calstock as the last light railway on the national rail network.

It’s a nice little line which seemed to be covered by a grand total of not very much, so I was rather pleased to find that the reason why I couldn’t get a book on it was because I was searching under the wrong title. The definitive guide to this obscure corner of a lost network is called North Devon Clay and also covers the narrow gauge line which the light railway replaced.

(Ironically, after 40 years the light railway was cut back to provide the same service as the narrow gauge line.)

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 Finally, a shock discovery by our social science department – cleaning your windows can improve your social life.