by Phil Marsh

Old station regenerates communities

Published: 12th December 2013

Refreshments by Amazon on Bedfordshire and Beer award by the Ouse

Many station buildings have fallen into disuse following the destaffing of stations but many are now being used and run by the local community in a variety of uses. This is because of a range of grants now available for regeneration and the use of volunteers keeping costs down.

The Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership (MVCRP) is a very active organisation and has opened the way for funding such projects as at Ridgmont. The MVCRP is run by Stephen Sleight, the Community Rail Partnership Officer who is based at the Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity’s (BRCC) offices in Cardington.

The LNWR built Ridgmont station is located about midway on the Marston Vale line linking Bletchley with Bedford is a good example of this and the building has recently opened as a Heritage Centre and Tea Room. The station is on the 16 mile branchline which narrowly escaped closure after the Beeching Report with all the stations becoming unstaffed halts.

Before Beeching in 1963, the station had a couple of signalmen, a porter, shunter and crossing keeper. But the substantial properties associated with them remained, some as private residences, some used for offices and others disused.

By the M1 and Amazon

Ridgmont station is adjacent to the massive Amazon distribution warehouse and Junction 13 of the M1. The line is due to be upgraded to 100mph trains and electrified in the next five years.

The building was empty until this year when the MVCRP obtained funding and other resources to turn the disused 1846 built station building into the Heritage Centre and Tea Room. This cost £500,000 and the funds came from the BRCC, the Railway Heritage Trust, East of England Development Agency and the local council. There are a few offices available to rent at the station with some already let.

The station is staffed mainly by local volunteers such as Jack Turner who has either travelled and worked on the line since 1947. Today, London Midland operates an hourly service on Mondays to Saturdays.

The Visitor Centre has a few film props on display as the station was used for a major film a few years ago. In time, the booking office will be completed with a large historical display allowing visitors to see what it was like working in a ticket office.

Suffolk station building to be brought back into use

The old Station House in Campsea Ashe, Suffolk is to be brought back to community use, hopes a new community organisation. This is planned to assist residents, neighbouring villages, visitors, public and voluntary organisations and local businesses.

The group has obtained planning permission and is now fundraising to enable the derelict station building to be returned to use. The station is better known as Wickham Market which is served by Anglia services on the East Suffolk Line.

The renovation will see the building restored to its original late 19th century architectural style including a platform canopy. Inside, the building will house community and station facilities and services for use by passengers as much as the local community.

There will be a ticket machine and real-time train information as well as touch screen technology to help explore the local area providing information on nearby amenities, events, public and voluntary service support networks, the work of local heritage and environmental groups.

Community based education and training opportunities with rooms for hire with Wi-Fi and broadband facilities plus a café; local map and book shop plus an exhibition dedicated to the history of the East Suffolk Railway Line.

Beeching legacy again!

The Station House has had a varied history following the Beeching cuts and is currently owned by Suffolk County Council who bought it in 2005 and it has been vacant since then. The new plans are a result of a year’s research accompanied by support from locals, railway, heritage and environmental agencies, local and regional government, businesses and the University of East Anglia.

Station House Community Connections is the not-for-profit organisation hoping to take on the leasehold of the building and its development. A new form of Industrial & Provident Society, it encourages community involvement through membership, develops partnerships with other organisations and reinvests any surplus. With charitable objects at its heart, it allows both fundraising and trading activities to ensure sustainability.

A full repairing lease has been offered by the County Council providing the capital funds can be raised, but the timescale is not open-ended. A fundraising campaign has raised £125,000 towards the £500,000 target.

The company says that they are delighted by donations coming in from around the country, including those who have left the area but still appreciate the vital contribution our railway makes in helping to sustain our rural communities. Grants being sought are not guaranteed to succeed so each and every donation is vital to the campaign’s success.

If the Ridgmont station project is anything to go by, then the ambitions are highly worthwhile.

Railway Pub wins CAMRA award

CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, has revealed the winner of their prestigious Pub Design Awards 2013, with pubs as diverse as a bar made from shipping containers and a railway platform conversion achieving accolades.

They said

Julian Hough, CAMRA National Director said. “The Pub Design Awards celebrate British pubs with truly memorable designs - whether it is a building that has been converted to a pub, a conservation project on a historical structure or a brand new build with cutting edge design aesthetics - CAMRA congratulate the pub owners, architects, and designers who have contributed to these pubs being named the best in the UK

The competition judges, including CAMRA pub experts and a wide range of other heritage sector representatives, select only the best pubs, with 2013 being the first year in over a decade winners have been found for all 6 of the different categories.

Winners include the York Tap, situated on a York station platform in a building converted from an old model railway museum – this year’s winner of the Conversion to Pub Use Award category.

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