The Strawberry Line - A Graphic Description



Dear Mr Fowler,

Having seen your website, and having taken again a journey along the Cheddar Valley Line, I thought I should write to thank you for your kindness in making these images available.  They have awoken many half-forgotten memories.  I went to school at Sidcot, near Winscombe in 1961 and enjoyed the last few years of this railway.  Winscombe Station was, I remember, a slightly sinister place.  I believe it was built just before the First War, and the stark architecture put one in mind of it.  The other stations were older, more innocently Victorian, with steeply-pitched roofs, and built of local stone. Cheddar Station had a shoring-beam or prop which kept the roof up.  That roof must have looked very elegant in its heyday. I used to go picking strawberries at Cheddar, Axbridge and Draycott - the growers seemed glad to have us Sidcot boys working for them - and the presence of the railway pervaded every aspect of the hot summer on those southward-facing slopes. The railway appeared new to me. The track between Winscombe and Shute Shelve was pristine in 1961: I think it must have been recently re-sleepered and re-ballasted. I just didn't believe that it would close. But it did.

I think the most evocative of the photographs is the one which looks North-West* to the Mendips. I'm sure that it must be taken on the level just after Draycott had been passed.

With every best wish,

David Wheldon

Good to receive your reply.

I have indeed seen your interesting article on the Portishead Line.

I studied Medicine at Bristol, and grew to know the city well.  I believe that the Severn Beach line was on the original Beeching hit list: it was so well used as a commuter line from Shirehampton and Sea Mills that it makes you wonder what his agenda was.

One small story about the death of the Cheddar Valley Line.  In 1970 I commuted to Bristol for a short time. While waiting I got talking to the signalman at -, appreciating the warmth of the signal-box stove in the early morning.  He had previously been the Stationmaster at -, and was  rancorous about the closure of his line.  He told me that the prime morning and evening connections at Yatton had been withdrawn - on an emergency timetable - shortly before the passenger census was taken, and that he had brought this up at the public meeting, and had been told on pain of his job to stay silent.  I don't know the truth of this, but certainly there seemed to be an official desire to consolidate damning evidence.  It's a pity.  But that was a different world.

With every best wish,

David Wheldon.

 I worked out the location* (from the curve in the line and the beginning of the slight embankment in the distance) on an old one-inch OS map; I make it to be ST466517. Curiously, this is only a couple of hundred yards away from the campsite where my wife and I used to stay when walking in the Mendips.

Do use anything from my e-mails; I'm delighted if they are any use.  From other events at the time I think my conversation with the signalman took place in the summer of 1969 rather than 1970.

When I was a student I took a vacation job in the International Stores in Burnham, delivering groceries. An old Somerset and Dorset driver used to work there on Saturdays, flattening boxes and tying up cardboard.  His name was Charlie King; he became a good friend of mine.  He is pictured at Highbridge in Robin Atthill's The Picture History of the Somerset and Dorset Railway on page 90.  He was a very pleasant, kindly man.  He gave me an old but unused footplateman's mackintosh which I wore while motorcycling for many years.

You might like to have a look at my website. It is http://www.davidwheldon.co.uk
 
 

With every best wish,
 

David

Webmaster's Note:-  I understand on good authority that a number of popular services were withdrawn from the 1958 and 1962 timetables.

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