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Saturday 7 May 2016

Lumber Tree Farm

The next section of the old Malvern-Ashchurch line is a half-mile long stretch lying between Blackmore Park Road and Welland Road. Running along flat land at the northern end of this section, the route continued in a cutting for most of the way before rising onto an embankment at the southern end to meet the now-dismantled bridge at Gilver's Lane. The cutting itself was quite serious, running to about 25 or 30 feet deep while the embankment achieved a similar measure in height. As at Warren Farm, the landscape shifts dramatically in a comparatively short stretch of line, and the unwavering smooth gradient of the line is testament to the engineers (and poor labourers!) who built it.

As this modern map shows, this part of the route is still exclusively rural. However, although the northern end of this section is crossed by a public footpath, the rest remains private land and the railway route marks the south-western boundary of Lumber Tree Farm, a large farm on the northern side of Welland Road. This is one of the most unspoiled parts of the line, and it remains home to several interesting original features. Thank you to Diana Partridge for allowing me on to her property to take these photos and to film Part III of my railway walk.

We start at the public footpath which stretches east from Blackmore Park Road and bisects the old railway line. Although the path is a bit overgrown as it crosses the railway, there are lots of pieces of railway clutter lying around in the hedges, including some unmistakeable fixing clamps.

Looking at the next picture, Bob Hobbs tells me that:
'The square post at the left hand side is probably an original fence post that still has the tensioners for the wires. Fence posts tended to be square section to make it easier, and more importantly cheaper, to fit wires. It looks to be similar to fence posts that could still be found in the 1980s on the old Yelmpton (GWR) branch line in Devon. These were a mix of original but rotted wood posts with some concrete replacements.'

Climbing through the hedge on the right, we emerge onto the old railway line, facing south. Here, the land is flat and the old route is distinctly marked by two mature hedgerows containing several trees.

About fifty yards along the track we come to a small clearing in front of gateway. This area includes several pieces of repurposed railway materials, most notably some fenceposts. Bob Hobbs writes:
'This photo is interesting as it shows a telegraph pole top together with a gate/fence end post made of concrete. The angled support for this has the typical slots to allow the fence wires to pass through and be joined to the tensioners and is almost certainly a post nationalisation design.'
This fencepost is actually the top of an old railway telegraph pole, with its tell-tale 'tin hat' or sloped top.
An old railway sign (not original!) and dismembered telegraph pole.

About halfway down the line at Lumber Tree lie the remains of what seems to have been a wooden shed. This may not be railway related, but the curved roof section and stovepipe hole suggests a repurposed goods van or similar. My guess is this is an abandoned temporary railway shed which may have been used by previous farmers. Answers on a postcard!

Heading further down the line, the full extent of this impressive piece of engineering becomes clear. Overhanging the deep cutting is a railway cottage, which sits about thirty feet above the railway line.

Turning around briefly to look back towards Malvern.
The cottage overlooking the line.
Looking towards the end of the cutting.
The end of the cutting.
By far the most interesting railway relic on this stretch, however, is a completely intact permanent way hut just north of Welland Road. The hut is in good condition, with a small hearth inside and glass still in the windows (although these have been boarded over). Bob Hobbs suggests that the permanent way hut may also have served as a signalman's hut in foggy conditions, and the building also stands next to a stock gate which farmers used to cross the line. This is the only flat crossing point on the line for about half a mile, so this would be the only place such a gate could have stood.

Continuing south on the embankment, the line soon rises to quite a height overlooking Welland Road. The gradient here is a gentle climb up to what was once the brick bridge across the road at the junction with Gilver's Lane.

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