Hello! I'm always looking out for more material: if you have anything you would like to share (especially relating to my Request List), please get in touch! Twitter: @malvernrailway.

Saturday 28 January 2017

Mythe Road

Upon leaving the Mythe Tunnel, situated below the eponymous house, the Ashchurch railway crossed the floodplain west of Tewkesbury by means of an embankment built sufficiently high to hold the line away from the floodplain of the River Avon. This embankment comprised several small bridges to enable cattle to pass under it, and ran for some 400 metres across open country.

The embankment was removed in 2013 as part of landscaping works designed to reduce the perennial risk of flooding in Tewkesbury. Those of you with better memories will recall that the news of this work was one of the triggers for my starting this project, determined as I was to photograph the remaining relics of the railway before any more of them were removed.

Pictures of the Mythe Tunnel are quite rare, and this excellent shot from Roger Smith shows the last train to leave Tewkesbury as it approaches the southern portal in 1961. Roger was in the prime location to take this photo, leaning out of a window at the rear of the leading carriage as it was pushed towards Ripple. Looking closely at the picture, it is also possible to see the small bridges in the embankment which were demolished in 2013, more of which below.

'Last train to Upton-on-Severn entering Mythe Tunnel', 14th August 1961
The pictures below are not my own, but come from Philip Halling's excellent blog post over on Geograph. The shots show the embankment in 2013, just before it was demolished, and give an idea of its original scope and scale. Whether or not the work has reduced the risk of flooding in Tewkesbury I cannot say, but along with the simultaneous removal of the M50 bridge at Ripple, the destruction of the embankment is a sad loss to local history which I was unfortunately too late to document.

'Railway Embankment at Tewkesbury', March 2013. Used courtesy of Philip Halling via Creative Commons.
'Bridge Parapets on a Disused Railway', March 2013. Used courtesy of Philip Halling via Creative Commons.
'Bridge Parapet on a Dismantled Railway', March 2013. Used courtesy of Philip Halling via Creative Commons.
'Old Railway Bridge', March 2013. Used courtesy of Philip Halling via Creative Commons.
'View towards Tewkesbury along a Disused Railway Embankment', March 2013. Used courtesy of Philip Halling via Creative Commons.

Saturday 21 January 2017

Malvern Hanley Road to Great Malvern - In Colour!

My blog reaches its first birthday this week, and to celebrate I've spent a little bit of time putting together a fun little mini-project for you to enjoy. I recently found a tool online called Colorize It!, which has been developed by three chaps at UC Berkeley in the United States. It's a basic piece of code which allows you to colour-in old black-and-white photographs, and I've been tweaking the inputs a bit to try and produce the best results. Digital black-and-white images scanned from original negatives seem to work very well, whereas my scans of the photos sent to me in the post by donors don't quite seem to reach the same level. Some of these pictures also have a slightly 'postcardy' look about them with large blocks of vivid colour, but I've used my (basic!) photo editing skills to try and tidy things up around the edges where I can. In any case, it's a relatively quick and easy way of getting a real glimpse of what the original photographer was looking at when they pulled the trigger.

For this project, I decided to flick through my photo collection and see if I could recreate the route from Malvern Hanley Road up to Great Malvern in colourised photographs. There is unfortunately quite a large gap between Hanley Road and Peachfield Road - I simply don't have any photos of the area around Warren Farm, which is a great shame because this part of the route contains one of my absolute favourite pieces of Malvern railway architecture:

Apart from this, though, this stretch is probably the section I have the most original photos from, and so I decided to put together a 9-picture collage below for you to have a look at. Credit for these shots go to Tim Farebrother, Jim Clemens and John Mudge.

Writing this blog has given me some interesting experiences - walking across Upton Ham in a freezing 60mph wind with my friend Sam, and scrambling up an almost sheer embankment at Pigeon House Farm to name just a couple, but it's also been a real pleasure to come across the few remaining relics of what was once a very picturesque little country railway. The only thing left to say is to thank the people who have donated pictures to my site or let me onto their land to take my own, those who have been my companions on my walks, and in particular those who continue to leave comments telling me how much they enjoy the site. I started this as a bit of fun because I was bored while looking for work, but the response from the people of Malvern, Upton and Tewkesbury has been nothing but positive. Thank you! 

Saturday 14 January 2017

Tewkesbury Quay Branch Line

Another oddity of the Malvern-Ashchurch branch line was that it itself incorporated another small spur, namely the remnants of the original line that ran through Tewkesbury down to the quayside on the River Avon. The Tewkesbury Quay branch had been built in 1844 as an extension of the original line constructed from Ashchurch to Tewkesbury's first station four years previously. The first station stood on Station Street in the middle of town, as opposed to the second station which stood on Station Lane further north. For a town now without a station, the reminders of Tewkesbury's industrial past are everywhere.

Today, the Quay branch line has been all but completely removed, with the mill buildings on the quay ironically having long outlived the railway that served them. The clearest relic of the line's past can only be seen from the air - looking to the east of Tewkesbury, the tree line gives away the Y-shaped junction at which the Quay branch split away from the Malvern-Ashchurch railway.

The pictures below show the junction of the Quay branch (right) which spurred into Tewkesbury away from the Malvern line (left). Note the numerous sidings as well as the large engine shed, which appears in some of the pictures below.

This shot shows how the scene at the junction looked on the ground, with a signal box covering the access to the sidings complex behind the photographer on the right hand side:

'Tewkesbury (shed branch right)' 1st May, 1956.
Moving further down the Quay branch into Tewkesbury town with this aerial shot, we see the large engine shed which was built on Station Street. The shed was a popular location for photographers and provided some of the most evocative pictures I have seen of Tewkesbury as an industrial town. Note the street-level running section in the final shot from Richard Casserley.

'Tewkesbury, 5th May, 1945'
'Tewkesbury Shed' 1st May, 1956.
'Tewkesbury Old Station', February 1953.
The Quayside Today

Tewkesbury today still retains many of the old waterfront buildings which gave the riverside 'Back of Avon' area its industrial look. Heading down to the river, we pass Abbey Mill and the sluice gate built to form a weir and regulate river depth upstream.

Walking along the western bank of the Avon we carry on up the Severn Way until we cross a bridge back into town. This leads us the Quay Street, the terminus of the eponymous branch line. Several of the old warehouse buildings remain intact on this road, although the railway crossing across the High Street at the top has long since been removed and the path of the railway blocked by a string of shops.

The Quay branch used to pass directly in front of here.
Easily the most impressive structure in this area, however, is the old Healing's flour mill which operated from 1865 until 2006. The formidable building sits tall alongside the narrow stream and provides an obvious answer as to why this area of town would need its own railway branch. The bridge shown in front of the mill is the one used to cross back over into town from the Ham.

Saturday 7 January 2017

Ledbury Town Trail

Looking for places to explore over the Christmas holiday, my friend Sam and I decided to take a look at the Ledbury Town Trail, a length of the old Ledbury-Gloucester railway which runs for a mile or so down through the town. The footpath (shown on this map) begins at Ledbury station and quickly turns south, passing behind the Homend before heading down to the River Leadon at the southern end of the town. We set out after lunch into a bright sunny afternoon but unfortunately the dull winter evening caught up with us prematurely. One to return to in better light!

The Ledbury and Gloucester Railway had a relatively short lifespan, opening in 1885 and closing in 1964. Built largely on the course of an ailing canal, the railway was amalgamated into the Great Western Railway in 1892. Taking a sharp southerly turn immediately upon leaving Ledbury station, the line also featured stops at Ledbury Town Halt, Greenway Halt, Dymock, Four Oaks Halt, Newent, Malswick Halt and Barbers Bridge.

While looking for historical photographs to complement my modern pictures, I came across the D.J. Norton Collection, a great set of shots taken around Ledbury in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Mark, the son of the original photographer, has been kind enough to let me use some of his collection here and so I encourage my readers to have a look at his fascinating site as soon as they have a chance.

Beginning the Ledbury Town Trail, perhaps the most interesting feature of the walk is the skew bridge which crosses Hereford Road at a shallow angle almost immediately outside Ledbury station. The bridge features dark blue ribs on the underside which give it a very contorted look, although the design is obviously sturdy enough to have lasted 135 years already!

'Rail Bridge Hereford Rd Ledbury - 28/1/64'
The eastern side of Hereford Road bridge. Not much has changed here!
The stonework here is very different to the brick used on the railways in Malvern, only a few miles away.
The south-western buttress.
The bridge from the western side.
'Underside of Bridge Hereford Rd - 29/4/64'
The blue brick ribbing inside the bridge.
The track onto the bridge itself starts outside Ledbury station - the skew bridge lies along the road on the left.
Although overgrown, the sharp curve left shows how quickly the Gloucester line split from the surviving Hereford route.
The view over the eastern side of the bridge, showing the extent of the skew.
The embankment here is quite high up and gives a lovely view of the town.
The eastern parapet.
The western parapet.
Looking west, again showing the skew.
The Embankment

The main part of the Ledbury Town Trail comprises an embankment which starts high above the town before gradually running downhill behind the Homend. This 1929 shot shows the embankment clearly on the right:

Sadly, we found the information board at the top of the trail vandalised, but here is another one from further along the route.
Having crossed the bridge, the line bows south through an avenue of trees.
The curve south.
There are quite a few staircases built into the embankment along its length.
Low winter sun proving a nightmare to shoot into!
Continuing south, 1/3.
Continuing south, 2/3.
Continuing south, 3/3. The metal footbridge over Orchard Lane comes into view.
'Orchard Lane, January 1964'. Note how the bridge itself has been removed, although the buttresses on either side have survived.
'West End of Orchard Lane - 25/2/65'
The buttress of what was once the short trestle bridge over Orchard Lane. The brickwork was removed as part of works designed to widen the road after the closure of the railway.
Ledbury Town Halt

As the railway line descends onto flatter ground, it runs behind the Memorial Recreation Ground. This is quite a built-up area now, with several houses surrounding the playground, but it was once the site of Ledbury's other station, Ledbury Town Halt. The station itself was miniscule, comprising a single corrugated iron shed on a very short platform facing the single track just before it ran under Bridge Street. Nothing remains of the halt now, but a small space has been cleared to indicate where it once stood, approximately in line with where the two benches are in the shots below.

The view looking north back towards the metal footbridge from the park.
Continuing south towards Bridge Street.
Plaque at the Memorial Recreation Ground.
'Ledbury Town Halt from North - 22/8/63'. Note the tiny platform common to small country halts.
Ledbury Town Halt from the north...
...and from the south.
Bridge Street to Woodleigh Road

Down the ramp back into the cutting.
'Ledbury Town Halt from South - 22/8/63'
A look back towards Ledbury Town Halt, showing where the bridge on Bridge Street was.
The Bridge Street-Woodleigh Road section is at the bottom of this 1921 aerial shot.
Getting on for a gloomy evening!
Some overgrown brickwork on the eastern side of the cutting.
A bench in the wilderness.
A frosty evening, too!
Another surviving original feature on the Ledbury Town Trail is the Woodleigh Road bridge, which follows the square stone style used by the builders of this route (a similar bridge survives at Rudford, among other places). We got there as the afternoon light was fading, but the structure was still quite impressive and looks to be in good condition. One of the good things about historical road bridges which crossed over railway lines (as opposed to vice-versa) is that the road usually held its purpose, meaning that the structure has to be maintained properly to this day. The LMS bridges at Warren Farm, Brotheridge Green and Upper Hook Road enjoy a similar fate.

Woodleigh Road bridge.
The bridge closer up.
The buttress on the southern side.
Here the line continues its quite hard turn to the right (west)...
...before emerging onto what is now a small common for yet another curve to the left (south).
End of the line - the remains of the bridge over Little Marcle Road, previously known as 'Gas Works Lane'.