Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The Didcot to Newbury Line



I have updated the blog to include new photos some which I have found on the Internet under the CC licence and others off Geograph where I have credited the photographer.

It is actually the Didcot, Newbury & Southampton Railway (DN&SR) and  was authorized by act of parliament in 1873 and officially opened on the northern section in 1883. From then until 1960 it was in continued use apart from in the Second World War where they doubled up the line.  I have some memories of it from when I was younger when I used to go to see a girlfriend in Didcot or the motorbike shop on Broadway where I used to travel under the bridge on Lower Broadway. I forgot about the railway, not even noticing they had removed the Lower Broadway Bridge or that the new road was built on the line until one day on the way to work I noticed that they were filling in the old rail cutting near Upton. By that time I had become interested in a website called Geograph and was embarking of recording things of historic value. I looked into how a waste company could have got away with filling a rail cutting with waste only to find out it was down to the South Oxfordshire planning department, It was then I decided to start recording what was left.This is my account of what I have found so far, more work is needed yet. I started with the Chilton area but for the purpose of this blog I will go back to Didcot and work my way to Newbury.
The station was a typical Brunell one with wonderful canopies covering the platforms. Sometime in the 1970’s the station was refurbished and the old Victorian frontage removed and a ghastly modern one replaced it. As the station was being upgraded to Parkway status it needed carparks so the huge store nearby was demolished and a carpark replaced it.



The photo above was taken by Ben Brooksbank on Geograph and shows the City of Truro at the bay platform

The DN&SR platform at Didcot.



The Bay platforms of the Swindon and Newbury lines were removed to make way for car parking and so all trace of its former use was erased or was it, traces do still remain if you look around.  At Didcot station if you look to the right you see a carpark, this was the bay for the DN&SR, the edge of the platform is still there as is its twin the Swindon bay can also be seen.

Didcot Station.


   
 








 Walk down the carpark towards the Cow Lane bridge and you can see the edge all the way along and the point where the branch joined the mainline.

 Another photo by Ben Brooksbank on Geograph showing a goods train coming up to the bay platforms at Didcot




This is a view from near the Cow Lane Bridge looking up the old bay. Didcot station can be seen at the end













Head up along the road towards the roundabout and you pass some traffic lights for the Orchard centre. If you have to stop then you are looking uphill, the top is the point where the line went to Riches Sidings









Before the road was built you would have seen this bridge there at Lower Broadway, Jobes Dairy was over to the left past the bridge.
(photo courtesy of Dave Taylor Didcot Historic Society)










 The road uses the old line and the roundabout is built where the bridge over Lower Broadway use be











The bridge was removed no doubt when they built the housing on the old Jobs Dairy site.  Going over the roundabout in the East Hagbourne direction you can see over to the right is the old DN&SR railway embankment, it has now been made into a National cycle network route which will take you to Upton, as I still have to check this section out





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Lower Broadway as it is now


East Hagbourne Bridge












I will jump to East Hagbourne where if you travel along the road leading to West Hagbourne you pass under a bridge which took the DN&SR over the road.



The cyclway over East Hagbourne Bridge



The Bridge now has a concrete deck though I would have thought it arched in the past. Heading along the line to Upton you will pass over two more arched bridges over farm tracks. The cycleway leaves the railway just prior to the second bridge and an unofficial footpath runs on to come out near the recreation ground. It is possible to walk further and see the approach to Upton Station but your way will be barred by a fence marking the boundary of a private property built on the old goods yard.




Upton Station

Heading round to Upton Station you can see the place is now converted into a house though you can it retains some of its canopy and fretwork on the roof. The approach road is now a close which ironically is named after the person who caused the demise of the line, Beeching.  Someone on the council must have had warped since of humour or been in awe of the person who wiped out the livelihood of hundreds of people and was responsible for the destruction of hundreds of branch lines.





 In it's heyday this would have been the scene at the station with the goods yard behind now Beeching Close
The photo was sourced off the Internet





  Going along to the main road you would have been crossing the line via a bridge but that was removed sometime in the 1960s and the road straightened though I do vaguely remember the bridge. The line ran through a cutting (there is a house built on part now) but a lot of it remains and if you follow the footpath to Chilton from near the George and Dragon you will be walking alongside the old line. The part of the cutting towards Upton looks in good condition and is used by the local residents who border it hand have access to it.


The last moments of Upton Road Bridge The photo was sourced off the Internet


The Upton Cutting
 The line and cutting going towards Chilton is very over grown in places and has a lot of tree saplings growing otherwise it is possible to view with care. There are a of uncovered inspection holes for the wiring culvert so if you do go along the cutting watch out for them you could break a leg. Along the cutting you come across a high bridge that takes a track and the footpath over the line.



Upton Bridge








This is worth a look at and there are a few old wrecked cars nearby dumped after the railway closed. Some of the cutting towards Chilton is also used by motorcycle trials as the time I visited a track was laid out. The cutting from the bridge to Chilton is also quite overgrown and as you near Chilton you can see where it has been filled up to the arch level of the bridge at Chilton.


 This is the Chilton bridge before it was filled in taken by Mick Crawley on Geograph


From this bridge to the next and beyond the cutting has been filled which I feel is an insult to the memory of those who built the line. From the bridge at Tile Barn the line ran out of the cutting and flat till it reached Churn where it went under a bridge before coming to Churn Halt.


Line coming from the Upton cut

Churn Bridge

The line up to that point can still be seen and part is used as a farm track and unofficial path (the official one nearby tends to be quite bad at times) though the section to Churn Halt is very overgrown.

Line towards Churn Halt


 The platform at Churn is still there though very overgrown and one wonders why it was put there though it was used by the Army for summer camps and the National Rifle Association did used the range there and locally it was hoped that it would be the National range but due to the lack of facilities (no roads etc) it moved to Bisley.




Platform at Churn








Churn would have been the bleakest of places in the winter with only a small shelter to keep out the elements. A little further along the line goes under a second bridge which takes the ridgeway over it. The bridge is becoming battered with one parapet having broken away at some time and the railbed littered with various debris and rubbish.

 This is what Churn may have looked like though I am suspicious of the photo. I seem to remember it being only a shed there. It was also a Halt as opposed to station The photo was sourced off the Internet



Churn Halt Bridge

 Looking on towards Compton the line is impassable due to heavy undergrowth but clears again where it has been used by farm traffic and looks in good condition.  I did not check any more of the line here which runs to Stocks Farm just outside Compton as a small sign on a gate said private so I will try and get permission to view some of it.
Trackbed leading to Stocks Farm near Compton.























As the line comes into Compton it runs over a bridge then into the station where there were goods yards. The line round here is all built on with small industrial units and the station a private residence. A footpath runs past it and it is possible to view the building which remains in good condition.
Compton Station




 The line itself has been filled though you can see where the platforms were and one of the old dock buildings. Looking towards Hampstead Norreys the line is overgrown but does cross the road by a bridge which is still in place. You have to view this from the road as properties border the ends which are fenced off.


 This is what Compton would have looked like back in the day. The horse may have been part of the logistics and a vital part of the workforce there but they did ship a lot of horses to the racing courses from the nearby stables from there as well

Compton Bridge

Compton Crossing

  Going on towards Hampstead Norreys the line crossed a road at Compton Crossing and the crossing house is still there with the line used as a garden, looking from there to Compton you can make out where it ran. The other way the embankment remains though very overgrown. More investigation is needed in this area.
Boundary Fence End
Uplands Bridge

 Heading on to Hampstead Norreys the line ran under the road near Uplands, the bridge still remains in use by local traffic and farm traffic runs under the bridge. It was recently cleared when I last visited revealing the old fencing and the rails they used as end stops. Looking along the line either way from the bridge all traces of the line have been erased and you have to look hard towards Hamptsead Norreys before you see the embankment again.
Hampstead Norreys Station










When you get to Hampstead Norreys you find little to show there was a station there apart from a footpath and the base of the one ton crane from the goods yard though I must admit I need to go back for another look around.
 The bridge is there and you can walk under it on the way to the village hall. The railway turned right after the bridge and you can walk along it still as many locals do with their dogs.



Hapstead Norreys Bridge



 Hampstead Norreys Station, the bridge would have been ahead you as you look at the station here The photo was sourced off the Internet

Railbed outside Hampstead Norreys



Four Elms bridge



 Along the section you pass over two bridges before coming to Four Elms Bridge via a cutting. The bed round here is over grown with trees and the far side of the bridge looks quite hard to navigate






  
Cutting at Hemitage



 Heading along the road you can follow the line to Hermitage but just prior to the village it gets cut in two by the M4, pull into Pinewood close and you can walk along the old cutting to the M4 embankment.
Pinewood close

 Part of the close is built on the line and the rest is fenced off awaiting building on.  Go round to chapel lane and you will cross a bridge. If you stop at the bottom and look towards the line you can see a small play area that is Pinewood halt.
Playground beside Pinewood Halt

This was the most taxing of places to find. Very little is there to tell you what used to be there only the bridge and the footpath leading away on the far side. Looking towards Hermitage station is imposable due to high conifer trees and properties built on the line. The bridge itself is in good condition though a rather wicked looking fence has been erected to stop any one going through and entering the properties beyond over the fence.
Pinewood Halt










 I did manage to scrabble down the other side to view the bridge which like I said was in good condition but the area beside the fencing has been used to dumping grass cuttings and various other debris and I could not work out if it belonged to one of the properties. Further along the line crossed the Yattendon road but nothing remains to say there was a bridge, the embankment is one

side and on the other a large house sits, tons of the embankment on that side must have been removed to build the place.



 Train going through Pinewood Halt, the bridge is just behind the train The photo was sourced off the Internet


Where the Yattendon road bridge used to be.
  I can only think the bridge was removed because of the traffic and it may well have been narrow. You can walk alongside the embankment to the Buckleberry road where you will find the bridge is still there.  Access to embankment is possible which I did to view it though it does overlook the housing nearby, it’s also fenced off by the bridge.




The bridge is in good condition and has a flat deck making me think it was replaced at some time. To the right of the bridge looking through it to Slanting Hill side you will see a track, this I believe to be the original entrance to Hermitage station or at least to the goods yard.



Entrance to Hermitage station
Hermitage station





                     To get to Hermitage station you need to go back to the main road and drive down a straight road that leads to the station. This was a private road which once used to lead to the British Rail cold store which was a huge building. It was demolished and a housing estate built there.  












The Station is nearby and privately owned and the yard is used by a Diamond Drilling company. Externally the building looks in good condition though I have yet to go back and ask to view the other side.


And this is Hermatige station when the trains used to run
The photo was sourced off the Internet
 From Hermitage the line ran towards Curridge and passed nearby under Longlane, you can still view the bridge and part of the cutting there but looking in the Newbury direction any sign of the lane has gone having been ploughed over or used as farming land I did not go in the cutting to view the bridge due to rather prickly looking gorse baring the way. Looking back in the Hermitage direction a sawmill has been built beside the line and the line has been planted with trees, near the bridge it looks like it has been used as a bit of a dumping ground for garden rubbish.

Red Shute Hill Bridge
Out of Curridge you pass by Cold Ash Farm where I could not work out if there had been a farm crossing there at one time but there was at Fishers lane where you can see where the line was and walk along it to Cold Ash Farm .

Fishers Lane Crossing.
Line at Fishers Lane Cross


















The crossing keepers house is still there though the building by the crossing was demolished a few years back.
In the hedge you can find old railing used as fence posts but looking towards Shaw the railway is now farmland and you have little Idea as to where it would have been.
The railway ran towards Shaw and it is still possible to see line from the road (in places looks to be used by  Craven farm) before disappearing behind houses along the road after it emerges the line looks to have been farmed on near Mousefield farm and can then be seen again as you get towards Shaw. You can also view it from Newbury Cemetery but again parts look to have been built on or used. The line ran under Kiln Lane in Shaw though now the bridge has been filled in and only the parapet remains on one side and the line used as back gardens. On the Newbury side you will find a company called Hitachi Capital has a building there and the line to the bridge is a carpark. Looking down the line you and access road runs on the line now and the cutting sides have been shored up with steel pilings.
River Lambourne Bridge

The Lambourn Bridge crossing point





       The Bridge that went over the River Lambourn has been demolished and a footbridge marks the place now. If you look you can see evidence of the old railway bridge. A wall marks the line going towards Newbury and a car park has been built on the part near the bath road






This would have been an embankment as a bridge took the line over the A4 London road to the bridge over the Kennet. Now from the A4 to the canal is a wasteland with a pond, the embankment removed.








This is the old rail bridge as it crosses the A4 at Newbury The photo was sourced off the Internet


 Best find yet being sent this photo of a crane building the bridge crossing the Kennet.
Photo came from the Facebook group from a friend who is a member.


 After crossing the A4 the railway crossed the Kennet photo from the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust

 Above is the view you get today, the lock is still there though the house has gone
Rail Boundary Post.













By the Kennet you can find the fence ends (made of old rail line) which were either side of the embankment, by the river is a retaining wall. 


Looking back to where the bridge would have been










The fence in front is where the line used to run to Didcot








Where the Didcot branch joins the main line.


From the Kennet to the main line the whole are is now an industrial estate and it is not until you reach the road that you can find the remains of a  bridge it passed under and the fact two business were build in the track so you know it’s line. On the other side is a hire company and you can make out a cutting side and track bed. Small industrial units line the area where the track bent round to the main line and looking from the bridge you can look towards the station and see the area the line joined. It seems Newbury town council could not get rid of the line quick enough. A set of buffers mark where the line ran towards Didcot near the Industrial units.



The Didcot Bay Platform which is still in use today.









This is looking towards the Boundary Road Bridge where on the left you can see the exit for the line that would have gone to Didcot.







Newbury Station as it is today with the Didcot Bay Platform at the end on the left. I doubt the place has changed much since it was built. On the opposite side were the Southampton Bay platforms but they have now been demolished and a carpark built in it's place.


Since writing this I have been down to the Enborne Junction to check out what I could see and can confirm there is nothing there now. The Enborne bridge is still there as is a cutting and it is possible to see where the line went across the field to join the main line.
The next part running to Southampton will take a little more work and investigation but I do know that a lot of the line it still there and the Enborne Junction was the start the rest will take a little time
In conclusion I do feel that Beeching did the wrong thing in closing down a lot of lines like this, and the Conservative government at the time was behind it all. The line could have been modernised and if they had not been so short-sighted they would have realised the traffic on the A34 would got worse. If the railway had been kept open I’m sure the amount of Lorries on the A34 would have been reduced. They were also short-sighted in disposing of the old line selling back to grabbing landowners. The line could have been put to better use as a national cycleway but that time it was not though of. People could have enjoyed walking and cycling along it, instead the memory of those who built it has been destroyed by landfill and housing estates. What is left is worth hanging onto if only for its historic value. For a more in depth look at the line read my article  on Geograph
More photo's can be seen on Flickr 

This blog was first published back in 2012


14 comments:

  1. Thanks, just gave a talk on it at work.

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  2. Hi, I loved your account. I became interested in this line after running on the old railway line for years and encountering it on my longer bike rides in Compton and Hampstead Norris. The most haunting station for me is Churn, the Downs is my training area and I love the idea of it being so isolated. I visited the platform a few days ago and the foundation of an old signal box nearby was also there. You could see it on old photographs. In your account you missed the fact though, that on Hagbourne Road it also used to be a railway bridge, road went over it but it became unstable and it had to be pulled down. It was as the tracks came out from what is now a cycleway in a cutting from Hagbourne Road/New Road corner. My husband was at school when they blew this bridge up and they heard it. Of course there are two more bridges on the Hagbourne embankment, one going over a track from East to West Hagbourne and the other, my favourite, a bit further down south, only 0.1mile or so that took a byway from West Hagbourne to the road going from East Hagbourne to Blewbury. Judging from the size of the bridge it must have been a prominent track then as the bridge is very tall and imposing, the track being very muddy these days and even I run there on dry days as there are deep treads from farm vehicles and lots of mud. My mother in law lives only a quarter of a mile from the old track and she went on this railway many times and when my husband was growing up the old track was still there. It's a shame that it was closed but having read up on its history it never really made any money and people used it very little in the 50 and 60s. I think good times came and everybody wanted to have a car. Now the trend is being reversed, we see a potential in such old lines and there is lots of interest as it is being viewed as eco friendly alternative to a growing traffic problem. It's a shame it's too late for this little railway. There is a group campaigning for its reopening, I personally think it will never take off due to the cost. If you require further photographs of the old railway line or other areas from Didcot to Newbury please contact me and I shall be happy to send some as I bike and run there daily.

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    1. I confess there are places I still have to visit though the group you are on about comprises of one person. There is no way it could be reinstated now which is a shame. Look out form me you may find me catching up with my photos as I need to ride from Didcot to Upton yet.

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  3. What an interesting journey, and your pictures are fabulous!

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    1. Took over two years to do that little lot, going into Newbury to find the route was the hard bit.

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  4. Thank you very much for this extremely interesting account of the old D.N and S.R. I am reading the book "The Didcot Newbury and Southampton Railway by Paul Kareu, Mike Parsons and Kevin Robertson at the moment. It is most interesting to compare photos from the book with your photos of what's left.
    Are you intending to cover the southern end of the line from Newbury to Shawford Junction? Shawford Viaduct has recently been renovated and opened as a cycle path complete with a semaphore signal!
    Many thanks, Martin

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    1. I have that book and used it to trace the route along with the OS maps it was invaluable. I visited the area where the Enborne Junction & bridge is and part of the cut is there though I did not investigate further. Yes I have been considering doing the next section but as quite bit is under the A34 I need to plan it out. The section I have blogged is all local to me.
      Thanks for the info and glad you enjoyed my work. Happy New Year

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    2. Thanks for that Bill. If you would like me to search any part of the southern end of the line I would be happy and willing to do so. I could photograph locations and forward them to you.
      Best wishes and a Happy New Year to you,
      Martin

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    3. I'll have a think on it, if you don't mind, this blog it s bit of a personal thing. I'll have another look at the maps and book first though.

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  5. This is fascinating. My son and I crossed it as we walker the Ridgeway and looked down on a pile of rubbish. Sad. Do you think it's possible to cycle the whole distance making a few detours where the line is inaccessible?

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    1. It would be a lot of detours that is for sure. Have a look at the OS maps of the area and you can see the route though there is little to cycle apart from the bit between Didcot & Upton

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  6. Thanks so much for an interesting account. I was googling disused railway lines for my children to part cycle along as we live locally-ish. Your account sparked a few memories of my Grandad telling me stories of journeys he made along the line as a Steam Engine Driver. He was based in Didcot and drove the trains for over 40 years until he retired in the 1960s. Great thanks

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  7. i love the old train shots. why do we have to upgrade when the past looks so much better. love the old times. can i move to back in those days please. i know some things have to modernize but why does everything. somethings are better in the past than in the future. ( :

    the Pony Express - we have one more location from that trip that we got to see all about it. so amazing. the history - is perfect. i can understand why it didn't last but what amazing times.

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