Beeching and the Railways
When British railways were cut back, like a roadside hedgerow…
In the 1960s the government decided that the railway system was to take a secondary role to the Road network. The imagery of romantic steam rail aside, roads were promoting industry, were more in touch with the modern image of self-driven Britain, each family in its own chosen vehicle.
So the small lines, the village connections, the interconnected Britain that had been the envy of the world, were axed. In its place were left roads, and more roads, great big motorways and petrol stations.
This was, according to some, the saving grace of the British Railway network. Costs were too high, and change was necessary. Buses were seen to be the modern equivalent of public transport, although they were slower, and of course petrol was cheap in those days.
Today, our railways are slightly shambolic, and horrendously expensive.
Many of the dismantled railway lines still remain in the landscape, and perhaps due to the history of super-fast travel, they make wonderul walkways, connecting towns and villages in gentler ways than previously imaginable. From rail to feet. It is a good downgrade, we feel.
The two above photos show how some of the old stations have been developped into modern homesteads. The lower one is the better, by our books.
Near Will’s local village, in Lyminge, the railway station has been converted into the village Library. This is well. But the lines themseleves remain as rubbish dumps, and although they are good fun for kids a-growing, they are probably dangerous on some modern level. Will remembers seeing a big black cat there when he was a kid – like a black leather jacket, slinking along the ground, he says…