Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Hailes, Gloucestershire

Halting for a moment

One of the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic for our household has been a change in the way we buy our food. We have avoided large supermarkets, all of which are anyway at least 15 minutes by car from where we live, opting instead to visit small local shops within walking distance of our house or, in one case, just outside the small Cotswold town where we live. This latter is the local fruit farm, from which we’ve been buying apples and other fruit and vegetables for years, and which runs a good farm shop selling all kinds of food – meat, bread, cakes, muesli, dairy produce, ice cream, etc, etc – mostly supplied by local producers.¶ It’s a good way, I think, to support local businesses while also avoiding physical contact (I order by email and collect from an agreed place on the farm).

In celebration of all this, I thought I’d share three of the architectural sights I see on my short car journey to the farm. First, Hayles Abbey Halt, the tiny station on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, a heritage line that runs between Cheltenham Racecourse and Broadway (many of the trains are hauled by steam locomotives). The original station opened in 1928, allowing passengers to alight and walk the short distance up the lane to Hailes Abbey.* It was lit only by oil lamps and on each side of the track was a small corrugated iron building offering shelter for waiting passengers. The little station was closed in 1960, and British Railways closed the line in 1976. When the heritage railway took it over, they did not reopen Hayles Abbey Halt (the volunteers who run the line had work enough to do laying track, building or restoring several other stations, and caring for rolling stock, after all). So it was only in 2017 that the halt was reopened, with a new platform, a neat little corrugated iron shelter and some cast iron signs. My photograph shows a view of the halt from the nearby road bridge. The shelter is about as basic as they get – there is not even the concave-curving ‘pagoda’ roof of many of the platform buildings favoured by the Great Western. But it’s functional, and, as my regular readers know, I have a weakness for corrugated iron.

The tiny station is quiet for now. As I drive over the road bridge there’s no sign of puffs of steam, no distant railway whistle, no people arriving to look at the abbey and then perhaps take the footpaths back to Winchcombe, no waiting passengers about to get on a train and head back the easy way. It’s all very Adlestrop, with the local birds singing their hearts out to show that their voices are as loud as those of their relations over by the line that Edward Thomas celebrated in his poem – as loud and strong as all the birds of Oxfordshire, and Gloucestershire, and Warwickshire.

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¶ Hayles Fruit Farm, website here.

* This place has two spellings. The settlement is officially Hailes and this is also the spelling used by those who care for Hailes Abbey, but the railway and the fruit farm opt to use the more antiquated form, Hayles. Hence the confusion of getting off at Hayles Abbey Halt to visit Hailes Abbey.

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