20 Jul – Desert Rats!

Dave T was doing a little essential watering this morning:IMG_20180720_115400

Looking after our investment in the new hedge plants and, since Severn Trent haven’t (yet) imposed a hosepipe ban, all very sensible.

Meanwhile, a sizeable party were enjoying the ‘footplate’ etc experience on 7903:IMG_20180720_115352

They weren’t the only visitors as Dave and I dealt with no less than 5 sets of potential train travellers who thought, optimistically, that GWSR might be running trains.  Most apologised for disturbing us and gratefully accepted a timetable plus the invitation to come back when we were officially ‘open’. However, one couple were mildly offended that we didn’t run on Friday – the implication being: ‘How silly not to operate on a prime day at the height of the season’.  Food for Boardroom thought I am sure but we must, of course, be wary of the increased pressure on our volunteer workforce.

Talking of pressure the path-making activity took another small step forward today as I reached the level of the Klargester/Dig for Victory area.  Readers may notice the path has a small extension downhill (a spur perhaps!) to provide access to garden, though I suspect we will need some steps since it’s a bit of a steep drop!

I am left wondering whether the desert conditions make this sort of work easier or not – it’s certainly hot work but not much is growing part from the hardiest weeds.

More of the same tomorrow I expect!


Square Pegs in Round Holes

Another glorious day weatherwise at Cheltenham Racecourse and the temperature soared. There was a smaller band of trusty volunteers  than usual – some, I know had headed for the Airshow at Fairford  where no doubt it was equally warm!

For those on duty, the idea was to stay in the shade of the trees and carry on the with regular duties of sweeping, tidying,   gardening and  watering the pots!  Everything generally comes to a halt to watch P&O ease into  platform 1 with first train of the day,  Here, having run around the rake of GWR livery coaches, it prepares to leave, tender first.


The exception to the clipping,  and snipping was the work being carried out by Bob Stark  pursuing the Mess room refurbishment task in the Ticket Office. Bob has shifted a good deal of the “mess from the mess” and things are heading towards “neat and tidy”. Sorry I didn’t get a photo of such a worthy job Bob, next time !

For my sins and helped by Stephen I was nicely cooking on gas mark 5 endeavouring to fix the door on the ‘new’ Hut at the end of platform 2. To make the door open and closes smoothly it require some round holes to be file square to avoid the hinges skewing.




With Stephen’s  help the job was completed, ready to move on to other fettling tasks.The Hut looks as though its always been there, here viewed in panorama.


As 12:30 approach and with Head Honcho (Dave T) escaping to Toddington for AGMs and such like, the rest of the team clocked out for lunch and a well earned rest!




7 Jul – Even Hotter Still!

Every one was in need of a drinks break this morning, not ignoring the engine 2807:IMG_20180707_115347

Certainly a warm one and not, I think, the occasion for very strenuous physical activity.  So no stump removal and a minimum of grass cutting – since frankly only a tidy was required as nothing much is growing if it isn’t watered or deep-rooted!  However, there was enough to keep Colin edge trimming and weed killing whilst Maurice neatened up the front hedge and Ros weeded on Platform 2 bank gardens.  Sadly, the dry weather doesn’t prevent a selection of pine needles and cones being present for Mike to remove.

IMG_20180707_115248 (2)Meanwhile a small team (self, Ben and Steve) were repairing the fence by the sentry hut – joining the paling structure to the spear point version.  Bill and Andy were working on the hut – which temporarily had a door that still fits (remarkably!) but needs a new bottom hinge bracket.IMG_20180707_113148I was struck by the solidity of the construction and noticed for the first time the maker’s plaque on the front.Samuel Taylor and Co Manufacturing – which, I am delighted to say, still exists so I feel deserves a plug: Samuel Taylor!  No doubt there will be a case for sanding down and re-painting in due course – we might contact the manufacturer and see if they want to sponsor us!?

Elsewhere John Leeson was busy pulling onions for Victory – like the spuds they are great when fresh from the soil and growing well, unlike the more water dependent plants.  On a less organic front Bob, doing his impression of the Alec Guinness as ‘The Man in the White Suit’, was spreading localised weed suppression:IMG_20180707_115841


Meanwhile, there was a massive effort by Steve brush cutting the Platform 2 embankment by the bridge – giving a strong impression of the real estate’s size and the consequently daunting task!  You can just see him in the first photograph, high up on the bank.

I may live to regret this remark but we could do with some rain!  Anyway, to the best of my knowledge, it’s not thus far affecting the train services:IMG_20180707_115418 (2)

Stay cool!



3 Jul – Dust Pan & Brush?

There was a slightly surreal quality to the Station this morning – caused by the climate plus other activities at the Racecourse:


Dust bowl conditions I’m afraid for this inbound passenger! And I’m not sure it did much for the volunteering environment either.

I missed yesterday’s Monday working party due to other commitments but I noticed that some emergency watering of pots and plants had taken place;  it’s beginning to remind me of 1976 with some pretty bleached looking lawn areas!

Still, it was an ideal time to continue Phase 4 of the Platform 1 embankment renovation – the long term goal of a smooth path from top to bottom remaining some distance away. However, having chopped off the major elements of the overgrown vegetation (Phase 1) – namely hawthorn, blackthorn, bramble etc, we have now replanted a new hedge line (Phase 2) and removed the largest offending stumps from the path line (Phase 3).  Phase 4 is to level the ground somewhat and remove the current crop of weeds and then Phase 5 is to put in something by way of a path – either just compacting the soil and keeping it weed-free or by laying some hardcore chippings we have available (or a bit of both).  Obviously some footfall also does wonders for making it look more like a path!

Anyway, after Steve’s latest strimming it looked like this:


And after some hard labour with the adze-like tool it now looks like this:


A path of sorts I guess.  However, for those with short memories this is what it used to look like (albeit a bit further down):IMG_20170923_100342

So we’re getting there.  And there are less weeds when it doesn’t rain!

Alas no train pictures today – there was only one arrival whilst I was there and that seem to be having some trouble departing!  Too hot for steam engines perhaps?






Having  carried out a detailed doughnut audit I can confirm  that there were  10 Volunteers on parade today. By no means discounting their hard   work gardening in the baking heat, I’m afraid I only had eyes for the GWR Hut restoration!

I had to strong arm both Ben and Stephen into lifting, tweaking and generally manoeuvring  with this task, for which I was most grateful.


As you can see the car parks are pretty parched and the whole area akin to Bournemouth Beach! Nevertheless good progress was made and encourages the belief that it will soon be finished!


25 Jun – Phew What a Scorcher!

It hardly seems more  than a few weeks since the Racecourse Station was knee deep in snow, the platforms were icy, the track covered with winter debris and the whole operation in the deep freeze.  And here we are sweltering under desert conditions (well nearly) in stark contrast!

Another thing which is a stark contrast (sorry Bob) is the Platform 2 garden, developing slowly but steadily under Ros and Bob’s guidance.  Here’s the man himself plus some of the results:



Could do with some rain ideally.  However, it wasn’t all standing about with hosepipes and we conducted some further leak tracing – and now consider it time to hand over to a professional for what we hope will be a lasting cure.

Meanwhile, I had another fit of anger with a tree stump, having added the axe to my armoury of tools:IMG_20180623_100620

Above before and below after!


Sadly this one was so big I couldn’t lift it out of the hole even after I’d detached it from the roots. I could just dig down a bit more and bury it I suppose!!  Anyway, with the help of young, fit, able bodies next weekend I expect we’ll get it to the fire and I can concentrate on the next one.  Oh good!

Yours in the Gloucestershire Sahara,







23 Jun: Astoni-shed!

Sorry, another weak pun to start off ‘Blog of the Week’.  A ‘Thomas’ weekend beckoned a slightly younger crowd of passengers than usual, though car parks didn’t seem as full as they would have been 12 months ago.  Perhaps we have grown used to the post-Broadway crush and don’t count it as a busy day unless it really is!

Anyway, there was no reduction in the age of the volunteers (!) with yours truly, Dave T, Maurice, Mike, Steve, Colin and Bill making up the Saturday shift.  Dave G was Station Master and Ben in the shop.  Gardens were fettled with some watering now proving necessary for pots and newly planted specimens; it’s certainly dry now up on the P1 bank:IMG_20180623_101327

However, our wild flowers seem unconcerned and continue to bloom in profusion:IMG_20180623_101255

In the same neck of the woods, Steve was strimming and Dave adopting a gentler pace of weed removal:

Elsewhere a small heavy team manoeuvred the shed roof into place and here are 2 of the proud ‘parents’:

Don’t, whatever you do, suggest that it looks like a bus shelter – or they’ll be very offended.  You might also have to wait along time for the next service.  It is of course, only a work in progress and needs 2 more sides (one with a ‘window’) and a door, plus layers of paintwork.  The hieroglyphics visible on the side are not primitive graffiti or ancient runes but indications of which way round the bits went – designed to assist us in reconstruction.  Someone, who will remain nameless, later admitted to painting over similar signs on the roof which might have saved some considerable angst and unbolting/re-bolting!

D6948 looked very much the part this morning – belying the diesel’s dodgy reputation in the Thomas narratives.


And there was much hard graft also on display in our guest volunteers on ticket collection and car parking supervsision – thanks gents!

And finally, we may have located the mysterious leak which has been trickling down the bank behind the ticket office – does it come from the mains supply on the other side?IMG_20180623_125014

Bet you can hardly wait for next week’s episode!

Kind regards,