15 Jun – Damp Course!

I may be deluded but I think the weather is looking up!  Or at least this damp doesn’t feel as unpleasant as last week’s damp.  Anyway, the hardy volunteers weren’t deterred and I noted Dave T, Mary, Bob, Ros, Maurice, Ben, Steve, John, Andy and Mike. (And Dave G as Station Master.)  I forgot my phone so the photos are courtesy of Mary – though any errors are entirely my own.


The serious spotters amongst the readership will, no doubt, be able to identify the guest engine rumbling up the main line – as observed from Cheltenham Racecourse Station.  And for those that can’t – it’s just another steam engine!  Seriously though it was apparently important enough for us to put our tea break back by 10 mins – and you don’t get graver than that on a Saturday morning.

There was, as you might imagine, no need to water anything today (or for the next week or so I imagine) but what you gain on the swings…..

Lots of green stuff was growing so Maurice and Mary were pruning and weeding respectively.  I cut some grass (just dry enough) and John attended to the allotment, while Bob and Ros returned from holidays to take control of the Platform 2 garden.

Dave was fettling the hedge and then convened a sub-committee to consider a mystery hole dug by Ben in the P1 embankment.  They were, as the old saying goes,  ‘looking into it’!


It was in fact the location of a bit of corrugated plastic pipe, which may or may not have indicated where some subterranean services were buried, but consistently caught on the mower blade.  Anyway it’s gone now and the location marked by a notch in the fence – so remind me if I forget this in years to come.   When not disfigured by volunteers the “top o’ t’ bank” is looking quite smart now with a 3-year old hedge line, an area of mown grass and a strip of wild flower meadow before the slope down the Platform.  Just got to keep it looking that way!


Elsewhere Steve and I sought to reinforce the wooden fence on the (staff only) steps by fitting braces between fence posts and concrete steps.

And finally, here’s Mary (aka David Bailey) doing a panoramic of the same area:


Or maybe it was the Flying Scot which caused distortion in the space time continuum? (Did I get this from Einstein or from an episode of Dr Who?)





8 June – All Quiet on the Railway Front

I was absent from the railway yesterday but was provided the following ‘3rd person’ report:

   “With some on holiday or days out and others possibly put off by the damp start, just four in today. Dave G, Dave T, Steve and John had no better offers so came in to see what was happening. Certainly no watering was necessary after the overnight rain, the lawns were too wet to mow and the ramp and platform were too wet to get the billy goat out.  Dave T (aka Lionel Messi) kicked a lot of cones into touch, Steve was under the bridge arch tinkering with some metal steps and Dave G was examining the “Ut” and investigating the complete disappearance of the ladies’ loo door retaining hook – a real mystery! Once the 11.05 train departed we adjourned to the workers’ room for tea, joined by John.  Then a pleasant surprise – Mick Best arrived with his son-in-law (from Australia) and joined us for an extended tea break. Good to see him again and the news of a possible return in the autumn was welcomed by all” (Hear hear! – Editor)

    “By now the sun was trying to appear, the rain had stopped – time to get some work done.  Dave G got his paint brush out to work on the car park gate, Steve carried on with his steps, John spent some time on the ramp garden and then in his veg garden (lovely pick of broad beans today) whilst Dave T got the long-handled clippers out and finished cutting the long grass & other weeds from around the “new” hedge plants. This will all need raking out on Monday and carting to the bonfire place – a rather wet place at the moment! There’s a circus setting up just outside the car park fence – always something seems to be going on these days.  Over at the ‘Smith’s’ traffic lights (Southam Lane), another (this time American) circus is already set up with performances today! I was quietly clipping away by the racecourse boundary fence, when a group of people on the public footpath asked me if they could reach the (American) circus this way. I advised them to carry on down the footpath and over the railway line, which would land them in the correct field. I later noticed they would have to walk through a flock of sheep and over an electric fence before reaching the circus – oops!”

Sorry no snaps so a video from the archive – since we aren’t likely to see Thomas & Co on the GWSR this year.



3 Jun: Health & Safety Best Practice

A quiet Monday which featured nothing unusual – even allowing for the odd customer who came to buy an advance ticket when the railway was closed (and so, of course, was the Ticket Office).  Still, a crop of summer perennials also arrived to do some work including Chris, Ian, Roger, Dave T, Mike, Dave G and Mary.  Here are the first 2 named – above Platform 1 – ‘hay making’!  – or rather gathering the dead  strimmings for the burn pile.  As you can see the Wychwood Festival funfair etc is still in evidence.


As it happens I had a collection of rotten timber and other wooden scraps to burn – alongside some pernicious weeds of my own – so arrived early to start a summer bonfire.  Rather easier to light this time of year as most of the items are tinder dry in any case (but without producing that satisfying inner glow which a winter blaze provides).


There was also a fair number of pine branches to be gathered in from the embankments – courtesy of the last few windy periods; all now incinerated.  And, in accordance with best practice the Gloucestershire Fire Service were notified before and after the bonfire.


And that short glimpse of a leisurely Monday afternoon is about it.  No noisy trains or passengers to bother us – just joking!

However, the absence of scheduled service shouldn’t make us any less safety conscious and it was good to see all concerned observing the rules about crossing the track, wearing high visibility vests, the correct use of tools etc, as well as informing the authorities where required (see above).  However reluctantly we do these things (and despite the occasional moans) it is very important that we all attend to the issue: our own and our passengers best interests.  I suspect it is a subject we may have to return to in further blogs. Best practice!  Keep it up and watch this space.


Glorious 1st June!

And it was – a glorious 1st June! Having been a ‘train heavy’ narrative last week, apologies for being a railway light in this blog.


However, continuing our horticultural background theme I noted these fine specimens growing in profusion on the Platform 2 embankment.20190601_104624

Meanwhile, the volunteer numbers were still a little low with various resignations, illnesses, holidays and ‘better offers’!  We managed to muster Dave T, Mary, Maurice, Mike, John and Steve (with Dave G as Station Master again).  And, thankfully, we had a slightly quieter time compared to last week’s roaring success of a Steam Festival. At least in terms of passenger numbers it seemed quieter, although the Wychwood Festival at the Racecourse proper provided a background accompaniment of ‘music’ so that one could hardly hear the tannoy at times. Bah humbug!  At least the tents provided a colourful backdrop beyond the car park fence.20190601_112319

After the usual post-Festival relocation of kit, there was much gardening to be done with lawns cut, beds weeded and plants watered; stock control in our ‘shop’ areas and general maintenance.

And of further interest (to me at least) was the presence of what I believe to be a moth – distinctively red in colour (Cinnabar Moth)


Good at providing ragwort control I understand.

More train related materials next week hopefully.



STEAMY! Northern Soul 2019!!

There were hundreds of passengers enjoying the late Spring sunshine yesterday – and very few volunteers.  To be fair, a Bank Holiday weekend does tend to involve commitments beyond the railway and some of our colleagues were on the trains as passengers anyway!  The hard graft was being done by Dave G and his team of station staff, whilst Steve, Mike, Maurice and I filled in around the edges.  Dave T & Mary plus Bob & Ros are away on holidays whilst John and Ben were mixing it with the hard core rail buffs!

A selection of phots which need little narrative:20190525_095423


Familiar colleagues!




A new acquaintance (above) and an old friend (below) !


….. and some odd glimpses:

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Consulting the map of the Racecourse Station?

And what did we workers do whilst all this fun and merriment was going on? “…… we do what we can. We keep off strangers and the foolhardy; and we train and we teach, we walk and we weed.” Having featured the container plants in last week’s blog here’s a tribute to the ‘new’ garden on Platform 2.

  20190525_09034920190525_09034120190525_090326You can, I hope, see the adverse soil conditions and generally inhospitable environment which makes Bob & Ros’s efforts all the more commendable.  Even if Platform 2 isn’t in use it’s nice for passengers to see this as a backdrop.

From an income point of view I hope the trains over the long weekend remain just as busy – from a staff point of view perhaps a little quieter!



18 May – Hosta La Vista, Baby!


A good turn out of 10 volunteers was in evidence today – usefully for the prep ahead of next weekend’s Festival of Steam – including Dave T, Bob, Wiley, Maurice, Andy B, Andy M, Steve, John, Mike.

Mary wasn’t present so I decided to feature the excellent tubs of flowers which she (and others) tend so carefully and which add much to the colour of the Racecourse Station:



Wiley was busy with me throwing out more scrap – when he wasn’t gobbling up the cakes:20190518_112526

How to you get to eat this much and stay slim? Youth I suppose!

Elsewhere several parties were busy on grass cutting and weeding including  a stint from Andy B on the steep embankment with a battery powered strimmer:20190518_122907

Luckily Maurice was down below (out of shot) collecting the debris.  John, meanwhile, has kindly taken an old bench recovered from the arches store and upcycled it; here he is trying it out:20190518_112510

Great work!

Dave T was tending the new hedge whilst Steve helped me put some crowd barriers in place, fixed a leaking loo and then strimmed some of the unwanted weeds on P1 embankment.  Andy M billygoated the considerable amounts of debris from Platform 2 – which will be in use again (hurrah!) next weekend.  Bob fitted in a quick stint watering the P2 gardens prior to time away and Mike maintained the allotments garden with the same treatment.

Dave G was absent at a meeting but  here’s the final paint scheme for  the main gates:


Not really, final coat to go on later in the week I presume!  (And the observant will have spotted 2 x 5 Sainsbury’s jam doughnuts waiting to be admitted – vital rations for the troops at tea break.)

So, I think we can be fairly confident the all will be shipshape and Cheltenham fashion by next weekend.



A Steaming Monday!

On a warm Monday I received this report and picture from Mary:

“Just one photo from today, advertising the BIG event. Dave G and Roger aim to have the main gates repainted by then:


Dave G behind bars with his ‘warder’ looking on!

“There were eight of us in this afternoon, and it was thirsty work for the plants, trees and volunteers! Even Dave T had to imbibe to swill down all the dust from the weeds he was pulling off the hedge plants. Everything is growing very well this year, including all the things we don’t want.  As a result, some hay making will be needed on Saturday and a bonfire on Monday!”

Thanks, Mary!