Soon the guard appeared and sat down in the next seat. "Why," I asked him, tongue-in-cheekily, "do you call your line the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway when you don't go into Warwickshire?"
Our little train crossed Stanway Viaduct and edged cautiously along the newly laid track. "Even I haven't been this far before," admitted our guard. Eventually we drew to a halt, surrounded by open countryside, in front of a large red and white STOP board. In the distance we could see work progressing on the new line.
Our driver went to the other end of the train and soon we were returning to Toddington, then on through Winchcombe to Cheltenham Racecourse.
According to the GWR's guidebook, Greet Tunnel is said to be haunted. Having walked through a few similar tunnels, I can understand how the story originated. Dark... then very dark... rough under foot... water dripping from the roof...! You can see what I meant, though, about getting the best views from the front of a railcar. The crowds who pack themselves onto steam-hauled trains miss all the fun.
This pretty little station is Gotherington. My photo makes it appear to be devoid of track, but there's another platform opposite this one. I wonder why they didn't lay the track on the 'main' station side?
According to that guide book, Gotherington is a 'terrific' starting point for walking the Cotswolds. Such bold claims just had to be checked out, so when I got home I looked at the Ordinance Survey map. They're right. The Winchcombe Way passes close to the station, and to the south traverses Nottingham Hill and Cleeve Hill. Definitely one to explore.
|Ignore the compass bearing, it just records the way my smartphone|
was pointing when I took the screenshot.
This is Winchcombe Station. Our little railcar is on the right. We waited for the big steam train to make its way down to Cheltenham Racecourse, then boarded it on the way back.
Here's Julliette, admiring 7903 Foremarke Hall. Railway buffs will doubtless notice that the train is travelling 'wrong line'. They didn't wish to smoke out builders who were working on platform 1, I was told.
Back in Toddington, we checked out the 'Have-a-Go Signal Box'. Now tell it not in Gath, but this girl has been let loose in a 'real' signal box on more than one occasion. Feeling devilish, I pulled the yellow distant signal lever whilst leaving the big red one 'on'. The signal went down. It's a pity that I didn't ask Julliette to record the event as the railway inspectorate would not be amused. You're not supposed to be able to do that!
Here, though, I must choose my words carefully. Main Line railways like the Gloucestershire Warwickshire were originally engineered on a grand scale, consequently they lack the bucolic charm of many little branch lines. For instance, the Dean Forest Railway, less than a mile from my home, twists and turns along wooded valleys and pauses frequently as level crossing gates are opened and closed, all of which, for me, adds immeasurably to its appeal. And how about this one – the amazing Tanfield Railway?
But the crowds waiting to board our train as we returned to Toddington bear witness that not everyone thinks like me. Vive la difference! And yes, one day I would love to return.