North Camp Station work reaches another milestone.
The fifth phase of the Rail to Trail (R2T) project at North Camp Station has been completed. BVCT and its partners have turned what once was a derelict piece of land on Platform 2 into something not only more aesthetically pleasing but also more environmentally friendly.
Following the adoption of North Camp Station by BVCT under the GWR Station adoption scheme attention soon turned to how the station could be made to look more attractive and passenger friendly. One of many ideas was a proposal to build a wildflower garden. After negotiations between BVCT and Southeast Community Rail Partnership (SCRP), GWR and Network Rail were approached and permissions soon were gained to proceed.
Working with North Camp Matters Community Association (NCMCA), we contacted local landscape company Hortus Paradisi who designed and priced a scheme. Funding was found bringing together a syndicate of sponsors. With the optimal planting season in mind plants and shrubs were ordered.
As excavation on a working platform was not permitted due to the presence of underground services, the project required us to build a raised bed. A detailed survey of services was carried out before we started. All cutting and preparation had to be carried out off site as no power tools were allowed in the vicinity of a live railway track. With the kind permission of the Old Ford public house, materials were delivered to the pub, and assembled in situ. Before this specific safety training for working on a railway property was undertaken; everybody working on site needed to earn their GWR hi-viz jacket and safety certificate as a ‘station friend’.
The first job was to clear the site of existing rubble and unwanted materials. The work started in a very cold snap in January 2023 when the ground was solid and it took some time to get back to a suitable surface to start the new construction.
Sleepers were first put in place, then topsoil, then a membrane topped with bark mulch. All the building materials were sponsored by Kebur Garden Materials Ltd. A special thanks goes to Jo Holtom and the Kebur team for supporting the project.
The final task was to install some wildlife friendly plants to encourage biodiversity to flourish. For the keen gardeners amongst you these were Rhododendron Percy Wiseman, Polystichum setiferum and Pulmonaria ‘Trevi Fountain’. The bed was finished off with wildflower turfing.
Planting does not look entirely after itself – another role for volunteers. The planting at the station is currently tended by BVCT, and the Rotary Club of Farnborough will soon have members who are station friends who can assist.
The R2T project has been a true community partnership bringing together individuals and organisations who have a common interest in the environment and well-being. The railway station has acted as a catalyst and there is no reason why this type of initiative cannot be replicated at other railway stations along the North Downs Line, which runs from Reading to Gatwick. If you would like to be involved in similar ideas in your area along the Blackwater Valley, please contact Chris@bvct.org.uk for further information.
The new planting was formally “opened” on 7 June when people who had helped the project came together to celebrate the completion (subject to ongoing maintenance) of this stage.
From left to right in the photograph the people attending on 7 June included: Alan Taylor (BVCT), Peter Bassett (NCMCA), Chris Smith (BVCT), Andy Gallaugher (Senior Duty Manager GWR), Cliff Mosey (Director Kebur Garden Materials Ltd.), Jo Holtom (Kebur Garden Materials Ltd.) Caroline Salmon (SCRP Community Rail Officer, North Downs Line), Alison Andrews (Chair, NCMCA), Bernard Baverstock (BVCT), Cllr. Diane Bedford (Rushmoor Borough Council and Rotary Club of Farnborough), and Steve Bailey (Manager BVCP). Not in the photo but equally important were Clive Ayling (Customer Sales Advisor GWR Ticket Office at North Camp Station), Emily Moore (BVCP), Margaret (manager Old Ford) and David Daniels (retired former SCRP Community Rail Officer, North Downs Line).
RAIL TO TRAIL (R2T) STAYS ON TRACK
This project started as an “interesting opportunity” in March 2019 and has grown into one of the Trust’s key activities. Its primary aim is to encourage people to explore the Blackwater
Valley using sustainable transport and as a result reduce carbon footprints. It has helped the Trust forge many new partnerships as it has gained momentum.
In conjunction with the Southeast Community Rail Partnership and Great Western Railway, our first initiative was to erect poster cabinets to house a map of the Valley with directions to the Valley footpath from four stations along the North Downs Line (Guildford to Reading). The stations are North Camp, Farnborough North, Blackwater, and Sandhurst.
We planned to launch R2T formally in March 2020 with a walk between stations. We had to call this off at the last minute due to the pandemic., but the appetite for the initiative was clearly there to be seen. We intend to arrange a similar walk with a rail dimension sometime in the future.
Next, the Trust formally adopted North Camp Station in 2021 as part of the Community Rail Networks station adoption scheme. This allows the Trust, working with other local groups and associations, to have a say in enhancing the station aesthetically to improve passengers’ experience. We are working in partnership with the North Camp Matters Community
(NCMCA) and have already delivered school artwork installations to the two
The third strand of the project was to design and erect ‘Gateway to the Blackwater Valley’ station platform running-in boards at North Camp, Farnborough North, Blackwater, and Sandhurst. These are now in position.
As part of the promotion of the Trust, the Valley, our conservation objectives and in furtherance of our environmentally friendly and well-being initiatives, we have produced two Rail to Trail circular walk pamphlets from railway stations. The routes link Farnborough North, Blackwater and Sandhurst stations. They can be used for a simple walk from one station to the next or combined to form a circular walk along the Path between the stations returning through the countryside – from around 3 to 14 miles depending on the configuration you choose. These will eventually form part of a series of routes using stations as hubs to enjoy the wonderful countryside and places of interest we have in our neighbourhood.
In May 2023 we completed a landscaping project on one of the platforms at North Camp, sponsored in partnership with Southeast Community Rail Partnership, Kebur Garden Materials, BVCT, NCMCA and the Old Ford Pub. This has been a true community venture.
The potential to use the R2T initiative as a catalyst for other projects in the Valley will depend on available resources – as ever more volunteers would add value! If you want to know more or find out how you can become involved in similar projects, please contact Chris Smith (BVCT Trustee) at email@example.com
BVCT trustee Chris has been negotiating the Trust’s involvement with the Community Rail Partnership (CRP) to find ways to encourage the use of railways as a sustainable way to explore our Valley.
We are very lucky to have such wonderful countryside on our doorstep but have you considered exploring further along the 23 miles of wildlife corridor by train?
This is the principle behind our new and exciting Rail to Trail project – to show just how accessible the Blackwater Valley is by train and how easy it is for people to explore by combining the Blackwater path and the rail network.
What better way to get to know the Valley – all the health benefits but no car and no stress.
The Festival gave us a great opportunity to test out the idea – as part of a partnership project with CRP, we ran 3 Rail to Trail walks. The walk reports are below, from our leaders Colin and Chris.
We hope to share more news soon about our partnership with CRP and our new Rail to Trail signage project.
“We enjoyed joining the walk today, the weather held apart from a brief shower”
“A fantastic walk – we can’t wait for the next time”
“I enjoyed the walk at Wildmoor Heath from Sandhurst station and met a lovely group of people”
Rail to Trail: walk North Camp to Crowthorne, return by train
This was a super valley walk of just under 9.5 miles between the 2 stations. It was led by David Daniels of CRP and Colin Wilson from BVCT, and the route ran through some of the most striking scenery on the Blackwater Valley path.
Despite the enthusiasm of our newsletter editor, who, when bathed in sunshine before the Festival, predicted the same for the Festival, the weather deteriorated quite severely such that only a small party of walkers was bold enough to join us.
As it turned out, the weather was not so bad! Lunch was had in the dry at Sandhurst and only a few showers blotted the day.
For the two previous nights torrential rain had affected our route through Hawley Meadows where a solid multi user path is proposed to help in future but as you can see, wearing waterproof boots was definitely advisable!
The walk ended in good time, the train ride back to North Camp was exactly on time and on this occasion, free to our walkers due to CRP funding.
We all made some new friends, learnt new things, enjoyed good company and added to our fitness, exactly what walking is about!
Our thanks go to David Daniels of CRP for joining us.
Rail to Trail: a nature trail around Sandhurst
We set off from Sandhurst station, a brave small group having spotted that the rain would stop just as we started!
Passing through some very pleasant suburban streets we joined Wildmoor Heath for a circular route enjoying the heath and some good views from a carefully placed but tucked away seat overlooking the Valley.
Autumn colours were beginning to show and Trudi from Thames Basin Heaths Partnership gave us a short explanation about the valuable nature we could find there.
We failed to see any dartford warblers but we did find a rather unfortunate common lizard with a damaged tail and some nice fly agaric mushrooms. Chiffchaffs and nuthatches were heard as well as some of the expected tit flocks in the birch trees.
The walk route returned by the hidden gem of Snaprails Park before continuing south across Sandhurst Memorial Park to the River then followed the Blackwater Valley path back to the station.
This was a super, varied walk with lots to interest us. Our thanks again go to David Daniels of CRP and Trudi from TBH Partnership for joining us on such an unpromising day!
Rail to Trail: a circular walk from Ash
Chris hopped onto the 13.25 from Blackwater, 15 minutes and three stations later he arrived at Ash and joined up with seven fellow travellers wanting to see more of what the Valley had to offer.
This walk was led by David Daniels from CRP, ably assisted by our own guide and Valley expert Steve Bailey (Manager of the Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership).
The walk took us from Ash Station to Ash Green Meadows, onto Tongham Woods via the Old Railway Path. We then picked up the Blackwater River footpath and along the Basingstoke Canal returning back to the station.
A fantastic walk of around 4.5 miles and it took us 2 hours 30 mins.