Sunday, 12 November 2017

Alight here for Beer Hackett

There were some posts from my West Country holiday in September and October that I didn't get around to writing. Let's do them now.

The first is a quickie.

As you may have realised, I have a penchant for visiting out-of-the-way rural railway stations and country churches. No apologies for that. It doesn't mean that I'm a manic railway nerd, nor a manic street preacher. It's all to do with local history - and history I can photograph, at that. There has to be a picture in it. But there always is, with stations and churches.

So far as West Country stations are concerned, I've been gradually visiting every one. I started in the 1970s and I am by no means near the end of the list, even now. Stations have a transient atmosphere: they are places where people wait for a short while, but never linger for long, unless unforeseen circumstances compel it. So, in between trains, they can be very lonely, desolate places. That's when I particularly like to catch them, when I have the place utterly to myself, and can try shots that wouldn't have been possible with another person there to watch. In any case, I don't want to explain what I'm doing, or what I find so very interesting about an empty platform and an empty track.

I last visited Thornford station - the first station as you travel south from Yeovil Pen Mill - in 1997. It was with my parents and M---, and there was only time to jump out of the car (it was Dad's car) and take a couple of quick shots from the bridge over the line. Here's one of them.

And this is what it looked like last September, twenty years later.

It had had a makeover, and there was a bit more to comfort and assist the stranded traveller, but was still essentially a wayside halt, very similar in appearance to Chetnole, two stations on, another halt boasting only minimum facilities. In fact Thornford had once been called Thornford Bridge Halt. Thornford was the largest village in the immediate area. But there was also another: Beer Hackett. 

What an evocative country name! It makes you think straight away of old-fashioned thirsty rustics in smocks, quaffing their half-pints while discussing the speeches of Lloyd George and - more quietly - the chances of poaching a pheasant or two that night. I was highly amused to find that the modern station at Thornford makes a point of saying that this is where one gets off for Beer Hackett. 

Mind you, it's a station only for the able-bodied. There is no wheelchair access. The entrance is on the bridge, and there are many steep steps down. A suicidal plunge for the chairbound.

I sat in the shelter, contemplating what it must be like to wait here for a train on a dark cold wet evening in January. Did anybody ever do that? Did anyone commute into (say) Yeovil from here? It seemed unlikely that the place ever saw many rail travellers.

And yet - would you believe it - when I arrived a man was waiting on the platform.

And - even more unlikely, this, considering the infrequent rail service - as I stood there, thinking about joining him, a train approached from the Yeovil direction. (You can see man and train in the shot above, if you click on it to enlarge) Well, I do seem to be pretty lucky where approaching trains are concerned, as will become apparent when I get onto my latest escapades on the Heart of Wales Line. It isn't essential to include trains in my station photos, but it's a nice bonus if they turn up while I'm there. I was highly curious to know where that man was going. The next major town southward was Dorchester, and beyond that Weymouth. But photography demanded that I stay on the bridge, in order to get the train at the platform but revving up to set off again. Which I did.

Once it had gone, peace returned and the afternoon's entertainment was over. It was just after half past one. I'm guessing the man had walked over from Beer Hackett, after a lunchtime spell in the village pub. I hoped for his sake that they had a loo on the train. It was a longish journey to Dorchester.


  1. Glad to see some photos of things from my neck of the woods, Yeovil. In fact, my electrologist lives and works in Thornford.

  2. Ha, small world. I bet she hardly ever walks all the way to this very out-of-village station and catches a train there!



This blog is public, and I expect comments from many sources and points of view. They will be welcome if sincere, well-expressed and add something worthwhile to the post. If not, they face removal.

Ideally I want to hear from bloggers, who, like myself, are knowable as real people and can be contacted. Anyone whose identity is questionable or impossible to verify may have their comments removed. Commercially-inspired comments will certainly be deleted - I do not allow free advertising.

Whoever you are, if you wish to make a private comment, rather than a public one, then do consider emailing me - see my Blogger Profile for the address.

Lucy Melford