The delightful County School is the Northern most station on the Mid Norfolk Railway. It does have a small stretch of rail but is not yet linked to the rest of the railway. Work is in progress and tremendous progress has been made with only about two miles of track left to repair and lay.
The station received Leader II funding in 1999 and was transformed from a derelict site to a period railway station dating back to the 1930’s. It is now a popular spot for walkers and nature lovers. The station has an Orchard and is situated in a beautiful setting in Mid Norfolk. The walks and grounds are maintained by volunteers on the Mid Norfolk Railway and there is also a popular tea room.
On Saturday the 18th March 2017, The Young Volunteer Group from the North Norfolk Railway based at Sheringham, arrived to give the station picnic area its annual tidy up. This is an excellent scheme that has been running now for several years and demonstrates a good working connection between both railways.
Our editor Paul Young called in to meet them and brings us this report:
There are many interesting characters around the Norfolk Orbital route who have a wealth of knowledge about the local railways.
Our Project Officer Paul Young met up recently with Ray Meeks, who is now the archivist for the M&GN Circle and has lived in the Melton Constable area for most of his life. Many members of his family were involved with the railway and he has memories of life in those times.
On Friday the 10th March 2017, Paul met up with Ray and they talked through his experiences of when railways played a key role in many people’s lives. You can listen to their interview here:
Wrenford has been painting railway scenes for as long as he can remember, both his grandfathers were engine drivers and he developed a passion for steam trains. His paintings are very atmospheric and Wrenford has gained a reputation as one of the area’s top railway artists.
Wrenford lives in the Norfolk Orbital Route at Sheringham and is a frequent visitor to the nearby North Norfolk Railway . He is a very busy artist and attracts a lot of work through commissions.
On 25th February 2017, he joined Andy Sullivan of the Norski Noo Gallery at Dereham Memorial Hall, for the 18th Model Dereham Railway exhibition. It was as always a popular day with trains running on the Mid Norfolk Railway.
Paul Young, project officer for the Norfolk Orbital Railway went along and interviewed Wrenford, who gives us a fascinating insight into his work and you can hear it here:
Working with Norski Noo Gallery, we are delighted to be able to offer a limited selection of signed prints of Norfolk Railway stations in and around the Orbital route. A percentage of the proceeds will go towards funding this project. To view the prints and for more details please click on this link: Norski Noo Gallery
On Monday 13th February 2017, David Bill (Director), Joe Penfold (Holt Liaison) and Paul Young (Project Officer) members of the Norfolk Orbital project met with Steve Turner from the Office of Rail and Road, who deals with all the Heritage Railways in the UK.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the development of the rail route into Holt and identify the issues. The crossing at the Old Cromer Road was considered to be the first priority. A traffic survey is to be conducted and then a business case for a crossing is to be put to ORR for consideration. The business case is to outline the safety aspects, traffic use and benefits to the town of installing it. Crossings are not popular due to the number of fatalities so it has to be a strong case. We would obviously need to consult with Holt Town Council and the NNR to gauge their views. So it would be a well rounded proposal and would not be a stand alone. If a crossing is not approved then options would be a tunnel or a bridge.
Clearances were then noted and in places they do appear to be ‘tight’ in one area with the numerous new developments currently under construction. However with the measurements that have been taken this pinch point should be workable. We are waiting confirmation from ORR as to their requirements and then we can go to Norfolk Highways and Holt Town Council to discuss. The footprint of the new roundabout currently being constructed on the Holt bypass will not encroach onto the rail corridor. It would of been helpful if this roundabout could of been offset to the East by a few metres but this request was not factored in so we will have to work with it.
A public consultation was also suggested as being set up to gauge the current feeling of support within the local community. This would need to be done working closely with Holt Town Council and Norfolk Highways. The current Orbital project has been running now for almost twenty years and public opinion has been tested in this time with mixed results. It has to be remembered that the Orbital project is being run solely by a small and dedicated voluntary team, many who have other commitments and full time jobs. If there is a high level of support then funding options for staffing the project could be considered as an option.
Having bought the railway track bed and the two bridges at Pudding Norton, Fakenham, we have begun to plan for restoration of the bridges and for the involvement of the local community.
The condition of the bridges has already been assessed by Bob Wright, a railway civil engineer of great experience, to whom we owe a lot. This has shown that they are in a surprisingly good state after many years of disuse. Nevertheless, they need restoration work to prevent deterioration and to keep them sound for the time when the railway can be rebuilt.
Although it is clearly marked as private property, the trackbed as far as the river bridge is walked extensively by local people, who greatly enjoy the wonderful view of the Wensum Valley from our high embankment. We are happy for this to continue until the route is required for the railway but it must be under “permissive path” status, which will prevent the establishment of a full public right of way and ensure that railway use will not be impeded. In fact, there is adequate width to allow both railway and a footpath, should that be necessary in the future.
Registering a permissive path is, therefore, important as is attention to public safety. We have already tried a number of times to get guidance from the authorities on the process involved in establishing a permissive path without much result. There appear to be some policy changes planned. We shall stay with it.
Otherwise, we are now concentrating on two strategies:
First, we are forging partnerships with groups in the local community. We are working with Fakenham Academy towards the provision of teaching material about the history and the future of the railway, together with a possible short training course for teachers about the railway and its place in the community. We think it no bad thing that young people should be made aware of the railway, its past and its potential. They are of a generation that has grown up without a local railway. We need to help them to understand what a rail service to Fakenham could do for the community, the economy and the environment.
We also have a partnership with Fakenham Area Conservation Team, which is to help control vegetation along the track bed on a voluntary basis. We are very grateful for this highly practical assistance.
The more that local people understand the importance of the work that we are doing and the more they become involved, the better the long-term prospects for a strongly supported project to bring the railway back to Fakenham.
In that connection, quotations have been obtained for the creation of interpretation boards to be placed on the site illustrating the history of the railway and the Wensum Valley environment and explaining our plans to acquire more trackbed and, in partnership with the Mid Norfolk Railway, return a public transport rail service to Fakenham.
Second, we have to consider the work necessary on the bridges, both to arrest deterioration and to improve safety provisions. The bridges are not going to fall to pieces but it will be a very good thing if we can deal with such things as ingress of water, vegetation establishing itself where it should not be, loose masonry and lack of protective paintwork.
Bob Wright has advised on the work that needs to be done and quotations have been obtained from specialist contractors.
Both of these strategies require money. £3,800 has been raised in grants initially. This is made up of £300 from Fakenham Town Council, which is strongly in support of our efforts as a matter of policy, £2,500 from the Ernest Cook Trust and £1,000 from the Veronica Awdry Charitable Trust. We are now seeking to build on this support with further grant applications for substantial funding sufficient to allow us to fulfil both strategies: community partnerships and bridge restoration. There is a lot of competition for funding but, for the first time, we have a project at Fakenham of the right kind to attract grant support.
Whilst this goes on, we have also been looking at the potential acquisition of another section of trackbed. Such negotiations, however, do have to be approached with sensitivity and care. Inevitably there are many pitfalls and they take time.
There are some interesting projects taking place along the Orbital route. One excellent example is the Hunslet 3193, a steam locomotive undergoing restoration in the goods yard at Yaxham railway station by members of the Norfolk Heritage Steam Railway Ltd.
One of our website editors, Paul Young, met up recently with two members of the Norfolk Heritage Steam Railway Ltd. Chairman Charlie Cooley and Secretary/Treasurer David Bramhall.
Listen to their conversation here:
For more information, please click on the weblinks below:
Thanks to the generosity of our supporters we recently met the challenge of having to pay the next installment towards the purchase of the land at High Kelling.
The land we have purchased is contained within the belt and we are now looking at Pt1300 which leads up to the Holt Bypass.
Together with the initial stretch of land we purchased from the County Council some time ago this means that we have reached the halfway mark towards purchasing this first part of the railway route and the prospect of getting into Holt. We face many challenges ahead and we will keep everyone informed but this is good news which we wanted to share with you now.
From an end-on junction with the NNR’s tracks at their present terminus in High Kelling, the line will skirt the NNR’s planned Victorian school-room, then cross the Cromer Road by bridge or level crossing. It will then follow the old trackbed across the land we have just purchased and on towards the A148. It will follow the route of this road, running along the wide verge that was left when the road was built.
The housing development planned for the south of the bypass has had its roundabout junction with the bypass designed so as to not impede the rail line.
At Station Road there will be an interim terminus provided, which will be used until the line can be extended further west tunneling under Norwich Road to a permanent station near Valley Lane. From there the railway can eventually continue towards Melton Constable, the first part of the route here combining a footpath with the railway line.