“Change trains and you could go anywhere. 3 changes of train will get you to Moscow and 6 changes will get you to Istanbul.” (http://www.traveloglewes.co.uk)
It’s an inspiring thought when you live next to a railway station, particularly on a grey day in February.
But train still rhymes with rain – a bit of an obsession at the moment as we become resigned to effects of the wettest January for centuries. Today I will be venturing out to look around the London Road Station garden, but while the soil is wet and many plants are still hibernating, thoughts do turn to other things connected to our station.
London Road Station is a focal point in our community. Many people pass back and forwards over the footbridge to the local primary school, between our two excellent local pubs, The Signalman and The Open House, one on either side of the railway. We all love our Victorian station building, designed by the renowned railway architect of the time, David Macotta.
And the train is a wonderful means of getting out into the Sussex countryside without having to battle around other cars on our increasingly congested Victorian streets: so much more fun to start a walk with a train journey.
I was reminded of this by an e-mail from Chris in Lewes. He has created a wonderful website detailing walks in our area using public transport, and particularly trains. Forget Moscow and Istanbul for the moment, our train stations are the gateways to the magnificent South Downs National Park.
There are some great walks here on Chris’ website from stations along our Brighton to Seaford railway line: Newhaven, Southease to Seaford, Falmer to Ditchling Beacon – all wonderful downland walks with stunning views towards the sea and back towards the Sussex Weald.
At a meeting of the Steering Group for the Brighton to Seaford line, Chris convinced me that we should start thinking about walks from London Road Station. I was a little dubious: why would you want to start from London Road Station, when you are more or less in the National Park when you arrive at Falmer, Lewes, Southease etc?
We can walk up to the Downs from here in about 30-45 minutes, but perhaps more interesting from London Road Station would be some short walks around our Victorian urban area?
Our streets are very much marked by their railway heritage; it was the coming of the railway in the second part of the 19th century that promoted their development. Houses around here were built for railway managers. Our pub is called The Signalman, formerly the Railway Tavern, and A.A. Taylor’s joinery by the station used to be the stables for horses drawing coaches to take railway passengers on to their destinations. Within five minutes’ walk of London Road Station is the former Railway Mission, now the Calvary Evangelical Church at Preston Circus. And there is the splendid Viaduct, built in 1845: a major architectural attraction when it was first built, with many visitors coming down from London specially to visit it.
Urban walks allow us to look again at familiar streets and buildings, and recognise the everyday history which has shaped them: they are visits to a living museum. And if you want a more typical kind of walk in lovely countryside, then you can hop on a train and get out to the South Downs National Park within minutes.
So it looks like I’ve talked myself into a project: if you’d like to join me in thinking up a ‘railway heritage’ trail from London Road Station, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org