The first trip was just a regulation jaunt along the stretch from Knowle Junction to West Meon and back, where the line has been turned into a bridleway. The second trip, on a different bike as the eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed from the different handlebars, was a little more adventurous! That day I decided to follow the route of the original line to its starting point in Alton. That was certainly not just a regulation cycle and I don't just mean because of the bad weather!
Cycling along, where trains once thundered past, always leaves me with an uneasy feeling. Less than 50 years ago the lines were still in use but now nearly almost all evidence of both train and track has gone, it leaves me feeling an eerie kind of sadness. When you think the line was built primarily to take holidaymakers to the sea, in my mind it conjures up images of carriages full of screaming children all excited about their day out. I can picture them with their heads out of the window, watching the countryside whizz by and feeling that rush of air against their faces. Cycling along the line now there is nothing but silence. To think also of all the effort what went into levelling the surface and creating the embankments, it seems to me such a waste of time and effort. Several men died constructing the railway but their legacy only lasted a few years.
As you cycle along the line today, you pass under bridges that carry motorists to their destinations, many of whom will be unaware they are passing over what was once a railway line. Under those bridges you get to appreciate just how much work went into constructing them. Almost all are still standing and are still in such wonderful condition. It seems a shame that such beautifully simple architecture is hidden away.
So, before I get too (much more) melancholy, here are my photos. I hope you enjoy them :)
|The line for deviants perhaps? I was clearly in the right place :)|
|I had clearly just broken the law in getting to this point then!|
|The entire line was built wide enough to carry two set of tracks but only a single set was ever laid.|
|A mountain bike is probably overkill for this kind of terrain!|
|"Now, are you telling me that's not worth twenty shekels? Look at it. Feel the quality. That's none of your goat."|
|The first time I got to this point I was a bit freaked out upon seeing what I thought was a child in the undergrowth. The figure you can see in the centre is actually a bronze statue of a child waving! A bit spooky.|
|In some places the top bit has collapsed or has been removed because it was about to collapse.|
|The song 'Ghost Train' by Madness comes to mind. "Waiting for the train that never comes."|
|This is bit where I imagine the screaming kids with their heads out of the window as the cunning stunt... stunning countryside whizzes by.|
|It had to be done. T'was quite warm that day.|
|All that remains of the West Meon viaduct.|
|Feeling a little claustrophobic.|
|4ft high stinging nettles. Beyond them, an assortment of brambles!|
|A dead end. I had to backtrack quite a way.|
|That there, is a railway carriage in the garden of what was East Tisted station, now converted into a residential dwelling, just as with Droxford station.|
|Deeper than it looked!|
The result of cycling through aforementioned 4ft high stinging nettles and assorted brambles!