The Trust held a new event on 11th and 12th July, at Wenhaston Station. On Saturday, all residents of Wenhaston with Mells Parish were invited to come to the station and meet some volunteers and Trustees. The Trust provided free transport, with the Halesworth Area Community Transport bus bringing visitors to the site, and taking them back home later. We were very pleased that many residents did visit, including a number of Parish Councillors. The meadows and trackbed were looking particularly beautiful, and those who attended, even if they were not in favour of the restoration of the railway, said they were impressed by the quality of the stewardship, and that they appreciated the two years of hard work that had been done. The newly-restored fencing made a very good show, and the bird-boxes were tenanted.
A passing steam roller paused inside the gate for an hour or two – it could not apparently be heard in action even by close neighbours: our steam locomotive will be even quieter (and smaller). The regular volunteers, many of whom travel long distances to work on Trust land (though some of them are very local indeed!), and some of whom helped the Trust to buy the land three years ago, were pleased to hear that their work was acknowledged.
Three short panels of original Southwold Railway rails were laid loosely at the driftway crossing – to show visitors that this three-foot-gauge 10 mph railway is not exactly HS2! The only disappointment was that no-one from any of the local and national organisations who have repeatedly objected to the SRT’s plans could find anyone to come to see what we were actually doing, despite individual invitations. The SWT, RSPB and AONB still have an open invitation to visit any time, to see for themselves. After all, I imagine that they would not want it to be said that they were objecting purely on hearsay, without even trying to ascertain the truth of the matter, on the ground.
On Sunday, the volunteers ran their own event, with a barbeque, and rides on two temporary railways on the historic trackbed – one 5” gauge, and one 7¼”. Sean’s 7¼” battery-powered passenger train, and Andrew’s 5” steam-hauled train, share the honour of providing the first passenger trains to run again on the Southwold Railway – after nearly 87 years.
We not only had a very good time, but were able to show that such activities do not in any way damage wildlife, or produce unacceptable amounts of traffic, as has been alleged: there was a great deal of coming and going (more, in fact, than SRT would be allowed by the strict restrictions built into the planning application), but we seemed to have no adverse effect on the quality of village life.
The following butterflies were seen that weekend: meadow brown, red admiral, tortoiseshell, large white, and gatekeeper. Birds – mostly seen, but some just heard – included little owl, barn owl, mallard, shelduck, grey heron, oystercatcher, black-headed gull, herring gull, lesser black-backed gull, buzzard, marsh harrier, sparrowhawk, kestrel, skylark, whitethroat, blackcap, chiffchaff, spotted flycatcher, reed bunting, robin, wren, dunnock, house sparrow, chaffinch, blue tit, great tit, starling, blackbird, carrion crow, jackdaw, rook, magpie, jay, wood pigeon, collared dove, pied wagtail, sedge warbler, reed warbler, and cetti’s warbler. So much for SRT destroying the AONB!