The recently-completed Open Weekend run by the Trust at Wenhaston – the second annual celebration of its kind – was most successful, and much enjoyed by visitors, members and working volunteers. The regular team had worked extremely hard to make it happen, not only accomplishing the usual tidying, mowing, and strimming, but completing the access roadway just in time: a task that was scheduled to last two years was done in four months. Shop Manager Stewart very competently looked after all the “public-facing” activities, providing, collecting, erecting and presenting an outstation of the well-known Southwold shop, with light refreshments, and displays of Trust projects. He even, at past the last minute, managed to source, purchase and erect a second public WC (well, a tent, really!), as the public and staff were some distance from the railway-style WC at Blyford Lane
As well as promoting the country walk through the Blyth Valley, including the original trackbed section, there were other types of entertainment available. A group of members has purchased a small working 7¼” passenger-carrying railway (now called the Blyth Valley Light Railway), and the first fruits of this were on show, with short rides provided along a section of SR trackbed. This seemed very popular with visitors and staff alike, and will be further developed. One of the ideas for the Open Days was to demonstrate the kind of interesting work that our volunteers do, so several panels of three-foot-gauge track were laid, in very much the same way as the job would have been done in 1879, by navvies using hammers, dogspikes, lightweight rails and sleepers, and simple gauge bars.
Quite a bit of the laid track used original and genuine Southwold Railway rails. This laying of temporary track – which seemed to intrigue the visitors – also allowed the SRT to carry out another of its charitable aims – that of training, so that when we lay the public railway (albeit using, perforce, more robust materials), we will already have a gang who know the basics.
At the last minute we were able to obtain brass plaques (from Leiston Press) to delineate the sponsored chainages of Club 22. This Club is the group of members and sympathisers who sponsored the purchase of the land at Wenhaston. The plaques were put up just before the Open Weekend along the recently-completed SR fence line, on the individual chain that each sponsor asked for. Many of the original Sponsors (including Trust President Alan Taylor) were able to visit, and were pleased to see this tangible evidence of their generosity to the cause.
After the public left, on the Saturday, Toby ran a very popular barbeque for staff, members, volunteers and their families, and having very kindly donated the food, was able to raise a substantial sum via donations to develop the Blyth Valley Light Railway.
The weather was fine, everyone had fun, we had train rides, and laid track (in two gauges): all in all a very satisfying weekend.