Ever since I was just a boy I’ve been more than a little bit obsessed with an old, abandoned railway line skirting the southern edge of the Mile Cross estate between the back of Sloughbottom Park and the River Wensum. In more recent times we’ve come to know this former railway as a footpath/cycleway named the “Marriott’s Way” and if you’ve ever wondered why the footpath is named this way, read on. Continue reading “The M&GN and me – chasing ghosts to the coast.”
As I’ve probably mentioned before (countless times), I’m quite involved with local Railway History. It all started when my friends and I decided to take it upon ourselves to expose the remaining platform wall at the former M&GN Norwich City Station site and it’s kind of steam-rolled its way on from there, flattening out swathes of my spare time as it goes.
My Norfolk Railway Heritage Group Team is involved with the preservation of a few Historical Railway sites around the county, including Felmingham Station, Honing Station, Hellesdon Station and of course Norwich City Station. We also (when we get the chance) head off out into the deepest and darkest parts of the Norfolk Countryside to explore the abandoned Stations and lines that stretch from one corner of Norfolk to the other. There isn’t much of the old M&GN network that we haven’t explored, which at times has taken us into some interesting places and into some funny old situations, including once getting a little too close to a Farmer with a shotgun who didn’t realise I was there!
Anyway, back when we were just FONCS, we were making great progress at City Station, we were clearing the platform, exposing sleepers and track furniture, landscaping the area so that it resembled a platform and track-bed again and (as an unexpected by-product) helping to reduce the crime rate in that part of the City whilst we were at it. That was until the penny dropped for Norfolk County Council who had suddenly come to realise that the site was actually their responsibility and not that of the City. Norfolk County Council gave us the heart-breaking news that because it was an unexpected and potentially-expensive liability, we had to down tools with immediate effect so that they could try and sell it off. More on that later.
A Ghost image of Norwich City’s Platform 1, created by myself back in the good old days of FONCS:
Straying away from the estate for a bit, I’m going to be talking about how the digital world can bring people together in the real world.
Since being knee-high to a grass hopper I’ve been fascinated by a stretch of path that runs along the back of Sloughbottom Park. It starts at the inner-link road by Halfords and makes its way along the Wensum Valley all the way to Themelthorpe, before curving East towards Reepham. You’ve probably heard of it as it’s called: ‘The Marriott’s Way’; but before it got ‘all official’ it was just an overgrown and dusty old path where a railway used to run. Back then it was mostly impassable in Summer and littered with the wrecks of stolen and burnt out cars and bikes.
I first encountered the path as a child. My Auntie used to live in Costessey in a house somewhere near Leewood Crescent (I can’t remember exactly where) and later, my Nan lived in a Bungalow at the bottom of Oval Road. Back in those days my family did a lot of walking, and the most direct route to go and visit these nearby family members would have been through Sloughbottom Park and down the old railway line. The path wasn’t metaled back then as it wasn’t officially a path, so it was often full of nettles or damp and muddy. Or both. I remember in the height of Summer having to fight our way through the nettles with a stick. Even so it was quicker to go this way rather than follow the roads. I’d be back and forth along here on a regular basis and the path became well and truly etched into my memories.
One day my mum stopped at a stretch of brick wall that I’d never noticed before – even though I must have walked past it countless times (It must have been exposed from the weeds because of winter die-back) – to give me an impromptu history lesson. She told me that it used to be the site of an old railway station called Hellesdon that had been closed back in the 1960’s. She had vague recollections of it even though it had shut to passengers back in 1952. The station still served Norfolk County Council as a storage spot for road aggregates. The station building being used for other things, such as a Sunday School and later as the headquarters for a company named: ‘Anglian Culinary Services’.
The building eventually fell into disrepair and was used as a drinking hotspot for youths from the nearby Marlpit Housing Estate. To resolve this problem the council decided to knock the building down. Unfortunately this turned out to be a rather a short-sighted solution. Along with the Station house about a third of the platform was also destroyed, and then weirdly finished off neatly with some later, red brick. Continue reading “FONCS: Friends of Norwich City Station”