Sunday 31st July 2016

The grand opening of the Richard Jefferies Halt

Well that was a lot of fun! The grand opening of the Richard Jefferies Railway Halt.

I’ve mentioned more than once listeners how much I love a miniature railway, or cable car or funicular or land train…  So today was just lovely. It was all a bit ‘Railway Children’ for sure! But we had flags instead of red flannel petticoats.

I’ve written before about the Coate Water Miniature railway. ‘Tis a wonderful thing and has been so since the 1960s I’m sure. But now – with the extension to the line and the addition of the Richard Jefferies Halt it’s even more fabulous fun. So all aboard, full steam ahead, toot that whistle – you get the idea!

Mike Pringle et al, the Swindon 175 team and Arkell’s brewery – not forgetting of course the splendid volunteers who run the Coate Water Miniature railway – made today’s opening very special. I’m so glad I was able to attend. And ride the trains. Twice! 🙂 🙂 🙂

While not quite up to Disneyland Express standards the route round had been brilliantly peppered with stuffed toys of every kind, gorillas, tigers and teddys – plus a collection of garden gnomes. A cheeky TIC nod to Disney perhaps? Brilliant fun. Well done.

Gorilla in the undergrowth - Richard Jefferies Railway Halt
Gorilla in the undergrowth

Here’s a few photos to give you a flavour:

In recent years, under the guidance of Mike Pringle & Hilda Sheehan and their team, the Richard Jefferies museum and garden has been slowly transformed into a magical, mystical place. One that, I’m sure, Jefferies himself would love.

The place is a credit to them all. And it’s here in Swindon. Hurrah!

It’s certainly a super homage to Jefferies and his work with references to ‘Bevis’ and ‘After London’ all around the garden:

welcome sign - Richard Jefferies Railway Halt

“John Richard Jefferies (6 November 1848 – 14 August 1887) was an English nature writer, noted for his depiction of English rural life in essays, books of natural history, and novels. His childhood on a small Wiltshire farm had a great influence on him and provides the background to all his major works of fiction.

Jeffries’ corpus of writings includes a diversity of genres and topics, including Bevis (1882), a classic children’s book, and After London(1885), an early work of science fiction.

For much of his adult life, he suffered from tuberculosis, and his struggles with the illness and with poverty also play a role in his writing. Jefferies valued and cultivated an intensity of feeling in his experience of the world around him, a cultivation that he describes in detail in The Story of My Heart (1883). This work, an introspective depiction of his thoughts and feelings on the world, gained him the reputation of a nature mystic at the time. But it is his success in conveying his awareness of nature and people within it, both in his fiction and in essay collections such as The Amateur Poacher (1879) and Round About a Great Estate (1880), that has drawn most admirers. Walter Besant wrote of his reaction on first reading Jefferies: “Why, we must have been blind all our lives; here were the most wonderful things possible going on under our very noses, but we saw them not.”