Posted by Anna
at 20:49 on Tuesday, February 02, 2010
I've never been one for too much routine. Fortunately, neither is Beth - since we met in 2004 she has constantly challenged my assumptions about our life and how we live it - everything from what we eat to exercise and interactions with those around us. I've got rather used to it by now.
Our latest challenge - that of challenging the automatic assumption that we drive everywhere we need to - was born the last time petrol prices started to climb (prior to the current series of hikes). As we (fortunately) don't need to commute that challenge is one which hasn't been too onerous for us to maintain. Where practical we make use of public transport (or indeed walk, which both of us rather enjoy), and as a result our cars spend most of the time parked up at the moment.
It was against this background that last summer I became aware of a group campaigning to reopen the rail line from Bournemouth to Bath (one of the more objectionable closures of the 1960s, and one which even now makes it harder than it should be to reach the west of the country from the south coast). Although most of the rail closures of the time were branch lines (some of which have since reopened as heritage lines) this one was an 80 mile long main line. A loss indeed.
As the quote on the New Somerset & Dorset Railway blog
says quite eloquantly:
"The original Somerset and Dorset Railway closed very controversially in 1966. It is time that decision, made in a very different world, was reversed. The New S&D was formed in 2009 with the aim of rebuilding as much of the route as possible, at the very least the main line from Bath (Britain's only World Heritage City) to Bournemouth (our premier seaside resort); as well as the branches to Wells, Glastonbury and Wimborne. We will achieve this through a mix of lobbying, trackbed purchase and restoration of sections of the route as they become economically viable. With Climate Change and now Peak Oil firmly on the agenda we are pushing against an open door.
"Our aim is to use a mix of lobbying, strategic track-bed purchase, fundraising and encouragement and support of groups already preserving sections of the route, as well as working with local and national government, local people, countryside groups and railway enthusiasts (of all types!) to restore sections of the route as they become viable."
A worthy aim indeed - and quite obviously a rather long term one (realistically this is a project which could take 20 years to really get going). It shouldn't come as a surprise that the New S&D is just one of several groups involved along the route (for example the stations at Shillingstone
and Midsomer Norton
have already been restored by heritage groups) but it is by far the most ambitious. it goes without saying that the aims of the New S&D are deliberately complementary to the other groups working to preserve and restore sections of the line and that the more involvement from them in the project the better.
Beth and I attended one of the early meetings of the group last September, and another late last month. At that second meeting I was invited to join the committee of the group, which in practice will probably mean I'll end up doing publicity and a bit of writing (in fact the former has already started - see Living in Electric Dreams
on the group blog. Since then the group has already secured one of the stations on the route (Midford
, near Bath) and is starting clearance work at Spetisbury
If the feedback we've been getting from others who've learnt about the scheme are anything to go by, there is a great deal of interest in the group's aims from local people in the area. This is certainly a different type of cause for me (and certainly a world away from Gender or Faith issues!) but I'm always game for a new challenge.