It’s been 170 days. Almost six months. Today, April 15th 2021, I went on a train again after travel restrictions were eased in England. Last October, I went to Longport near Stoke on Trent to tick off station 44 on the East Midlands Ranger Area list. Today, I went to Thurgarton in Nottinghamshire to tick off station number 45.
It had been so long since I had travelled by train that I had almost forgotten how to prepare for it. I usually make up an itinerary with my train times and a list of places to see and things to do wherever I am going, along with a list of things to bring (a jacket, face covering, hand sanitiser). I booked my tickets on the East Midlands Railway app and printed them off, just in case.
After walking past Burton on Trent station several times a week for the last six months and thinking to myself “one day, I’ll be back here”, today was that day. I went down the old staircase to the platform to wait for my train in the spring sunshine. The former overgrown area between the platforms has been cleared in preparation for some improvement works taking place this year, including a new sculpture designed by local college students. I caught the train to Derby when it arrived, and caught the train to Thurgarton from Derby.
Thurgarton railway station is a Grade II listed building, first opened on the Nottingham to Lincoln Line by the Midland Railway in August 1846. The buildings are believed to have been designed by Thomas Chambers Hine, a noted architect whose distinctive station buildings can be seen around Nottinghamshire. The station buildings are now a privately-owned house, and there is another platform located on the other side of a level crossing. The station has a fairly limited weekday service, which explains the fact that only 4300 passengers used it in 2019-20. Thurgarton station is quite a distance away from Thurgarton itself, a good 10-15 minute walk from the centre of the village. And that is where I headed next after leaving the station.
Thurgarton is a very small village, probably one of the smallest in England to have its own railway station. The population at the 2011 Census was just 440. It lies just a mile or so from Bleasby, which I visited in March last year. I walked up Beck Lane to the centre of the village. The lane has a small brook running through it, with small bridges traversing it for access to houses on the lane.
I had a brief walk around the village, pausing to take some pictures of the red telephone box (which is now empty), the village sign on a small village green and the local war memorial. I exited the village and headed out on the road towards Lowdham, from where I would catch the train home.
There was a pavement at the side of the road, which didn’t have much traffic. One or two cyclists passed by me as I walked for about 20 minutes to get to Gonalston, a tiny village between Thurgarton and Lowdham.
Gonalston seems like a very well-to-do place. It’s mostly made up of barn conversions and farm buildings. Like Thurgarton, it also has a red telephone box, only this one is full of books which locals can pick up for free, and leave books for others to pick up. I didn’t stop to browse, though, but it is a good idea. I left Gonalston and headed back out onto the main road, although there was no pavement between there and the outskirts of Lowdham.
I arrived in Lowdham, which regular readers will remember I visited back in September 2020. When I was previously there, I forgot to get a picture of the gold post box outside the Post Office, so I righted that wrong. It was awarded for Richard Whitehead’s Paralympic gold medal in 2012 in the Men’s 200 metres T42 event.
I also took time to visit the local war memorial, first unveiled in 1918 to commemorate local men who died in the First World War. A second plaque was added to honour those who died in the Second World War in 1945.
I walked to Lowdham railway station to catch what I thought would be a train just after 1 o’clock. Since I was last there in September 2020, the old signal box has been moved from its original location next to the level crossing to a site next to the old station building. It is in the process of being restored as a simulation of a working signal box, and it will be opened to the public on selected days. You can find out more about what they are doing on their Facebook page.
As I said, I thought there was a train home at 1 o’clock. It turns out there wasn’t, and the next one wasn’t due until just after two. So I had a look on my phone for somewhere to go, and I decided to have a walk down to Gunthorpe, a village about a mile to the south of Lowdham.
There was not a lot to see in Gunthorpe, apart from the local church. Even that was a bit of a disappointment. There is a bridge over the River Trent at the south of the village, but I didn’t venture that far south.
I walked back up the road to Lowdham, where I waited for my train back to Derby. When it arrived, the other passengers and I were told that we might have to change to another train at Nottingham, as there was a broken window on the one we were on. As it transpired, we did have to change to another train. I thought that the East Midlands Railway staff handled the situation well, keeping us informed and directing us to our replacement train on a nearby platform.
I disembarked at Derby station and waited in the warm spring sunshine for my train back to Burton, which I caught and rode back to home. It was a great feeling to be able to get on a train again after all these months. Hopefully there will be more trips to come over the summer, all being well. Thanks very much for reading, and you can follow the blog at any of the major social media platforms.