2021 Travels – Syston

Today, Monday 17th May 2021, I ticked off station number 47 on the list of stations in the East Midlands Ranger Area when I made the trip to Leicestershire to visit Syston (pronounced “sigh-stun”). I hadn’t been to Leicestershire since the late summer of 2019, due to the area being placed under a strict local lockdown last summer.

I had to take three trains to get to Syston. The original itinerary gave me a decent gap of time in between trains, but a combination of delays on the rail network meant that my first two trains were delayed, which led to a bit of jeopardy. Fortunately, I was able to make the connections from Derby to Leicester and then Leicester to Syston in plenty of time.

I arrived in Syston just before 11am and had a walk through the main shopping street. I stopped off at Central Park, an open space which was created in 2004 and houses the local war memorial, a tall obelisk with a clock on it. There is also a Peace Garden with a fountain in the middle.

At the north end of the park is the Millennium Bridge, a footbridge over the Barkby Brook which was opened in the year 2000 (obviously).

The town centre was fairly busy, with today being the day that some lockdown restrictions were lifted, including indoor entertainment, indoor drinking and eating now being allowed. The local buses displayed a message on their destination boards congratulating the local football heroes Leicester City for winning the FA Cup on Saturday. An enterprising street seller was flogging “Leicester City FA Cup Winners” t-shirts and other merchandise. I wonder if he had them made up before the match, or spent the whole of Sunday getting them printed to sell on Monday?

I had a walk up High Street, a street with many fine old buildings, including a funeral directors with an actual thatched roof.

Just off the High Street is The Green, another pretty little street which leads to St Peter and St Paul’s Church, one of the most ancient buildings in the town. I had a little stroll around the graveyard at the back of the church, before heading back onto High Street.

I then headed down Broad Street, past Broadway where the neon lights were shining bright, and back past the station. I was headed for Watermead Country Park, just a couple of miles west of Syston. The park consists of several artificial lakes next to the Grand Union Canal. The one I walked around is called John Merricks’ Lake, named after the 1996 Olympic silver medal-winning sailor John Merricks, who died in 1997 aged 26. He used to enter sailing competitions on a nearby lake as a young man.

I was going to have a look at the nearby Reedbed Nature Reserve, but it was beginning to rain heavily, so I decided to head back to the station ahead of schedule to catch the next train home. I had had the presence of mind to take my umbrella, so I didn’t get soaked as I made the 25 minute walk back to the station. Typically, as soon as I got to Syston station, the rain promptly stopped and the sun came out.

Syston railway station opened in May 1840 on the Midland Main Line. It was rebuilt in 1874 and closed in the Beeching Cuts in 1968. It was reopened as part of the Ivanhoe Line in 1994. It has a fairly regular service to and from Leicester and Loughborough, although there is currently no Sunday service. It consists of one platform with a shelter, help point, ticket machine and seating. Outside the station is a memorial stone dedicated to local people who died at war. The original station building still exists, albeit at a heritage railway in Butterley, Derbyshire. It was carefully dismantled from Syston and re-erected in 2006, having lain derelict since 1968.

As with some of the trains on the way to Syston, my next train back to Leicester was delayed. Fortunately, through the magic of the National Rail app’s “Get Me Home” feature, I was able to find all the trains I needed to get me home without too much waiting around at stations. Overall, it was a good day out, in spite of the weather.

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