It was a warm and sunny summer’s day in August 2021, the 23rd of August to be precise, when I made the long trip to Hinckley in Leicestershire by train. It isn’t very far, but I had to take three trains there and three back.
The first leg of the journey began at Burton on Trent. The train was quite busy, with many families taking their children for a day out, seeing as it was the school holidays. I did have a seat booked on the train, but I opted to stand in the vestibule of the carriage. I was only going one stop, after all.
The train arrived in Tamworth, from where I made my way down from platform 4 to platform 2 with ease. Regular blog readers will no doubt remember my struggles at Tamworth to get from the upper platform to the correct lower platform, but I am becoming adept at it now. The train I needed to get was a London-bound train, and so the platform was packed with people wanting to catch it. In the waiting shelter behind me, a man was helping a woman to figure out how to get from the station in London to Earl’s Court via the various public transport services in the capital. I caught the train and rode the two stops to Nuneaton, where I had a 50 minute wait for the next train.
What do you do when you have 50 minutes to spend in Nuneaton? Go to the park, of course.
I walked through the town centre to George Eliot memorial park, a public open space in memory of Nuneaton-born author Mary Ann Evans, who wrote many novels under her pen name George Eliot in the 19th century. including Middlemarch and Silas Marner. Via a path under the A444 ring road, the park continues as Riversley Park, which incorporates the Nuneaton Museum and Art Gallery.
I had been to Nuneaton before, in 2019 on my way to Narborough. I said at the time that I should really spend a day in Nuneaton, and I hopefully will at some time in the future.
I walked back through the town centre to the station, where I caught the third train of the day, riding it one stop to Hinckley.
Hinckley railway station opened in 1861 on the South Leicestershire Railway, which later became part of the London & North Western Railway. The station was originally built in a field far from the town itself, but the area has become built up in the intervening years, and it is now surrounded by residential streets and large retail outlets.
Parts of the station buildings are still in use, with a staffed ticket office and toilets. Other parts of the station are used as business premises for various local firms. The station is accessed via a pathway which runs from the street to a side entrance. There is a bridge over the tracks with ramps for step-free access.
Upon leaving the station, I walked through some residential streets on the way to the town centre. I believe that when I visit a new town, it’s important to get a feel for what kind of place it is by walking through the streets where the local people live. I definitely didn’t take a wrong turn when leaving the station…
I got myself back on track and had a walk around St Mary’s Church yard, which is right next to a large park called The Mead. It was very busy, with locals taking advantage of the August sunshine and having picnics in the park.
Next to the Mead, up a steep sloping path, is the site of the former Hinckley Castle, a motte-and-bailey castle built in the 10th century and demolished in 1153. In 1922, the town’s War Memorial gardens were laid out to honour the local men who died in The Great War. The names of the men who gave their lives in World War II were later added to the memorial, as well as those killed in action in the years since then.
Upon leaving the park, I had a stroll through the town centre, which had a street market going on at the time. I left the town centre and walked past the local museum on my way to Hollycroft Park. I didn’t go into the museum; it only opens on a Saturday. It is located in a beautiful thatched building which was built in the 17th Century and used as framework knitters’ cottages. Hinckley’s main industry used to be hosiery, but this declined after the Second World War. Nowadays, it is known more for motor manufacturing, with Triumph Motorcycles making bikes in the town, as well as Ultima Sports, who produce sports cars.
Hollycroft Park is a large open space with many sports facilities, including a small golf course, bowling green, tennis courts and something I have never seen in a public park before: table tennis tables. There is also a stage which is used to host music events every Sunday in the summer months. The park was opened in 1935 and is one of the most popular open spaces in the town.
My next destination was a small garden called The Rock Gardens, about 15-20 minutes walk from Hollycroft Park. It is a small park which has a sundial in the centre, which was unveiled in December 2000 to celebrate Jesus Christ’s 2000th birthday. It also has some nice flower beds and benches to sit on.
Time was marching on, and I had to make my way back to the station to catch the first of the three trains I needed to get home. I got back to Nuneaton, where a really, really long freight train slowly made its way through the station on the platform where I was standing. It took a good five minutes for it to pass through.
On the train from Nuneaton to Tamworth, I caught sight of Polesworth railway station, which has a very limited service and is virtually impossible to get to or from by train. It has one service per day in the early morning. It used to be busier until 2005, when a footbridge was removed during the West Coast Main Line upgrade and never replaced due to the cost being unjustified.
I caught the next train at Tamworth which took me back to Burton, where the journey ended. Station number 52 of the 76 in the East Midlands Ranger Area is in the bag, and hopefully some more will be ticked off in the coming months. Thank you very much for reading this.