It was an early Saturday morning trip for me on 26th February 2022 when I visited Atherstone in Warwickshire. Atherstone was the closest station to Burton on Trent in the East Midlands Ranger Area that I had yet to visit (it’s now South Wigston in Leicestershire). This trip was originally planned for last Saturday, but a combination of the storms and strike action by the train crew put an end to that plan.
The daylight was just about arriving in Burton when I headed for the station to catch the train to Tamworth. I waited on the London Euston-bound platform for the London Northwestern service to Atherstone, which arrived a little bit late, but it didn’t matter.
Atherstone railway station was opened in 1847 by the original London & North Western Railway company on the line between Crewe and London Euston. The station building remains intact, unlike many other similar station buildings on the line which were designed by the station’s architect John William Livock. It has been unstaffed since 1972 and is currently home to a vet practice. The building was grade II listed in 1980, having been under threat of demolition.
I hung around the station for a short while in the morning light, taking photos, and then I headed for the nearby towpath of the Coventry Canal. I had previously walked part of that canal when I went to Polesworth back in October 2021. There were many canal locks on the way, none of which were being used as it was early morning and most of the residents were asleep on their canal boats.
I almost cut short my time on the canal by walking into the town centre, but after consulting my itinerary, I found that I had more canal to walk. And I’m glad I did, because I saw a spectacular looking derelict building, illuminated beautifully in the morning sunshine.
Atherstone was once famous for its hat-making industry, but that declined in the late 20th century as hats went out of fashion. Due to its central England location and proximity to the M42 motorway, Atherstone is currently home to the UK headquarters of the supermarket chain Aldi, as well as those of 3M and TNT (the logistics company and not the dynamite company).
Every Shrove Tuesday, a medieval ball game takes place in the town’s Long Street, the main street. It has taken place almost every year since 1199 (the only missed year was in 2021 due to Covid), and the only rules are that the game must only be confined to Long Street (the shops are boarded up in readiness before the game starts), and participants are not allowed to kill anyone. The ball is thrown from the Conservative Club in Long Street, and a galaxy of stars have been invited to start the proceedings. Jimmy Tarbuck, Sid James, Larry Grayson and Gordon Banks have all thrown the ball to start the game.
I had a bit more time to spend in Atherstone than I had anticipated, so I had a stroll around the almost-deserted town centre streets, where I saw market traders setting up their stalls in the market place, close to St. Mary’s Church. The church has a plaque outside commemorating the visit of Prince Charles and Princess Diana to the town in June 1985.
I started to head back to the station, where I had a long wait for the train back to Tamworth. Atherstone station’s platforms are traversed by a walkway underneath the railway tracks which is not entirely suitable for very tall people, as it’s only two metres high.
After avoiding banging my head on the bridge, I climbed the staircase to the platform. There is step-free access to the platform via the top of the road. The station sees a regular hourly service between Crewe and London Euston, and passenger numbers were on the increase until the pandemic. Only me and two others boarded the train as it arrived at Atherstone.
I had almost an hour to wait at Tamworth for the train back to Burton, so I had a walk to the town centre, where market stalls were set up. There was even a stall selling appliances; fridges, dishwashers, washing machines and more. These were all on display on the street which must have taken ages to set up. I do need a new fridge, but I didn’t fancy carrying it to the station and getting it on the train.
I had a walk up the outside of the castle, which was not nearly as windy as it was last time I was there in 2020. I had some pleasure in the pleasure grounds near the castle, then went back to the station to catch the 10:06 CrossCountry service to Burton on Trent.
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