Arley Station, Severn Valley Railway, Arley, Worcestershire, DY12 3NF
The heart of the Severn Valley Railway
Arley Station with its open, public space can offer both passengers and visitors alike the chance to sit and picnic, or to just simply relax in a pleasant, ‘unhurried’ and idyllic corner of North Worcestershire. From its high vantage point, our beautifully restored 1860’s station buildings and gardens provide a fantastic backdrop to the picturesque village of Upper Arley set beside the River Severn. Recreating the romance and nostalgia of a by-gone era, Arley Station is fortunate to have an extensive area of garden and is an ideal spot to watch the World go by (some fantastic steam locomotives just happen to pass through the station too!).
Good ‘P.R.’ isn’t something new, a fact that all the old railway companies understood, realising that well maintained stations and perhaps an attractive garden projected a positive image to the travelling public. It’s well-documented that at GWR stations in particular, staff shared a common bond of sense and duty, taking great pride in ensuring that ‘their’ station and grounds were well turned-out, with often great rivalry existing between neighbouring stations.
Well aware that this ‘rivalry’ could be put to good use, the majority of the old railway companies awarded ‘prizes’ for the ‘Best Turned Out’ or ‘Best Maintained Station and Gardens’.
Such exercises meant that buildings as a whole were not only well maintained, it also ensured that hands were not idle during the gaps between service trains, which on certain branch lines at least could be quite extensive, “method in their madness somewhere”.
Photographic evidence of the station grounds at Arley around the beginning of the last Century suggests that apart from some floral display beds along the edge of the ‘down’ platform, there was little more than field meadow to deal with behind the picket fencing. There is an indication of an ‘obligatory’ station vegetable patch at the far end of the platform, although certainly nothing of the wooded area that exists today.
During the early 1900’s the station seemed to ‘blossom’ in more ways than one, not only was the Severn Valley Railway perhaps at its ‘peak’, so too it seems were the station gardens.
Station Master of the day, Mr. George Batchelor had an apparent wish to have the ‘Prettiest Station Gardens on the System', and photographs from the time show that he indeed succeeded. The beds along the edge of the ‘down’ platform appearing to be beautifully maintained, packed with roses and traditional cottage garden plants. The sight of these beds must have been striking and moreover the scent, truly remarkable.
George’s efforts and those of his fellow station staff were justly rewarded by the GWR Company when in 1903, 1904 and 1905 the station was awarded ‘Special Prizes’ for such well-maintained gardens. Continued success meant that George was banned from any further entries, although he continued to be awarded with ‘Firsts’ in the subsequent years of 1906, 1907 and 1908, before finally being finally bestowed with another ‘Special’ for ‘Best Station Gardens in the Division’ in 1909. Seven years of outstanding commitment and dedication in the pursuit of his goal; which I’m sure at the same time gave great pleasure to passengers and staff.
Well done George,
long may your memory and spirit survive within the grounds and gardens of present day Arley.
It is probable that Arley Station and its gardens were both at their best during this early Edwardian period, unfortunately the line saw a sustained decline in freight levels and passenger numbers which lead to eventual closure in 1963, the station falling into near dereliction in the late 1960’s-70’s prior to restoration.
Huge effort and dedication by teams of volunteers through the early 1970’s brought the station back to life; we all owe a great debt of appreciation and thanks to these unsung heroes who toiled away to provide us the wonderful setting we endeavour to maintain today.
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