The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway 2016-17 winter hedgebash project has come to a successful conclusion. In just six weekends the gang has made a significant impact on the vegetation alongside the line on the Golfa Bank.
The extent of the site was from Llanfair Lodge adjacent to New Drive level crossing to around a 100 yards west of Nant-Y-Caws a distance of 700 yards (650m). On the south side of the line (fireman’s side) the majority of the trees that have been liberally strewing the the line with leaves have been removed. On the north side activity has been a little more restrained with the majority of the work being restricted to the section between the two cattle creeps.
For the last event of the winter we were able to have a works train to bring in the gang and their tools and to move the cut materials around the site.
Chattenden and the Works Train. Gang members are busy loading brash after a small ash tree was felled.
A small tree barely 20 feet tall (6m) has an awful lot of branches. All of this has to be moved to a place where it is safe to burn it. The larger logs are removed by rail to the nearest road access.
At previous weekends during the winter we have relied upon just one, small, four wheeled trolley to move tools and materials.
Readers may well question why we go to all this effort to cut down mature trees and out of control hedgerow. Take a look at the picture above. This section of the line was hemmed in and overhung with trees. For the passengers there is little to see from the carriage windows other than greenery. They will now be able to see the surrounding countryside: hills, wooded slopes, pasture with grazing animals. If they are observant and lucky there may be able to watch a buzzard or a red kite going about their daily routines.
From a railway operating perspective there are significant benefits from this work. When in leaf the trees drop sap on the rails when it gets mixed with a little rain the rails become slippery. In the autumn the the leaves begin to fall and they too make the rails slippery. The leaves that lie on the track bed go on the cause further problems. By covering up the sleepers they make it difficult for the track inspectors to do their work. They retain moisture and keep the sleepers damp; a sure fire way of accelerating the rate at which the timbers rot. Then as the leaves begin the break down the fragments clog up the ballast and reduce its ability to drain freely and maintain a firm road-bed.
By way of example of the results achieved:-
Before (October 2016)
After (January 2017)
Joining a volunteer organisation that runs an eight mile long narrow gauge railway may be a daunting prospect to someone who perhaps has got some spare time, would like to get involved but would like a low risk entry strategy. Joining our Hedgebash Gang does not require a huge learning curve. The skills required are fairly easy to acquire and can largely be picked up by working with other people. Providing a person is reasonable fit, has some common sense then there is a short(ish) induction session a bit of training they can be up and running in less that half a day.
Over recent years a number of people have begun volunteering with the Hedgebash Gang and moved onto other areas including: fireman, locomotive maintenance, track gang and building maintenance.
Activities are planned to carry on through the summer months. This will focus on keeping the intermediate stations looking neat and tidy – for example grass cutting. There will be a weekend training session in the safe use and operation of strimmers at the end of June.
If you would like to get involved with this or some other aspect of running a railway then why not get in touch ? This link will take you to the volunteering page.
Alternatively you might like to enjoy a ride through hills, fields and woods of rural Mid Wales. We are about 35 miles from Telford, 60 miles from the West Midlands and Stoke-On-Trent, 70 miles from Liverpool and 80 miles from Manchester. Timetables and Fares are here.
A works train comprising of vehicles all of which had their origins on the Chattenden & Upnor Railway in Kent. The diesel loco, Chattenden, was supplied to the Admiralty by the Drewry Car Company in 1949. Low side wagon 33 and high side wagon 65 and behind and last but not least is the Mess Coach, the body was formerly on ex-Zillertalbahn carriage B17 and is now mounted on a C&U bogie wagon chassis.