Hayles Abbey Halt opens - after an absence of nearly six decades

 

  • Volunteers complete project in 12 months

  • Halt open to passengers from 6th June 2017

  • Halt opening coincides with new museum at Hailes Abbey

  • Opened by Lord Wemyss, the Earl of Wemyss and March

 

The driving rain didn’t dampen spirits as Lord Wemyss, the Earl of Wemyss and March from nearby Stanway House, opened Hayles Abbey Halt on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway, on Monday 5th June.  Lord Wemyss is a Patron of the railway.

 

The Halt (spelled Hayles by the Great Western Railway) opened in 1928 to coincide with the opening of a museum at the nearby Cistercian Hailes Abbey but was closed by British Railways in 1960, when local passenger train services were withdrawn.

 

Today, it has re-opened - to coincide with the opening of a new museum at the Abbey which today, is run by English Heritage and owned by the National Trust.

 

The project has been carried out thanks to a £12,000 grant from the charitable Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway Trust, as well as a grant of £2,500 from the Cotswold conservation Board.  The project was completed entirely by volunteers in in less than a year.

 

Glyn Cornish, chairman of the Trust who welcomed guests to the opening commented: “The new Halt is a wonderful example of what can be achieved by volunteers.  

 

“It looks as if it has always been there because it closely follows the appearance of the original.  It is complete with a corrugated iron waiting shelter which was recovered from Usk in Wales, identical to that which once stood on the site.  It has a gravelled platform surface and even has oil lamp standards!”

 

The platform is a little longer than the original and, from Tuesday 6th June, some of the railway’s heritage train services will be stopping at the Halt by request.  

Within five minutes’ walk of the Halt are the Abbey and Hailes Fruit Farm, which once despatched its produce from the Halt.  

 

Richard Rhodes of English Heritage and manager of the Abbey commented: “Back in the 1920s the Halt was built thanks to close co-operation between the then owners of the Abbey and the Great Western Railway, which was always keen to promote train travel to places of interest on its network.

 

“Later this month English Heritage is re-opening the museum, bigger and better than ever, bringing events full circle.  Both we and the National Trust have enjoyed a close relationship with the GWSR as their plans for the Halt developed - and now it has come to fruition!  

 

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for visitors to enjoy all that the railway has to offer as well as a pleasant walk to visit this important historic site.”

 

Those witnessing the event included Sir Martin Harris CBE, a Patron of the railway; Col. Mike Bennett, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire; Mayor of Cheltenham, Councillor Klara Sudbury, as well as representatives from English Heritage, Cotswold Conservation Board, Winchcombe Parish Council, English Heritage, Hailes Fruit Farm, suppliers of services and materials to build the Halt as well as the volunteers who built it.

 

The train used for the event was identical to the kind of service that served this and other stations between Cheltenham St. James (where there is today a supermarket) and Honeybourne.  Known by local people as the ‘Coffee Pot’ it comprises a small 1400 class tank locomotive and a single ‘auto-coach’ which has a driving compartment at one end, to enable the driver to operate the engine’s controls when it is propelling the coach.  In fact the coach in which guests travelled was one that actually used to operate over the line in the 1950s.

 

The locomotive and coach are currently on loan from owners Push-Pull Ltd and the Severn Valley Railway where it is based.  Over the weekend of 10th and 11th June, the combination will be operating passenger services between Winchcombe via Hayles Abbey Halt and Toddington, to the railway’s current northern limit at Little Buckland.  This service operates alongside the main train services between Toddington and Cheltenham.

 

Hayles Abbey Halt is about half way between Winchcombe and Toddington stations.  Details of services can be found on the railway’s website at www.gwsr.com. 

 

Ends / more

 

NOTES FOR EDITORS

Picture examples below.  Available as high resolution images plus others from this link: 

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/2q19vozgbk9iy0z/AADb4Ji92vUTaUn0vSDAfyI5a?dl=0  

by Ian Crowder unless otherwise indicated

 

Media contact: Ian Crowder, 07775 566 555 / ian.crowder@gwsr.com 

 

The railway is grateful to:

Cotswold conservation Board for their grant under the Cotswold Visitor Giving Scheme

DLM Seeds who supplied the seeding needed for the project and allowed volunteers to park on the field adjoining the Halt

Building & Plumbing Services who supplied materials at cost

Local residents for their patience while construction work continued

 

About the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR)

The GWSR is one of the UK’s leading heritage railway, operating trains using steam and heritage diesel locomotives over more than 13 miles in the Cotswolds, between Cheltenham Racecourse - Gotherington - Winchcombe - Hayles Abbey Halt - Toddington and Little Buckland.  The latter is the current extent of operations on an extension to Broadway which is expected to open in March 2018, linking Broadway with Cheltenham (15 miles) for the first time since 1960.  The line is on part of the former Stratford-upon-Avon to Cheltenham railway built by the Great Western Railway and opened in 1906.  In 1981 the GWSR started rebuilding the line, which had been closed by British Rail in 1976. It carries over 100,000 passengers per year and is built and operated by 920 volunteers. www.gwsr.com 

 

Pictures 

1) Lord Wemyss whips away the cover from the Hayles Abbey Halt running-in board (picture: Malcolm Ranieri)

2) As it was: the 'Coffee Pot' service makes a stop at Hayles Abbey Halt in 1960 (picture: D H Ballantyne)

3) As it is now: the 'Coffee Pot' service makes a stop at Hayles Abbey Halt in 2017 - for the opening on 5th June.  This is the same coach as in the 1960 picture (picture: Malcolm Ranieri)

4) All our own work! Some of the volunteers who built the Halt (picture: Ian Crowder)

 

ENDS ALL