Nature Between the Fences




As the seasons change, the flora and fauna between the railway's fences adapt to survive, grow or reproduce. Each season this page, written by knowledgeable members of the railway's Lineside Clearance Team, will tell you what nature is up to between our fences.




Lineside Clearance Team Diary - Summer through to Autumn 2022


As I write this, we say Goodbye and Thank You to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.  Five generations of my family and possibly yours have known her as simply The Queen.  Across the world, this is also how she is known, except in the other countries which have their own Royal Family.  Ma’am, we at the GWSR owe you much, as an example of how to be a real human being, showing love, duty and compassion to all.


As a nature lover, especially her horses and dogs, Her Majesty kept bees and beautiful gardens which gave her and others great pleasure.  Nature continues and nature for us humans means life and death and hers was a full life, still working at a 24/7/365 job two days before her passing.  If you are riding the railway, look at the flowers and trees blowing in the breeze and remember her affectionately.  She loved life and living things.


This passing of summer moving into autumn brings leaf-drop and mountains of pine-needles at our stations.  We in the Estates Department continue to develop the line-side to keep the water flowing through our many culverts and prevent damage to the cuttings and embankments.  With so much water passing through, we see many interesting and mundane flora and fauna.  Giant hogweed (pictured) is not just a song by one of my favourite progressive rock bands “Genesis”, but also a source of possible skin irritation to those of us who work lineside coming into contact with it, but it is also of thing of beauty at is sheer size.


We are not alone in being concerned at the lack of insects and butterflies in particular.   All teams have reported this decline is species observed, perhaps due to record temperatures this summer.   There follows some comments from the Lineside Team Leaders:


  • l have recorded 19 Butterfly species lineside, (so far) this year, but not in any great numbers.  Also of note a hundred plus Scarlett Tiger moth caterpillars feeding on Green Alkanet (see image) at the southern end of Winchcombe Station, and a Grey Wagtail while we were clearing down by the River Isbourne a couple of weeks ago.


  • Butterflies are very seasonal!  Wildlife people would have you believe that it is man who is the cause of poor seasons, but while that may be true in some areas because of farming, my experience of surveying a set two-mile-long transept once a week while working for The Heart of England Forest shows that from season to season there are vast differences, even though conditions, i.e. food source, temperature, wind speed, etc., are consistent across seasons.  In 2018, I recorded 21 species, with difficulty in actually counting numbers because of their volume.  The following year, 13 species and low numbers on the identical protected from outside influence transept.


  • As an aside, we are doing the Brown Hairstreak butterfly no good at all, as it lays its eggs on twelve-month-old Blackthorn shoots!


  • Common (not Giant) hogweed was pictured in bloom at Granna Lane.   A couple of weeks ago, a pristine Painted Lady butterfly was spotted at Winchcombe.  These butterflies are migrants and normally look battered from their journey, but they lay eggs while over here and the one I saw was from that new generation.


We will continue in our Lineside Clearance, Drainage and Fencing teams to promote wildlife habitat, balancing this with our duty to protect the railway’s assets such as signal wires and rods, observation locations at crossings (for loco crews) and of course, you, our travelling public, to give you the best view of the surrounding beautiful countryside and our rolling stock as it travels along.  You can see reports and images of our work in “The Cornishman”, our in-house journal and on other blogs via this web-site.

Dr Ian S Pogson and the Estates Teams


Please look and enjoy – but you must not trespass between the fences: keep away from the railway tracks.

If you appreciate what we have done, please mention it to one of the GWSR team.  If you have alternative ideas for, or even criticism of, our line-side garden, please also voice these, or better still come and join us!


We hope you enjoy the views of Nature Between the Fences.


More terrific lineside photos are available on the page set up by Mike Peers on the image-hosting website, flickr.