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, will tell you what nature is up to between our fences.

Nature between the Fences – January to May 2024

The Santa Specials have now steamed successfully into history and they were extremely well attended. Our railway will be closed from January 2nd until early March, giving all our departments a chance to review, repair and restore. I had the pleasure, with my fellow Elves, of supporting the last Santa Express train, which steamed into CRC station one last time with happy children on board.


We’ve seen an abundance of wildlife between the fences during the second half of 2023.

Once the spring and summer growth is dying down, we take the opportunity to employ robot-flails to flatten some of the brambles and dense brush so that we can check the earthworks of the railway for badger setts and rabbit holes, both of which can be quite destructive to our embankments and cuttings.  Although autumn and winter see most sensible creatures hiding away, we did see a hairy caterpillar in early November and some roe deer, who never seem particularly bothered by the trains, just us in our bright orange work clothes!

A number of fruit trees were planted along the line during the year, with a group of saplings brightening up the site of the old navvy construction camp at the southern portal of Greet Tunnel (673 yards long). The nature-attracting pools that I inspected and were dry in the summer have now filled with Cotswold spring water and we hope that newts and frogs find them ideal places to live and breed.  The wild flower seeds have been planted, the saplings are taking root and everything is ready for Winter’s sleep and Spring’s awakening.

Drainage Inspections

The Drainage team on the GWSR (of which I am part), is responsible for managing the Cotswold surface and ground water and guiding it from the Up (Cotswold or left side heading towards Cheltenham) to the Down (Malvern) side of the line.  The quantity of water trying to pass through the barrier that is our Railway is quite astonishing.  As we cut the vegetation in order to assess the culverts and ditches, we disturb wildlife aplenty.  Every year our intention is to look at every culvert, inspection chamber and outfall pipe serving the railway, check its state against the previous inspection and address (or at east note) every deterioration in its condition.  Considering that we have drainage chambers every 30 yards, on both sides of the track in the “cess” (that’s the strip of land on each side of the line next to the edges of the track ballast), this is a lot of lifting of lids and looking down.  Thankfully, modern camera ‘phones are easy to dangle down and click!  Also along the railway, you may see the various methods used to allow the water to flow.  Regular pipes and ditches are one thing, passing under the railway in a culvert or tunnel; however we also have a very rare aqueduct near Stanton, topped by a footbridge carrying the Wyche Way path.  These aqueducts only exist in a handful of places on UK railways and we have one!  A spectacular method of moving water is the “Flume”, near Gotherington, where a large blue brick channel at about 45 degrees to the horizontal channels the water down and under the tracks.  Also quite spectacular are the Roman-designed “siphons” that are used in the cuttings to take water from the Cotswold side at the top of the cutting down through 90 degrees to under track level, through 90 degrees again and over to the other side, up (yes, up) through another right angle and through yet another to continue its way along the original water course.

We don’t see much wildlife at all in these chambers, apart from the odd spider, as there is little or no food and just darkness down there. However, at the outfalls and in the brick structures that surround them, we do see a lot of common lizards, basking in the sun.  Our work parties are always accompanied by robins. Wherever earth is moved or vegetation disturbed they are a constant companion, looking for worms and other tasty morsels.  Ever present are kites and buzzards aloft, with the occasional kestrel.

Having cleared so much, rides on the train at the start of the new season will be a great way of looking at the railway in a different way, so take advantage of the early season’s trains in March, when Spring will see new growth and new wildlife sightings.

Dr Ian S Pogson CEng

Drainage Team


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