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The Mountsorrel Railway is part of the Mountsorrel and Rothley Community Heritage Centre. This website is no longer updated. For updates see:

Friday, 15 May 2009

Project moves into its busiest period yet

The already relentless pace of the Mountsorrel Railway project is moving up into an even higher gear over the next few weeks. Last Tuesday we hosted a visit from the entire year five of St. Bartholomew's Primary School in Quorn. 57 children came with their teachers and volunteer parent helpers to experience and learn from the Mountsorrel Railway.

57 from St Bartholomew's year 5 visited the trackbed to undertake historical and ecological study

The children undertook activities involving metal detecting, archaeological investigation, wild flower planting and recording the history of the railway through sketching and report writing. The visit was a massive success with several children commenting that it was the best school trip they had ever been on! This is testament to the hard work put in by the school and our volunteers to plan the visit to ensure that the children got as much out of it as possible.

In all the children discovered two wheelbarrows full of metal artefacts from the railway which they have taken back to school for further study.

57 children from St Bartholomew's year 5 visited the trackbed to undertake historical and ecological study

This was the first of 11 visits we have planned with local schools and community groups over the summer term. In all just over 300 children will be able to experience and learn from the railway over the next few weeks. They will also be taking part in our ecology project to restore the sides of the formation to how they would have appeared during the original operating life of the railway. Each group or school has been allocated a section of trackbed to plant up wild flowers, which they have been growing in the classroom and at home. It's a great way to allow our younger generation to get involved with ecology and experience it in a natural surrounding.

Hot on the heals of this was a visit from the 2nd Quorn Scout Group on May 12th. The Scouts planted wild flowers in their adopted section of the trackbed and also had a go at an "ecology hunt" we have devised to encourage the children to look around them and discover the wildlife of the trackbed.

2nd Quorn Scouts

Last weekend we ran a very successful series of trackbed tours for visitors to the Great Central Railway'ss 40th anniversary gala. With most of our work away from publicly accessible locations, this was one of the first chances for people to see all the hard work that our volunteers are putting into the project. We hope to be able to repeat something similar in the future.

GCR 40th anniversary tours took place along the Mountsorrel Railway over the weekend of 9 May 2009

As well as the tours last weekend we also had multiple volunteer work parties beavering away on various aspects of the project. Work on restoring the bridge wall at Wood Lane is continuing steadily. This is quite a complex job to ensure that the predominate stones all fit back into their original places. Thanks to the volunteer help of a local builder with stonemasonry skills, the bridge is looking absolutely fantastic. Another few weeks should see it returned to its former glory! The bridge restoration would not be possible without the very kind donation of materials by Lafarge Aggregates and the donation of a concrete pour for the foundations by Lafarge Ready-mix.

Volunteers at work rebuilding the parapet wall of the Wood Lane bridge

Work was also progressing at Rothley carriage and wagon works to restore the first of three wagons into the livery of the Mountsorrel Granite Company. Restoration of the frames is continuing well and we will soon be working on the timbers. East Midlands Airport has kindly agreed to fund the sign writing costs for all three wagons. This is fantastic news, allowing us to employ a professional sign writer to ensure the livery is to a very high standard. We are very grateful to the airport for this donation.

Frames painted

Our ecology group was also at work clearing nettles ahead of the wild flower planting.

The project really is a hive of activity at the moment! The pace will not be letting up over the coming weeks with work on the bridge continuing, wagon restoration and our ongoing visits from schools and groups.

There couldn't be a better time to get involved with this vibrant and very active project. If you would like to volunteer please get in touch with Steve Cramp. If you'd like to donate, please download our standing order form or contact George Overton.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Mountsorrel Railway featured on Radio Leicester

This morning BBC Radio Leicester broadcast an interview with project coordinator Steve Cramp, which was recorded last week. Subsequently the BBC website featured a news article here about the Mountsorrel Railway, along with a recording of the interview. A transcript of the interview is below; we're very grateful to the BBC, and to DJ Ben Jackson, for their interest in the project.

It's been a busy and exciting week for the Mountsorrel Railway: work to repair the Wood Lane bridge and the wagons continues, schools and community groups have been visiting, and we ran guided tours for over 120 visitors (from as far away as Paignton in Devon!) from the Great Central Railway gala at the weekend. Of course work also carries on to prepare the trackbed for ballast and rail.

Transcript follows:

BBC Radio Leicester, Ben Jackson breakfast show, 11 May 2009 transcription of interview with Steve Cramp re Mountsorrel Railway:

Ben: “I went to find out what was happening about the long forgotten Mountsorrel Railway. Well it turned out that work was underway to restore it and eventually run trains along it. That work's continued at lightning pace. But even more importantly, perhaps, it's turned out to be an amazing community project concentrating on ecology just as much as industrial archaeology. Steve Cramp is the project manager. I went out to see him last week.”

Steve: “We're walking on the trackbed of the old Mountsorrel Railway, and we've moved the leaf mulch and mud off the top now. It's revealed the original Mountsorrel ballast that lay underneath and that's what you can hear that we're walking on now. It's hundred year old ballast that's just crying out for a new railway. This area where we are at the moment, Ben, the trees and the bushes at the side had almost formed an archway above the railway which had just, basically, left a tunnel. And what'd happened underneath was very little wildlife, as far as grasses and wild flowers, could actually come through. Whereas originally, during the original life of the railway, you would've had grasses and wild flowers along the cutting sides. It would've looked beautiful and of course they all encourage insects and butterflies to come back, of which we've just seen one.”

Ben: “It's beautiful. Just for people who don't know, this is the old railway. It was never a passenger railway, it was an industrial railway that ran from Great Central Railway, which is behind us, through into Mountsorrel to serve the quarry. That was all it was here for, and for decades it would've been all but forgotten except by a handful of local historians.”

Steve: “Yes that's right. It fell out of use in the mid 1950s, and was lifted around the end of the 50s. And from then it was just left and abandoned and it disappeared from view, from the roadside and the surrounding area. It just looked like a hedgerow. But inside there was the railway waiting to be reborn.”

Ben: “The thing is, since I last came down, which is a few months ago now, the whole project's grown. And it started off as you wanting to get this railway back up and running, in some form, and actually it's become an ecology project that happens to have a railway in it. And even more than that it happens to be a youth ecology project, because you've got all all these local schools. My son's local school has been down here on a school trip, digging up metal with metal detectors and all that kind of thing and, as you say, planting wild flowers. What is it that's made this such a community project?”

Steve: “I think really it's perhaps people can see that we're bringing something good to the area, something that people can get behind, and we can create that community spirit that seems to be lacking from society in so many areas now. We're not just a little shutaway group doing something with a specific interest. We have children in the junior ecology group as young as four, and they go up to 13, and then beyond that we have young people, and middle aged people, and older people. All sorts of people helping us with the railway rebuilding. I think our oldest volunteer's 77 and as I just said our youngest is four. So it's something for everybody. And we have men, and ladies as well; we have entire families that are involved with the project. The vast majority of our volunteers are from the local villages: Mountsorrel, Rothley and Quorn, although we have some that come every week from Birmingham. The project really does seem to reach out. But it differs from a typical heritage railway restoration project in that we do have so many local people involved. It really is a community project.”

Ben: “On a day like today it's actually achingly beautiful down here. We're surrounded still by the last of the bluebells and all sorts of other local small plants. I'm being divebombed by butterflies and flies of all various descriptions. This is just beautiful.”

Steve: “Yes there's buzzards down here, and kestrels, and owls, and we developed a program of putting birdboxes up. In fact just behind us here you can see there's a blue tit box on the tree, which is now inhabited. The boxes have only been up a couple of months and already a large number of them are inhabited by birds. The boxes have been well built, they've even got slate roofs! There's a pride and a passion in what the volunteers are doing.”

Ben: “I have to say I've done a lot of those sort of projects in the past but I think that's one of the most fantastic. It's really inspirational there. I think it's because the community have got so heavily involved. If you want to find out some more information, if you go into a search engine on the internet and just put in “Mountsorrel Railway” you'll find a great website there. Really well worth having a look at, and maybe you'll want to give them a hand.”
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