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.
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.”
See new website
The Mountsorrel Railway is part of the Mountsorrel and Rothley Community Heritage Centre. This website is no longer updated. For updates see: http://heritage-centre.co.uk/