Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'

The original Somerset and Dorset Railway closed very controversially in 1966. It is time that decision, made in a very different world, was reversed. We now have many councillors, MPs, businesses and individuals living along the line supporting us. Even the Ministry of Transport supports our general aim. The New S&D was formed in 2009 with the aim of rebuilding as much of the route as possible, at the very least the main line from Bath (Britain's only World Heritage City) to Bournemouth (our premier seaside resort); as well as the branches to Wells, Glastonbury and Wimborne. We will achieve this through a mix of lobbying, trackbed purchase and restoration of sections of the route as they become economically viable. With Climate Change, road congestion, capacity constraints on the railways and now Peak Oil firmly on the agenda we are pushing against an open door. We already own Midford just south of Bath, and are restoring Spetisbury under license from DCC, but this is just the start. There are other established groups restoring stations and line at Midsomer Norton and Shillingstone, and the fabulous narrow gauge line near Templevcombe, the Gartell Railway.

There are now FIVE sites being actively restored on the S&D and this blog will follow what goes on at all of them!
Midford - Midsomer Norton - Gartell - Shillingstone - Spetisbury

Our Aim:

Our aim is to use a mix of lobbying, strategic track-bed purchase, fundraising and encouragement and support of groups already preserving sections of the route, as well as working with local and national government, local people, countryside groups and railway enthusiasts (of all types!) To restore sections of the route as they become viable.
Whilst the New S&D will primarily be a modern passenger and freight railway offering state of the art trains and services, we will also restore the infrastructure to the highest standards and encourage steam working and steam specials over all sections of the route, as well as work very closely with existing heritage lines established on the route.

This blog contains my personal views. Anything said here does not necessarily represent the aims or views of any of the groups currently restoring, preserving or operating trains over the Somerset and Dorset Railway!

Monday, February 28, 2011

let 'em know ...

This has come via our Planning Officer David Robbins.

I think this needs to be widely publicised.

Mendip District Council should be made aware, by as many people as possible, that Peak Oil is coming and that a transition plan is vital. The Core Strategy is their opportunity to safeguard dismantled railway lines, together with associated station sites, buildings and other lineside structures. Mendip District includes Glastonbury & Street, Polsham, Wells, West Pennard, Pylle, Evercreech, Shepton Mallet, Masbury, Binegar and Chilcompton - to name just the S&D stations.

The Council have made a start - in Policy DP12: Safeguarding Corridors for Sustainable Travel - but their wording remains very defensive and manages to avoid mentioning the S&D lines at all!

Mendip Local Development Framework

DRAFT CORE STRATEGY (Preferred Options Stage)

I am writing to inform you of the launch of our consultation period on the new planning strategy for Mendip District. Over the last two or three years various consultation activities and study work has been undertaken and we are now able to publish a full draft of the Local Development Framework Core Strategy for public views. The consultation period for the document runs for 6 weeks from 17th February to 31st March 2011.

You can access all the material via this Time to Plan page or via any good search engine by typing in “Mendip Time to Plan”

A brief summary of the proposals is available in our information leaflet which is being delivered to every household in Mendip.

This is an important document in that it sets out the amount of new development that the area will accommodate in the period to 2026, broadly where it will go, key goals for the district’s five main towns and a range of policies to manage all types of development. It responds to the evolving localism agenda being rolled out from Government and regional housing targets have been dispensed with, replaced by locally evidenced housing requirements.

This consultation period offers an opportunity to see, in full, a draft of the proposed strategy and for people from all walks of life, whether residents, workers, visitors or potential investors to provide us with views about the new proposals. Where appropriate we would also like your views on how the proposals in the document could be refined bearing in mind the issues we have to tackle and for any proposals to be soundly justified. At this stage no decisions are being made and any views you offer will inform what the final Core Strategy contains. We intend to publish a final draft in the autumn of 2011. Unresolved issues remaining after that publication will then be formally examined by a Planning Inspector during 2012 prior to any decision by the council to adopt the strategy.

During this consultation period we will also be inviting:
submission of further development sites within and around the Mendip towns and a defined list of villages for an update to our Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA).
specific comments in relation to a new rural affordable housing approach which the council wants to urgently adopt as an interim policy to stimulate more affordable homes for local people.
Specific comments on a review of Special Landscape Features in the district. The Local Plan identified a number of landscape features across the district which were valued as distinctive local landmarks or scenes. Previous consultation indicated that these should benefit from ongoing protection in the Local Development Framework. The Assessment of Special Landscape Features reviews these and considers new areas for designation.

The draft Core Strategy and a wide range of background studies, reports of consultation and explanatory papers will be available on the council website - http://www.mendip.gov.uk/ - via the “Time to Plan” links.

Copies of the documents will also be available at the Council Access Points in Frome, Glastonbury, Shepton Mallet, Street and Wells. The Planning Policy team will also be holding a number of drop in style sessions for people to come and discuss issues, ask questions and generally become better informed about what is proposed. Details of where you can view documents and meet officers are set out below.

We regret that, in the current straightened times, hard copies of the Core Strategy can only be made available at a cost of £10 each reflecting our printing costs. Other documents will also attract a similar charge.

Comments can be made until midnight on 31st March 2011 and given the need to progress work we will not be able to consider responses received after that date.

To respond you can:

complete the Online Survey at http://www.mendip.gov.uk/ via the ‘Time to Plan’ link
download a response form, complete it and return it to us via post or e-mail
write to us directly making reference to the pages and policies you are commenting on at orgdev@mendip.gov.uk or at Mendip District Council, Cannards Grave Road, Shepton Mallet BA4 5BT.

If you have any questions, please e-mail us at orgdev@mendip.gov.uk or call Mendip District Council on 01749 648999 and ask to speak to a member of the planning policy team.

We look forward to your interest in this work.

John Meeker
Planning Policy Team Leader
Organisational Development Group

Cannards Grave Road, Shepton Mallet, Somerset. BA4 5BT

( 01749 648999 (Customer Services)

Think of the environment...please don't print this e-mail unless you really need to.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

the fall of oil

(Edington Burtle late 1960s - Steve Sainsbury collection)

With the Arab nations falling to a kind of anarchic democracy one by one there are the first mutterings of Peak Oil out there. Interestingly Peak Oil was mentioned on BBC News the other day, the first time I've heard it hit the mainstream. Somebody obviously (or deliberately) forgot the usual 'climate change' cover story. As oil fields get caught up in the maelstrom it's inevitable - even if the current difficulties are contained - that the price of oil will continue to rise but, more importantly, more and more commentators will start researching Peak Oil and the general energy crisis.

The most dreadful outcome of course will be if Saudi Arabia falls, particularly to Islamic extremists. It is going to be interesting.

It would be best for us all if the switch from oil is carefully choreographed and reasonably painless, but with most oil being in volatile parts if the world this may be a forlorn hope.

The car age is clearly coming to an end and all future talk will be about trains and trams. This is just the beginning. The changes are going to be momentous, yet most people out there don't have a clue what's going to hit them.
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Friday, February 18, 2011

chilcompton sparks

Everyone's getting on the S&D train so it seems.

Coming from Hornby is this excellent train set (is it okay to call it that)? The box will show the picture of a West Country emerging from Chilcompton amidst a lineside fire. The set will contain a West Country and three ex-LMS coaches - very S&D. More here.

Sorry for the lack of posts recently - special apologies to Julian, Brian, John and David who have sent me blog material this week. I'll try to do it over the weekend. I've been having sight problems the last week or so and find it hard to work at the computer. Hopefully this is a temporary thing.
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Sunday, February 13, 2011

shillingstone ups its game

A lot of very good things have been coming out of Shillingstone of late, and they are doing the S&D proud!

Their new magazine is a credit to a small group - I love the cover pic! This is issue number one, free to all members.

The biggest news of all is that they have managed to acquire half a mile of track, enough to allow them to lay double track through the station, and single track beyond. They are also taking delivery of three items of rolling stock, including a steam loco and buffet coach!

I rejoined Shillingstone last week. I must say that their membership secretary is extremely efficient, within a few days of sending off my cheque I had membership card, magazine and a direct debit form. Hopefully I'll upgrade to life membership soon. I'm already a life member at Midsomer Norton and will be taking out life membership of the New S&D next month.
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Friday, February 11, 2011

next stop spetisbury

The plan of the bit we'll take on. The station is in the top LH corner, the trackbed extends to the bottom RH.

Have just heard this afternoon that DCC are very keen for us to restore Spetisbury! Like at Midford our plan will be to rebuild the station to early 50s condition and to have an information point, shop and office in the main building. We have a lot of members at the southern end of our line so hopefully they'll be able to keep pace with the Midford team! But the one different thing at Spetisbury is that there is plenty of room for track - in fact the plan suggests that double track could be restored on this stretch as there is a lot of room either side of the cycleway.

This station is on the absolutely strategic section to the south of Blandford, the largest town in Dorset currently not rail served.

Thanks to Paul Beard for starting the process and Anna-Jayne Metcalfe for doing the recent legwork on this - both S&D heroes!
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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

more midford

Four shots from Midford taken last Sunday by Stuart Seale. Many corners that have been buried beneath undergrowth for decades are now emerging. Most of the cut wood has gone to good homes so nothing has been wasted!
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Tuesday, February 08, 2011


Two sets of pictures that show the incredible transformation at Midford. The top two I took on 15 September 2010 which was the very first day of operations at the site, the first day of the restoration of the whole line.

The second set of shots show Midford on Sunday with the platform and bank cleared, as well as the retaining wall that was behind the station building. (Both pics © Stuart Seale).

There's still a lot of clearance work to do both at the station and along the trackbed up to the Long Arch bridge so please try to turn up on a Sunday if you can. The blistering pace of the clearance has been very impressive and we are much much further along than I thought we would be on that warm day back in September!
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Saturday, February 05, 2011

gartell next weekend

If you can try to get to the Model Railway Exhibition at the Gartell Railway next weekend. As well as the exhibition there will be trains running on the Gartell Railway, which runs for about half a mile over the old S&D trackbed south of Templecombe.
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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

telegraph 37

Just received today is the latest edition of Midsomer Norton's S&D Telegraph. This is even better than usual, and covers the running of the first public trains, a momentous event in the history of the revived S&D.

You know me, I'm a Midsomer Norton fanatic and absolutely love the place. They've done an amazing job down there over the last ten years or so. I'm proud to say that I was very involved there before my family circumstances changed, serving on the board for several years, and loved every minute of it.

The magazine has to be the best in preservation - I always read it from cover to cover and there's never any 'filler' in it. Even the historical articles are excellent. Great stuff!

The editorial leads on the need for MN to bring in more volunteers. I'd urge any of you to get involved down there if you can - it's a great place and a fantastic location to be doing such important work. Remember that as a member at MN you get the Telegraph free, it's also available to non-members for just £2.95.

I'll certainly try to get down there myself to help out this year. I really miss the place.
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