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Henley-in-Arden Station News

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A Very Noble Cause...
1 July 2021

 

"You are involved in a very noble cause", Lord Digby Jones of Birmingham told both the Friends of Henley Station and the Friends of the Shakespeare Line, a volunteer-led group that supports over 50 volunteers at some 18 stations along the railway route between Stratford upon Avon and Birmingham.

As patron of both organisations, Lord Jones visited Henley-in-Arden station to see the work that has already been done by volunteers to improve the station's environment. Henley's station has been transformed with some 14 new planters and hundreds of hours of volunteering over the past year. Many passengers have commented on the improvement made by the local community. 

However, this is only the first phase of Henley community's plans for its ex-GWR station and original boarded up GWR station building. Attention has now turned to the renovation and reuse of the station building. The Friends of Henley-in-Arden Station (FoHS) are currently in advanced discussions with Network Rail that it is hoped will see them take a lease on the station building.  FoSH plan to restore the station building to its original GWR splendour while opening the building up for new uses to support and enhance the community and station.

It's the culmination of over two years of work by the local Rail Passenger Group, the Shakespeare Line Promotion Group, who spent some time encouraging the community at Henley-in-Arden through its Parish Council to adopt their station. 

The Chair of FoHS is Angela Okey, who is also vice-chair of Henley & Beaudesert Joint Parish Council said “We are delighted to have Digby Jones as Patron to Friends of Henley Railway Station. His enthusiasm and support is very encouraging and we very much look forward to bringing this project to fruition."

Lord Jones also told the volunteers that he believed railways will become a dominant form of transport in the 21st century as a more carbon-neutral world with much fewer emissions develops.

The volunteer-led Friends of the Shakespeare Line that supports all the stations and their volunteers between Birmingham and Stratford is right behind FoHS. 

Fraser Pithie, Treasurer of Friends of the Shakespeare Line said, "We are confident that the team from the community at Henley that makeup FoHS will deliver their vision. The renovation of the station building will make a tremendous difference and should, when completed, coincide with Henley-in-Arden's train service increasing to a 30-minute frequency. The impetus now is to get possession of the building from Network Rail to commence activities for surveying, design and construction and also secure a long term community lease. This will be another major improvement along the railway line that volunteers are working hard to develop and enhance."

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Lord Digby Jones of Birmingham, Patron of both Friends of the Shakespeare Line (FoSL) and Friends of Henley in Arden Station (FOHS) with Fraser Pithie, Treasurer of FoSL and Angela Okey Chair of FOHS and Vice Chair of Henley in Arden & Beaudesert Joint Parish Council. 

Warwickshire Town is Blooming Great
29 May 2021

 

Summer burst out in Warwickshire over the May Bank Holiday as volunteers worked their magic at one of the county’s railway stations. 

Some 14 planters and several platform flower beds have been festooned by local residents with a range of flowers bringing brilliant colours and vibrance to Henley-in-Arden’s railway station, which is part of the national rail network between Stratford upon Avon and Birmingham. 

It’s the culmination of over a year of work by the townsfolk of Henley-in-Arden who have adopted their station and the Friends of the Shakespeare Line (FoSL), which volunteers run to support and help fund Station adopters who look after all of the 22 stations along the line. 

Last year after the first lockdown, a group of Henley residents formed ‘Friends of Henley Station’. They spent hundreds of hours transforming what were then overgrown flower beds, station entrance and car park areas.

With support and funding from FoSL, the Henley station adopters obtained some 14 garden planters in March, which were made and installed at Henley’s station and filled by a local company, Earlswood Garden & Landscape Centre, who also support all 22 stations through FoSL.

 

Now the summer blooms have arrived as the Henley volunteers spent Bank Holiday Saturday planting them out at the station.

Sue Bird, a member of the Friends of Henley Station, said, “It’s great to see all our work coming to fruition. We have spent hours and days tidying and preparing the station ready for this day. To see the colours and flowers is great, and we can now say our station welcomes visitors to our fabulous town.”

The transformation of the station environment is the first phase of a more extensive and ambitious programme which it is hoped will also see the currently boarded up and derelict original Great Western Railway built station building restored and brought back into use for both the community and passengers. The Friends of Henley Station are now in advanced discussions with Network Rail, who own the building, and it’s hoped that restoration works and fundraising can start soon.

Henley-in-Arden is a market town that dates back to medieval times with considerable heritage and attractions. The town is also well known for its famous and unique ice cream, which is still on sale on its High Street to this day.

 

Angela Okey, who leads the Friends group and vice-chair of Henley & Beaudesert Joint Parish Council, added, “We have a clear vision that will see our station restored to its former GWR glory adding heritage and value to our town that has so much heritage and attractions. It will be a real facility for everyone, encourage visitors to our town by train, and the volunteering and fundraising opportunities will provide social value for so many people, companies and organisations.” 

It’s a far cry from the days in the late 1960s’ when the then British Railways tried to close the railway from Birmingham to Stratford and who only stopped by local campaigners at the eleventh hour with a High Court injunction. However, despite trying again in 1984, the line and train service survived and today, several million passenger journeys a year take place on the line. 

Fraser Pithie from FoSL said, “The flowers look fantastic and make such a difference. The drive, determination and commitment of the volunteers at Henley is a constant inspiration. They show just how much value volunteers can bring to the railway, its estate and those that operate it and crucially those that use it. Volunteers at all stations along the line are doing the same, this is really about people, their railway service and their community, and it’s delivering real social value and helping build back better.”

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Sue Bird with Amelia and Nick of Friends of Henley-in-Arden station planting out the blooms at Henley in Arden station on Saturday 29 May 2021.

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Our volunteer’s drive and determination remains undiminished...

 

As the summer starts to draw towards Autumn the drive and commitment of the Friends of Henley in Arden station remains undiminished. The station, complete with its 14 planters festooned with colourful blooms, has brought a vibrance to the town’s railway station that has not been seen for decades.

However, much work continues, and more is planned as the attention turns to restoring the station building to its original Great Western Railway splendour. Angela Okey, Chair of the Friends of Henley Station, said on Wednesday 8 September “We have been working hard on plans to fund and fully restore Henley's original GWR station building. This is a leading rail project between the voluntary sector and Network Rail that we are working on. The key steps that we need to get in place and satisfied will enable us to commence design work and build up costings to secure the necessary funding.

 

The pressure is on as we will need to get to the point where we can access the building to start the preparatory works, design, estimations and overall costings by October 2021, this is dependent upon us reaching agreement with Network Rail and it’s crucial as we do not want to lose pledged funding for the work."

 

Friends of Henley Station are being actively supported by the voluntary Community Station Partnership, Friends of the Shakespeare Line. Fraser Pithie, FoSL’s Treasurer said “We are working closely with the Friends of Henley Station as we need to ensure this once in a lifetime opportunity to restore the current derelict station building is fully embraced, delivered and achieved.”