Railway Gardens

by Jem Croucher


Beside the line at Shoreham
As “Railway Gardens” it is known
A copse of trees and bushes
Now sadly overgrown

Part of me wants to do something
Tidy all the weeds
Bring back with pride its ‘garden’ name
Sew some fresh new seeds

But Southern Railways, they don’t care
It’s just another strip of land
Beside a railway line in Shoreham
And they’ve nothing for it planned

Little known fact though is that once
For a signalman living there
This was his living pride and joy
Tended long with care

It’s saving grace is that come summer
His legacy then begun
Lives on as bushes spring to life
And flower still in the sun

For many years, the main line at Shoreham-by Sea, was tended for by a signalman operating from a signal box standing proud on the north side of the line at the western end of platform 1. Across the road from the gates, opened and closed manually by hand every time a train passed through, was a small strip of land between the line and the west-facing Queens Place. Bordered on its southern side by a raised narrow pavement between two ancient flint-stone walls, this little strip of land was lovingly cultivated and tended by successive signalmen into a garden complete with footpath, flowering shrubbery and tree-screens hiding it from the stepped railway bank; a perfect haven for railway workers and public alike.

There’s not been a signalman ‘per se’ at Shoreham since the ‘Beeching’ branch line closures of the middle 1960s. The signalbox itself survived until 1988 but, like its demise, the ‘Railway Gardens’ have similarly fallen by the wayside as a forgotten relic of the past.

The gardens are still there though, accessed from behind a very overgrown mulberry bush at the western end. Although barely recognisable now, one can still make out the pathway in the brambles and weeds. And, in the spring, clumps of tulips and daffodils and crocuses show clearly its wended way back to the now blocked-off signalmen’s entrance at its eastern end. When summer comes it springs back to life providing a splash of colour as the hardy perennial flowering shrubs bounce back to life. But it really needs a human hand to bring it back to its former glory.

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