My blog has been neglected for a few days because I have been locked away in the library wing at Ashley Towers trying to find a definitive answer to the question of what these structures are. A succession of girls climbed library ladders and scoured the shelves to bring me volume after volume of railway books with the relevant pages earmarked with old luggage labels, but to no avail. Just north of Hallaton in Leicestershire the trackbed of the old Market Harborough to Marefield Junction railway line crosses the fields, and in two adjacent meadows are these ramps leading down to stone basins filled with brackish water. Both are of substantial size, with parapets built of the classic blue engineering brick used on the nearby bridges and cattle creeps. The top structure is next to the embankment, the one above further out in a pasture. A farmer friend leans towards them being sheep washes (some springs on the Ordnance map are named thus), but one of my girl assistants is worried by this, saying that the traffic management of the sheep would be made easier if there were separate entrances and exits. They may of course be simply rather over-the-top water troughs utilising existing springs. Whatever they are, I believe the railway built them (in the late 1870s) for farmers deprived of land and watering facilities in the laying down of the trackbed. So, looks like another afternoon locked in the library with the girls.
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