Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Railway Echo No 8


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.

27 comments:

Jon Dudley said...

Humphrey Lyttelton will never be dead all the time you draw breath...is your 'assistant's' name Samantha by any chance? No idea about your railway constructions but recommend Christian Wolmar's 'Fire and Steam' - How the railways changed Britain. At least It'll take your mind off those 'assistants'.

Peter Ashley said...

Working as they do on sensitive areas, I prefer to keep the girls' identities close to my chest. However Jon, they thankyou for the book recommendation, and offer up for your interest Andrew Martin's Jim Stringer Steam Detective novels.

A F-A said...

iI know almost nothing of old railways. But girls up library ladders will, for me, forever be associated with Leslie Nielsen's admiring comment to Priscilla Presley in 'Naked Gun'......

Diplomat said...

Cattle drinkers in fact. More commonly associated with Northward and inland expansion of some of the larger cattle stations of South Australia in the second half of the C19th. These may well have been built by the railway if the line perhaps frustrated access to the brook or river, almost certainly not for sheep though as they are more than capable of living without substantial amounts of water. On a station out of Port Augusta SA it was evident that the hard stone based dug-out into the spring line was sufficient to prevent the thirsty stock from turning the place into a useless mud-hole. Sleeping overnight wrapped in a camel hair lined canvas bed-roll in the shadow of my XT500 these springs where handy for the makings of a strong billy-brew in the cold morning. Here in Rutland the use of concrete was obviously considered a worthwhile alternative and I rather the like the drain back to ground which would prevent the structure becoming a swimming pool.

Peter Ashley said...

I knew he'd know. Cattle Drinkers. I like that.

Fred Fibonacci said...

Cattle Drinkers. I couldn't possibly comment.

MillyMollyMandy said...

It is actually a "ho ho" and it has a similar function to the "ha ha" or sunken fence in that it is a feature of landscaped pleasure-grounds or parkland designed not to interrupt the view and is invisible until closely approached. Commonly used by courting couples or possibly the lecherous gentleman and his library assistants. Also known as a "wa hey."

Philip Wilkinson said...

Or in the Cotswolds sometimes known as a 'fwoar', as in 'What's thon fwoar?'

Peter Ashley said...

I recently threw a mug (Penguin Book Jacket 'Country Life') full of coffee over my monitor, which abruptedly gave up the ghost. But I am relieved to find in that my absence the comments on a simple piece of vernacular pastoral have typically descended into suggestiveness.

Jon Dudley said...

Come on Alois, to save me lots of tiresome Googling what exactly did Leslie Nielsen say to Priscilla Presley? Given their respective locations (if indeed she was up a ladder) some cheap jibe about lunch no doubt.

Mr A, it's funny you should mention AM's Jim Stringer novels, as I've just read the bit in Fire and Steam about The Necropolis Railway - 45 stiffs a day to Brookwood and the relatives paying the fares.

A F-A said...

"Say, nice beaver you have!"
"Yes, I had it stuffed recently".

(Priscilla comes down carrying a stuffed beaver.....of course!!!!)

I'm laughing even as I type - big kid that I am!

Jon Dudley said...

Pure 'Carry On'.

Fred Fibonacci said...

Infamy! Infamy!

Diplomat said...

On the out skirts of Avon Colarado on the road to Beaver Creek - Beaver Liquors off licence.

Camilla Jessop said...

You are very rude boys. I won't pussy around - stop it now.

Peter Ashley said...

Er, excuse me, but can you all go out and do this in the garden?

Jon Dudley said...

Please sir, Alois started it sir.

Fred Fibonacci said...

Sir, but sir, Camilla's nicked my rubber

Peter Ashley said...

You all need a jolly good hiding. One hundred lines on Cattle Drinkers on my desk first thing Monday morning.

Jon Dudley said...

Sir,sir,sir,sir,sir,sir - it's Monday morning and I could only come up with one line what my old granny used to say:

Neither a Cattle Drinker or a Fish Smoker be,
if you want to be older and wiser than me.

And Sir, Camilla never nicked Fred's rubber, he gave her one. Just thought you ought to know cos I don't want Camilla to get in trouble.

Peter Ashley said...

Dear oh dear.

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