Railway Arches, Langton Meadows
The slow train – (Flanders & Swann), performed by Dan Baker:
Bob Downes and the signal lamp:
Bob Downes and the jumping coal train:
Deborah Thompson and the Pines Express:
For over 100 years the flood arches on Langton Meadows carried the Somerset & Dorset railway over the biodiversity rich Stour flood plain. When the railway closed, most of the infrastructure was demolished, but the arches were left standing, an unlisted but much-loved asset and memorial to the town’s Victorian industrial heritage. When North Dorset District Council considered demolishing them, public opinion in opposition resulted in Blandford Forum Town Council (BFTC) seeking a long-term lease for the structure so that it could be preserved.
Over the last five years, the Blandford Railway Arches Trust (BRAT), set up nine years ago to focus on bringing life to the structure, has worked in partnership with BFTC towards the restoration, maintenance and enhancement of the arches and of Langton/Stour Meadows, as a venue for outdoor events for the general public in Blandford and site of environmental interest, which thanks to its management by Dorset Countryside Rangers has Green Flag status. In 2013 BRAT was assisted by Dorset Countryside Rangers and volunteers in removing and cutting back vegetation which had grown over the years. Restoration work at a cost of £18,000 was requested by BRAT and funded by BFTC in 2015 to repair the damaged parapet and repair and repoint the brickwork.
BRAT are committed to the restoration and re-use of the flood arches on Langton Meadows, one of the last remaining structures which formed part of the railway, so much of which was destroyed in the years following its closure, but which has been given new life through the development of the North Dorset Trailway.
Rationale: BRAT has encouraged the use of the site as a venue for plays, concerts, and public events. They recently held a Jazz evening at the arches, which was a huge success in showing how attractive the venue is for such events. They would like to continue to be able to offer the Arches as a site for community events, activities and workshops (such as wildlife identification, artwork, archaeological activities, etc).
The popularity of this site, the affection people have for ‘railwayana’, and the enthusiasm for retaining and conserving this structure is what has led BRAT, along with BFTC, to apply for and obtain planning permission to make the structure useable and to create an even more attractive venue for the town. In May 2017, planning permission was approved for the introduction of a stairway to the top of the structure and in June 2019 BRAT/BFTC secured £46,951.20 LEADER funding to enable the project to proceed. Approved plans are attached at Appendix A (with works detailed at Appendix B).
This project will conserve and protect the Blandford Railway Arches, re-inventing the use of an historically significant structure on the North Dorset Trailway and enhancing its interest to the community and visitors as an event venue. The Arches are a rare reminder of our industrial railway past and a much-photographed landmark in their own right.
The location near Langton Car Park makes the Arches a much-needed alternative and easily accessible venue. More visitors staying longer and attending events will purchase refreshment and accommodation locally, supporting other businesses rather than competing against them.
• The funds will be used to conserve and enhance a local historically and culturally significant structure and to impress upon local visitors and tourists the importance of the history of that structure to the development of the area.
• It will grow the wider rural economy by creating an attractive area for events, picnicking, and education and community events, which will bring tourists into the area. It will also provide an alternative to expensive street closures for community events, allowing the community to host more and larger events, bringing people into the area and boosting trade in B&B’s, hotels, restaurants, cafes, pubs and shops. It will also enhance and encourage use of the Trailway, of which the arches are a part.
• It will foster a sense of local identity through Interpretation Panels and events designed to highlight the importance of Blandford’s railway history and of the natural environment of the meadows. Access to the top of the structure will allow the many interested in railway history a better understanding of its role and create a viewing platform to improve the visitor experience of the natural environment of the meadows, which have been awarded Green Flag status. Interpretation Panels will promote an understanding of the railway history and special habitat in which the Arches sit. The project will create a space for Wildlife Groups, Artists and Photographers to view the Stour Meadow and its flora and fauna.
• Creating a new use for these railway structures, structures that will probably never be incorporated back into their original use as a crossing over the Stour meadows, will ensure that the Arches will continue to be protected against destruction, which they have been threatened with in the past. This project will enhance the current and future use of the Arches and preserve this important part of our industrial heritage.
|Source of Funding||£||Status|
|Total Project Cost||£53,581.20||Please provide budget with evidence of costs (e.g.estimates, quotes, etc)
This is illustrated in the approved LEADER application at Appendix C.
|S106 Funds Requested||£5,500
|For structural survey prior to any works commencing and foundation pads for the staircase (quotations to follow)|
|Additional Funding Needed||£48,081.20|
|Sources of Additional Funding||£||Secured/under consideration etc.|
|Town Council previously spent £18,000 on essential works, hence the lower contribution on this occasion. It is also responsible for ongoing maintenance and insurance costs.|
The work started on the railway arches in May 2019 and is due to be completed in September 2019. Details are shown in the attached plans, but if you do have any queries please get in touch with us.