Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Secret Station

I don't know whether it's the legacy of a childhood spent making camps in the woods, or expressive of some deep psychological quirk, but I have always had a liking for secret places, especially the ones hidden in plain sight, where you can see and not be seen. I spent this afternoon exploring several such places around St. Catherine's Hill which I hadn't visited for a while.

Most notable is this old iron railway bridge, a remnant of the old single-track railway that used to run over the viaduct.  The track has long gone, but an elevated bank runs parallel to the official path alongside the Itchen Navigation canal, and the old track bed is still there, hidden among the trees. It takes more effort to access than most people are prepared to expend, so it's relatively unvisited, except by teen stoners and taggers looking for a place to hang out, and by the occasional adult familiar with their tracks and traces.

In two places there are bridges crossing what must once have been the canal's main course. Up inside, one of them is a little walled haven, with the remnants of an iron and plank platform. Whether it was once a tiny station, or whether it was there for track workers to get access alongside a stationary train, I don't know. But it's a fine place just to lean on the parapet and enjoy the sunshine, and feel the wind stirring the trees all around. It retains much of the spirit of the "old" viaduct, before it was restored and turned into a rather soulless cycleway.

What I was really doing was looking for an unusual vantage point onto the motorway.  That section of my book sequence lacks something, and I was hoping to find it today. Not quite, but maybe another day, with the sun in a different quarter.


Thomas Rink said...

What an interesting place! A pity that places like this seem to be an endangered species (at least here in Germany). If they don't fall victim to urban sprawl, or are being "tidied up", they become nature reserves. The latter in fact means separating "desired nature" from "unwanted nature" (a variant of tidying up), and it is forbidden to roam through these places.

I sometimes wonder why "our" concept of beauty is so far apart from "theirs"? "We" are attracted to the chaotic, the untidy, the mysterious - whereas "they" prefer everything neat, clean and functional. It may be just me, but if have the impression that our life and our environment are becoming more and more plasticky ...

Best, Thomas

PS: Have you read "Common Ground" by Rob Cowen?

Mike C. said...


It's just the same here, though I suspect we British have a slightly higher tolerance for a "disordered" environment! It's only a matter of time before someone decides (a) the bridge is unsafe (which it probably is) and (b) to extend the viaduct cycleway along the old railbed...

That beautifully dangerous brick arch from a few posts ago? "Repaired" since my last visit, to an astonishing ugliness... I must post a photo.

If I have to exemplify your last comment, it always comes down to hanging baskets and concrete planter tubs, which I loathe, but which municipal types love to use to "beautify" their towns and villages ... But then I dislike make-up on women, too.


Thomas Rink said...

The charming thing about the brick arch was the makeshift repair IMHO. This is an unperfectness which I find very human and touching.

Best, Thomas