Well, the previous post was about a train journey and here are a few more stations for your pleasure. There’s no getting away from the fact that I do enjoy a good trip by rail; especially, as, in this case, it’s along a previously untravelled line. It begins badly, however, at Dorchester West – an unmanned, unwomaned affair at which parking is non-existent. There is, admittedly, potential: there’s a ginormous area to hand called the Market Car Park. Sadly, it’s Wednesday and the market car park is full of – the weekly market. To the left of this photo of Dorchester West, which I stole from the WWW, and which I would like you to study carefully, is a huge parking area belonging to The Range. During my pre-journey research, I investigated The Range and discovered a range of reports about folk who’d been fined £100 for parking in the car park when the shop was shut, at a time when nobody else needed to park there. Worth a look as the excuses of these heinous criminals are quite inventive. Anyway, probably in response to the many ongoing court cases, there are a number of signs in evidence advising sanctions.
To the right of the picture, other potential parking spaces are available belonging to a shop called Mud, Sweat and Tears. This emporium has different signage which warns of unwelcome cars being clamped so that was a non-starter. In front of the picture is an electrical wholesaler whose employer said I was welcome to park in one of their spaces. Until I mentioned that I wanted to stay there for two days.
Perilously close to the time when my train would depart, I dumped it on the pavement at an odd angle outside Dominoes Pizza – bad move.
I’m off to Totnes, firstly by means of The Heart of Wessex line. This is an 87 mile route between Bristol and Weymouth calling at stations in places that I’d say are largely unheard of by the wider travelling classes. I have to change at Castle Cary. I don’t even know in which county Castle Cary resides. Furthermore, stations in between Dorchester West and my destination are ‘request’ stops. Now, I think it’s quaint and quintessentially English that you can have request stops on a train. Reader, think about Southern Rail who have cancelled so many trains in the last fortnight that folk have lost their jobs because they can’t get to London on the day they want, let alone at the right time because unions are arguing about whose job it is to open and close the bloody doors. Now The Heart of Wessex doesn’t sound so quaint: it sounds sensible and caring and well-populated with staff. Moreover, there aren’t any electronic doors: once you’ve advised the conductor that you’d like to leave at Chetnole or Yetminster or Hogwart’s Central, upon arrival you lean out of the window and open the door yourself, making sure to politely shut it behind you.
By Maiden Newton, I’m already wondering whether to disembark and return to my abandoned car at Dorchester West. I should’ve looked at the internet photos beforehand as the one I’ve posted clearly illustrates that it’s perfectly normal to park on the pavement.
It appears to be a largely single track affair to Castle Cary yet the train driver spent most of the journey with hand on the horn. Perhaps this was to warn stray cows of impending death. The Heart of Wessex website informs me that all of their stations offer ‘opportunities for adventure and discovery ‘. Here’s a photo of Castle Cary, established in 1856, on the day I arrived. Actually, there are quite a lot of folk around as this spot in the absolute middle of nowhere seems to be a crossover point for travels to Paignton, Piccadilly, Plymouth, Weymouth, Exeter and almost anywhere really. It’s like a rural portal or black hole. I’m quite sad to leave The Heart of Wessex, but needs must and I’m heading for Exeter St Davids.
There is nothing identifiable in the countryside as we rush past “faster than fairies, faster than witches, bridges and houses, hedges and ditches, and charging along like troops in a battle…” No points of reference. The corn is already shorn and the harvest safely gathered in. Horse country followed by cow country. Followed by the drainage ditches of what must be the Somerset Levels. In some other life, Leonie and I came to Glastonbury on a most unexpectedly fortuitous day when part of the Sweet Track was open to the unaware public for a mere twenty four hours. It’s an ancient timber tracked causeway, constructed over 6600 feet in 3807 BC and was the oldest known roadway IN THE WORLD. Well, until 2009 when an even older one was discovered close to Belmarsh Prison. It’s an evocative story and just as well as the photo shows the view awaiting the intrepid explorer at Taunton Station.
I notice a sheep in a field, upside down with its legs in the air. Is it tired? Dead? These are called Cast Sheep and, having fallen over, are unable to get back up due to pregnancy or heavy coats. They die quickly. An ancient being walks through the carriage, nodding and smiling at everyone like royalty. Those who have been graced with the nodding and smiling look the other way. The royal lady joins another who is wearing the most extraordinary straw hat. At the front, it has two points like animal ears. At the back, it runs out of ideas and looks as though the straw has been tucked underneath whilst the milliner pops out for a cup of tea and further inspiration. And the next thing I know is Dawlish. What idiot would build a railway on a sea wall? Oh. So it’s Isambard Kingdom Brunel is it. Well, he should’ve know better. My picture, yet again stolen, shows a sorry state of affairs in February, 2014. Mind you, it only took them two months to rectify matters. That’s not too bad when you think of the London to Brighton line and the bloody doors.
Finally, past the windswept beach against which the holiday makers of August are heavily wrapped, we reach he home of nag racing. And from the train, I spot a rather beautiful and enigmatic flying horse. Reader, you can research its meaning should you choose. Me – I’m meeting my friend at Totnes in ten minutes.
(Poem by Robert Louis Stevenson)