A new slant on an old station

Distinctive diagonal style of fencing along the back of the dilapidated station platform

An opportunity arose this week for some railway heritage appreciation on the old Scarborough to Whitby railway line. I was checking out sites with botanical interest, or at least recent historic records of unusual plants. The stretch I was exploring with the help of local naturalists was between the villages of Ravenscar and Fylingthorpe on the Yorkshire Coast.

The brickwork and capping stones are still visible in places despite fifty years of nature trying to reclaim the station.

The slanting railway fencing and dilapidated platform at Fylinghall Station is all but obscured by woodland which has grown up and around it (and even through it) since the line closed in 1965. The permissive bridleway, also known as The Cinder Track, which follows the old railway track bed for most of the twenty-one and a half mile dismantled railway here deviates slightly to pass parallel to it but one could be forgiven for not noticing the former platform now engulfed in willow and wych elm trees.

I was at Fylinghall old station partly to see the extent to which nature has claimed back this former rail halt but partly with a view to deploying conservation volunteers in the future to enhance habitat for important plants. This site is one of several known haunts of an orchid species called Broad-Leaved Helleborine which interests local botanists. We spotted a few flower spikes of the Helleborines, now displaying green seedheads at this point in the season.

Seed head of the Broad Leaved Helleborine, a tall species of Orchid known to frequent shady sites along this old railway track

My brief visit did afford me an opportunity to walk the line of the old tracks, stooping below fallen trees and stepping over brambles. The most enticing thing was not the platform structure itself but the remnants of the slanting wooden fence so characteristic of railway stations of the era. I was amazed to see it still standing after at least five decades, albeit much was overrun with ivy or mortally intertwined with mature willow trees.

The original fencing is extensively interwoven with ivy, Wych elm and willow trees which have self seeded since the abandonment of the Whitby to Scarborough railway.

Whether we manage to clear and uncover the station platform in the next year or so, (with the aid of a soon-to-be launched volunteering initiative) or focus purely on habitat management for the wildflower species, one thing is certain – This old station is a slice of heritage that could easily disappear completely and should be remembered and interpreted for the benefit of those who walk or ride the Cinder Track in decades to come.

While the left track leads to a private residence and the right fork is the permissive bridleway, the actual line of the railway and its platform is in the tree line on the right.

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