Sunday, 23 February 2014

From where I'm sitting: Uckfield Line in winter

It's Sunday evening and the sun is setting on a lovely weekend with my parents on the Kent-East Sussex border. I'm sitting aboard a thundering diesel train charging its way through the countryside, throwing fiery reflections around the carriage interior.

The atmosphere aboard is subdued. A couple across the aisle play a board game and whispers can be heard from further back. Closer by a magazine page is turned, a crisp is crunched, and Pinot Grigio is splashed inexpertly into a swaying glass. It could be the end of a dinner party, the majority of guests having alighted earlier, leaving the hosts and a motley crew of hangers-on to finish off the nibbles and mop up the remainder of the wine. The stench of alcohol stained carpets and seats thickens the air as we pull up at Ashurst.

The line side trees are silhouetted against the dying sun, which by now is sneaking behind some distant upland. The sky is clear and bright however, lending an air of hope to the otherwise pervasive gloom at the end of another weekend. Where does the time go?

The lady to my left has given up on playing, and instead flicks unenthusiastically through a newspaper. The man asks about Mick Jagger's current love interest as we crawl into Cowden.

I cannot help, as we sit here waiting to move once more, but think of the rail accident that, for a time this little halt's name was synonymous with. Our lonely little train, thrusting courageously through a long dark tunnel, with its mostly empty complement of seats feels a world away from the twisted metal and broken bones of all those years ago.

It is however, a much happier name which now greets us. Once the home of Anne Bolyn, and still containing a bed in which her murderous husband King Henry VIII is purported to have slept, is a pretty popular tourist attraction when the weather's clement and the sun is out. The lack of boardings at its eponymously named station speaks volumes about the current climate.

And before I know it our motorized steed is completing the final couple of miles before the Uckfield line joins the electrified tracks towards London. Just one more station, a few further splashes of golden sunlight, a whiff of alcoholic residues, and our little collection of unconnected humanity will be cast out to find a northward connection.

Location:Red Lion Street,Richmond,United Kingdom

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