Land of Bread and Lard

What is it about West Bridgford that irritates me so much? Is it the ‘considerably richer than you’ aloofness of its inhabitants? The banality of most of its mini-townscape? A personal grudge dating back to 2005, when I was fined £80 plus £15 costs for inadvertently driving along a prohibited stretch of Central Avenue in order to deliver some books to Oxfam?

West Bridgford is an anomaly. Geographically and psychologically detached from Nottingham, its residents feel somewhat put out to be within a stone’s throw of those ne’er-do-wells in the Meadows and dream of being uprooted by a Wizard of Oz-style tornado and deposited somewhere in the Surrey stockbroker belt. West Bridgford life is a heady soup of affluence and slavish conformity to the mores of John Lewis culture.

Other places of similar size in Nottinghamshire – Hucknall, Arnold, Beeston, et al – have diversity, character and a sense of humility. West Bridgford is a dull, homogenous, faux-liberal smug-fest, its denizens consumed by status anxiety, and it doesn’t want you in its back yard, thank you very much.

However, even West Bridgford hasn’t been entirely immune from the intrusion of the outside world into its aspirational affairs. A railway once ran through here. Yes – a noisy, filthy, common person-conveying railway line. Imagine! Thank the Lord it was dismantled. Well, almost dismantled – as we shall see shortly. For, dear reader, there remain, to this day, remnants of the line in question, which the curious outsider, in his sore thumb utilitarian garb, can explore to his heart’s content – no doubt much to the annoyance of the locals, who are probably extremely pissed off that any old Tom, Dick or Harriet can wander past the bottom of their garden with impunity.

The Midland Railway’s Nottingham to Melton Line was opened to freight in 1879 and passengers in 1880, before being extended south from Melton to join the Midland Main Line, thus providing a second (faster) route to London from Nottingham. The line was also linked to iron ore workings near Waltham on the Wolds. Six stations were built between Nottingham and Melton Mowbray, of which four were in Nottinghamshire – Edwalton, Plumtree, Widmerpool and Upper Broughton. As a result of the Beeching cuts, the line closed to through passenger traffic in 1967 and freight traffic the year after.

The main relic of the line on the approach to West Bridgford is Lady Bay Bridge – an elegant structure that was converted to a road bridge in the late 1970s/early 1980s and links Meadow Lane with Radcliffe Road. It is possible to walk along the bridge in order to admire its features at close quarters, although the intensity of the traffic (hopefully to be relieved at some point in the future by the mooted new crossing between Colwick Industrial Estate and Holme Pierrepont) means that, in spite of the watery surrounds, this is not the most relaxing of environments.

Redevelopment has erased most, if not all, evidence of the railway between here and Bridgford Road, and it is in the playing field next to said thoroughfare that the railway detective’s exploratory endeavours are next rewarded. Though eyed with suspicion by bored, overfed pensioners, owners of expensive dogs, couples sporting matching North Face jackets and yummy mummies pushing their designer-clad infants around in pushchairs that cost as much as a serviceable second hand car, he or she can clamber up and down the former railway embankment with gay abandon and spend a pleasurable half hour spotting artefacts and peering into the mysterious passageways beneath the earthworks towards the rear of the field.

As one might expect, the abandoned railway experience West Bridgford-style is quite a genteel affair. No multiple bramble-inflicted wounds here.

The next remaining section of the line runs between Musters Road and Boundary Road and is maintained as an open space called the Green Line. It’s a pleasant enough ramble, with the added interest of the surviving skew arch bridge at Devonshire Road and a – dare I say it – not-unattractive brick drainage system running alongside the path. The Friends of the Green Line – ‘a voluntary group that manages the conservation of the Green Line in West Bridgford’ – organise work parties here, though how the volunteers manage to fit this commitment into their working, networking, wining and dining schedules, while still finding time to catch up on the latest Scandi TV dramas, I’m not entirely sure.

At Boundary Road, another short stretch of the line, interrupted briefly by the Rushcliffe School/Leisure Centre car park, leads to an infilled three arch bridge that carries Machins Lane. After the bridge, the way forward is blocked by a housing development, part of which occupies the former site of Edwalton Station, which closed in 1941. A short distance from here, the route re-emerges, before morphing into the less accessible Old Dalby line – a 13¾ mile section of the railway that  was retained after the closure of the passenger route and converted into a high speed test track which is still in use, having recently hosted trials of a new type of Intercity train destined for the East Coast and Great Western main lines.

All-in-all, the walk described above is an excellent way in which to sample the route of one of Nottingham’s many lost railways, and as such is recommended to anyone interested in the layers of history that even ostensibly unpromising places such as West Bridgford can contain.