Sunday 8 December 2019

Lion's Holt

I journeyed from Aberystwyth to Lympstone, involving 5 trains - the last leg was the branch line from Exeter Central down to Exmouth. As you will know, Central was the high level station operated by Southern, who also controlled the Exmouth branch, green livery and all. The major Exeter station was St David's, built and operated by IKB's Great Western, in sensible coffee and cream. The link between the Exeter stations was a gradient of 1:37, which I believe remains the steepest mainline stretch on the UK network.

On my lucky day, I encountered a fragment of scheduling worthy of a GCSE pupil that let me leave St David's and alight at St James Park, then 5 minutes later board another train for the journey down the estuary to Lympstone. In all my years of travelling in and around Isca Dumnoniorum I had never before either boarded or alighted at St James: what an opportunity!

Midway between Central and Polsloe Bridge Halt [for Heavitree], it was opened in 1906 as "Lion's Holt", and acquired its proper name in 1946 in recognition of the adjacent St James Park, home of the mighty Grecians. (It is believed a similar name attaches to the ground of a little known northern club). The railings on the steep access ramps are periodically repainted in the Red and White (see below).

The branch was late to open, which is ironic as IKB once had plans before 1850 to run an atmospheric broad gauge line down to Exmouth, another instance of his ambition far exceeding practical realities. The line is now often a victim of its own success as the high-flying Exeter Chiefs play just outside the Digby station. If City are at home, the trains cannot accommodate the sporting fervour, meaning they either stop at St James, or Digby. Never let it be said that the UK rail system is a total fucking shambles.

Anyway, here it is. Below, the view toward Polsloe, with red sandstone bridge and at right, a glimpse of the theatre of dreams.