diamond geezer

 Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The least used station in... Hertfordshire
(Annual passenger usage: 20944)

I've ticked off Berkshire's quietest station, which is Midgham, and now I'm moving north. Hertfordshire boasts eight railway lines with a direct connection to London plus a single track branch line, so it shouldn't surprise you to hear that the least used station is on the latter. [5 photos]

The Abbey Line runs between Watford and St Albans, specifically the Junction and the Abbey, and has done since 1858. Initially there were only two intermediate stations, one the subject of my visit, both of which were mothballed shortly afterwards due to lack of custom. But the people of St Albans loved their rail connection to the outside world, at least until a better link to London came along ten years later and their allegiance shifted. The branch line survived Beeching, but only by stripping itself back to the bare essentials, and today only the track and the platforms remain. There are now seven stations in total, serving the suburban fringes of North Watford and St Albans, whose residents benefit from a fortunate historical accident rather than any burning need. And the Abbey Line is now run as a Community Railway, which means it's better looked after than most, and has a decent website where you can find out a lot more if you're interested.

Park Street is the penultimate station on the line, one before St Albans. What you find when you alight is a single platform, four carriages long, with a wooden fence along one side and a screen of trees along the other. Look in one direction and the solo track curves gently toward the cathedral city, look in the other and it's almost straight. In the centre is a shelter with sufficient seats to easily cope with the average number of passengers per train, and from here a ramp heads down to the car park. I thought the car park looked quite busy, all things considered, until I worked out it was where all the people in the nearby cottages parked their vehicles, their front gardens being entirely inadequate for this task.

Trains run every 45 minutes, which doesn't make for an easy-to-remember timetable, but the line is fractionally too long to make a half hour service viable. Here at Park Street the up train returns from the terminus ten minutes later, so there's a "busy" period followed by tumbleweed for the next half hour. No, you can't buy a ticket here, this is a Pay Train service, although I saw no evidence of this on my trip and could easily have ridden the entire line for free.

As place names go, Park Street is about as generic as you can get. But the place has a lengthy back history, because the street in question is Watling Street. The Romans would have marched through on their way to the northwest, using this as their crossing point over the River Ver, but left no other trace bar bequeathing centuries of through traffic. The village is mainly linear, as you'd expect, with a few modern estate roads branching off. The architectural highlight is an old mill in brick and timber, its interior converted into a four storey office, with a restored water wheel outside for decoration and the real thing underneath. But there are also fourteen listed buildings, mainly cottages, plus a long pair of pre-war terraces and some copper-topped flats, in a textbook meeting of mixed residential styles. Impressively for somewhere of this size there are two pubs, the Falcon and the Overdraught, neither of which have been overly ponced up or left to rot. For takeaways your choice is Rumbles Fish Bar or the Oriental, plus there's a few places that do things with cars, and an independent village shop, and a cricket ground, indeed plenty enough to keep Park Street ticking over.

Where the main road crosses the river the village name changes to Frogmore, with several more old houses but also an industrial estate and the parish church. This lofty flint edifice is Holy Trinity, hence has possibly the best web address of any church anywhere, which is www.hotfrog.info. Head off downriver at the old ford and you'll enter an area of old sand and gravel pits, now ideal for fishing or a muddy walk, or for confronting umpteen goslings and their defiant parents. And take a few strides further through the trees and you'll emerge at a crossing on the railway, having suddenly reached the next station down the line. This is How Wood, a mere 90 seconds from Park Street by train hence technically unnecessary, but the large estate alongside helps make this station 50% busier. Or so the figures say. I stood on the silent platform gazing out across a landscape of lush empty meadow and concluded this could easily be deepest East Anglia, rather than the inner Home Counties.

Enough of the stuff you'll never see because you'll never visit. There is one thing for which Park Street is nationally famous, and that's its roundabout. This fiveway junction to the north of the village is the Highway Code's example of a roundabout sign, and has been for some years, thanks to its interesting mix of motorway and more minor connections.

The only problem is, almost all of this is fictional. The 'A' road crossing from left to right doesn't go to Nutfield and Walsham, and it isn't the A1183, it's Watling Street again, and used to be the A5. That's not the road to Penderton top left, it's the road to Watford and London, via the M1 or M25, not the mythical M14. And straight ahead leads to Hemel Hempstead, not somewhere called Bourne Airport, and isn't even a motorway any more. It used to be, in fact it was one of the very first motorways in Britain, the runty M10. This brief spur was built to lure traffic off the M1 before reaching unfinished links in the capital, depositing them on the Park Street roundabout instead, but a few months short of its 50th birthday it was brutally downgraded.

This is what the actual road sign looks like today, slap bang on the central reservation of the A414 running in from London Colney. It's not quite so pristine as the Highway Code version, but still recognisably similar, with a 'Scrap Cars Wanted' poster attached to one of the supports. I was surprised to find a footpath along this roaring dual carriageway, which itself was very nearly turned into part of the M25, but a cut-through exists to the bungalows at the very top of Park Street, so there is a latent need.

In conclusion, I can think of only one reason to encourage you to visit Park Street, and it's to walk. The Ver Valley Walk runs for 17 miles from near Whipsnade to near Bricket Wood, and has been divided up into eight sections, each seriously well documented in a series of downloadable guides. I followed section seven out of Park Street round the back of some cottages along a footpath barely visible between nettles, then out across a grazed meadow beside a chalk stream rippling with flowered weed. Approaching St Albans the path hugs the urban river through a series of nature reserves, passing a ruined priory before reaching the Abbey station, where you can catch the train back again. Or there are short waymarked routes from each station on the Abbey Line, also with leaflets and posters, should you prefer shorter strolls and more railway. And that'd bump up Park Street's passenger numbers good and proper.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21  Jul21  Aug21  Sep21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
bus and train user
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Aug21  Jul21  Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards