The old railway station near Hexham transformed into a garden paradise

PUBLISHED: 22:36 04 June 2012 | UPDATED: 21:27 20 February 2013

The old railway station near Hexham transformed into a garden paradise

The old railway station near Hexham transformed into a garden paradise

An old railway station near Hexham is now a haven for flora and fauna, as Linda Viney reports

A journey of gardening passion is being taken down part of the old railway line from Hexham to Allendale.

The last trains rattled through here in 1950, bringing to an end almost 100 years of rail travel, and nature took a firm hold of the site. This was the lead line, built in 1867 to serve the smelt works in the Langley Woods, with passenger trains joining the route two years later.

When the line was built an unusual bridge was constructed, now a glorious arch, renovated by English Heritage, which marks the eastern end of The Garden Stations Woodland Garden, and the stations wooden building is a particularly pretty one, painted green, it is now home to the cafe which serves delicious light meals.

Langley Station also housed the local Post Office and when it was faced with closure in 2000, postmistress Judy Torday had the vision to use the old track, which was framed by magnificent Victorian stonework and sheltered by woodland, to create a garden between the platforms.

Judy also launched a series of courses, including gardening and art, and the Garden Station became a garden of unique character.

Her challenge was to choose plants that would thrive in the shady, damp conditions within the railway cutting, which is bordered by the mature trees of Langley Woods. A garden design group working with staff from the nearby Whitfield Estate created a water cascade incorporating a small natural stream, and an environmentally-sound extension was added to the station so Jane could provide lunches for visitors on summer weekends.

The courses became popular and the Garden Station developed links with many local and regional artists who are inspired by this tranquil place and exhibitions are now regularly held at the station.

The Garden Station is now run by husband and wife Jill and Terry Gregg, with help from daughter Phillipa and her husband Tony.

I was so excited when I heard it was for sale, said Jill who bought the site late last year and re-opened it in March. I was thrilled with the prospect and it wasnt long before Terry became just as enthusiastic. He loves the outdoor life and, like me, he isnt afraid of challenges.

One of their first challenges was to add plants which thrive in woodland conditions to border the Woodland Walk along the old track between two arched bridges. It is now lined by primula, erythronium, meconopis, hosta, hellebore, arum italicum pictum, tiarella, heuchera, euphorbia, foxgloves and many foliage plants including hostas and ferns.

Jill is a keen plantswoman but while she is injecting new life, she isnt doing anything drastic for at least a year to see what comes up before she builds on the structure and the plants already there.

And shes not alone Jane now acts as garden consultant, and is helping to restore the allotment in the woods.

Jill plans to reintroduce the meconopsis. And as she splits the herbaceous plants she is potting them up to sell.

A sense of peace has always been one of the great attractions of the Garden Station which is one reason why visitors have continued to be attracted here from far and wide.

The aim is to have a garden which is environmental responsible. Lets Get Growing, a local organic gardening business, are helping make a welcoming habitat for wildlife, doing no damage to surroundings or soil, and creating both aesthetic pleasure and environmental peace.
The green ethos continues in the caf, which is signed up to Fairtrade Hadrians Wall and prefers to do business with co-operatives. It uses local, organic ingredients, is powered by electricity from renewables, and is cleaned with environmentally-responsible products.

The sites less environmentally-aware past all those fossil fuelled trains and grimy engines will be recalled in the Leaning Shed Museum (yes, it does lean).

The Garden Station is also licensed for weddings and seven are booked in for this year so far. Among other events planned for the garden are Jubilee and Olympic themed days.

The print version of this article appeared in the June 2012 issue of North East Life

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