“No more will I go to Blandford Forum….”
Now the song continues with Michael Flanders joining in to sing the names of the next two stations.
Blandford Forum (1863-1966) is the only station on the list in Dorset and it is the first of a pair that was on the legendary Somerset & Dorset Railway. The railway linked Poole with Bath and had a branch line that stretched westwards from Evercreech Junction to Burnham.
Blandford (Population: 8,000) is the first example in the song of a market town that lost its railway station in the 1960s. It is probably a good representative of the sort of damage the Beeching Plan did to similar-sized places up and down the country. The station was part of the town’s life for more than 100 years and then suddenly it was gone.
The X on the map shows the approximate location of the station in relation to the current British railway network. The nearest open stations are Poole and Gillingham both around 15 miles away. A rough idea of the route the closed Somerset and Dorset Railway has been added in red, and the Midland lines connecting to it north of Bath are also shown.
The red dot on the map below shows the approximate location of the station in relation to the local area.
Services: Past, Present & Future?
In 1958 the station was served by around 15 trains a day in each direction. Many services just ran between Bristol or Templecombe and Bournemouth but the famous Pines Express to and from Manchester also made a stop. The “Pines” ran every weekday but on summer Saturdays there were more services to and from the north, including trains serving Bradford, Birmingham and even Cleethorpes. The journey to Poole was 30 minutes; Bournemouth could be reached in 40 or 50 depending on the stopping pattern.
Today there are frequent buses to Poole in 35 minutes, and it now takes about 70 minutes to reach Bournemouth.
There are no current plans to restore rail access to Blandford. With Poole and Gillingham both around 15 miles away, it is the furthest away from a current station of any in the song.
The site of the station itself is now mostly covered by a modern housing estate and a small pay and display car park. But the spot is also marked by buffer stops and an information board which tells the story of the railway and the station.
The section of Somerset & Dorset line that passed through the town has now been turned into the North Dorset Trailway which stretches north from here to Sturminster and, after a gap in the centre of the town, south towards Spetisbury.
The old railway is also marked by small “wheel and track” artwork nearby, by signboards and by other small memorials at spots around the town.
We parked in the little car park at Station Court and then wandered down into the town centre, pausing first at the impressive marketplace.
There was a bench and a monument to commemorate the great fire of 1731. We had seen signs at the entrance to the town that had described Blandford as a unique Georgian town and this memorial to the fire now gave us a clue as to why.
After the fire destroyed most of the town, Blandford was largely rebuilt, and it is now considered the most complete, small Georgian town in England. Most of the new buildings were the work of two brothers, both renowned architects, with the surname: Bastard.
We wandered around admiring the architecture: the town hall, the hotels and the parish church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.
Just off the Market Place we found the Blandford Town Museum housed in a building that the Bastard Brothers built for their own use. It features a model railway reconstruction of the old station.
After coffee and some delicious Dorset apple cake, we continued our walk. We paused at the Crown Hotel, another impressive building, owned by the Hall and Woodhouse Brewery who still brew their famous Badger beer in the town just across the river.
Just outside the hotel was an old milestone, proof that the town used to be an important stop on the Weymouth to London turnpike road. Nearby there was a fascinating information board: “The Battle of Blandford” telling the story of the preparations that were made in 1940 to forestall a German Invasion.
Eventually we reached the Stour. The River passes through Blandford and it is quite beautiful. We stood for a while on the bridge watching the swans. We got into a long conversation about the weather with a guy who was standing there doing the same thing. The local people here seemed very friendly.
We walked back to the car along the banks of the Stour. It was a lovely sunny day and there were plenty of people walking, having picnics, and just enjoying themselves. It was difficult to tell, but the place seemed very “liveable” to us.
It is just a shame it does not have a rail link!