Just passing by

In the middle of June, two national events passed close to the Wychwoods, witnessed only by a few; so what were these largely unnoticed events?

passingthroughbikesIt is not so many years ago when the men’s Tour of Britain cycle race passed through the villages, pockets of spectators dotted at various viewing points along the route plus a small army lining the road and The Green in Milton; now it was the ladies’ turn.

Starting that stage of the race at Henley-on-Thames, well over a hundred riders streamed down Burford High Street, a sight notable not only for colour and speed but for the fact that the High Street was totally devoid of parked cars! Onwards through Fulbrook and up the hill, the riders turned right at the Downs Lodge Farm crossroads and, watched by a band of local enthusiasts, this army of lycra hurtled down the hill at speeds in excess of 40mph to Judd’s Grave where the photo was taken. A single lone spectator watched as the peloton, preceded by a constant line of police outriders, swept past and on towards the finish in front of the splendour of Blenheim Palace. (Incidentally, those outriders, of which there were well over 70, came from forces all over the country; ‘Heddlu/Police’ gave their origin away while a rider from Devon and Cornwall amused spectators with his hand written sign, ‘cream teas available’!)

If that event was all about speed and colour, the same could be said of an event just four days later witnessed by, among others, David van de Poll, who takes up the story:

passingthroughflyingscotsmanatascottEnthusiasts who arrived early to see Flying Scotsman 60103 pass along the Cotswold Line on Saturday June 15 were not disappointed. Those who imagined it would be on time (or even late) missed the moment as it steamed past about ten minutes early on its journey from Worcester to Paddington. (Many readers will recognize the location of the photo as taken at Ascott).

Some of those watching remembered actually travelling by steam train but many of the younger ones did not. When the train was delayed at Charlbury the youngsters watching were invited onto the footplate to see firsthand how it all worked – what a treat for them.

The locomotive was built in 1923 for the LNER at Doncaster and withdrawn from service by British Railways in 1963. In 1970 on an ill-fated tour of the USA there was a risk that it might be sold for scrap to pay off the creditors. In 1973 it was returned to the UK and eventually bought for the nation and underwent a major ten year £4.5m overhaul, returning to service in 2016.

So many people are now going to see steam trains and are taking more risks to get the best photos of them that discussions are taking place to withhold timetable information to prevent accidents.
Let us hope that we can find a way for everyone to go on enjoying them in the future.

August-September 2019