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Friday March 14th  2014  Tim Candler

 

     One of the last railway lines to attack the Chiltern Hills met a huge patch of flint gravel. Which might have been first deposited by the big melt of the Mid-Permian Period, about thirty million years ago, before it was pushed into neat piles by an ice age that saw the ice cap reach just north of the Thames Estuary, sometime around two million years ago.  It was a fairly lonely area. Waterless, Pine trees, Birch, and any soil you could find was a little more acid than alkaline, so if  people wanted to grow the prettier of the Scabious, they had to add lime. There'd been an Iron Age Fort. There'd been a highwayman called Jarrett.  A couple of Inns for people who thought it necessary to get to or escape from High Wycombe, and there'd been a big-wig with a manor house who might have been bred to someone called Charlotte to produced entail for the Dukedom of Somerset. The road that ran through this well drained area from west to east joined a place called Stoke Poges to a place called Chalfont Saint Peter. And you are very welcome to think I am inventing these place names, because when I first heard them I too reckoned they belonged to some kind of fairy tale, or story about a Red Squirrel behaving common around an Owl called Old Brown.  Anyway, the new railway chose to cut a  north, north west passage through this huge patch of gravel and to accommodate anyone wishing to walk a horse from Stoke Poges to Chalfont Saint Peter, the railway company  built a bridge. 

 

 

      During the course of building their new railway line, railway company stock owners had a second look at their project. Some brighter spark pointed out that the area through which their new railway line was to pass, appeared to be sparsely populated, and some stock owners even began to question the wisdom of investing in the last railway line to cut through the Chilterns. And you have to think there was much ho-hah, drunkenness and cigar smoke. One option was to put in railway stations as close as possible to whatever populations there were in the Chilterns. Which is why, just north of the bridge that took the aimless from Stoke Poges to Chalfont Saint Peter, the company built a train station which was to serve "The Chalfont's."  There's a whole host of Chalfont's way off to the east of the railway bridge. Saint Peter, Saint Giles, Little Chalfont, Chalfont Common and I think there's a Lord or a Duchess called Chalfont. But probably in all the world there is no more awkward a railway station.  It's right down in the railway cutting, terrible parking, no room for a bus to turn around. And when you are down there, with your platform ticket, waiting for the steam train, you could look north, you could see the gentle gradient and shiny track head off into the horizon. And a thousand yards or so up the track, you could see a foot bridge. (to be continued...?)

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