Landscape A2 A journey
Click on the image above for a larger view of the series plan click on the images below for a larger view of the individual images
As has been stated elsewhere, this series was prompted by the after-effects of the Beeching report that removed large parts of the branch line network in the UK. Before the implementation of the Beeching Report, there was a branch line that ran from Normandy to Farnham and hoasted the Tongham Halt and Ash Green stations. I took the camera on a journey to locate sites along the route to discover how much evidence there still is of the old railway line as can be seen from the images there is a wide variety of answers to this question depending on where you are on the line. The Farnham end has mostly vanished as evidenced by images 2 and 3 which are at the site of Tongham bridge and Tongham Halt where there is no evidence at all of the railway. I can remember as a child driving over the bridge which was a huge humpback affair and is now completely gone along with the station. At the other end of the line, Ash Green Station still exists and still looks the same al be it now a house.
The line from the other side of Tongham Halt to Normandy is still there but now converted to a footpath that dog walkers and people exercising now use for daily recreation.
I found that Google Search was way more effective than driving around searching for clues; it allowed me to look from above and see the marks in the landscape that were still there. I did make myself ill in the heat but this turned out to be a bonus as it made me use Google and discover the fantastic resource it is for photographers doing projects like this.
Overall I really enjoyed this project its proved difficult for me as it took place as I was starting to get ill, I think I would have enjoyed it more if I was able to do it now I am well again. I do however feel the result was a good one and I learned quite a lot from it, probably the biggest take away was how powerful a resource google maps is.
In response to an excellent assessment call with Russell and the ensuing feedback report, I have made some changes to this assignment I have cut back some of the images as he suggested and also reshot the ones he asked me to the result is a much cleaner set of images which I also re-cropped as he suggested to reflect the aspect ratio of the drone and the google search screen captures the result I found to be quite pleasing.
I went back to the site of the first image at the beginning of the line and re-shot the image I managed to climb on the railing to be able to look over and shoot the tack now grown over but marked by a power line.
I removed image eight the shot of the Ash Green Halt under the bridge and I removed the image of the bridge sign that was number eleven as it did not fit with the aesthetic of the rest of the set.
With these edits complete I re-cropped all of the images to a ratio that turned out to be 20:9.3 this is a crop factor that comes from a widescreen capture of a google earth screen. In my discussion with Russell, we decided that cropping the images to this ratio would continue the feel of the google search, which was a big part of the research and investigation for the assignment.
I have just read an article in the mail online (don’t groan) about Artist Benjamin Grant, who is creating some stunning works of art using google satellite view. This rang a bell as the exercises in part 2 made us look at the idea of appropriation and this seems to fit right in with that the article is here Mail Online: Artist captures series of hypnotic images from across the globe
These images seem somewhat reminiscent of the work I did for Assignment 1 however when I started to look at the idea myself I found that lots of things were possible like the almost impossible shot of St Pauls which would take a lot of paperwork and permissions to achieve with a drone:
From a practical point of view, the weather has been so hot for the last week or so making going outside genuinely dangerous, I did a shoot for a book the other day and was quite ill from the heat for about two days. This has prompted me to hide away a bit in my office, which has really stopped me going out to investigate the old railway line for assignment 2. It struck me that using google maps / google earth I could scout out the locations for each shoot on this project, the result was eye-opening:
A view of Ash Green Halt from the bridge, The station is now a house as seen here from the front:
Using the google maps satellite view it is possible to see the marks on the landscape that still exist this shot shows the whole line from Ashgreen Junction to Farnham Junction with Ash Green Halt and Tongham Halt all marked as red spots:
- Explore places I can get to by road to take pictures and;
- Zoom in to street view where available to see what is there
Here are the results of that exercise Drovers Way looking from the bridge down at the old railway which is now a footpath.
A view from the bridge at pound lane looking down the Ash Wanborough line at the spot where Ash Green Junction used to join to the Guildford line.
The start of the footpath leading to the old railway in spoil lane just before the old station at Tongham Halt
The location of the humpback bridge at Tongham halt which was removed when the station was redeveloped, this is what it used to look like:
View from what was the north side of the track:
And from the south side of the track. The only problem with google maps / google earth is the street view is limited to streets that Google was able to drive down and capture so its not possible to go onto some of the more rural parts of the track, it is, however, possible to use the google map 3D view to get a form of aerial shot of the area.
This shows the path of the old railway and the black box roughly shows where the Tongham Halt station was situated, it is remarkable that even where the railway has been eradicated by development from above the path it took is still evident as marks on the landscape.
This is the shot you can’t really take it’s the point where the railway was removed to allow the A331 to pass through, the old track went diagonally across the new road, and of course, you can’t stop the car get out and take pictures now. Google maps have the edge here.
This shot shows the track of the railway from the old Tongham Halt station to the A331, it is still possible to make out the passage of the line, interestingly boundaries of fields don’t change much over time and the only real change to boundaries is the scar that is the A331.
This is the end of the branch line as it joins the mainline to Farnham station at Farnam Junction which is no longer there:
Moving back from Farnham Junction towards Tongham there is a patch of the line that sits in an island formed by the New A31 and the off-ramp to Runfold, it is still possible to see traces of the line though it is becoming overgrown and less recognisable:
Google street view allows me to get onto the slip road but does not really allow us to look down into the old cut, there are places to leave a car up here so a conventional camera may get a better view. I looked at this from the A31 on street view and there are now high trees making it impossible to see the cutting so on foot is likely to be the way to see this.
What is the point of all this?
This is a good question why did I do this research from my office desk, the answer is really positive, I have identified a series of places I can go and take some pictures of this journey from Ash Green Junction to Farnham Junction, I know there are some places I physically can’t get to, like the site of Farnham Junction as its on private land and there are no access roads. It has allowed me to verify the validity of this response to the assignment all while saving petrol and stopping me from going out in the sun and getting more ill. I think this exercise has been a result, I will go ahead in the next couple of weeks with a shooting plan to see if the images I can take meet the bill at which point I will evaluate the need to extend the journey along the Watercress line.
Above is a section of the 2018OS map showing the current route of the Mid Hants Railway also known as the Watercress Line from Alesford to Alton. The Mid Hants Railway started life in October 1865 as the Alton, Alresford & Winchester Railway and was intended to fill the gap between Alton and the main route from London to Southampton 2½ miles north of Winchester. It was some 17 miles long through an agricultural area with only Alresford as a town of any size on the route.
The line initially survived the Beeching cuts but was eventually closed in February of 1973. Unlike the Tongham – Ashgreen line the Watercress Line was saved by a volunteer staff and opened as a heritage railway.
There is a stark difference between the two sections of line which at one time were connected via Farnham and Bentley. The Tongham – Ash Green line has been dismanteled and in parts completely built over in other parts the line is now a foot path used by dog walkers an the like, in contrast the Mid Hants Railway is alive and like a time capsule that takes us back to the days of steam.
The following are a set of enlarged sections of the above OS map showing in more detail the route of the Watercress Line:
Arlesford to Ropley
Ropley to Medstead & Four Marks
Medstead & Four Marks to Alton in two sections
In 1963, Beeching produced a report entitled ‘The Reshaping of British Railways’. The report identified profitable and unprofitable services and revealed great unevenness in the use and profitability of railways. It recommended the widespread closure of uneconomic routes
I have been researching the history of the local branch lines and the effect of the Beeching cuts. I had already identified that the branch line from Ash Junction to Farnham Junction, was closed following the Beeching report. This branch line encompassed two stations, Ash Green Halt and Tongham Halt.
Ash Green Halt
Looking at the old OS maps I had assumed that the North Hants railway known as the Watercress line was also closed as a result of Beeching, but according to their history page, it actually survived the cuts and was closed ten years later by British Rail. The contrast between the two lines is stark, the Tongham – Ash Green line was stripped and in some parts removed completely. The Watercress Line has been preserved and turned into something of a theme park.
From the point of view of this assignment of a journey I need to decide if I want to use one or both of the two lines, the Watercress line would allow a peek into the past as the infrastructure looks as it did in the past where the Tongham line provides the opportunity to explore the marks we leave on the landscape. There is also a chance to explore the contrast between the two and our obsession with turning the past into a weekend visit or theme park.
I have been doing some further research on the old OS maps and found that you could get copies of the original maps I have assembled a set of maps from the archive that cover the area I am looking at which I may get printed as part of the final submission, having been on the bookmaking class with the TV group and done some work on bookmaking I am thinking of making the final submission into a handmade book and putting the maps either in the book or as pull outs at the end.
The maps I have sourced are as follows:
- Hampshire and Isle of Wight XXI_14 (Aldershot Ash and Normandy Farnham)
- Sheet 285 – Aldershot (Outline) 1896
- Surrey XXII 16 (Ash and Normandy Seale)
- Surrey XXX_2 (Farnham)
- Surrey XXX_3 (Aldershot Farnham Seale)
Hampshire and Isle of Wight XXI_14 (Aldershot Ash and Normandy Farnham)
In my quest for information on the Tongham branch line I discovered this website: https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/side-by-side/#zoom=15&lat=51.2392&lon=-0.7175&layers=168&right=BingHyb This resource is invaluable in locating the original parts of the line that have now been demolished, it allows you to point at a location on one map and see a crosshair on the other, it is also possible to swap maps for different issues of OS map. In the screen grab above I have the OS 25inch, 1892 – 1914 Map selected on the left and the current Bing satellite map on the right.
An initial glance is showing that Tongham Station has been redeveloped:
And that there may still be traces of the Ash Green station, it looks from the new map as if the old station building is still there the track is still there though I know the rails have been removed and the bridge is still intact:
“There used to be a lot of trains and now there are nearly none”, I have actually had lots of hairbrained ideas for this assignment that I will probably not even try to put down on paper. My current Idea is to look at the old Tongham branch line that was closed in the Beeching reform. I have a lot of memories of part of it, which has now been removed by the construction of the A331. When I was a boy between 12 and 15 I used to go shooting with my Dad on a bit of land that was owned by a local farmer, Dad had permission to shoot on the farm to help keep the pidgeons etc off the crops. Along one edge was a bank which I learned was part of an old railway line removed in the Beeching cuts.
Today the stations are now gone but sections of the railway still exist, there are some lovely bridges and repurposed buildings along the way. I am considering using old OS Maps and documenting the traces that still exist of the old railway. The following is a segment of the 2018OS map I have highlighted the route of the old Tongham branch line in yellow.