CRL - Community Rail Lancashire

Friends of Squires Gate Quarterly Update

The Friends of Squires Gate Station have just published their quarterly report covering the period from January to April 2024. The group look after both the public platform and the disused platform under a licence from Network Rail.

I suppose the biggest question on everyone’s mind was, when is all this rain going to stop and we get some kinder dry warmer weather, even if it’s just a few days dotted around. The Jetstream has been playing havoc with our ability to do work on stations without getting wet and who wants to do that?

In January all we managed to do was remove the Christmas Trees and decorations in between the rain.

February enabled us to clean up the area behind the fence on Platform 1 where the water tanks will eventually go, fix a sticking gate and tidy the plants in the raised beds. It was an extremely good boost to all our hard work to see how well the plants had survived over the winter period and provided a carpet of welcome colour to rail users and the bulbs we planted provided lots of daffodils.

We also did a similar tidy up on Platform 2, but also dismantled the three raised beds which formed a “H” shape. It was our first start at transforming the surface area in 2019 but now that things have developed it has now become a problem because it was restricting accessibility along the platform at that point.

We are going to reuse the raised beds this year to finish the edge of the ramp on Platform 2 so that we no longer need to use the platform edge as a walkway.

In March the water tanks on Platform 2 were drained and fully cleaned out by Mike and Shirley and then reconnected, but not energised. Mike and Shirley also installed an overflow system to the water tanks operated by another battery powered pump to take the water into the greenspace.

(There is already a battery-operated pump system which always maintains four full water barrels at all times for use on Platform 2, the batteries are powered by a solar panel – not sure if that gives Network Rail any carbon efficiency points?

We also planted an Apple & Pear tree (in the area we covered with black sheeting to kill the grass and weeds underneath in February 2023) and a blackcurrant bush. That means we now have six apple trees (two we inherited) and two Pear trees, hopefully we will be able to share the produce with rail users and the local community.

We also did some serious pruning and weeding of the ground beds and bushes that “bite and scratch”, we also moved some plants around. We are also going to try to grow some beetroot, cucumber, lettuce, pumpkins, and Petit Pois peas – our own mini allotment!

In April we did more weeding on Platform 2 and some planting of Mallow, Rhubarb, Hollyhocks and the foxgloves from last year have self-seeded, tulips have been beautiful and there is lots of blossom on the dual Pear which Paul has adopted!

Some plants have just been dropped on to ground at the end section of Platform 2 in order for them to drop their root systems into the surface, in that way they will create areas of colour amongst the mass of brambles. Some were dropped in Autumn last year and have rooted. There are at least twelve of more “ant hills” in the overgrown space with the yellow meadow ant (lasius flavus). These ants build small mounds in our lawns and are often mistaken for red ants due to their yellow-orange colour, yet they are thankfully no more harmful than their common black cousins, Lasius niger.

Two of the team managed to get back to finishing the fence painting we started last Summer but then the weather changed and we got lots and lots of wet weather which inhibited our progress. We managed to do 80 laths this afternoon with approximately another 137 to be done. We are getting there as people say.

We have been given some Cistus plants which produce rose like flowers and attract butterflies/bees and some privet hedge cuttings which will provide habitat for birds like sparrows in the Platform 2 greenspace, encouraging biodiversity.

On Platform 1 we are awaiting step free access so that we can site the water tanks behind the fence adjacent to it and hopefully add another raised bed at that end of the platform. We will continue to ensure the raised beds provide a full range of colour and we know we have lost two fuchsia bushes from one bed, but we are considering options to replace them. We also think someone has removed a plant from a raised bed but it’s nothing new really, because some people have strange habits.

On Platform 2 this year as indicated above we are going finish painting the fence and erect the new station sign paving around it so that its easily serviced as required. We are also going to finish off the ramp area and then hopefully just go into routine maintenance moving forward. We also need to do something about the rain water accumulation off Bridgeside as it can be up to six inches deep near the entrance gates down towards the water tanks.

We are not entering the RHS judging this year as we have decided we can do without the added pressure it creates for such a small group, maybe when we get these large aspects of our project completed, we may re-enter it in 2025. We have to plan according to our resources and our capabilities.

Barrie Russell (Co-ordinator) and Paul Nettleton (Secretary), Friends of Squires Gate Railway Station – April 2024