CRL - Community Rail Lancashire

Squires Gate Station Friends July Update

The Friends of Squires Gate Station look after both the public platform at the station and also under a licence from Network Rail the disused platform. The group carry out such work as litter picking, maintaining planters, painting and other work. This is the July 2023 update covering work from May this year.

During May we were provided with quite a lot of compost, over 80 bags that we had to fill ourselves and convey to Platform 2. It had been removed from Autumn/Winter containers that Fylde Council had emptied in readiness for their summer bedding, this was used to top-up our beds on Platform 2 and also our storage beds where we put plants that we removed from containers for future reuse, they had previously had a show of spare daffodils and tulips as you can see below. We also laid out a bed at the rear of Platform 2 into which we planted some potatoes and some gorse bushes. Later to be followed with some “green manure seeds” which we sow, grow and then dig them back into the ground to provide nutrients for growing other plants or vegetables thereafter. It’s work in progress and we hope to do the same next year and extend the growing space.

(We have to be very careful not to take plants to our homes because the station is overrun with Mares Tail and there could be hidden spores in pots and plants). The 80 foxgloves we planted survived, just about, though they did get a hammering in the hot weather. It will be interesting to see next year how far the seed heads scattered their seed and where they appear. We planted some Berberis shrubs that had also been given to us for perimeter planting as a deterrent near the Network Rail palisade fencing, unfortunately they struggled after planting due to the hot weather, but thankfully in July they seem to have stabilised and recovered.

We also moved the pile of sand and gravel from inside the compound with the aid of David and Mel (husband and brother-in-law of a volunteer at St Anne’s) it helped form a sand dune we created, that has slowly gone back to nature with plants that naturally grow in sand reappearing and the gravel path which is also ongoing.

During May we removed the spent plants from Platform 1 and replaced them with some interim plants until we inserted the summer bedding in late June/early July after the hot weather had abated. It was no use planting during the hot weather as they would have died due to lack of water.

During June we spent the majority of our time watering both platforms and did not do much activity due to the intense heat. Although we were given some low growing saplings which we planted at the back of Platform 2, unfortunately the heat got to them and some of them shut down, putting their energy into the root system and letting the leaves die off. Hopefully in 2024 they will come back having built up a good root structure and found some ground water deeper in the substrata. We have had some good strawberries this year; a few raspberries; and the pear tree is producing quite a few large fruits; the apple trees that we inherited behind Platform 2 are producing fruit as well; and we will have potatoes eventually.

We collected two more IBCs (Intermediate Bulk Carriers), eventually for Platform 1 when we can arrange for them to be positioned. At the moment we are storing water behind the fence in 20 ltr & 40 ltr containers which we bring from time to time by train, usually on the first train from St Anne’s on a Sunday morning when it’s quiet.

During July we frequently went onto Platform 2 in order to balance the two IBC’s currently in use, both are connected together so that when it rains the main one transfers water to the secondary tank so as to maximise water retention. Both tanks are covered with black vests to keep out the sunlight.

One of our team members is quite a professionally skilled person and he has constructed a 12v pump which is run off a car battery with a solar panel to keep it charged. The pump has float switches suspended inside the secondary IBC tank with a pulley attached to it and a “float” bottle partly filled with water which hangs on the

outside of the tank and depending on where the bottle is determines how much water is in the tank.

The pump in the IBC is connected to a length of hose which then runs overground to barrel No1 and each of the other barrels we have are then fed by barrel No1 and balanced with the same level of water in them. It now means that we can fill watering cans as needed without ever having to go back to the IBC’s each time. It’s an ingenious idea and we are extremely grateful for his work on this project. We had a spare History Poster for the station and using a repurposed poster board given to us by ISS we were able to position it on the fence on Squires Gate Bridge between the bus shelter and the station steps so that anyone passing could read about the history of the station. Having it on the Platform makes it only available to rail users but using this method widens the audience. The Shifting Sands display boards also went up along the line and we have a “Lytham” and a “Blackpool” board on Platform 1.

During the Lytham Festival the line was very well used by those choosing to use the train to get to Lytham, leaving their cars at home.

On Platform 2 we transformed the “first” ground bed we ever created into something more striking and attractive so that everyone on Platform 1 could see it. We painted it white and then one of our team added some flecks of green grass, we then planted it up using the range of plants we had acquired, it is a work in progress, and will be further enhanced when the weather gets drier.

We made a token gesture to start painting the fencing on Platform 2, but the weather soon put paid to that. In the interim I have been constructing some fencing panels out of pallets for the start of the platform up to the large sleeper bed. Hopefully if we get some fine spells of dry weather, we should be able to start positioning them.

We have spotted all manner of creatures on our plants and our budding naturalist has captured so many as you can see. We think our green credentials are quite robust and up there with the rest of them, but the value that nature has on our well-being cannot be underestimated.

There is never a dull moment at a railway station and we intend to re-stain the raised beds on Platform 1 (the picture on the left below was taken in Spring) as soon as it becomes possible, just to brighten them up as the timber is bleached in places and needs protection before Winter. Whilst talking about our raised beds, we were given the opportunity to select some more plants for the station and as you can see from the picture below, they were quite spectacular, we added them to the beds on the 5th July, they replaced plants that we had planted in late Spring that had expired or finished flowering and to fill any gaps. The remainder went on to Platform 2.

Good news! Some of the team met a new volunteer on Friday 7th July and we had a good conversation during which we provided him with information on the Safety Briefings we would have to conduct before he could formally join in our activities, which he understood. He was enthusiastic, but unfortunately the weather has conspired against him joining us as he is only available on a Friday. We hope to see him soon and welcome him to the motley crew!

The RHS judging took place on Monday 17th July and the weather thankfully stayed fine for us. One of the judges who last attended three years ago, was extremely impressed with what we had done during that period so hopefully it will bode well for our team. Finally, we have prepped the area where the new Station Sign is going to be located, we are getting nearer to a solution that might not need Network Rail approval if we can just get the method of securing the support posts resolved. Hopefully in the next update we will have had the “official unveiling” of it. By the way, I have left Paul’s leg in view just for consistency purposes!

We are as always, extremely indebted to Network Rail, Community Rail Lancashire, Northern, St Anne’s Town Council, Fylde Borough Council and ISS for their support, inspiration, encouragement and the local community without which we could not have achieved these ongoing results.

Barrie Russell/Paul Nettleton
Friends of Squires Gate Railway Station
July 2023