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07/13/2011 Archived Entry: "A Stationmaster's Garden"
Towards the end of last year I was contacted by garden designer Ralph Nichols who was entering a show garden for the BBC Gardeners’ World Live Exhibition at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. This was to be a stationmaster’s garden and he invited me to write a story on which he could base his design. He wanted certain ingredients in the yarn – Aidensfield (Goathland) railway station, the North York Moors Historic Railway, a heavy goods wagon, and a flavour of Heartbeat. This was an offer I couldn’t resist. So, what better than a story featuring the nefarious Claude Jeremiah Greengrass?
I conjured up a tale about Claude’s childhood dream of seeing the Flying Scotsman but even when he was fully grown, he’d never seen the famous green steam engine. One night he was doing a spot of poaching and at 3am took a short-cut home through Aidensfield railway station and the station master’s garden. Whilst he was trespassing on railway property, he heard someone stealing scrap metal from a pipe wagon; the station lights came on as he shouted at the gang of thieves. They ran off but he couldn’t hang around otherwise he’d risk being suspected of the theft. So he concealed himself as the lights blazed – and then, lo and behold, the Flying Scotsman steamed through Aidensfield station. It was on a secret test run after repairs. Claude couldn’t believe what he was seeing but he daren’t tell anyone, otherwise he’d be accused of theft. So he sneaked home – leaving a brace of pheasants hanging on the station master’s garden gatepost.
Ralph liked my story and soon I found myself in a meeting with staff at the North York Moors Railway, discussing how to transport a massive 9-ton railway wagon from Pickering to Birmingham by road and where to obtain several dozen railway sleepers.
None of this seemed to faze Ralph, and by the first week of June, thanks to the generosity of North York Moors Railway volunteers, the wagon, a railway seat, station lamp, porter’s trolley and other items of old railway equipment were delivered to the garden festival site. Several metres of track and railway sleepers were provided by Doncaster Trackworks. Then began the daunting and backbreaking task of putting it all in place. Cue Ralph’s friends, relatives and anyone else who happened to be around at the time. Amazingly, all the plants were grown and nurtured by Ralph in his own back garden and had to be taken to the site by special transporter.
By the time Rhoda and I arrived for the press preview, everything was miraculously in place. Ralph and his wife, Linda, though pretty exhausted after all the hard work and sleepless nights, were nervously awaiting the judge’s verdict. I was thrilled to be involved in this venture and delighted when the Station Master’s garden was awarded a much-deserved bronze medal.