There was a triple whammy of good news at Haslemere station on Wednesday (2 October) with the reopening of the Information Hub, unveiling of a commemorative blue plaque to mark 160 years of the station being open, and a special fibreglass cow appearing outside the station as a nod to the area’s heritage.
The Information Hub, leased to the Community Rail Partnership on a peppercorn rent, has undergone a complete transformation in recent months.
The old faded wall and cracked window have gone, replaced with a brand new double windowed front, providing more space to promote tourist attractions in the area. The space inside has been widened, with the removal of an old corridor, and locals have worked closely to give the whole space a new look, complete with artificial grass.
The work to refresh the hub was funded by SWR and the Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP) and means that the loyal team of local volunteers will be warmer, as well as having more space to promote all the wonderful opportunities accessible from the station.
The reopening of the hub coincided with the unveiling of a blue plaque, funded by the Haslemere Society, to commemorate the station’s 160th year. This follows an event organised by the station team and the CRP earlier this year, and was unveiled by local historian Vic Mitchell.
The event ended with a short visit to see the fibreglass cow that now sits on the front of the station property. The cow is part of a wider project across the area, delivered in partnership with Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, helping to link the station with the rest of the community.
Andy Harrowell, SWR’s Community Rail Manager, said:
"SWR is committed to involving communities in the railway, and already provides funding to nine CRPs to support projects which help stations further reflect the people they serve.
"We are delighted to have been able to help some excellent local initiatives in Haslemere, and look forward to seeing similar, but we are sure different, projects at Milford, Witley, Godalming and Farncombe in the near future."
Daniel Wright, Community Rail Support Office for ACoRP, said:
"Community Rail is all about connecting communities to their railways and vice versa. This is an exceptional example, bringing back to life a redundant station building, serving railway customers as well as attracting people to the station for reasons other than train travel, by sharing information on community events, activities and attractions.
"The rebuild of the Hub demonstrates South Western Railways’ commitment to Community Rail and making redundant station spaces available to the community. ACoRP has been delighted to be involved in the project and looks forward to watching it develop in future as part of the new Surrey Hills to South Downs Community Rail Partnership."
County Councillor Nikki Barton, Chair of the CRP, said:
"We are delighted to celebrate the achievements of our fantastic rail partnership and would like say a huge thanks to everyone involved. The opening of the newly refurbished Hub marks the next exciting chapter for Haslemere Station.
"We have already built a team of over 30 volunteers who are based at the Hub to promote Haslemere as a destination and as a gateway to the beautiful surrounding countryside of the South Downs, Surrey Hills and key National Trust sites.
"We are so grateful to both Vic Mitchell, one of the founding fathers of Heritage Rail and the Haslemere Society for the blue plaque celebrating 160 years since the arrival of the railway to Haslemere. It is a timely reminder as we look back that there is constant progress. The refurbished Information Hub is part of that very positive, dynamic future."
SWR supports nine CRPs, with funding:
Blackmore Vale (Tisbury to Crewkerne)
Devon and Cornwall (Axminster to Exeter)
East Hants (Liphook to Rowland’s Castle)
Hounslow line (Barnes to Feltham)
Island line (Ryde Pier Head to Shanklin)
Lymington to Brockenhurst
North Downs (Gatwick to Reading)
Purbeck (Moreton to Holton Heath, including Swanage Railway)
Surrey Hills to South Downs (Haslemere to Farncombe)
Three Rivers (Salisbury to Bursledon / Winchester, via Romsey and Chandler’s Ford)
It has a dedicated programme of encouraging local groups to adopt stations, providing advice, safety training and funding to add art, gardening or other projects at locations from Crewkerne and Wool, all the way up to inner-London Brentford.