By Tess Willoughby/Learning Dept.

To enthusiasts, gardeners and visitors alike, railway station gardens are a thing of beauty and pride. And it’s thanks to the Station Groups and their teams of dedicated volunteers along the line that our platform gardens, borders, pots and baskets are so beautifully presented.

Over in Goathland, the tradition for keeping their gardens bountiful and beautiful has been much rewarded over the years. Most remarkable were the (almost) yearly awards presented to Station Master Richardson, who received ‘Best Kept Garden’ throughout his years in service from 1947 to his retirement in 1963.

‘We’ve got almost the complete set but not totally and one you’ll see was in 1959 for the Best Kept Station and The Station Gardens! He was a mad keen gardener and he had a greenhouse out beyond the shed..’ says Station Master John Bruce, standing in the Ticket Office in which copies of the certificates are proudly displayed.

Going back two more generations and to the time of Station Master Gillery (1926-1933), it seems that gentle competition was certainly in the air as this interview taken by Margaret Smith and Mark Sissons in 2011 with his son Oswald Gillery, will testify!

‘Goathland had extensive platform gardens covering roughly the same area as the current gardens.

The rockery at the north end of the up platform had a floral figure of a man in it. Every year the inspection saloon pulled by Aerolite would arrive to judge the gardens. Mr Gillery nearly always got a second but never a first. He could not understand why Sleights, with much smaller and poorer gardens in his opinion, nearly always got a first.’

‘I don’t know about a rivalry between the stations’ says John Bruce. ‘Obviously the best source of pride was to get the best kept station or the best kept gardens prizes!’ and this was achieved along the line too. In 1963, Grosmont was awarded a 3rd Class Prize in the ‘Competition for Best Kept Stations’ - the certificate for which had been found by John some years ago.

A country station was a remote place to live and for the Station Master and his family, the private kitchen gardens were always well tended. The produce of which would have been essential to the family diet.

‘Station gardens were an important part of the Station life.’ Oswald Gillery remembered.

‘…Father built a cold frame in the bend in the beck where the station garden was situated (probably the veg garden). Plants would be reared from seed in the cold frame and then many were propagated in the signal box.’

Moving forward to Goathland’s next Station Master, Edward B. Mowforth who lived in Station House between 1934 and 1946, he too had extensive gardens. During the war years, Mowforth’s young grandson Chris, came to live at Station House and has today kindly shared his memories of that time.

‘EBM kept geese, ducks, hens and guinea fowl – keeping us well supplied with eggs’ and there was a vegetable garden... down by river wall on the downside towards Grosmont.’

Goathland in 2021 continues to look stunning with wildflower planting and bright displays thanks to Anne Wetherell, who volunteers her time to tend and care for them.

‘What Anne’s done brilliantly is to keep the style of the country garden as a station garden would be,’ says John, pointing out the rockeries and small gardens that spill over with flowers, shrubs and grasses.

‘Anne is one of our volunteers from the very, very early days. Her mother and father worked here as well. Her father was a super joiner. He was mainly in signalling and telecoms but the whole family did the gardens. So, Anne has carried on that tradition’.

It is obvious that Goathland Station’s gardens are in very safe hands.

Are you a volunteer at any of the stations along our line? How are your gardens looking? Have you grown something special this year? Or perhaps you’re an enthusiast with a railway themed garden? Do share your photos with us. We’d love to see them!

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Goathland Station photos courtesy Mike Braham.