It was my birthday a few weeks ago and my old school friend, David Wilkinson, sent me a most unusual and interesting present. It was a link to the YouTube video below.
It’s part of a series of videos uploaded by Geoff Marshall (who seems to the main presenter) in which he visits the least used railway station in an increasing number of counties.
And in this instalment, the seventh, he visits Buckinghamshire’s least used station, which happens to be the one that I use most frequently — Little Kimble.
He travels to Little Kimble from Marylebone, changing at Princes Risborough on to the famous (to train spotters, anyway) bubble car train that runs on the single track branch line to Little Kimble — and that I regularly use.
It’s worth watching the video to get a realistic impression this tiny train and the one platform station with zero facilities (it’s not even got a ticket machine) that I currently use virtually every day.
Geoff and his local guide from Aylesbury have a few interesting anecdotes about the station too, although they seem stumped for anything to do once they arrive there. An even more local guide, like me, would be able to point out that there’s a pub within about 15 minutes walk, although at the time of day they visited, they’d have to wait about three hours before it opened. There’s no shops or anywhere to get coffees, etc.
In the summer, the pub would be less than ten minutes walk away over a field, several stiles and a few footpaths. It’s similar with my shortest route to and from the station, which is now (and for the next two or three months) ankle-deep in mud in places.
That it’s so easy to reach this tiny country station in under an hour from Marylebone station (there are erratically timed direct trains using slightly more modern rolling stock too) shows the contrast between rural and urban that is a significant driver of conflict in the novel.
The Angel has a theme of the difference between urban and rural — particularly the contrast that can be experienced twice a day by people commuting into central London from some surprisingly rem0te areas, as I’ve just started to do again after more than a five-year hiatus.
I can now go from an office window with a view of Buckingham Palace (and the London Eye and Gherkin the other way) to a station that has one platform, one railway track and no ticket machine, let alone a ticket office. It does, though, have probably the best views of the Chilterns of any station and walkers can be up on the hilltops on the Ridgeway national trail within twenty minutes of getting off the train.
Walking is the best option for getting to and from the station as the Onward Transport Options map at the station shows, pictured below.
Note there’s nothing marked on the map in terms of facilities — apart from the H for hotel that denotes the Bernard Arms. (Walkers shouldn’t take the map too literally. If they were to take what looks like a road opposite the H at the bottom of the map, they’d likely find they’d be ambushed by armed police before long as it’s an un-signposted and very private road into Chequers.)
But just to show the stereotype of rural buses is still alive and well — and real — this is what the detail of the poster provides for alighting passengers.
So while,Â if you’re lucky,Â you can arrive from London Marylebone in less than an hour, you may discover you have to wait five days for the next bus – if it’s the one that runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1030. The bus to High Wycombe is of limited usefulness as it goes one direction but doesn’t come back again.
It seems like the transport options are worse than they would be on a remote Hebridean island or on top of some Welsh mountain but the poster must have been put together by someone from National Rail who was more than usually pedantic as it omits to mention that a three or four minute walk up the road will lead the passenger to bus stops that have a service every 20 minutes during the day between Aylesbury and High Wycombe — and runs until well past 11 in the evening. But knowing that spoils the sense of rural idyll in the same way as the makers of Midsomer Murders film around the location and omit the fact that almost the nearest thing that can be described as a village shop is actually Tesco’s.
The Metro today plus the Daily Mirror and Daily Mail have a story featuring Little Kimble station, which I can see across the fields out of our back windows. A family of rare edible dormice, also know as Glis Glis, have been inhabiting the permit to travel machine. The ticket collector discovered them when investigating why the machine was frequently out of order. They are a rare and protected species and tend only to be found in this area of the Chilterns. They have been rehoused in St. Tiggywinkle’s animal hospital a few miles away in Haddenham, also famous for rehabilitating injured red kites.
Here are the links to the stories. There are some nice pictures of the mice.
I often use the permit to travel machine as Little Kimble station is far too small to have a proper ticket machine, let alone a ticket office. It’s taken quite a lot of my 5p coins when I’ve travelled into London recently, although the mice have left it out of order on many occasions.
We have mice all over the place here — they invade the garage in winter and once polished off an entire Christmas pudding I was maturing and are always running around in the garden. I’ll need to take a look to see if they’re the edible variety.
It’s quite interesting to hear a quirky tale of rural life as last night I made a visit to Dibley — more accurately The Bull and Butcher in Turville, which is the location where ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ was filmed, as well as countless other TV series and films (like Midsomer Murders). The pub is a lovely old village local with a massive fireplace and even a well inside one of the rooms (it goes down about thirty feet so it’s fortunate it’s covered over with glass).
Maybe the mice can burrow their way into The Angel?Â Anyway, it’s a Good excuse for not having a ticket — ‘Sorry but it was illegal for me to disturb the dormice’.