More than 160 years of history at Foxton, Meldreth and Shepreth train stations will be highlighted as hundreds of villagers prepare to celebrate the landmark anniversary that connected them to Cambridge – and beyond – for the first time.
In 1851 the very first trains that trundled into the tiny villages on the Eastern Counties Railways (ECR) line into Cambridge weren’t even for passengers and most residents still caught horse-drawn coaches into the city.
As a renowned fruit-growing area it wasn’t until almost 100 years later when they became important for commuters into London during the 1960s and 1970s that the number of trains for people grew above 16 a week (it is now 66).
That has all changed and the important anniversary will be marked with not one but three parties thrown in quick succession on Saturday with revellers, including Cllr Susan van de Ven and representatives from First Capital Connect, alighting at each one and unveiling a plaque at Meldreth.
The festivities, organised by Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Rail User Group, will also celebrate a project by the user group and local schoolchildren, which was funded by dozens of local organisations, to plant new gardens at each station.
The gardens, which have been sponsored by Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Rail User group, will be unveiled at the birthday celebrations at each station.
Children from Meldreth Primary School, Barrington Primary School and Foxton Primary School have been working hard to plant flowers at their respective stations.
First Capital Connect and other stakeholders, including Cambridgeshire County Council and Shepreth Wildlife Park, have donated equipment and plants.
Tim Gane, 61, a member of the Meldreth Local History Group and Meldreth resident, who has researched and put together a display on the background of the stations, said: “We are celebrating the villages here being connected for the first time really.
“In 1851 there were only six trains a week for passengers, unthinkable really. We have come a long way.”
Susan Van De Ven, Cambridgeshire County councillor and chairwoman of the Meldreth Rail User Group, said: “We’d like to give our stations a village identity and to encourage use of the fantastic sustainable transport network on our doorstep.”
The celebrations will also take on a more serious note as Cllr Van de Ven, who represents all three villages on the county council, reminds residents that the London-bound platform at Meldreth still does not have disabled access, despite the village being the location of prominent school for the disabled, Meldreth Manor.
Cllr Van de Ven said: “We want to use this occasion to highlight the fact that Meldreth station remains inaccessible for anyone with mobility problems. “It is terrible and ironic in a village where Meldreth Manor is such an important Scope school.”