Don’t you just love the English countryside? I’m writing this in June after a few breath-takingly sunny days. As a village Churchwarden, I have in my care not one, but two, church buildings which date from the 13th century. One of them is just the chancel, part of a church which was built around 1230 and pulled down in 1825. The bit that survives contains memorials to the Montagu family (the Earls of Sandwich) and stands in the midst of fields with no close road access.
To reach it, I’ve taken to using a bridle path across the back of the village, which means I usually attract the close attention of a herd of cows, but it’s a great walk through meadows and it has been vivid green under a deep blue sky.
Having been asked to produce an article on painting a backscene, for the August Model Rail, I decided to use it as the opportunity to make the backscene for my ‘N’ gauge Staines branch layout. Despite its proximity to Heathrow Airport, the area around the branch was remarkably rural when I was growing up. The goods yard beside the single platform at Staines West was disused and overgrown. Indeed, the end of the platform was derelict and weed-strewn for at least three coach lengths.
From this bucolic scene, the railcar headed out past allotments and along the bank of the River Colne, to climb up through a thicket of willow trees and cross the river and the Southern line to Windsor. At that point there opened a view across Staines Moor, an expanse of water meadow bordered by reservoirs which supply water to much of West London. It was all intensely green.
As kids, my brother and I fished for gudgeon and stone loach in the Colne, and dodged the occasional grass snake. Today, though the Moor still exists, it is bounded on all sides by gravel extraction, the M25 motorway a new reservoir and the ever-growing perimeter of Heathrow. You can still walk out there, and I have done, but the railway has gone, the motorway noise is intrusive and somehow that warm, lazy, laid-back feeling of tranquillity is no more.
I’m no artist, but somehow I had to capture that ‘atmosphere’ in my painted backscene. It’s still a work in progress but I’ve made a good start and I’m pleased with the sections that I’ve done so far. See what you think……