Templecombe’s young explorers embark on a steam-powered …

Young adventurers from Templecombe are set to embark on a train trip filled with railway tales and steam-powered excitement as part of Community Rail Week. Organised by the Blackmore Vale Community Rail Partnership, the event aims to connect communities, break travel barriers, and foster a greener and healthier transport future.

A group of school children will board a train at Templecombe, bound for Yeovil Railway Centre. The highlight of their trip will be a railway storytelling session, featuring a reading of 'The Tale of Sevenpence, the Templecombe Station Cat' by author Christine Scott. Following the storytelling, the children will have the opportunity to enjoy a ride on a steam locomotive.

This excursion to Yeovil forms just one of numerous events taking place throughout the South West and across Britain during Community Rail Week, scheduled for May 22 to 28. The week-long celebration encompasses an array of activities, including youth engagement initiatives, projects honouring local history, culture, and the arts, guided walks, station tours, and campaigns advocating scenic and sustainable leisure travel. These endeavours aim to empower communities, foster travel confidence, and encourage a shift towards more socially and environmentally friendly modes of transportation, particularly rail.

Community Rail Week, coordinated by the Community Rail Network and sponsored by the Rail Delivery Group, serves as a platform to highlight the year-round efforts of Britain's 76 community rail partnerships. These partnerships cover 34 per cent of the nation's railway network and include over 10,000 volunteers organized into 1,200 station friends groups. Volunteers tend to almost half (47 per cent) of Britain's 2,570 stations. The South West region boasts seven community rail partnerships and around 70 station groups, encompassing routes from Gloucestershire to Devon and Cornwall.

Community rail initiatives strive to enhance travel confidence, improve access to opportunities, combat social isolation, and give communities a voice, while placing railways and stations at the heart of community life. Additionally, they actively support the transition to sustainable and socially beneficial forms of travel, with rail being a prominent example.

Jools Townsend, the chief executive of Community Rail Network, expressed her enthusiasm for the event saying: "Community rail partnerships and thousands of 'station friends' volunteers throughout Britain, including many across the South West, are mobilizing en masse, engaging local people and partners to raise awareness about sustainable travel by rail and get people enthused about its many benefits."

The South West region will witness a host of other engaging activities during the week, including more than 100 young participants from the 'Platform Rail' education program embarking on rail journeys across Somerset, Worcestershire, and Gloucestershire for outdoor education trips and train experiences.

The Severnside Community Rail Partnership will host a 'Days Out By Train' trip in collaboration with the Centre for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Bristol, while promoting British Sign Language (BSL) artwork at Patchway Station. Furthermore, four South West stations have been shortlisted in the 'World Cup of Stations,' a competition organized by the Rail Delivery Group to celebrate the integral roles stations play within local communities.

Ms Townsend added: “Community Rail Week is all about connecting communities and bringing people together, while supporting and enabling more people to travel sustainably by train and access the opportunities they want. Community rail has an inspiring track record of doing just that: promoting travel confidence and broadening mobility horizons, sometimes with life-changing effects, while giving communities a voice on transport, and putting railways and stations at the heart of community life.”

Jacqueline Starr, chief executive officer at Rail Delivery Group, said: “Community Rail Week is an opportunity to celebrate the brilliant initiatives that volunteers have produced in partnership with the rail industry all over the country. We are proud to partner with Community Rail to host our annual World Cup of Stations tournament and shine a light on some of the best loved stations.

“Together we want to create a more inclusive, sustainable, and customer-focused rail experience for all and celebrate the role of local communities in enhancing our rail network.”