An unexpected pleasure on tree planting day

A little story related to tree planting seems appropriate for a first blog. It was a few weeks ago now, at a farm garden, and the lady farmer had asked me to plant three fruit trees, a plum, a cherry and an apple. ‘Get some tree guards from that shed in the corner’ she said. I’d never seen this shed and didn’t know it was there, hidden as it was amongst trees and brambles and in a far corner near to where the chickens live.

Some of the undergrowth had been cut back so there was a clear path to it and I was taken aback to find that this shed was an ancient railway carriage in the process of falling apart and returning to the earth. The tree guards were tucked away at one end so I gathered them quickly and then admired this unexpected treasure.

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Few of the windows were intact and those which remained were covered in a layer of dust and algae. The walls, floor and roof were of wood, now very dry and beginning to crumble in places. Ivy grew around the doorway and some of the window frames.

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I could not resist stepping inside. The foliage of the surrounding trees cast a greenish light through the windows, which enhanced the dilapidated appearance of the interior. Looking up, I saw a beautifully curved and moulded ceiling, this and the walls being coated in flaking white paint. It must have been painted decades ago, but who knows how long? The floor bounced a little under my feet and in places had given way to reveal the sandy earth beneath it.

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At one end lay remnants of the carriage’s former life – wheels, axles and unidentified lengths of steel. Wires tacked along the walls showed where long-gone light fittings had once been fixed.

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After a few minutes I had to drag myself away to go and plant the trees, but went back later for a closer look and to take some photographs. The farmer had lived on the site for some 40 years and said the carriage was there when she arrived and she had no idea how long it had been there. I’d like to know its story, where it came from and how it got there, but I don’t suppose I ever shall.

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21 thoughts on “An unexpected pleasure on tree planting day

  1. after the second world war these carriages were used a lot for homes, sheds and all sorts. My other had a photo of herself with me outside one. Apparently it was where her aunt lived. It was later sold and an extension built. These days it looks like a normal house but I’ve heard that inside is the original railway carriage.

    1. I like that story, Yvonne, and the idea of a railway carriage concealed inside a house.

    2. While it is romantic to have a carriage returning to the ground, many of these are returning to the rails, and where they are too far gone, the parts can often be transplanted to save another. Perhaps your farmer would consider contacting her nearest heritage railway for some free adevice?

  2. I’ve slept in worse when touring the continent by push bike and motorbike. John.

    1. I remember you telling about some of the places you’ve slept on your travels, John. The one where you shared your ‘bedroom’ with feasting hedgehogs always comes to mind.

  3. What a fabulous shed! Looks like it might not have long left, but restoring it would be a mammoth job.

    And yes, tree planting is a great way to start this blog.

    1. I’m not sure there’s enough of it left to restore, Patsy, you’d have to start again. It still looks wonderful, though.

  4. There is something magical about old railway carriages. Our staple summer holiday when we were children was staying in an old Victorian carriage on the Isle of Wight. It was at the bottom of the garden of a house that my grandmother had bought after the war. She sold the house and a part of the garden, and the carriage and an overgrown orchard was left. Alas, it’s no more as my parents gave it to the Railway Carriage Society and built a log house. in its place. My estranged brother lives there now.

    1. Sarah, that sounds delightful. How I would love to have seen it. Do you have any photographs?

  5. To find beauty in mystery and decay…is a great thing. Looking forward to more!

    1. Thanks, Eleonore. The Entwife has many interests and much to say, so there will be more!

  6. A very interesting read Miranda. An old railway carriage would make a great garden room or shed if you had the room. I saw one on a gardening site that was half buried in the ground and lined with a waterproof sheet and used as a covered swimming pool for all the family 😉

    1. Fascinating idea, Richard. If I had a spare railway carriage, I’d make it into a place for guests, or a garden room, or maybe a potting shed. Okay, I’ll be needing three railway carriages…

  7. wow what an adventure, sensing and imagining the history can make my hairs stand on end just looking at the pictures

    1. Rachel, you’d have loved it! It made my hair stand on end too. xx

  8. Hello,
    A friend has just forwarded a link to your site here as it contains details about a railway carriage – a very overgrown one! I used to deliver goods in Oxfordshire and, sometimes, in The Rollrights and I would be very interested to view the carriage, if that is at all possible, please. If needed, we can help in “recycling” old carriage bodies but even if it is still loved and not available it would be wonderful to see it and expand our knowledge of these old bodies. There were so many different types and many are not recorded.
    I look forward to hearing from you,
    Best wishes and a happy new year,
    Tony Lyster
    a volunteer carriage restorer at Bucks Railway Centre

    1. Hello Tony,

      Thank you for visiting my blog. It’s good to know that there people out there who take the time to restore and care for such things as old railway carriages. I shall be seeing the lady farmer again soon and will pass on your message to her. I don’t see why she’d have any reason for not allowing you to see it. It was a delightful surprise when I first saw it myself.

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