Steam railway replants trees lost in great storm to mark Queen’s Platinum Jubilee

  • Watch: ITV News Meridian's Kit Bradshaw reports from Groombridge

A heritage railway line has planted new trees to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, replacing some of those lost in the great storm of 1987.

Three Scots pines were planted by the tracks of the Spa Valley Railway, in countryside close to the Kent-East Sussex border. 

It was part of the national Queen’s Green Canopy initiative, which encourages the planting of trees this year to ‘create a legacy in honour of the Queen’s leadership of the nation’.

A short ceremony at Groombridge station on Saturday, 19 March, involved the Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, Andrew Blackman, and the line’s patron, Lord Abergavenny.

The Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex joined representatives from local councils at a ceremony at Groombridge station.

Those in charge of the preservation line say despite steam engines 'dirty' reputation they hope the project will help ‘champion sustainability’ and ‘give back to the community’.

Mark Patrick, trustee of the Spa Valley Railway, told ITV News Meridian: “We have engines that burn coal for the steam. We can’t avoid that – that’s part of the heritage. But what we can do is be more responsible.”

“People love a steam engine and we want to see that continue into the future as part of the heritage of the area but we need to do so in a way that’s mindful of the community that we’re in. Planting the trees is part of giving back to that community.”

Three Scots pines were planted by the railway tracks, replacing those lost in the great storm of 1987.

Representatives from Wealden District Council and Tunbridge Wells Borough Council both attended the private event.

Dignitaries travelled on board the Sir Keith Park, a Southern Railway Battle of Britain class locomotive, built in 1947. 

It made an unscheduled stop between Groombridge and Eridge stations where the three saplings were planted by volunteers by the tracks. 

  • Watch: Mark Patrick, Trustee, Spa Valley Railway

Two of the trees were dedicated to Her Majesty, with another planted in honour of a long-serving railway volunteer, Don Foreman, who died last year.

After two years of disrupted timetables, the Spa Valley Railway has a busy calendar of events ahead, as it marks the 25th anniversary of its reopening to the public. 

Its patron, Lord Abergavenny, says the railway is “very important” to the local area. “We have a festival this year too, so it is all very important that people reopen, and get on board things and get all the enthusiasts to make this come alive again,” he added.

The steam trains run between Tunbridge Wells and Eridge on a section of railway in the High Weald that was closed by British Rail in 1985.