GCR Poems


'The Old Trackbed'

Reproduced by kind permission of Barry Allen from 'Railway Poems’

Published by Finial Publishing.Illustration by Alan Vernon.

Poem The Old Trackbed



'Unmitigated England

Great Central Railway, Sheffield Victoria to Banbury - Sir John Betjeman

Came swinging down the line
That day the February sun
Did crisp and crystal shine.
Dark red at Kirkby Bentinck stood
A steeply gabled farm
‘Mid ash trees and a sycamore
In charismatic calm.
A village street – a manor house –
A church – then, tally ho!
We pounded through a housing scheme

With tellymasts a-row,
Where cars of parked executives
Did regimented wait
Beside administrative blocks
Within the factory gate.
She waved to us from Hucknall South
As we hooted ‘round a bend,
From a curtained front-room window did The diesel driver’s friend.
Through cuttings deep to Nottingham Precariously we wound;
The swallowing tunnel made the train Seem London’s Underground.
Above the fields of Leicestershire
On arches we were borne
And the rumble of the railway drowned The thunder of the Quorn;
And silver shone the steeples out
Above the barren boughs;
Colts in a paddock ran from us
But not the solid cows;
And quite where Rugby Central is
Does only Rugby know
We watched the empty platform wait And sadly saw it go.
By now the sun of afternoon
Showed ridge and furrow shadows
And shallow unfamiliar lakes
Stood shivering in the meadows.
Is Woodford church or Hinton church The one I ought to see?
Or were they both too much restored
In 1883?
I do not know. Towards the west

A trail of glory runs

And we leave the old Great Central Line For Banbury and buns.


Betjeman copy.jpg

Sir John Betjeman CBE (28 August 1906 – 19 May 1984) was an English poet, writer, and broadcaster.

He was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1972 until his death.

He was a founding member of the Victorian Society and a passionate defender of Victorian architecture. He began his career as a journalist and ended it as one of the most popular British Poets Laureate and a much-loved figure on British television.

He fought a spirited but unsuccessful campaign to save the Propylaeum, known commonly as the Euston Arch, London. He is considered instrumental in helping to save St Pancras railway station, and was commemorated with the installation of a statue when the station became an international terminus for Eurostar in November 2007. The commission, erected inside the station at platform level, includes a series of slate roundels depicting selections of his writings. He called the plan to demolish St Pancras a "criminal folly”.


David Howes 2019