Southern - Uckfield review 1
South Croydon to Uckfield
Cost of ticket £17.55 (Cheap Day return from Leigh-on-Sea)
Dept: East Croydon 12.10 Arrive: Uckfield 13.21
Journey time: 1 hour 11 mins (due to change at Hurst Green) normally 58 minutes
Distance: 36 miles Weather: foggy then sunny
Train type: Class 171 4-car DMU (single track most of the way after Hever)
Railway company: Southern
Frequency of trains - one every hour
Trains start at London Bridge
For some reason off trains don't stop at South Croydon, just the rush hour trains, so we go speeding through the station. It is a six platform station with two island platforms in the middle. It has some nice hedge plants on the northern side of the island platforms. We then leave the Brighton mainline and go past the old station of Selsdon which is now disused, due to the Croydon Tramlink taking over part of its route. It's still very built up as the housing changes from terraced to semi-detached and larger detached houses. We pass a large allotment on the right as we come into Sanderstead station. It has been modernised with a red brick shelter, but the original cast iron footbridge including cover is still in place. We pass more terraced housing after the station and then go into a small cutting, which gets steeper until we emerge into a view of many white houses on the hillside on the right. We arrive at Riddlesdown station which has reddish brown buildings on both platforms. We then go onto another deep cutting and then enter a tunnel for about a mile. We emerge on the edge of a hillside with a view across the valley to Caterham. In fact three different lines are running parallel in this area. There's more white houses on the hillside opposite as we come into Upper Warlingham. It has its original white wooden-clad station building and a blue and cream cast iron footbridge. We enter another cutting then emerge onto wooded slopes with less houses. There's another cutting then we emerge into open countryside. It's quite hilly as we are now passing through the North Downs. We then cross over onto the right hand edge of the opposite hill as the sun begins to come out and the mist starts to clear. We pull into Woldingham which has a precast concrete platform and walls. There is another metal footbridge and the original white wooden station building on the left, making this a pleasant countryside station. It says on the station signs, Woldingham - "The Home of Woldingham School for Girls". We leave the station for another small cutting, which gets steeper as we enter another tunnel for about two miles. I notice that it doesn't seem as pressurised on these slower trains as opposed to the high speed express trains where there is a definite change in pressure when you pass through a tunnel. We emerge into a wooded cutting and then pass under the M25. Houses begin to appear on our left as we travel along an embankment and pull into Oxted station, which is the main station for changing trains on both lines, even though the junction is after the next station down the line, Hurst Green. Oxted has a large red brick station building with large white fence posts, whilst on the down platform there is a large canopy. There are three platforms and a signal box at the south end of the down platform. We continue on another viaduct high above the houses of Oxted and pass over the A 22. We then pass through a cutting and tunnel before emerging straight into Hurst Green station. It's a 60's type station building on the up platform and the junction for the East Greenstead line is straight after the station on the right. We move away past newly built houses on the left and then we are in the country once again. There are surprisingly no sheep or cows in the fields. Instead several horses can be seen grazing in the fields as we are quite near Lingfield race course. The landscape is starting to get hillier with some woods in the distance. We go into another cutting and then into two short tunnels before more houses start to appear as we approach Edenbridge Town station on a low embankment. The station has its original red brick building with a subway between the platforms, which looks like it has been recently rebuilt. The other platform has a smaller boarded up building, possibly waiting for refurbishment. We are soon out into the countryside again as we pass allotments. We are now on a low embankment passing open fields once more. We soon arrive at Hever station. There is an old red railway carriage in a siding on the left, perhaps being used as a restaurant.
Again the station building looks like it has been recently refurbished. There's no sign of Hever Castle, though it is quite wooded here. We speed up to about 50 mph as we go into another cutting and then a very long tunnel as we burrow under the North Downs. We emerge into a wooded valley and soon come to a stop at Cowden station. There is only one platform in use here with another red brick station building. The other platform is disused and overgrown and it is single track here in this remote country station. It is more hilly now as we travel along the side of a hill and go into a cutting. There are views of empty fields with the odd farmhouse and plenty of trees. It's double track again as we slow for Ashurst, which has associations with Winnie The Pooh, as its creator lived in nearby Hadfield. The village on the left consists mainly of red brick houses. The up train is waiting in the station and pulls away as soon as we arrive. There's a nice little footbridge painted in blue and cream here, but sadly just a grey tin shelter and no original station building is still standing. As we leave we move into an embankment which has had all its trees chopped down for some reason and looks very bare. The views are much further now on both sides as we travel alongside the upper reaches of the river Medway. You can see a stately home on the hill in the distance on the left. We then see some horses grazing in the fields on our left, which is actually the first sign of animal life since we left London. It starts to get more hilly as we come into another embankment as we start to go downhill. Sheep are grazing in the fields and we pass an oast house on the right, which has been turned into a house. The preserved line of the Spa Valley Railway from Tunbridge Wells joins us on the left and we pass a small lake on the right as we pull into Eridge station. It is a quaint four platform station, helped by the fact that the Spa Valley railway has restored two of the platforms for use of their trains, including the old station building. The other two platforms are used by Network rail and unfortunately have a neglected look about them. We then pass through more gently rolling hills, with both sheep and horses grazing. Plus there are plenty of woods scattered here and there on both sides. We start to climb again as we travel along a single track - the other track is still down, but has signs of it not being used in a while, probably waiting for it to be lifted. We cross over to the other track and it is very bumpy, not being welded. Then we slow as we come onto an embankment and stop at Crowborough station which has two tracks, with a train waiting on the other track. It is clearly the biggest station on the line and has a large canopy over the up platform, with a large red station building. The other platform has just the basic bus shelter. We move away from the market town and into a cutting, before entering another tunnel which lasts for about two miles. We emerge into a flatter landscape with more sheep grazing on both sides. We begin to start going downhill, crossing a viaduct, curving to the ? as we reach 60 mph. The track become single again as we go over another viaduct. We see houses on the hill on the left and then we stop at Buxted, a single platform station on single track. There is another platform but it is completely overgrown and the original red brick station building is still standing, but here is just a perspex shelter on the current platform. We pull off and start to go uphill again, going about 30 mph, we enter another cutting. Then we see lots of houses on the hill on the right, whilst nearby in a field by the track you can see some wild rabbits running about. We slow gradually as we come into Uckfield station, which has just the one platform, being rebuilt and re-sited in 1991. Opposite is a nice countrified park. The old signal box still stands at the end of the platform, but it is now in uses as a taxi-firm office. The original station is just the other side of the main road and hidden buy a fence, but looking through a gap you can still see what remains of it. The fact that it is still in situ gives hope that maybe one day this line could be rejoined to Lewes station several miles further down the line.
Summary: A very pretty branch line, though the removal of the track to make it single all the way from Hever to Uckfield is a worrying development. MC