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Busy times in Essex with stations transformed by new artwork and Men’s Shed group

A busy month for the Essex & South Suffolk Community Rail Partnership (CRP) has seen new artwork transform Chelmsford Station and Southminster Station become the new home for a local Men’s Shed group.

At Chelmsford, the CRP has teamed up with local artist Wladyslaw Mirecki (pictured), who painted watercolours of every arch of Essex’s famous Chappel Viaduct – 32 in total – between 2019 and 2021.

The Chappel Viaduct is an iconic part of the area’s history. Built in the late 1800s by Peter Bruff to span the River Colne, the 320m long viaduct is considered one of the largest brick-built structures in Great Britain.

Prints of the paintings have recently been placed along the platform railings to show the viaduct in its full glory, and the CRP hopes that the display will encourage people to explore the area by train.

Jayne Sumner, rail engagement officer for the Essex & South Suffolk CRP, said: “Travelling on the Gainsborough Line to Chappel & Wakes Colne is really worth doing – not only to see the Chappel Galleries, the Viaduct and the East Anglian Railway Museum, but also the beautiful countryside around the line and the lovely market town of Sudbury, birthplace of the 18th century artist Thomas Gainsborough.”

Elsewhere in Essex, the CRP has partnered with Maldon and District Community Voluntary Service to host the Southminster Railway Shed volunteers in their new base at Southminster Station.

Men’s Sheds aim to bring people together to help tackle loneliness and isolation and improve men’s health and wellbeing by providing a community space where they can meet new people, talk with others, and get involved in creative projects.

The group are currently busy clearing, tidying, and setting up the Shed – which is actually part of the old station building – to be as usable and welcoming as possible. They have also been clearing and tidying the station garden areas and plan to install compost bins and more planters to help brighten the platform for station visitors.

Robert Adams, a member of the Shed and also a station adoption volunteer at Southminster, said: “Creating a Men’s Shed at Southminster Station has been a seven-year mission, but well worth the wait. It’s great to be with chaps that enjoy the shoulder-to-shoulder camaraderie, whether it be constructing a garden planter together or sitting quietly enjoying the banter whilst devouring a chocolate biscuit washed down with a cup of tea.”

Jayne Sumner added: “I’m delighted to see the Men’s Shed now up and running at Southminster Station and we are looking forward to working with them. We work with all sorts of community partners – including other Men’s Sheds in the county – to help our communities thrive and we are very grateful for their support and enthusiasm.”

Find out more about the work of Essex and South Suffolk Community Rail Partnership on their website here.

Picture credit: Maldon & District CVS