Haslemere became a ‘community’ station back in 2015, bringing together a huge range of partners including the town’s council, business chamber, museum, and arts society, alongside regional partners South Western Railway, Surrey County Council, Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, South Downs National Park, and the National Trust.
The market town has lots of independent businesses, a rich cultural history, and many popular events, and directly accessible from the station are a host of trails in the South Downs and Surrey Hills, ideal for walkers and cyclists to access by rail.
The group wanted to develop the station further so that it was not only more attractive and welcoming for passengers, but became a true gateway to the town and its surrounding area, acting as a key focal point for visitors.
The main aspect of the redevelopment was a revamp of the station’s community information hub. This was transformed from a modest facility only open in the summer months to a bigger space that is now open all year-round. More than 35 volunteers now help to run the hub, which has a new community events space and provides a wealth of information to both visitors and local residents. Other enhancements have included new flower beds and planters, artwork from local schools, a large ‘Totem’ displaying maps of the town and its countryside, the installation of a defibrillator, and a hand-painted life-sized Surrey Hills cow decorated with the local ‘Rail to Trail’ cycle route.
The project has not only improved the overall aesthetic appearance of the station, but has created a welcoming environment that enhances the visitor experience and promotes the social and economic vitality of Haslemere. The new hub is said to have created a real buzz within the local community, rejuvenating the enthusiasm and motivation of volunteers and cementing positive, closer relationships with station staff.
The number of visitors using the hub has risen dramatically since 2017, and the site also caters for regular users such as large walking groups. Volunteers have also developed the hub’s online presence, and have a growing number of followers on various social media channels.
The redevelopment of the station has been greatly appreciated by passengers and local residents, with one telling volunteers: “This is a wonderful idea – every station should have one!”