Before the 19th century the hamlet of Winscombe was centred aound the Parish Church of St James the Great. Woodborough, an adjacent hamlet, had a triangular village green and an inn, called The Packhorse, on a site near the position of the present-day Woodborough Inn. Little now remains to be seen of the original green.
Then the railway came! An old poster describes how ‘a procession of The Mayor and Corporation of Axbridge will be formed at the Town Hall, Axbridge’. This would be prior to the cutting at ‘Shutshelve Hill’ of ‘the Valley Railway’. Two years later, in 1869, a station had been built in Woodborough, not Winscombe. First named ‘Woodborough’, it was soon changed to ‘Winscombe’ to avoid confusion with another station of that name in Wiltshire. Ninety-four years later the railway closed to passengers and now even the rails have gone. Today, the two hamlets are one and the resulting village has come to be called Winscombe. However, from this photograph you will see that there is at least one remnant!
An early improvement was to the old village school. An increase in population had meant that the school had become too small and so a new Junior School with ample playing fields was built. This was closely followed by the addition of an Infants Department. Recently, another fine series of additional buildings has been added. A tour of the premises will surely indicate the pride that these youngsters feel for their educational environment. These changes left the original school rooms empty:
in 1979 villagers took over and with much effort the building became what is now often called the Winscombe Community Centre and are run extremely efficiently by the Winscombe Community Association. Ideas for further improvements are being explored.
This Community Association and the Church Hall of St. James are major bases for parish activities. Both have had recent improvements and seem permanently in use. Each is run by a band of enthusiasts who give freely of their time and effort. Why not join in and help them?
Outdoors there are many sports clubs, including a bowls club in the middle of the village. Soccer, rugby, cricket and tennis are mainly based at or very near the War Memorial Recreation Ground. This is a fine and grassy area bought many years ago by money raised at public events. The deeds are retained, in trust, by the Parish Council. However, over recent years the ground’s changing rooms gradually became inadequate. During 2000, with the combined effort of the three clubs and the Parish Council a major loan was obtained to finance a total refurbishment. As a result, appended to what was always a fine pavilion is now a block containing eight team changing rooms, several referees’ rooms and a system of showers which can deal adequately with many very muddy players. So that the most skilled of the football club’s teams can move up a grade in their system of leagues, the Parish Council has accepted the football club’s plans to update their section of the ground by surrounding the major pitch with a see-through fence which will enclose the pitch but still allow the play area and the skate park to be seen from the car park.
In addition the grounds contain a children's play area: every effort is made to keep the equipment in first-class condition and attractive to youngsters and their parents. Plans are well advanced to replace many of these facilities with a fascinatingly designed and well equipped play area.
Another group of young people identified the need for a skate park. This, they said, should be away from the centre of the village. Again with the help of the Parish Council and, this time, the War Memorial Recreation Ground Committee, a site was chosen. There were difficulties, including the possibility that surplus water would cause additional problems for the adjacent pitches. So, solutions were sought. A considerable investment in this so important area was made by the Parish Council to improve the drainage and, after the problem was solved, the skate park was built. Pay it a visit and, if you dare, show the youngsters your skills on a skate board!
The Old Station
Earlier there had been other major outdoor improvements. After the 1963 closure, the railway line and its associated stations gradually developed a general air of dilapidation. The line and stations had been deserted and many of the bridges, including the one at Sandford, had been blown up. People began walking the line and others started buying or leasing parts. Eventually, these different demands led to the formation in 1977 of the Cheddar Valley Railway Working Group, soon to become the Winscombe Parish Railway Walk Society and then the Cheddar Valley Railway Walk Society.
This group persuaded Woodspring District Council to buy the remaining land with its track, though not the stations. The Strawberry Line Path is now managed by North Somerset District Council in co-operation with the Cheddar Valley Railway Walk Society and includes a permissive path. In 1996 the Railway Walk was designated 'A Local Nature Reserve'. Later, North Somerset Council created a cycleway south from the recreation ground along the disused track to the A38 and beyond. It is possible to cycle from the station to Cheddar mostly on the track: perhaps one day it may be possible to cycle on the track to Wells. The path has been upgraded northwards through Sandford and Yatton and, perhaps one day, to Clevedon. After much collective effort the result is for all to see: a linear asset that will forever be shared and enjoyed by several local parishes and become part of the Sustrans Cycle Network.
But, what of old Winscombe Station? Yet another group had its eyes fixed firmly there! The Millennium Green Group, later to become the 'Winscombe and Sandford Millennium Green Trust'
came into existence in 1997 with a plan to bring the derelict station site back into community use as a celebration of the new millennium. The community-backed proposal formulated by this group for the station and its immediate surrounds was one of the few accepted in the national 'Millennium Green Scheme'. Charitable status, obtained in 1998, was needed so that the group could raise funds, acquire, hold and regenerate the area already designated a site 'of County Importance for Conservation'. The Trust is responsible for site maintenance and management with help from North Somerset Council in respect of the Strawberry Line path which passes through what has now become the Old Station Millennium Green.
The success of this group and the product of their hard physical efforts can be described, without exaggeration, as phenomenal. The results can easily be judged by a stroll along the line! Wherever did all these ideas come from? But, of course, the task continues and additional support from villagers, old or new, is always appreciated. Why not lend a hand?
Near Ilex Lane, just off Sandford Road, there is a section of land which is owned and maintained by Winscombe and Sandford Parish Council. The area includes a cemetery, with a non-denominational area. Details of which can be obtained from the Parish Clerk. At Ilex Lane there are also several allotments which are rented out to parishioners, though the waiting list for those hoping to acquire land on which to grow their own fruits and vegetables is fairly long.
So, what should reading this have told you? We feel that we belong to an active village that is prepared to 'roll up its sleeves and help out'. So, whether you are already living here, have just arrived or are thinking of moving here, do join in and enjoy being part of our thriving community.