30 Day Challenge Day Eight: What geeky hobby do you have?

If you’re interested in participating in the Geek Out Challenge, read this post here! Each day I will be posting a question for that day for the next 30 days. Follow along each day with your own post or feel free to wait until the entire challenge has been released and take it on when you like! Be sure to link back to the master post at the end or link back to each post for each day.

Day Eight: What geeky hobby do you have?

I wrote about this extensively on my travel pages a few months ago, so it was nice to reflect and share this geeky hobby of mine to a larger audience, whether anyone finds this of interest I can’t say. A couple of years ago I begun a personal challenge to walk the length of the River Thames and Grand Union Canal from their respective starting points in London out towards their eventual terminus points. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see parts of the capital you would otherwise ignore and get some exercise in the process. As an addition to that, my partner and I decided to look for other walking routes in the capital that would reveal some of its hidden secrets and where better than the abandoned and disused railway lines in and around us. The most obvious and well known walking trail in London that uses the old railway bed is the Parkland Walk, a pathway that traces the old track bed with a walking route thats begins at Alexandra Palace to the north and works its south ending at Finsbury Park. It’s a lovely path with a few notable echoes of its former use, the rubble of platforms, the odd remaining signal or equipment at the side alluding to its historical past. I love discovering and finding the clues to its previous usage, you do have a sense of walking in history when you have a base knowledge of what the area was used for.

After that first walk I was a little bit eager to get my walking shoes on again but the brutal honesty is, a lot of these routes which were reclaimed from the railways were often repurposed for housing, especially in a dense populated city like London where space is at a premium and leaving long stretches of greenery is a luxury few areas and boroughs can embellish. I came across a railway quite literally on my doorstep by chance, a fortunate and happy coincidence. It was a small trunk line that served to connect the town of Uxbridge where I live to the main line out of Paddington and only served for a short period of time. In that time however it had a transformative aspect on the towns growth and prosperity. I was fascinated, but also purplexed, I’ve lived here for a number of years now and have never seen any traces of abandoned railways. The simple truth however was I needed to research this challenge and so begun a two month project to prepare for a two mile walk along an abandoned railway track that has very much been reclaimed in the modern day however, a few notable signs and tells remain in the landscape which, as with the Parkland Walk are a curiosity to those walking over the bridges and humps in the road but a revelatory experience to the ardent explorer. To begin, I needed to know where the line existed, with the help of old ordnance survey maps, for the younger generation a precursor to Google Maps, I was able to cross check modern topography to historical settings and trace a near identical walking route out of my home town and to its final destination.

From there it was a two mile walk from start to finish, largely through residential housing which is unremarkable and uniform but the greatest pleasure came from finding areas that hadn’t been reclaimed or left to return to nature. One stretch, a parking lot that use the indent from the railway line and ended at a natural buff in the ground. Another an elevated part of the road that passed over where a tunnel had once stood and been filled in. No one ever attempted to flatten the ground back down to its original level so now you have a momentary bump in the road with no clue or indication what once stood there. One of the first clues that brought the railways presence to my attention was a very old English habit of naming streets on their intended usage, Station Road for example was typically where one might find a railway station. This gave me a clue there was more historically to the area I lived and it was a really fun and healthy habit to undertake examining all the historical clues and maps to discover this abandoned railway line that seemingly very few people are aware of today. This particular branch line crossed over the canal behind my flat which has nearly been erased entirely from the landscape now which is a genuine shame. There are still a few tell tale signs that allude to its former use but sadly they are nearly all gone now.

I’ll readily admit to being a bit of a geek when it comes to these sorts of things but I don’t view that as a negative character trait to hold. It was genuinely fascinating to plan and prepare for this relatively short walk and as a result of my planning to be able to find certain aspects and details that would otherwise be missed. The points along the walk for instance where the pathway dipped beneath the roads was really interesting to see purely because, I knew through research what it had once been. To anyone else, it was just an oddly shaped green piece of land. And I suppose, broadly speaking is indicative of what a geeky hobby should be, something you invest time and passion to bring an otherwise ordinary subject to life that gives you satisfaction and pleasure. So, that’s today’s post, an insightful read on how researching an abandoned railway line brought a smile to my face.

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