The angry-looking man from whom this utterance came turned around and noticed Ian and I staring incredulously at him.
“Not you,” he said, apologetically, “I mean me.”
He stormed off to his car, which he proceeded to kick and punch several times, in a scene reminiscent of Basil Fawlty at his frustrated worst. Having dented the bodywork, he got into the vehicle, cursed loudly to himself several more times and then drove off with engine roaring, at a speed completely inappropriate to the residential area in which we found ourselves.
More side streets beckoned, where terraced houses rubbed shoulders with small industrial units in various states of dereliction. Our attention was drawn to this lovely sign on one of the still-functional factories.
I have no idea what a Fibrerod Pultrusion is, even after reading their web site (yes, I Googled it). Still, I wish the firm all the best with their Pultrusion-related endeavours.
The road ran more-or-less parallel to the former railway, but the trackbed itself remained just out of view behind buildings. That is, until we arrived at a new-looking development of apartments, where the line was visible at the end of a car park.
Every apartment had a balcony, where residents would have an excellent view of three slightly strange men wandering around with cameras. Nevertheless, I scrambled up a little grass verge to take a photo of the rails through the fence. Like the stations, the track itself is surprisingly intact at this point, although very rusty.
The line begins to climb onto an embankment at this point and shortly afterwards crosses the Grand Union Canal via this bridge.
Beyond the soulless apartment blocks we came to a soulless retail development, with a Premier Inn and Brewer’s Fayre pub competing to out-bland each other in the boxy nondescript building stakes.
After that we had to cross a busy dual carriageway, Ascot Road (the road that killed the railway when it cut straight through the embankment carrying the line).
A sign indicated that we were nearing the end of our trek as we entered the village of Croxley Green itself.
And indeed, moments later we found ourselves at our ultimate goal: Croxley Green railway station. The station entrance is located just off a busy roundabout and while Ian, Scott and myself took photos we had to contend with a series of motorists hooting their horns. Not quite sure why they were doing this, but I’m choosing to interpret it as a gesture of approval.
Croxley Green, like Watford West, has steps. In this case they lead upwards, as the line is on an embankment at this point. They are, however, equally derelict.
Job done, we set off in search of lunch. The first option available to us was a Harvester across the road from the old station. We passed up that choice and headed into the main village.
En route we saw an interesting sign advertising “CROXFEST”. Check out this blurb from the event’s web site: “10 local bands will perform to their adoring fans as the community come together for what is being billed as one of the most popular new events to be held on The Green in recent years.”
We could certainly hear some… interesting music coming from the direction of the Green as we looked for a suitable eatery. I was briefly tempted to go and check it out, but my hunger was palpable at this point and we continued our quest for food instead.
We found a pub near Croxley Underground station, where the stressed-looking man behind the bar seemed to be having trouble coping with the volume of orders (aside from ourselves, there were two, possibly three other customers in there). When he eventually got his till working, we ordered some pub grub and settled down for a welcome rest – we had been walking for two hours by this point.
Whilst eating, I ran my ideas for blog titles past Ian and Scott. My preferred choice was A New Dream Every Day, Croxley Green (Oink Oink). However this relied upon knowledge of the late 80s CITV show Huxley Pig – specifically, its theme tune. Despite calling up the (surprisingly detailed) Wikipedia entry on my iPhone, it soon became clear that this programme is far from a universal pop-culture reference point, and I decided not to pursue the matter further.
Suitably satisfied, we made our way to Croxley station and the welcoming environs of one of the lovely (and soon to be withdrawn) Metropolitan Line A Stock trains.
This far flung outpost of the London Underground network may prove to be the Croxley Green branch’s salvation, for even as trees and shrubs sprout up in the trackbed, plans are afoot to reopen the route as part of the Metropolitan Line. The Croxley Rail Link project would see the closure of the Underground station at Watford, with trains diverted over a new viaduct and onto the Croxley branch towards Watford High Street, from where they would share the London Overground’s tracks to reach Watford Junction.
It’s not a done deal yet – it’s a Transport for London line but located in Hertfordshire, which means two local authorities have to sign off on the project. However, a consultation is running now and it is possible that trains could be running again by 2016.
All of which means that the Croxley Green branch – that strange little railway that refuses to die – may come back to life again. John Barrowman would be proud.