All Aboard! – A community rail poem

As part of the online Community Rail Awards, the Bard of Barnsley – Ian McMillan – composed a poem which captures the spirit of community rail.

All Aboard!

Never a one-way ticket, always a first-class return,
On the investment of time and expertise, on these lines that help us to learn,
That people are what make a railway, more than a platform and seats,
More than the timetable, people, are what make a railway complete.

Always, the whistle is blowing, as the ideas they never end,
Of station adoption and colourful gardens, you see as the train rounds the bend,
Of cafes and signboards and benches, communities showing the face,
Of a station to those who pass through it, who think ‘well… this must be a place’,
Where marvellous changes can happen, in this vortex of coming and going,
There’s culture and learning and grand cups of tea, and the ideas just keep on flowing.

So, here’s to the folk who make all this tick, the grafters, the workers, and those,
Who volunteer from the first train till last, who dig out the raised beds and put on the shows,
Who spend endless weekends in gardening clothes, and go home with traces of muck on their nose,
And this is a glimpse of what railways could be, the heart and the centre, the hub,
A welcoming smile that says come on in, and let’s all be part of this club.

Now it’s time for the awards, let the champagne get poured,
And let’s shout our motto, all aboard… ALL ABOARD

© Ian McMillan 2020

WGC Station Heritage Space

As we go through the winter months and gardening takes backstage there is an opportunity to think about how we can help to improve the station in other ways.

We are delighted with the transformation of the Waiting Room on Platform 3 now that the Heritage and Interpretation Posters are in place.

Heritage railway posters in the waiting room

The frames,  being painted a heritage green to match the station repainting, have enhanced the overall effect.  

Many thanks to GTR and Karen Sherwin, our station manager, for their provision and installation. Also to Peter Wayne, chair of the WGC Centenary Foundation, for the ‘virtual unveiling’ of the posters.

Our aim is to make the waiting rooms more interesting places to wait.

We would like to create a exhibition areas for displaying collections of old photographs related to the station and railway.

This is where your help is needed. If you have any old photographs that we could use (or know someone who does) please get in touch.

Twelfth Night

A very happy new year to all our volunteers, sponsors and supporters! I wish health and happiness to all during these trying times.

In the tradition of twelfth night the WGC station Christmas decorations have been put away and the tree put outside.. No, not to the kerbside for the wood chipper, but planted in a station bed! We are pleased to have had a potted living tree that we hope to reuse for many years, minimising our carbon impact.

Although we are not meeting to garden at this current time, a quick inspection of the station found these cheerful blue primulas and pink cyclamen.

2020 in Review

Lynda Cowan looks back at 2020 for the All Aboarders.

What a year it has been.

Despite the setbacks, gardening continued at the station within the restrictions and with just one lengthy break between March and July so passengers and staff were still able to enjoy our efforts.

Our AGM in February was well attended. We now have 10 members on the committee.  As Coronavirus struck almost immediately afterwards the Committee members agreed to continue in their roles.

We were delighted that the gardens continued to flourish for some time. It was wonderful that Kath, an NHS essential worker and commuter, kept us updated by taking lovely photographs through the spring and early summer and posting them on our All Aboarders Facebook Page.

When gardening resumed within Covid-19 rules in July we had to replace the plants in most of our troughs. The team responded wonderfully and soon the gardens were back to their former glory.

In July our new Station Manager, Karen Sherwin arrived. Her commitment and support has been greatly appreciated.  Since she arrived many improvements have been made – adding lighting to our shed, installing our Bug City and Heritage Posters and leaflet racks in the Waiting Rooms.

Once again we were able take play our part in the Plant Rescue Scheme with dahlias, senecio angel wings and salvias from Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council who also kindly supplied winter and spring bedding from their surplus.

Thank you to all our sponsors and supporters – and especially, during the current year, to GTR for their continued funding, to all the staff at WGC Station, to County Councillors Barbara Gibson and Nigel Quentin for  Locality Grants,  to Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council for their surplus bedding plants, to Prestige Barn for the gift of Bug City and to WGC Rotary Club members for joining us in gardening sessions.

Finally thanks to all our gardening volunteers, 24 in total now, who gave over 285 hours during the year to keep our station gardens looking so amazing.  New gardeners are always welcome!

Much more was planned for 2020 particularly as we aimed to celebrate the Centenary of Welwyn Garden City but are looking forward to catching up in 2021.

The Tree on Platform 3

Tree on Platform 3 – 2020

This week the volunteers have re-created their award winning “Tree on Platform 3” in the newly revamped waiting room – on Platform 3! Last year the team entered a tree into the annual St Francis Church Christmas Tree Festival and came out top in the public vote. It was decorated with an eco-friendly theme including recycled train ticket stars, a variety of items from natures bounty and hand made garlands. This year, in a doubly eco friendly fashion, the tree was recreated with saved items along with some fresh bits and pieces including our information coasters. The tree was kindly provided by new station manager Karen and decorated in a socially-distanced covid-safe manner.

We hope this will be a new station tradition to bring some cheer to our waiting room.

Spot the difference – 2019’s award winning tree at St Francis Christmas Tree Festival

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

All Aboarders gardening volunteers had their last regular gardening session last week. Now we are taking a break for a couple of months. But we are still busy!

You can see us at the St Francis Church Chistmas Tree Festival on the afternoons of Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 December with our eco-themed entry “The Tree on Platform Three”. Here’s a sneak preview …

All Aboarders would love to see you at the Christmas Tree Festival. Proceeds go to the Church and to the First WGC Scout Group. Please support these good causes.

We wish all our volunteers, donors, sponsors and partners all the best for the festive season.

Recognition from Community Rail

Following closely on success in Anglia in Bloom, All Aboarders are now the proud holders of a Silver Certificate of Excellence from Community Rail. At a Gala Dinner on Thursday 3 October, Lynda Cowan, Chair of All Aboarders, received the certificate from the Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP) in the category It’s Your Station 2019. This is a remarkable achievement amidst stiff competition for our gardening project on WGC station, which is only just over 18 months old.

All Aboarders All Abloom

Welwyn Hatfield are celebrating an ‘exceptional’ haul of awards in Anglia in Bloom 2019. The awards ceremony took place on 10 September. See the report by the Borough Council here.

All Aboarders was pleased to share in a Special Award shortlisting for Industrial/Commercial Area, a City Category Award (silver) and an Urban Category Award (gold), all of which went to Welwyn Garden City Town Centre. The judges made a point of commending the work of All Aboarders volunteers in helping to brighten up WGC train station.

All Aboarders’ chair, Lynda Cowan, commented after the awards ceremony:

“What we have achieved in 18 months with volunteer effort and income of less than £1500 – in the form of small donations and grants (none from WHBC) – is truly remarkable”.

This echoes a recent Community Rail report on the All Aboarders project, which said:

“This is a fairly rare example of a group working on a very busy station close to London and what has been achieved is all the more remarkable as they have only been active here since spring 2018. There is potential for further work and the group is well aware of the need to plan ahead for at least a decade to ensure continuity and sustainability.”

Thanks to the continuing support of our sponsors, the station planting is still looking splendid despite the arrival of autumn and the continuing drought. In the short term we are planning our autumn/winter planting, and we are indeed starting to plan ahead.

In all, Welwyn Hatfield took home three ‘Special Awards’ after the judges shortlisted 10 local initiatives against hundreds of entrants from across the region, and then went on to claim two bronze, three silver and two golds in the ‘Category Awards’. One of the golds was for Sherrardspark Woods which also won a best in the region accolade for a Large Woodland. All Aboarders congratulates the Sherrardspark Wood Warden volunteers.

Shortlisted for Community Rail 2019 silver award

We were thrilled to learn this week that we have been shortlisted for a silver award by the Association of Community Rail Partnerships, in the category It’s Your Station. This comes as All Aboarders is barely 18 months old.


Now in their 15th year, Community Rail Awards celebrate the important and often unsung work carried out by community rail volunteers, partnerships, station friends and community groups, in bringing local people together, running community engagement and rail accessibility initiatives, and helping communities get the most from their local railway lines and stations.

We heard the welcome news just a week after a very successful gardening event at Welwyn Garden City station held with rail company GTR Great Northern. We had a fantastic morning working on the station, building on what we have already done. We are grateful to GTR who provided six new flower troughs with plants to go in them. The existing six troughs were donated by local organisations Smart10 and Digswell Community & Gardening Project.  We were all very pleased with our efforts on the day and we had fun into the bargain! The station platforms are gradually being restored to their former glory.

Gardening event 31 July 2019


We joined forces with staff from GTR Great Northern and representatives of sponsors, donors and partners on Wednesday 31 July for a gardening event. We planted up no less than six big planters, supplied by GTR. We now have 12 planters! Work continued refreshing the existing flower beds and troughs.

About 30 people attended, including guests who represented Rotary Club of Welwyn Garden City, Garden on a Roll, Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, and private donors.  It was a productive morning with much gardening and painting activity, fuelled by refreshments provided by Marchio’s café on Platform 2.

We had a fantastic morning working on the station, building on what we have already done.  We are grateful to GTR who organised the event and provided the six new flower troughs with compost and plants to go in them. The existing six troughs were donated by local organisations Smart10 and Digswell Community & Gardening Project. We were all very pleased with our efforts on the day and we had fun into the bargain!  The station platforms are gradually being restored to their former glory.

One of our private donors said:

The station itself is really looking cared for, and as the work continues, it will be a special feature for the WGC Centenary. Keep up the good work, All Aboarders, it is a pleasure to see”.

WGC Station Manager Will Buck was also enthusiastic:

“It was fantastic to see GTR, All Aboarders and the community come together to install new planters and spruce up Welwyn Garden City Station. We at GTR are excited to continue to grow and nurture the relationship between ourselves and the community.”