Village went off the rails with a more relaxed pace

Tony Henderson on new leases of life for two village landmarks.

Tony Henderson on new leases of life for two village landmarks.

DEEP into the South Tyne Trail is the riverside village of Slaggyford.

In the heyday of the Haltwhistle-Alston railway which ran along the valley, Slaggyford was considered important enough to merit its own station master.

Today, walkers and cyclists provide the traffic through the village, using the South Tyne Trail and the Pennine Way.

Once, the station master’s impressive house and the Methodist chapel would have been mainstay buildings in this rural community.

Now both are private homes.

When David and Mary Livesey came across the village’s 1902 Yew Tree chapel seven years ago, it had not long ceased to be a place of worship, and was up for sale. The couple were already living in a converted chapel in North Yorkshire and found Yew Tree when they were in the area visiting family at Wetherall, near Carlisle.

With Mary’s interest in stone carving and David’s in stained glass making, they were looking for a place where they could have a studio.

Their initial feelings were that Slaggyford was too remote, but the chapel was available for £55,000, complete with fittings which included the organ, pulpit and pews.

The couple set up temporary home in their two-berth caravan while they began work on the building.

After a year they had created a bedroom, bathroom, toilets and kitchen and were able to move in. The next phase included the living room and three bed and breakfast bedrooms over what had been the Sunday school, which itself became the studio.

The organ mechanism was beyond repair, so the casing complete with pipes was used for a doorway and the pulpit is now the start of a staircase.

Four pews were retained, with two providing seating for guests at table. The chapel windows were in need of repair, and David has worked his way around the building, installing his own stained glass in openings ranging from 6ft to 12ft.

The conversion won the couple a conservation award and the bed and breakfast is four-star rated.

David, 59, said: “Slaggyford is an honest little place and not in the least pretentious, and the chapel is a very happy sort of place.”

Just up the hill is the 250ft platform of the former Slaggyford station, with its 1890 wooden building which accommodated the booking office, waiting room and ladies’ room, each served by a coal fire.

On the other side of the track, the station master lived in considerably more style.

Now the trackbed is used by the walkers and bikers, although the amount of railway signs around the station master’s house leave no doubt as to its former function.

It is now the home of Michael and Wendy Ashworth. “You do get a little tired of people asking when the next train is due, but you learn to live with it,” says Michael. “We get a lot of walkers and cyclists from America, Holland and Germany who come to enjoy the South Tyne Trail and the Pennine Way.”

Michael worked for 44 years as a design engineer with a company on the Team Valley Estate in Gateshead, and the couple lived in Birtley.

They retired to Backworth in North Tyneside and then spotted the 1852 station house in Slaggyford, and made the move over two years ago.

“The railway company certainly knew how to take care of their station masters,” says Michael, who has had an interest in railways since boyhood days, when his grandfather, the manager of a brickworks, would allow him to ride on the site’s engine.

Having made the switch from Tyneside, he said: “It’s a totally different way of life here. It’s good to be able to set off for a walk along the trackbed or on to the fells, and you can watch the moon rising over those fells.

“There are lovely views, there is peace and tranquillity, and a good community spirit in the village.”

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