Branch Line Britain - celebrating Britain's minor railways

Eastern - Sudbury review 1

Chapel & Wakes Colne Railway Station

Marks Tey to Sudbury (and return)  Cost £5.00 cheap day return

Dept: Marks Tey 10.33 arrive Sudbury 10.52   journey time 19 mins

Dept: Sudbury 14.00   arrive Marks Tey 14.19   journey time 19 mins

Distance: approx 12 miles            Weather:  sunny and breezy

Train: 2 car DMU (Class 156)    Single track all the way (no station crossing loops)

Railway company: One

Name of Line: The Gainsborough Line/ The Stour Valley Line

Frequency of trains – one every hour

Date of Journey:  2/5/07


I arrived at Marks Tey with just a couple of minutes to spare, but the connecting train from London Liverpool Street was late so we had to wait for that. About ten people get off that and onto our train. We were due to depart at 10.33 but actually left three minutes later, with a full car park right next to us in what was once the goods yard. There are plenty of bushes by the side of the track, many in full boom with white flowers. We start going along a high embankment where you can see the fields green with wheat that is starting to grow, but then we are in a cutting and all you can see for a few miles is greenery.

As we leave the cutting you can see many rolling hills full of grazing sheep. Then we move onto the long Wakes Colne viaduct, which takes us over the A and the dual villages of Wakes Colne and Chappel, which we can see far below. The station here is the home of the East Anglian railway museum and it’s like going back into the past. The sidings are full of old DMU’s and trucks. The station itself is painted in the green paint of the LNER and there are various black notice boards on the walls. Plus there are old semaphore signals here as the track becomes single again.  All along this route there’s evidence that it was once dual track, but much of this is overgrown. Tress and bushes block our view as we climb away from the station, but soon we see fields full of yellow oil rapeseed on both sides of the track.

As we pass the village of Mount Bures on the left we start to descend into the village of Bures where the Essex gives way to Suffolk. If ever I were a commuter working in London, this village would be as good as any to start my journey from each day. I notice that the signs on Bures Station (and Sudbury too) have the “First” covered up, but they still show the railway company as being “Great Eastern”. As we leave Bures on another high embankment the best part of the journey begins as we cross the river Stour several times, which meanders, back and forth on either side of us.  Most of the fields here are still brown, looking like they have only just been ploughed and seeded, ready for a late harvest in the autumn. I spot a scarecrow in a field to the left. You don’t often see these nowadays. Perhaps this is sign of how little the countryside and life in general has not changed in this part of England. A water treatment works on the left and a car park on the right indicate that we are approaching the outskirts of Sudbury, which has grown considerably in the past twenty years. Signs of new housing can be seen on both sides of the track. Though of course, there are still plenty of the traditional Suffolk cottages to be seen here, many of them painted the traditional pink colour, which is peculiar to this region.

We come round a tight bend and then we arrive at Sudbury station, still three minutes late, to see a group of about twenty passengers waiting for the train. Although this might be a remote branch line, the number of people using this route is encouraging. Sadly the original station is no longer standing. Just a very large bus shelter, with some fold up seats. And everywhere you look cars. Many people do commute to London from here. What a pleasant way to start the day on the Stour Valley branch line!   MC


Sudbury train at Marks Tey
Station sign at Sudbury - note Great Eastern wording