After an interesting stop at Lancaster Castle, we boarded the next train heading Northwards, and around 20 minutes later we arrived at Oxenholme Lake District, the mainline station in the village of Oxenholme, just outside Kendal…
Status: South Lakeland District, Cumbria (historically Westmorland), Village, England
Travel: Stagecoach (Banks – Preston), Virgin Trains (Preston – Oxenholme Lake District, via Lancaster)
Eating & Sleeping: Station Cafe
Attractions: Oxenholme Lake District, PC Russell Plaque, Lake District Views etc
Oxenholme is only a small village, although technically it could be classed as a hamlet due to the fact that it doesn’t have a Church. Despite this, it is one of the important railway stations between Lancaster and Carlisle, especially for travellers heading to the Lake District.
The sign that greets you at the station declares that Oxenholme is the Gateway to the Lake District, and that is a very accurate description, as there are no actual mainline stations inside the Lake District National Park, and Oxenholme is the only station on the Mainline that has direct trains into the Lake District also calling here. Incidentally, Oxenholme is also the only village on the entire main West Coast Main Line that has express trains stopping here, as all the other stations serve either cities or towns.
Two different train operators serve the station and it is one of only a handful in the north not served by Northern Rail. The first of the two operators is First Transpennine Express, which run two different sets of services:
1) Manchester Airport to Glasgow/Edinburgh Waverley. Alternating, calling at: Manchester Airport, Heald Green, Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Oxford Road, Preston, Lancaster, Oxenholme, Penrith, Carlisle, Lockerbie and Glasgow Central/Edinburgh Waverley.
2) Oxenholme to Windermere, calling at: Oxenholme, Kendal, Burnside, Staveley and Windermere. Some occasional services do run through from Windermere to Manchester via Preston and Lancaster, although these are only hourly.
This makes Oxenholme important as aside from a few small village stations on the Cumbrian Coast Line, access to the only main train stations in the whole National Park are accessible via Oxenholme, and from Windermere buses can take you further into the Lakes to the major towns such as Bowness, Grasmere and Keswick. Trains to do stop at Penrith just North of the Lakes however only bus connections are available from here which makes journey times much longer. Oxenholme is also around half an hours walk from the centre of Kendal, one of the largest towns surrounding the Lake District, and one we have previously visited by car so this was the first time we have ever stopped here, despite having travelled through the station at least 100 times. The train pictured is on platform 3, the Windermere Platform. Many mainline trains of both Transpennine and Virgin are timed to meet the Windermere train so you can cross from one to the other, which is especially beneficial for tourists.
The other operator at the station is Virgin Trains, who run the main intercity services from the British capital of London up to Glasgow in Scotland. Trains seem to stop alternatively at Oxenholme or Penrith, although some of them do stop at both. There are two routes that run through here with Virgin:
2) London Euston – Edinburgh Waverley via Birmingham, calling at: London Euston, Milton Keynes Central, Coventry, Birmingham International (for Airport), Birmingham New Street, Sandwell & Dudley, Wolverhampton, Crewe, Warrington Bank Quay, Wigan North Western, Preston, Lancaster, Oxenholme, Penrith, Carlisle, Haymarket and Edinburgh.
There are not many villages in the north of England that have direct trains to London, and to the next three largest cities across the UK, Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester, making Oxenholme quite special. The train pictured is heading Northwards towards Scotland on platform 2, whilst Southbound trains use platform 1. (Transpennine Express trains between Manchester and Scotland also follow this pattern).
On platform 1 is the main Ticket Office as well as the waiting room. On the left side of the entrance to the Waiting Room is a metal plaque, commemorating George William McKinlay Russell QGM, a member of the Cumberland, Westmorland and Carlisle Constabulary. In 1965 John Middleton, an escaped fugitive was cornered in the station and hid in the waiting room. Two police officers attended, one was George Russell and the other was Alex Archibald. They were both shot by Middleton, and sadly Russell died a few hours later in hospital. The plaque commemorates his bravery and dedication to duty, and was unveiled in 2007. Middleton later shot himself, whilst Alex Archibald survived and attended the plaque dedication.
Oxenholme is also notable for being the closest station to the Grayrigg Rail Crash in 2007, involving a Virgin Pendolino, which derailed just after it left the station, at nearby Grayrigg. The train careered down the embankment at almost 100 mph, yet incredibly there was only 1 fatality, as the design of the train meant it maintained its structural integrity and remained intact. The cause was later determined as a faulty point, and precautions to prevent further accidents have been taken.
There are two entrances to the station, one onto platform 1, and one into an underpass close to platforms 2 and 3. The entrance above is the first of these, and includes a small car park. This side of the station is where the original village of Oxenholme was founded and began to expand, and it all grew up around the station, which opened back in 1860 as a major junction station between the Main Line and the Kendal Branch Line off towards Windermere. The name Oxenholme was decided upon after Oxenholme Farm which was built in the Elizabethan Era (1558 – 1603).
This is the second entrance, which also contains a small car park, and allows access into the station underpass. This side is on the main road heading westwards towards Kendal, and the modern day village of Oxenholme has merged with the outer reaches of the town, so it’s almost a suburb now. As we had a while to relax at the station and take in the surrounding view, I went on a wander through a few of the village streets to see what I could see. I set off heading along this road towards Kendal.
As I said at the start of this post, there is no Church in the village, so it is technically a hamlet. The area is mainly housing with a few shops and the houses nearest to the station are quite pleasant, with the old stone wall effects added in the front garden, as is common in many areas of Cumbria. I kept going a bit further through the streets, before heading back.
The views around here are very impressive and on the way back up the station I found a stone wall which I managed to balance on long enough to get this picture, looking through the trees in one of the gardens and out over the rest of the village and the outer parts of Kendal. The mountains of the Lake District are visible in the distance, and shows what incredible location we were in.
Eventually we got our third train of the day, again heading North towards Carlisle. Oxenholme is the halfway point on our route between Preston and Carlisle so it only takes around 30 minutes from either end to reach the village. It was worth stopping here, taking a snapshot of history and celebrating the bravery of the local police. As we left on the train, we couldn’t quite believe it took us two years to stop at the station, and I wish we had earlier.
I’ll leave you with the above panoramic, looking from platform 1 in an arch across platforms 2 and 3 along the whole length of the station.