Railway stations are important transport hubs with a definite part to play within their communities. Voluntary groups such as station adopters work in railway stations in their area up and down the UK, ensuring that they are well maintained for the benefit of residents, commuters and visitors alike.
The Friends of Beeston Station (FOBS) is a voluntary group located in the Nottinghamshire town of Beeston. It was set up in 2017 in consultation with the local MP and representatives from East Midlands Railway (EMR); formerly known as East Midlands Trains.
FOBS now has 13 active members and is registered with the Community Rail Network as a station adoption group. As part of their work, the group has annual safety briefings from EMR and is able to apply for grants from both EMR and the Community Rail Network to fund relevant projects, including many of the Amberol products that they have bought for the station. Additional volunteers also help out with labour intensive projects, including railway staff who offer support on community days organised by EMR.
Although originally set up to look at the issue of station access, the group soon realised that the station was in need of essential maintenance as well as a bit of a facelift to make it more attractive to passengers. Members of FOBS wrote a business plan outlining the necessary maintenance tasks, most of which have now been funded and completed by EMR, Network Rail, Nottinghamshire County Council, Broxtowe Borough Council and Beeston Business Park. Achievements include:
FOBS first heard about Amberol products through Attenborough Elderflowers, the station adopters group at the nearby Attenborough Station. At that time, the Beeston group was looking to improve the small, cheap floral baskets that were mounted on the railings on platform one. Because the soil dried out very quickly in these planters, maintenance was very demanding, and the flowers often failed to thrive – or sometimes just died.
FOBS now has seven Amberol half barrier baskets on the railings on platform one which are spaced out along the platform and planted with seasonal flowers – currently pansies, wallflowers and miniature daffodils. The group also has two half barrel planters by the ticket office. Amberol’s barrel planters are often a popular addition to stations as their authentic look complements the Victorian features found in many stations.
Secretary of FOBS, Sarah Hampton comments: “Self-watering planters and baskets were needed because we just couldn’t keep up with the demands of watering in hot weather. We chose Amberol products because they were recommended to us and we were impressed by their quality. Moreover, the self-watering feature has been invaluable over lockdown when our work at the station has been restricted.
“When researching the planter purchases, we were also attracted by the fact that councils use Amberol products for urban areas, so EMR was assured that they were safe to use in stations. They are too heavy to move by hand, so there is no risk of them being thrown onto the track, and they are vandal-proof and fireproof.”
The EMR team that supports FOBS has been so impressed by the Amberol products that they now encourage other station adoption groups to use them too.
Sarah concedes that Amberol’s self-watering planters aren’t the cheapest option but feels that the initial outlay is more than worth it due to the quality and longevity of the planters, as well as the fact that they create better conditions for plants to grow and thrive.
“Amberol products are easy to install; they save us time watering and we don’t lose plants when it’s dry,” she explains. “In addition, the planters don’t rot so hopefully they won’t have to be replaced for a very long time. The initial expense is definitely worth it. Furthermore, most of the products have been bought using grants from EMR as well as sponsorship from a local taxi firm, a county councillor and a donation in memory of a local businessman.”
One of the reasons why Amberol’s self-watering planters are so popular is the design which offers a generous space for roots to grow, ensuring that plants thrive. Sarah comments: “The platform planters are deep enough to allow for good flower displays and the efficient watering system means that the flowers grow well even in dry weather. This allows us to maintain bee-friendly plants in areas that would otherwise be barren. One of our aims is to encourage bees, resulting in many more flowering plants in and around the station as part of our work inspired by the Bee Friendly Trust.”
Sarah also likes the fact that the planters are made of recycled and/or recyclable materials and are made locally, complementing the group’s environmentally friendly ethos
In common with many Amberol customers, Sarah reports excellent levels of customer service, saying: “We knew how long we would have to wait for our order and the products were made on time. We have good relationships with the sales staff. I’d be very happy to recommend Amberol products for all the reasons I’ve already cited.”
A well-used, attractive railway station is important to the local economy and the feedback on the hard work that FOBS has put into the station has met with approval from the local community.
“We post photographs of everything we do on our Friends of Beeston Station Facebook page,” Sarah says. “Our latest post about the installation of the half barrel planters outside the ticket office attracted 266 likes, 26 comments and an estimated 5,000 views. Typical comments were, ‘Looks beautiful’, and ‘They look wonderful’. Passengers and passers-by often comment when we’re working, saying things like they feel proud of the station and that people notice the efforts of the volunteers, which is particularly rewarding.”
The group has also received recognition outside their community, winning a certificate of excellence in the silver level of the “It’s Your Station” category at the Community Rail Awards 2020.
Amberol are probably best known for their self-watering planters, but also offer a range of environmentally friendly benches and picnic tables for outdoor areas. In addition to their self-watering planters, FOBS has placed two Amberol sports benches on cleared land near the entrance to platform two which provides seating for people waiting for taxis. The benches are made from recycled polyethylene and so are a great green choice, as well as being splinter free and resistant to graffiti. The group is also hoping to purchase another two benches to go outside the ticket office in the near future as part of their ongoing commitment to continual enhancement.
For more information about Amberol’s range of self-watering planters, litter bins, planterware, benches and picnic tables, call 01773 830 930 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.