cuckoo line phase 1

T h e   C u c k o o   L i n e

Phase 1: Argus Hill Tunnel to

Mayfield Station

Mission operatives: Kaptainklutz, Holmbush, Skyframe, Ghost, Bugler and introducing.... 

Agent OB1!

We have been toying with the idea of investigating the "Cuckoo Line" (Eridge to Polegate, East Sussex) for quite a while now, because we have nearly exhausted most of the railways around Brighton and must now start looking a little further afield for our Industrial Architecture kicks!

And so, on a thoroughly cold, wet and smelly Sunday morning on the 8th November 2009, the dreaded "ghost-trains" crew met up at the bus garage. After a short period of faffing around trying to find Kaptainklutz and a bit of shouting from Skyframe to get us all in the car PDQ, we set off for Crowborough for the first leg of our little adventure.

There was the usual silly uncertainty about the abundance of rain, but thankfully as we got further north, the rain dried up, the sun started to put in a cautious appearance and Agent Skyframe allowed us to breathe through our mouths instead of our buttocks because the windows stopped steaming up.

Just as we got to Crowborough, the phone rang and Agent Bugler had entered the fray. Due in no small part to his fantastic knowledge of the area, he was able to direct us to a church in Rotherfield, where we found him in a layby and were able to follow him to our final destination, which we found after a little head scratching and driving up and down.

We found new chap OB1 (new to us, but incredibly learned about the Cuckoo Line!) at the scene and after various introductions, set off to find us a tunnel!

It was a pleasure to meet you OB1, we had a fantastic day and thoroughly look forward to seeing you again next time round :o)

What follows is an account of this, our first stage of investigation of the Cuckoo Line, using good old fashioned pictures and silly captions where appropriate.

This is our start point for the day, the bridge where Bassett's Lane crosses the trackbed at Argus Hill, just off the A2100 Tunbridge Wells road. Left to Right are Agents Kaptainklutz, Holmbush, Skyframe and OB1. 

ABOVE, LEFT & BELOW: After just a few hundred yards, something jumped on us from out of the bushes. The remains of an occupational bridge cross the line here. The left hand abuttment is seen above, the right abuttment is to the left and hasn't survived quite so well. Below are seen the left and right side walls of the left abuttment: the panoramic view with grey border being the less weather beaten right hand wall of the left abuttment. Confused? I had to right... er write it down.



ABOVE: This was an interesting little find just near the stile on the approach to the Tunnel: we know that a lot of the spoil of the mayfield Bypass was dumped on the trackbed, making parts of it impossible to gauge the original height. Believe it or not, this is the arch of a bridge - but the spoil has been piled up underneath it to such a degree that it bears an uncanny resemblance to a badger sett. If we'd have blinked hard we'd have missed it. 

ABOVE: It's always nice to find period coal. most people ignore it so it tends to stay put and gets buried over time. It's good to confirm the origins of some of these paths lest people forget. 

ABOVE: This interesting find was a short way before the mouth of the Argus Hill Tunnel. It's a pot with a well fitting lid, but as to its original purpose, I can't say. 



ABOVE: Here we are, finally, The Argus Hill Tunnel. This one is quite interesting despite its short distance in that it has a quite spectacularly deep cutting on one side, but the ground level over the tunnel is such that it made us wonder why they bothered. They could have just built the walls up to vertical retaining walls and put a girder bridge across for the road, really. 

The Tunnel is a fantastic peice of engineering though.  The whole thing is built on a slight curve and the construction is "cut and cover": ie: the trench was dug out, the walls were built, then the arch was constructed on top of the side walls. The retaining walls at the sides are massively over engineered and have arches all of their own.

ABOVE: The curve of the tunnel is more pronounced in this shot. Whilst the areas around the tunnel portals were quite boggy, the tunnel itself was quite dry. 

ABOVE: Some of the arches in the side retaining walls. Water ingress, as I have mentioned earlier is a bit more refined than in, say, the Lywood Tunnel, so the fungi and moss on the walls has built up very subtly, leading to some lovely colour variations. 

ABOVE: Whilst the majority of the ballast on this part of the Cuckoo Line was skimmed off after closure and with the advent of the bypass, a good amount of the original ballast remains in the tunnel and probably goes some way to explaining why it is so much drier inside than the surrounding track bed. 

ABOVE: This is the Crowborough (north) end of the tunnel. Can you spot the deliberate mistake here? The picture seen here is a stitched panorama of 12 separate photos and for each one, Agent Bugler moved along a bit, thinking he was just out of shot - he wasn't! This explains why there are 2 of him (8 originally, but I managed to edit them all out) in this photo, one looking at the tunnel and another just behind OB1, stood next to him! One Agent Bugler is trouble enough, thanks! 

If you click on this, you can see what caused it - just for fun!

ABOVE: A very pleasing parting shot of the Argus Tunnel, waiting quietly in its sleepy undergrowth for the next intrepid band of explorers to stumble upon it. 



ABOVE: Looking due North, BELOW: looking back the way we had come - towards the tunnel. 

ABOVE: looking along the bridge over the track bed.

BELOW LEFT & RIGHT: Looking over the edges.


ABOVE: We found this drainage culvert a little way on from the 3 arch bridge. 


ABOVE: Mayfield Station House. The station is now a private residence, but is in surprisingly good condition with a lot of the original features still intact. The smaller building has been reduced in size and the lovely old chimney stack has been demolished as well, compared with the older shot, but the majority of the site is pretty much unchanged.  The track would have originally run to the rear of the building in this shot, however the original level of the trackbed was excavated with the construction of the nearby bypass and there is a steep bank down to the road level at the rear of the station in the present day.

BELOW: The same view is seen in 1968, courtesy of Mr. Nick Catford and appears here for illustrative and comparative purposes only.

CLICK HERE to find out more about the station using Subterrania Brittanica


ABOVE & BELOW: Agent OB1 lead us to this formidable viaduct near to Knowle Hill and Newick Lane in Mayfield. The cutting is a very long way down, but the ghost-trains crew were soon down there...

ABOVE & BELOW: It is difficult to portray the sheer scale of this viaduct and get the whole thing into a photo! They don't really do the thing justice, but I just had to try...

BELOW LEFT: That's always the trouble with getting down - getting back up again. It was a bit tricky and quite slippery!

ABOVE: Looking up at the central span. This is usually where someone tries to dribble on my head or throw conkers at me...

BELOW: It is slightly easier to get an impression of size from a little way back.

ABOVE: This was a somewhat unexpected find in the cutting under the viaduct. It was at this point that Agent Skyframe was attacked by a small silver dog and a large group of millitant compost bins armed with a sink plunger each. "Horlicks", he called them, or something... 


ABOVE & BELOW: This is the fastest Agents Kaptainklutz, Bugler and Holmbush moved all day... We usually end the day at a pub in the area and this trek was no exception, but I thought that this pub was a wee bit special. The New Inn at Hadlow Down is quite unlike any pub I have ever been in before, because it is virtually unchanged since the day it was built and is one of the best Victorian pubs I have ever come across - a real gem. Sadly, we were too busy drinking to take photos, so next time we will have to thoroughly snap the place, coz it's lovely. Also, they served Lager and spirits as well as the usual flatulence enducing liquid treacle, so Ghost didn't get thrown out :o)


Find The New Inn for yourself here