I had a wonderfully happy childhood, mainly because I had wonderfully loving and supportive parents. They encouraged me and allowed me the freedom to make my own choices and my own mistakes. As a child that encouragement was focused on the things I most enjoyed and had a passion for – sport and music mainly – but also a love of the outdoors. Usually that meant playing any number of sports, but it also meant regular trips to such glorious playgrounds as Boscombe Beach, Kings Park, Shelley Park and the heavenly world of adventures on offer at Hengistbury Head.
Formed over 65 million years ago, an illustrious headland just beyond Southbourne, Hengistbury Head offers panoramic views of Bournemouth, Christchurch, Mudeford, out to the Isle of Wight and across the channel as far as the eyes can see. It is never without kites, walkers, nature and its lovers, and once upon a wee while ago it was home to an ‘assault course’ and a tempting selection of small-scale golfing options. As a kid it seemed vast and the possibilities for fun were endless. Amongst the many attractions was a land train, seemingly from the pages of an Enid Blyton novel it was a permanent fixture, tootling tourists and visitors twixt the Hungry Hiker Café and out to Mudeford Spit, carrying passengers and luggage along the winding, narrow sandy lanes, without fuss but with limitless charm. The Noddy Train was its name; a fleet of them have been in operation now for nearly 45 accident-free years, taking the one and a half mile journey every day except Christmas.
Now, in their infinite wisdom Bournemouth Council have decided that it’s time for the Noddy Train to go. With its licence due for renewal, the council now have plans to take ownership of the service, extending the train’s reach as far as Alum Chine. These plans mean replacing these cheap, safe, reliable, environmentally friendly, perfectly formed and much loved historic vehicles with something which, well… nobody wants. The council has made this decision without consulting local residents and visitors to Hengistbury Head. Of course not, because they know public opinion would be unanimously behind keeping the much loved and family-owned Noddy Trains. The fact is there is simply nothing wrong with them, but more than that they bring charm, character and over four decades of smiles and happiness to visitors of Hengistbury Head.
Could it just be possible the decision is being made for financial reasons? Surely it’s not down to aesthetics or the quality or popularity of the current service? This decision is wrong, and so far over 12,000 people have voiced their opinions signing an online campaign protesting against the council’s plans. Will 15,000 signatures make a difference? Will 150,000 signatures be required, or is money talking? To anyone who loves Hengistbury Head and has had the pleasure of a ride on a Noddy Train, please… sign this petition and spread the word. It may be too late, but remaining silent will achieve nothing. Say no to the council – say yes to keeping the Noddy Train!