Stratford-upon-Avon is not very usefully located on the railway. It sits at the end of two branch lines, one which runs (slowly) to Birmingham, and the other (again, slowly) to the Chiltern Main Line at Hatton, which is near Warwick, itself near Leamington Spa. It has no southern connection: that was severed in the 1960s by (you've guessed it) Dr. Beeching. (He didn't personally remove the track, but his report condemned the line from Stratford south to Cheltenham.)
Both Bearley and Claverdon sit on the Leamington to Stratford Line, which is now the most southerly connection that Stratford has. They are the only two intermediate stations which aren't on other railway lines: The section from Leamington to Hatton is on the Chiltern Main Line, and the section from Wilmcote to Stratford is shared with the Birmingham to Stratford Line. Bearley has the lower patronage of the two, with it hovering around the 1000 mark in recent years. Claverdon's patronage is quite a bit higher (around 2500), but given that it is only 5 minutes down the line from Bearley, I thought it was worth a visit.
In the May timetable change, Stratford-upon-Avon now has regular-ish direct services to London Marylebone. However, these are quite slow and get overtaken by the Birmingham express services. Therefore, it is nearly half an hour faster to change at Leamington Spa.
I had an entire day in the Chiltern area, so I didn't go directly to Bearley to begin with. The description starts at Warwick, where my train to Bearley arrived. It had 2 coaches, and is the slowest type of train that Chiltern Railways runs. I settled down for the short journey along to Bearley. This type of train is not one I would want to spend a great deal of time on, certainly not the full 2 hours and 20 minutes from London to Stratford. Once one leaves the main line at Hatton, the journey is very much a trundle through rural Warwickshire. Claverdon station came and went (I visit it later – don't worry), and Bearley came into view 5 minutes later. Although used by few people, neither station is a request stop on most services One very early morning service treats Claverdon and Bearley as request stops, but the rest stop as normal.
My train came to a halt, and I got off. I gave the guard a wave, watched the train depart towards Stratford, and looked around the station.
Bearley is a single platform station located just off a main road about 3/4s of a mile outside the village of Bearley. The station itself has the normal facilities: shelter, help point, signs, a BT payphone, and an electronic departure board which seemed to think that all the trains were 2 minutes later than they actually arrived.
I had an hour at the station, which I spent mainly wandering up and down the short platform, and failing to get decent pictures of passing trains.
Bearley is one of those stations which is managed by a different Train Operating Company (TOC) to the one which stops more often. It is managed by West Midlands Trains, which only serves it once per day. Chiltern Railways serve much more frequently (about 10 times per day), but don't manage the station. To be fair, I doubt there is much management to such a small station.
Just under 1 hour after I'd arrived, the train returned to take me one stop back to Claverdon.
Claverdon is rather similar to Bearley. It is located below the road rather than above, and its platform is significantly longer. I'm not quite sure why Claverdon has such a long platform given that the longest train that could use the station is 6 coaches, and even that would be rare. Like Bearley, Claverdon station is located quite a distance from Claverdon actual (closer to 1 mile this time). Claverdon station is also not served by any buses, unlike Bearley.
One person used the station whilst I was there: a female got on the train that I got off. Otherwise, only passing cars disturbed me (there were quite a lot of them though). Other than humans, a small cat decided to explore the railway line near the station. At one point I got slightly nervous as a train was due to pass the station, and cats have no knowledge of railway timetables. Thankfully, the cat left the railway before the train passed.
Another hour had passed, and another train arrived. This one was to take me to Stratford-upon-Avon. The journey was uneventful, and the train even arrived early. Then again, Chiltern had sent out an 100mph max train on a service which is usually covered by a 75mph max unit.
Neither station is ever going to have a very high patronage. However, the fact that they are located a fair distance from the settlements they are supposed to serve, and the sparse service, means that they don't help themselves gain any more patronage. For the residents of Bearley and Claverdon, it may well be far easier to get a bus or drive to their destination rather than walk out to the station and wait for the next train.
Author - Felix