A DERELICT railway station has been transformed into one of the most attractive in Bolton in just 18 months by a band of loyal volunteers.
Friends of Westhoughton Station was set up at the end of 2012 by a group of residents who had grown tired of its wild, overgrown appearance.
With the support of neighbours, businesses and schools, the group of about 20 members has spent hours every Wednesday and on two Sundays a month working on the busy commuter station.
By planting trees and flowerbeds, carrying out litter picks, weeding and placing wooden animals on the steep station banks, a place once dismissed as “a dive” is now a source of pride for the town’s people.
The group’s chairman Stephen Freeborn said: “I don’t know what to say.
“I get a bit choked sometimes when people say aren’t you doing well. Well not really, it’s all these people that help us.
“Somebody has said to me that this is the nicest station and they have been all over Cheshire.”
The idea was put forward by treasurer Joanna Parncutt after she saw the success of volunteers at Hindley station The group handed out leaflets around Westhoughton in December, 2012, inviting people to a public meeting at the community centre.
The group, supported by vice- chairman Yvonne Woolley and secretary Val Chadwick, relies on donations, which include the hours of its volunteers, materials from businesses and gifts such as wooden figures, including animals and a large station master.
Karen Lawson, who lives in Westhoughton, said: “It’s a pleasure to get off here when you get back from a busy day in Manchester. It was derelict and scruffy-looking and vandalism round here used to be rife.
“When I bring the children they love it because something different has changed every time.”
The station has been unmanned since 1974, yet about 215,000 passengers use it every year.
And the group says its work is far from over.
Mr Freeborn added: “We’re at a stage where we’re planting and keeping it neat.
“It is almost like a social event for us as we have a good time and a bit of banter.
“I think I just looked at stations such as Hindley, which is lovely, and thought ‘why is ours so bad, I’m sure we can something about it’.”