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Uncovering the forgotten railway station that was rescued and turned into a pillar of the community

Located in the heart of Levenshulme, Station South is an ace community pillar.

Station South, Levenshulme

Levenshulme Station

Born out of a passion for community spirit, the owners have transformed a disused railway station into a thriving cycle café, bar, bike workshop, and urban garden.

With a welcoming ambience, great menu, and commitment to making community connections, Station South has quickly become a beloved destination for locals and visitors alike.

Three Levenshulme residents: Pauline Johnstone, Mark Jermyn, and Abigail Pound, the Managing director all took on the monumental task of re-building the derelict train station and turning it into the beautiful place you see today.

Levenshulme South train station restoration

We sat down with Abigail, to talk about restoring the old Levenshulme South train station to its former glory.

She said: “The first time I’d heard about the space it was my good friend and local legend Jamie Whittaker who mentioned it to me.

He said, ‘This place has so much potential to become a great spot. We’ve got to do something with this building’.

“And that was it. It’s a heritage asset, a really beautiful building and even though many people would overlook it because of its dilapidated condition, there was so much potential there.

“When we got involved, there was a condition survey that indicated it was nearing the point of no return, just a few years away from being beyond restoration.

“It was a close call, as it was really on its last legs. We worked tirelessly over several years to persuade the landlord to invest in the building and lease it to our group of residents.

A community interest company

“In 2017 we formed a community interest company (CIC) to ensure that the benefits of all the investment of time and money when we opened as a business, would be returned to the community.

“We conducted a crowdfunding campaign and, to our surprise, received over £60,000 in support from more than a thousand individuals and organisations.

“We made promises to deliver various things, and we had to follow through on them. It involved a lot of fundraising, hard work, and determination, especially during the pandemic.”

And after much hard work, they eventually opened their doors on March 2022.

Station South Cafe sits on a midpoint of the  Fallowfield loop between Chorlton and Audenshaw, in a wonderful wildlife corridor that wraps South Manchester.

So if you’re looking for a great pitstop on a beautiful bike ride, this is the place for you.

Looking forward, they’ve got big plans to build a community garden to help people learn how to grow food and create a habitat where local wildlife can flourish.

The new Green Hub project to create a community garden has been made possible by a grant from ‘the Green Spaces Fund’.

“We want people to come here, and connect with nature,” said Abigail.

A Community Cafe

The beautiful interior

Station South embraces its role as a community gathering place, inviting people from all walks of life to come together, relax, and enjoy themselves.

The café and bar offer a thoughtfully crafted menu that caters to diverse tastes and dietary preferences.

From expertly brewed coffee and loose-leaf teas to locally brewed beers, kombucha, and tantalising cocktails, there is something to suit everyone.

Simply beautiful

The menu includes breakfast and brunch options, seasonal one-pot specials, and their highly acclaimed Sunday Roasts.

Station South have recently launched an evening menu, further enhancing the dining experience.

Abigail continued: “Making people feel welcome and creating a better environment is a significant aspect of what we aim to achieve here.

“We want to create a welcoming space where everyone feels included. The station is particularly family-friendly, offering ample space that is bright and beautiful.”

Post covid challenges

“It has certainly been challenging, particularly in the post-Covid period, to open and operate effectively. We strive to strike a balance in ensuring the business runs well while maintaining accessibility for everyone to be part of our initiatives.

“That being said, we’re here to stay. It’s a beautiful heritage asset that’s been restored to its former glory, and it contributes to the identity of the area and the charm of the High Street.

“It’s a process that takes time, but we’re committed to honouring the initial investment and belief that people showed in us through the crowdfunding campaign.”

Reviving bicycles and a cycling culture

Bicycle repair workshop

At the heart of Station South lies its bike workshop, a haven for cycling enthusiasts and novices alike.

The knowledgeable team provides repair services, offers a wide range of parts and accessories, and actively encourages people to learn how to fix their bikes.

Whether it’s a simple repair or a comprehensive overhaul, the workshop is dedicated to keeping bicycles in optimal condition and ensuring riders can explore the streets of Manchester safely.

With an array of bike-related products and gifts available, Station South is a treasure trove for cycling enthusiasts.

Station South has come a long way

Abigail continued: “We’ve constructed an accessible path that connects the main path to the high street, leading visitors to our venue and onto the bustling high street. This has significantly enhanced the connection between the Fallowfield Loop.

“We also have a community cycling club that caters to cyclists of all levels. We have yellow rides, which are family-friendly and suitable for beginners who prefer off-road cycling.

“Then there are blue rides, which are slightly longer and faster, often taking on gravel routes. And for the more experienced riders, we offer pink rides, which are faster and cover longer distances.

“It’s fantastic because people can join our club at any level of cycling experience. Whether they haven’t ridden a bike in years or they’re looking to explore further, we provide various options. We also offer bikes for those who need access to them.

“Moreover, we have a bike workshop where we repair bicycles. We also host events at Station South, organise bike rides, fix bikes with people and our Women in the Workshop maintenance sessions have been immensely popular, reflecting the high demand in town.”§

An urban garden oasis in Manchester

Hard at work in the community garden

Beyond the bustling café and workshop, Station South also boasts an ever growing urban garden that promises to be a tranquil oasis for visitors.

Ever-evolving under development, this green space blooms with vibrant flowers and offer a serene setting where guests can unwind amidst nature.

It is an ideal spot to sip a refreshing beverage, savour a delicious meal, or simply bask in the beauty of the surroundings.

Abigail said Station South want to help people to engage in sustainable growing practices to help the environment at large.

She said: “Our goal is to showcase various examples of sustainable growing practices and permaculture principles in the garden’s design.

“We utilise reused materials and adopt sustainable growing techniques to demonstrate how to grow vegetables, herbs, and wildlife-friendly plants while increasing biodiversity.

“We’re part of a larger network as we are situated on a greenway that extends around Manchester.

“Additionally, there are many individuals in wider areas who have limited space for gardening, such as small yards.

“We offer workshops where people can learn new skills such as how to sow seeds, and we encourage them to take the knowledge and apply it in their own homes or gardens, even if it’s just on a window ledge or in a few pots.

“We aim to create a network of individuals who can inspire each other and share their experiences. For instance, we recently conducted a workshop on building a bug village, where participants learned to construct habitats for different wildlife and were able to replicate them on a smaller scale in their yards.

“The community’s input has been valuable in the design process.

“Several years ago, we engaged in a co-design process to create the original garden design. We recently revisited it for the development of this community garden within the wider site, and we sought input from the community.

“We will be sharing the updated design soon. It was a delightful workshop where participants shared their ideas, and despite creating their own individual mood boards, there were many similarities in their visions, it was truly heartwarming.”

Manchester’s amazing community spirit

Station South is not just a business; it is a labour of love that owes its success to the unwavering support of the community and numerous partners.

From the restoration and development of the building to the continuous contributions of businesses, organisations, and contractors, Station South has flourished thanks to the collective efforts of dedicated individuals.

Partnerships with local and national entities, such as the Railway Heritage Trust, Transport for Greater Manchester, and Cycling UK, have played a pivotal role in breathing life back into this community landmark.

Abigail said: “Developing public spaces that meet the needs of the local community is essential for local democracy and reducing individual impacts on climate change. By providing services locally, people don’t have to travel long distances, reducing their carbon footprint. Most of our employees work within walking distance, further minimising their impact.

“We received support from various organisations throughout the project.

“Architectural Heritage provided guidance and support, as they had experience with restoration.

“The Key Fund Railway Heritage Trust recognised the value of maintaining old railway buildings and saw the potential of having a thriving, sustainable business within the station. Sport England acknowledged the importance of developing community assets that facilitate activities like cycling.

“Cycling UK has been supportive through grants and community sessions, helping us engage with the community. Local individuals and customers have also been incredibly supportive, offering their time and assistance whenever needed, from helping with physical tasks to contributing to videos or painting.

“The enthusiasm and support from the community has been tremendous. There was a build-up of excitement even before the opening, as our project is unique and offers a distinct experience. It’s a versatile space that caters to everyone at different times, whether they want a healthy and active environment or a place to relax with a cocktail or enjoy a Sunday roast.

“While there have been challenges, such as rising prices due to factors like Brexit and the pandemic, we had to make difficult decisions to stay within budget without compromising key elements. The site itself posed complexities, like the presence of a pipeline that restricted planting big trees. However, we found creative solutions to incorporate greenery and height into the space.

“The project also faced discussions with engineers about maintaining level access throughout the venue, as raising the floor level was being considered for reinforcement purposes. We were committed to ensuring full accessibility, and after numerous conversations, we reached a satisfactory solution.”

A beacon of Community Spirit

Station South Community Interest Company, established by passionate residents in 2017, spearheaded the restoration project.

Their vision was to create a welcoming space that would benefit the community in multiple ways.

By blending the historical significance of the railway station with modern amenities and community-focused initiatives, Station South has become a beacon of community spirit, encouraging connection and fostering a sense of belonging.

Looking to the future, Abigail remains optimistic about developing and growing within the community.

She said “By creating a welcoming, friendly space, we want to enable people to gather, generate new ideas, embark on new projects, and unleash their creativity.

“In terms of our plans, we are considering workshops, such as wintergreen woodworking, as well as enhancing the space to create a beautiful garden where people can sit and enjoy.

“Witnessing the development, evolution, and growth of the gardens is truly exciting.

“We are also dedicated to establishing a community cycling club and providing training opportunities for people to learn how to lead rides. It is gratifying to see individuals progress from learning to ride to becoming ride leaders and even trainers.

“This journey encourages more people to engage in walking, cycling, and being part of a broader community, fostering greater interest and exciting activities.”

“We really value the input of our customers and are open to their ideas and suggestions for future ideas moving forward.

The History of Station South

  • Station South, originally known as Levenshulme, opened on May 2, 1892, as part of the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway (MSLR).
  • In 1897, MSLR became the Great Central Railway (GCR), marking a significant change for the station.
  • By 1900, Levenshulme Station had a goods yard, enabling the transportation of freight alongside passenger trains.
  • The introduction of electric trams in the early 1900s led to a decline in passenger numbers on the Fallowfield Loop line.
  • Despite the decline, express services and goods services continued to utilize Levenshulme Station until the mid-1900s.
  • During World War II, the British government took control of the railways, impacting stations like Levenshulme.
  • The Transport Act of 1947 resulted in the nationalization of British railways in 1948, setting the stage for a decline in stations’ usage.
  • The late 1940s and 1950s saw the implementation of the “Beeching cuts,” which aimed to reduce the rail network, particularly branch lines.
  • The decline of steam locomotives, the rise of diesel and electric engines, and changes in freight transportation further affected smaller branch lines and their stations.
  • By 1958, passenger services to Levenshulme Station were reduced to a few trains per day, leading to its closure for passengers on July 5 of that year.
  • Although closed to passengers, the station remained in use for goods trains until 1965, and the line itself served other passenger services.
  • In the 1980s, the station’s platform buildings were demolished, but the platforms remained unused for several years.
  • In the early 1990s, a group of local cyclists formed the “Friends of the Fallowfield Loop” to advocate for the conversion of the line into a greenway.
  • By 2001, the Friends of the Fallowfield Loop successfully lobbied for the transformation of the old railway line into a traffic-free greenway.
  • The Fallowfield Loop, an eight-mile-long linear park and wildlife corridor, became the largest of its kind in the UK, connecting various areas of south Manchester.
  • The station building went through multiple uses but fell into decline until 2016 when it became vacant again.
  • In 2017, a local group initiated efforts to restore and repurpose the building, leading to the establishment of a Community Interest Company.
  • Abigail Pound, Mark Jermyn, and Pauline Johnston played pivotal roles in planning and developing a sustainable future for Station South.

You can find them at 975-977 Stockport Road, Levenshulme, Manchester M19 3NP

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