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Above: On 16th October 2010, members of the club's Southern Area walked along part of the former Test Valley line between Stockbridge and Mottisfont, taking lunch at the John of Gaunt Inn (formerly The Railway Inn) at the intermediate village of Horsebridge. While there, members were lucky enough to see this fine Marshall traction engine which, after the crew had been fed and watered in the pub, clanked off westwards over the River Test towards Houghton or Broughton. (Jeff Vinter)

December 2011. Tavistock to Plymouth, Devon. Regular visitors to these pages will know already about Devon County Council's exciting plans for Drake's Trail, which will re-use much of the former GWR branch line between Tavistock and Plymouth. Progress can now be followed via DCC's website for the project, which can be found at www.drakestrail.co.uk; we note that completion is planned for 2012. Also in Tavistock, the town's former LSWR station (see www.oldtavistockrailwaystation.co.uk) was on the market back in 2008 but has now been sold and recently was recommended by Paul Atterbury – a Vice President of this club – for a National Railway Heritage Award. It now trades as 'Old Tavistock Railway Station Cottages', which are available for let – a superbly appropriate venue for anyone who is planning a visit to this part of the country, which is well endowed with railway paths. (Tim Grose)

December 2011. Roslin to Loanhead and Straiton, Midlothian. The summer 2011 issue of the Scottish edition of 'The Hub' (Sustrans' regional supporters' newsletter) included the following report: 'The popular railway path from Roslin to Loanhead has been extended to Straiton Pond, just south of the Edinburgh city bypass, where it links with a path to Straiton Retail Park. In the long-term, we hope this will form part of a direct cycle route into central Edinburgh ...' The extension brings this route – formerly part of the North British Railway's Glencorse branch – up to ca. 2 miles. (Tim Grose and Sustrans Ltd)

December 2011. Oban to Fort William, Oban/Highlands. We reported in July 2006 that most of the former Ballachulish branch between North Connel and Ballachulish was proposed for conversion into a Sustrans cycle trail (NCN78). Substantial progress has now been made. The section from Kentallen to Ballachulish has been open for several years, but this summer saw completion of an even longer stretch from the Sealife Centre at Dalrannoch to Creagan Bridge, Inverfolla and North Dallens, which adds a further 7 miles of former railway to the route. Completion is planned for summer 2014, but already the trail is attracting a high level of use. (Tim Grose)

December 2011. Bathgate to Drumgelloch, North Lanarkshire/West Lothian. Further to our report in February (click here), it transpires that the re-located cycle trail between Bathgate and Drumgelloch is not so complete as we had been led to believe. (The cycle trail had to be re-located when Network Rail started re-building the railway between Bathgate and Drumgelloch.) Sustrans reports that the section between Drumgelloch and Plains is not yet open due to a combination of ground conditions and landowner issues; Network Rail and North Lanarkshire Council are currently working on designs for a replacement path adjacent to the main A89, which they hope to complete towards the end of this year. Network Rail is also still completing works on the other sections of the route, including erecting signage, millennium mileposts and artworks removed from the original railway path. (Tim Grose and The Strathclyde Cycle Campaign)

December 2011. Exmouth to Lympstone, Devon. Now here's something different! There is a still an operational railway between Exmouth and Lympstone, though not on the scale seen in the 1960s, when Exmouth still had a substantial 4-platform station reminiscent of Bognor Regis in Sussex, with multiple tracks heading north out of the station before the branch line to Tipton St. John curved away to the east and marched across a substantial brick-built viaduct before running around the southern boundary of Phear Park. (Phear Park, incidentally, is now the start of a railway path - part of NCN2 - which leads to Littleham and Knowle on the western edge of Budleigh Salterton.) The local authority's website takes up the story: 'The section of the Exe Estuary Trail from Exmouth to Lympstone was officially opened on 29 February and immediately enjoyed by thousands the following day at a fun event organised by Devon County Council. The traffic free path has been built, at a cost of £2.2 million, alongside the railway branch line, with a long stretch of boardwalk over marshy ground and raised sections providing excellent views over the estuary.' More information is available from the Devon County Council website, which is accessible here, while the website for the Exe Valley Trail – of which Exmouth to Lympstone forms a part – is accessible here. The next goal is Topsham. (Tim Grose)

December 2011. Swindon to Marlborough, Wiltshire. Sustrans established a path on about 8 miles of the former Midland & South Western Junction Railway between Chiseldon and Marlborough in 1988. This was later extended from Chiseldon to Coate Water on the southern edge of Swindon, although the trail leaves the route of the old railway north of Chiseldon at the point where the M4 starts to use the trackbed. Now 'Marlborough News Online' has reported the launch of a new supporters group to promote and develop the trail. Their website (www.friendsofthepath.org.uk) includes some excellent guides and maps – the one here shows the route from Chiseldon to Swindon. (Tim Grose)

December 2011. Maiden Newton to Bridport, Dorset. Sustrans is now preparing its planning application for the section of path between Loders and Bridport. This is the trickiest part of the whole route because the railway formation between Loders and Bradpole (near Bridport station) was eradicated not long after the line closed in May 1975, leaving the direct link between the two villages as a narrow but busy lane with poor visibility - far from ideal for the intended multi-use path for walkers, cyclists, wheelchair users, etc. If planning permission is granted, this off-road link will form a substantial first section to open next year. (Peter Henshaw)

December 2011. Bishop's Stortford to Braintree, Essex. Regular visitors to these pages will know this route as The Flitch Way, which is maintained by Essex County Council. What we didn't know is that the route has a supporters' organisation called the Friends of the Flitch Way, which in August this year completed the reconstruction of Bannister Green Halt between Felsted and Rayne. This type of project is always welcome because railway paths are more interesting if they possess some features along the way; the reconstructed stations at Wheathampstead (Hertfordshire) and Bramley & Wonersh (Surrey) are examples of similar projects. (Phil Wood)

December 2011. Paddock Wood to Hawkhurst, Kent. With the exception of Horsmonden Parish Council, all of the local authorities along the course of this former SECR branch line are keen to see it converted into a railway path for walkers and cyclists. (Horsmonden has declined to participate on the grounds that most of the line within its area is privately owned and in places eradicated.) There is a good synopsis of the project at the end of the Wikipedia article here (search for 'Proposed cycleway'), but the section of this article specific to the proposed cycle trail can also be read here. (Tim Grose)

December 2011. Stodhart Tunnel, Derbyshire. Stodhart Tunnel on the Peak Forest Tramway near Chapel-en-le-Frith remains on English Heritage's 'At Risk' register, as reported in the Buxton Advertiser on 3rd November 2011. Built in 1796, the tunnel is considered to be the oldest surviving rail related tunnel in the world and was described in detail in Mark Jones's article in 'Railway Ramblings' No. 127, Autumn 2010. The tunnel is a grade 2* listed building and is classed as priority B by English Heritage, it being at immediate risk of further rapid deterioration. The local Stodhart Tunnel Preservation Trust has referred local 'land ownership difficulties' to the Land Tribunal. It is not clear what exactly these difficulties are, although it is conceivable that there is some doubt as to the present ownership given that the tramway was formally abandoned in July 1925. The tunnel lies within the private grounds of a residential care home. (Brian Bethune)

December 2011. Midsomer Norton to Chilcompton, Somerset. Further to the appeal which we published in October, we are pleased to report that the Somerset & Dorset Railway Heritage Trust came third in NatWest's 'Community Force' poll and has received £6,000 in funding towards the new shared use path which it intends to build alongside the line it is relaying between Midsomer Norton and Chilcompton. This new path will make an end-on connection at Midsomer Norton with the soon-to-be-completed rail trail from Bath. (Mike Rutter and Matt Skidmore)

November 2011. Ladmanlow to Hillhead Junction and Bakewell to Rowsley, Derbyshire. In May, we reported that Norman Baker had opened various tunnels on the Monsal Trail, but it transpires that he was unable to do so thanks to the eruption of Grimsvotn volcano in Iceland and consequent disruption to air travel. Instead, the opening was performed by the Duke of Devonshire at the northern portal of Headstone Tunnel. Representatives of Derbyshire County Council and the Peak District National Park Authority stressed that this 9 mile section was just part of their pursuit to complete a 60 mile 'White Peak Circuit Trail'. The completed circuit would extend the southern end of the Monsal Trail from Bakewell down through Matlock and on to Cromford, where it would connect to the southern end of the High Peak Trail. In the north, a loop would be built from Topley Pike round through Buxton to connect back to the northern end of the High Peak Trail at Hurdlow.

Already, planning permission has been given by High Peak Borough Council for a 2½ mile section of the Cromford & High Peak Railway to be opened up between Ladmanlow (SK 040717) and Hillhead Junction (SK 067703). Since then, a local charity, Peak Cycle Links, has been negotiating the land license agreements, the majority of which are now in place. On the old Midland main line (Manchester to St .Pancras), permission has been gained to open up a 2¼ mile section of line through the Haddon Hall Estate from Coombs Road, Bakewell (SK 230678) to Rowsley (SK 254660) which will mean the opening of the half mile Haddon Tunnel. (Brian Bethune)

October 2011. Hallatrow to Limpley Stoke, Somerset. This has long been a good line to explore because, where the old railway is not publicly accessible, there are convenient, attractive and interesting diversions along the towpath of the former Somersetshire Coal Canal and/or the public footpath that follows the Cam Brook. Access to the trackbed is currently as follows:

  • Hallatrow to Goosard Bridge, nr. Paulton (ST 639573 to ST 654577) is a permissive footpath of just under 1 mile – and a considerable improvement upon the public right of way (The Limestone Link) which runs just north of the old railway.
  • East of Goosard Bridge to Radford (ST 657577 to ST 673578) enjoys some permissive access, with a public footpath (The Limestone Link) covering the last ¼ mile of trackbed to the public highway at Radford. Traveller occupation of the trackbed at ST 664578 on the approach to Dunford Farm, and a missing bridge shortly after that at ST 666578 (approx.), make the parallel towpath of the nearby canal an appealing option. The dried up canal bed is intact along this section, while both Timsbury and Paulton Basins survive at the western end – and both are still in water. The footpath from ST 660577 northwards to Timsbury Bottom and Timsbury is a former tramway, while the public footpath that starts at ST 659576 and heads south towards Paulton is believed to follow the course of that village's connecting tramway. (The whole area around the old canal basins is well worth exploring.)
  • Combe Hay to nr. South Stoke (ST 738602 to ST 747604) is shown on the Ordnance Survey's Landranger 172 as a public footpath based on ½ mile of the former trackbed. An interesting circular walk can be had by following the Limestone Link back between these two points, since it passes a series of abandoned locks on the former coal canal – part of the Combe Hay flight of 22 conventional locks, which replaced the three caisson locks originally constructed near this location. A caisson lock, in very simple terms, is an elevator for canal boats: the boats are floated into a large, watertight box (the 'caisson') which is submerged in a deep masonry-lined and water-filled chamber connected to an exit tunnel at the bottom. Had the idea worked, it would have speeded up the operation of the canal immensely, but local geological problems defeated the technology.
  • Monkton Combe to nr. Dundas Aqueduct (ST 776621 to ST 782621) is now a ½ mile long access road to the private Monkton Combe School, but also part of NCN24. At the eastern end, just beyond the viaduct which carries the A36 above the old railway, an excellent new connecting path has been constructed. It runs north below the only part of the Somersetshire Coal Canal which is still in water, and joins the Kennet & Avon Canal at Dundas Aqueduct, where walkers and cyclists can proceed north to Bath or south to Devizes, as the mood takes them.

This very attractive area (once part of the Somerset coalfield) is full of industrial archaeology and well worth a visit. If you have ever seen 'The Titfield Thunderbolt', the famous railway comedy from Ealing Studios, you will know what to expect in terms of scenery. (Jeff Vinter)

October 2011. Weymouth to Portland, Dorset. Further to our report in June (see here), we are delighted to report that Dorset County Council began work to install a new bridge crossing of Newstead Road on the Rodwell Trail on Monday 17th October, following earlier fears that the cost of the scheme had risen to a prohibitive level. To judge from the report in the local newspaper, The Dorset Echo, the 2012 Olympics have been the saviour of the scheme – the marine events are being held in the area, and so the Olympic Delivery Authority is contributing part of the £835,000 cost. (The other major contributors are Sustrans and Dorset CC.) However, the design of the new bridge has also been simplified, with all of the original costly 'artistic embellishments' being discarded in order to save money. Newstead Road will be closed to northbound traffic for 20 weeks, which has caused some consternation locally, although southbound traffic will be able to get through, as will walkers and cyclists who use the trail. Completion is expected in February 2012. (Martin Reeves)

Above: The rapid response unit which went out to investigate the state of the Downs Link between Christ's Hospital and Shoreham-by-Sea on Sunday 16th October 2011. (For further details, see story below.) The photograph was taken on the restored Shoreham Toll Bridge, which became railway property in the 19th century when the Duke of Norfolk insisted that the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway took it off his hands as part of a complex land sale. The riders, from left to right, were Richard Dexter, Simon Alexander and Roger Orpin, with Jeff Vinter behind the camera.

October 2011. Christ's Hospital to Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex. We are pleased to report that the surface of the Downs Link, which utilises most of the old railway line between Christ's Hospital and Shoreham-by-Sea, has undergone a lot of re-surfacing work recently, delivering a marked improvement over long sections of this 20 mile route. Several sections between Southwater and Wyckham Farm (north of Bramber) have been re-surfaced with a top dressing of rolled limestone dust, while most of the Adur District Council section south of the old cement works at Beeding has been renewed with compacted aggregate. Just a year ago, the section from Beeding to Shoreham sported a yellow clay finish, which by mid November was waterlogged and very slippery. Now, only a mile of this surface remains, near the A27 flyover, and it is to be hoped that this 'last vestige' will be made good in the near future. Having said all this, it will not surprise readers to learn that use of the trail appeared to be significantly up on the level observed last year! (Jeff Vinter)

October 2011. Cambus to Alva, Clackmannanshire. A half mile section of NCN76 has been diverted on to part of the former Alva branch between NS 850946 and NS 849951, providing a high quality all-weather alternative to the previous muddy path through Cambus Pools Nature Reserve. (Sustrans Ltd and Jeff Vinter)

October 2011. South Leith, Lothian. The Scottish edition of 'The Hub', Sustrans' quarterly supporters' newsletter, reports that another railway path is about to join Edinburgh's already excellent network of such routes: 'Later this year, City of Edinburgh Council plans to begin work on the construction of a traffic-free path along the old railway line from the eastern end of Leith Links to Seafield Road, which will link to Portobello Promenade.' An examination of the local map suggests that this refers to a short branch off the Portobello Junction to Leith Docks line; S.K. Baker's Rail Atlas labels the two ends of this short line as 'Leith South' and 'Leith South Goods'. (Sustrans Ltd and Jeff Vinter)

October 2011. Brompton-on-Swale, Yorkshire. Sustrans has now started work on the old railway bridge that crosses the River Swale at SE 226993 to the south east of Brompton-on-Swale. Brompton was served by the station at nearby Catterick Bridge on the NER's branch line from Eryholme Junction (south of Darlington) to Richmond. However, the bridge in question is not on this line, but on the 'sub branch' which ran from a junction just west of Catterick Bridge station to Catterick Camp, now known as Catterick Garrison. The objective is to create a new traffic-free crossing of the river, which will turn the footpaths and bridleways on either side into a more useful network. The Royal Engineers have agreed to include the bridge in their community assistance scheme; the plan is to fit a new prefabricated wooden structure on to the existing iron bridge, which is owned by Yorkshire Water and carries, not surprisingly, a water main. (Jeff Vinter and Margaret Lowery, Brompton-on-Swale Parish Clerk)

October 2011. Hincaster to Arnside, Cumbria. The proposed Hincaster Trailway will link NCN6 with NCN20 using the Furness Railway's disused branch line from Hincaster to Arnside. In recent months, volunteers working for Sustrans have been clearing the route, and a 1 kilometre section is already open at the Hincaster end. If you want to get involved in future work days on this or other local projects, please contact Sustrans Manchester on 0161 923 6050. (Sustrans Ltd and Jeff Vinter)

October 2011. Rose Grove to Simonstone, Lancashire. In recent years, Sustrans and other agencies have been converting parts of the former Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway's line from Rose Grove to Blackburn into a cycle trail. The most recent development sees the existing trail from near Rose Grove station extended to the A6068 near Simonstone, skirting around Padiham. The extended trail now runs from SD 806321 (just off the towpath of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal) to SD 780335, a distance of 2 miles. Sustrans reports: 'We knew it [the new greenway] was going to be popular with local people and visitors to the area. However, we didn’t know it would go on to become such a terrifically well used route, described by the local Mayor as "Padiham’s M6", and that it would garner an award from the European Greenways Association.' (Sustrans Ltd and Jeff Vinter)

October 2011. Bennerley Viaduct, Nottinghamshire. Further to our earlier report on this amazing structure (amazing as much for its survival as its size), Sustrans has recently reported as follows: 'We have completed a study on Bennerley Viaduct to assess its potential for future use as part of a network of routes between Nottingham and Derby via Ilkeston. We’re now working with the local authority to see how we can take the project forward.' (Sustrans Ltd)

October 2011. Measham to Conkers, Derbyshire. Yes, there is a place called Conkers; it's at the site of Moira West Junction, where the Ashby & Nuneaton Joint line met the MR line from Leicester to Burton-on-Trent. This 3½ mile section of former railway on NCN63 is now designated 'The Ashby Woulds Heritage Trail' and runs through a landscape which was once industrial but now forms part of the new National Forest. The route starts at the restored Measham station and extends to Conkers, a 'forest-themed attraction with a variety of activities including a steam railway and enchanted forest adventure play area.' Conkers is the main visitor centre for the National Forest, which is hardly surprising with a name like that! (Sustrans Ltd and Jeff Vinter)

October 2011. Crosskeys to Treharris, Gwent/Mid Glamorgan. The latest edition of 'The Hub' (Sustrans' supporters magazine) for Wales states: 'In the Valleys Regional Park, we are extending the National Cycle Network by developing over 100 extra miles of walking and cycling paths on former tramways, railway lines and towpaths, all legacies of the south Wales Valleys’ industrial past.' Already, new and extended routes, many of them on former railways, are becoming available. NCN47 between Crosskeys and Treharris is a case in point. Ten years ago, the Gwent end of this route was the Sirhowy Valley Country Park, which ran 4½ miles from Crosskeys (ST 213914) to Gelligroes (ST 175947). Now at Gelligroes, it continues west via Hengoed and Nelson to Treharris (ST 098968), another 5½ miles. The end of the route at Treharris is less than a mile from the Taff Trail at Edwardsville, which offers off-road connections (largely based on old railways and tramways) to Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil and Brecon. (Jeff Vinter)

October 2011. King's Lynn to North Wootton, Norfolk. We have just (i.e. very belatedly) become aware of a railway path that starts just outside the still operational railway station in King's Lynn. The trail begins at grid reference TF 628199 and follows the former GER Hunstanton branch for just under 2 miles to the A1078 at TF 633222, where it turns east and runs for a short distance alongside the road to reach the village of North Wootton. Further north, between Dersingham and just south of Snettisham, another section of the same line now accommodates a public footpath, which runs from TF 680308 to TF 681326; this is approximately 1 mile long. (Jeff Vinter)

October 2011. Moretonhampstead to Bovey Tracey, Devon. Devon County Council has just opened the first section of the Wray Valley Trail along this former GWR branch line, and is 'moving forward' with permission to construct the next section to Lustleigh. The council is working southwards from the Moretonhampstead end of the line, where the new trail can be accessed from Brinning Lane. (Sustrans Ltd and Jeff Vinter)

October 2011. Various locations. Further to our report on plans for a Midsomer Norton to Chilcompton railway path (click here), we have discovered that a number of railway-based projects around the country are bidding for funds from NatWest's Community Force scheme. These projects are listed below, with their purpose explained in brackets.

  • Alston to Slaggyford, Cumbria (improve part of the South Tyne Trail for wheelchair users)
  • Malton to Driffield, Yorkshire (re-open part of this former NER line as a heritage steam railway)
  • The Mountsorrel Railway, Leicestershire (restore an industrial railway which once linked local stone quarries with the Great Central Railway near Swithland – essentially, restore a branch line off the preserved GCR between Leicester North and Loughborough)
  • Pontycymer to Brynmenyn, Mid Glamorgan (restore a disused GWR branch line in the Garw Valley)

Obviously, not all of the above can win but, given the number of different railway projects that have applied for grants, it is likely that some of NatWest's community money will end up helping a railway scheme of some kind. (Tim Grose)

Above: A view of the Cambridge to St. Ives guided busway and its accompanying cycle trail (part of NCN51) taken at TL 394682, west of Longstanton, looking towards St. Ives. The busway with its widely spaced lateral bars is reminsicent of Brunel's broad gauge track, where the transverse sleepers were similarly spaced. Since this photograph was taken, the busway has become a haven for weeds, and it is possible that the operators will need to deploy weed-killing buses (or the equivalent) to keep the vegetation under control. While not wishing to detract from a valuable new resource for local cyclists, it will be a tough ride along here when the wind gets up! 20th November 2009. (Cambridge Cycling Campaign; photograph used under the terms of the creative commons licence)

October 2011. Cambridge to St. Ives, Cambridgeshire. The controversial guided busway along the former branch line from Cambridge to St. Ives finally opened on 7th August 2011. It incorporates a wide, high quality cycle trail alongside, which makes the route ideal for walkers and cyclists; in fact, the busway is set to become part of NCN51. Cambridgeshire County Council published an 'official supplement' to celebrate the busway's opening, but it has been removed from their website, possibly in the light of further problems which are still rumbling on in October 2014. (Jeff Vinter)

October 2011. Midsomer Norton to Chilcompton, Somerset. The nascent railway based at Midsomer Norton South intends to create a new shared use path alongside its relaid line, which eventually will reach Chilcompton. John Baxter, Chairman of the Somerset & Dorset Railway Heritage Trust which is behind the scheme, has published an appeal for members of the public to support its application to NatWest's 'Community Force' programme, which could give up to £6,000 to three local projects. [Details of how to support this project from your PC have now been deleted since the appeal has closed.] (Matt Skidmore and Jeff Vinter)

September 2011. Bath to Midsomer Norton, Somerset. On 24th September, the Two Tunnels Project (which is converting the former Somerset & Dorset Railway between Bath and Midford into a cycle trail) led a special event from the Lower Bristol Road, west of Bath Green Park station, to Midsomer Norton for the official opening of the Five Arches Greenway. The journey was made by nearly 100 cyclists, who wheeled their machines through the Stygian gloom of Combe Down Tunnel. On arrival at Midsomer Norton, they joined about 100 local supporters who had come out for the event. At 1 p.m., the new Greenway - which links Midsomer Norton with Radstock via the S&D - was opened officially by Michael Eavis of Glastonbury Festival fame. In his opening speech, Michael related how, in his youth, he had worked as a collier in the Somerset coalfield to bring in some much needed extra money to support his family's farm, and had probably extracted coal from beneath where he was standing to perform the opening ceremony. A selection of photographs will be published shortly in Photo Gallery 57, while our 2010 report on the Five Arches Greenway is accessible here. (Matt Skidmore and Jeff Vinter)

September 2011. Sturminster Newton to Blandford Forum, Dorset. There is more good news for fans of the late lamented Somerset & Dorset Railway. The latest newsletter from the North Dorset Trailway Network (which is gradually converting the Dorset section of the old railway into a 'trailway') reported that dates for clearing new stretches of the trail would be announced in the next edition, when it was hoped that the route of an extension from Stourpaine to Blandford Forum would have been agreed. The Trailway Network and DT11, a sister organisation, are hoping also to use parts of the Old Milldown First School (just north of the Blandford station site) as a centre for the Trailway and the Milldown Nature reserve - 'all we need is money'. (Lesley Gasson)

September 2011. Dewsbury to Savile Town, West Yorkshire. The club is delighted to announce that it has just sent a £2,000 grant to Sustrans Ltd to support the conversion of this disused line into a new walkway and cycle trail. The project includes the conversion of both the 179 yard Earlsheaton Tunnel and the substantial Headfield Viaduct (see below), so it will provide a new use for some significant pieces of abandoned railway engineering. (Jeff Vinter)

August 2011. Yate to Coxgrove Hill, Gloucestershire. The Midland Railway's former line from Yate to Mangotsfield remains open to serve a Murco oil depot just north of the M4 near Coxgrove Hill, but the trackbed from south of the M4 to Mangotsfield was converted into a railway path about 20 years ago, acting as a feeder to and from the main Bath to Bristol trail started by Sustrans in the late 1970s. There has been interest for some years in extending this northern spur from Mangotsfield right through to Yate, and now South Gloucestershire Council is preparing to tackle the job – starting with a new section of trail right under the M4 which will continue to Yate, as far as possible, along the railway corridor, or as close to it as possible. The council's web page about the project can be found here, while a compact version of their map of the proposed route can be accessed here. Alternatively, if you have a system that can cope with SGC's original map – it is 4.36 megabytes – click here. (Jeff Vinter and Mark Jones)

August 2011. Sidley to Crowhurst, East Sussex. A report from an enthusiastic user of Vinter's Railway Gazetteer suggests that the northern part of the Bexhill West branch is currently being converted into a railway-based trail. However, Paul Wright has negotiated walks over this privately owned route on behalf of '1066 Country' for the last couple of years, so it is possible that our correspondent has mistaken a specially negotiated walk over private land for a public right of way. The two, of course, are very different. If you can provide further details of this project, including both the planned opening date and the grid references of the start and end points, please get in touch using the interactive form on our Contact page. In the meantime, we have written to '1066 Country' to request confirmation as to the status of this route. (Jeff Vinter)

August 2011. GCR Wagon Works, Upperton Road, Leicester. Not content with consigning the magnificent GCR girder bridge at Braunstone Gate to the history books, Leicester City Council has now received a planning application which, if approved, would mete out the same fate to the outstanding GCR Wagon Works in Upperton Road. The objective is to replace this piece of the city's history with yet more student flats - but the wagon works are substantial enough for an imaginative architect to be able to convert them into flats without the need to modernise yet more of the city's landscape. For further details, including how to register an objection, click here. Time is of the essence. (Tony Sparks and Tim Stannard)

August 2011. Bath to Midford, Somerset. The opening date of October 2011 reported in some publications for the new 'Two Tunnels' cycle trail on the Somerset & Dorset Railway south of Bath is incorrect – it is in fact Easter 2012. At the Bath end of the route, a new pelican crossing is to be installed for trail users on the Bristol Road (i.e. the A4) just west of Bath Green Park station, while the two missing rail-over-road bridges between the A4 and the first tunnel (Devonshire) are to be replaced. The abutments will be built in September but must then be left for a month so that the concrete can cure, after which the new spans will go in at ca. £100,000 each. Devonshire Tunnel has already been dug out. The next priority is to install interactive lighting both there and in Combe Down tunnel, which will make a journey along the trail quite an experience. In fact, it is the ambition of the Two Tunnels Project to make the route the foremost tunnel-cycling experience in the UK. When the tunnel lighting has been installed, Tucking Mill Viaduct will receive some serious conservation and repair work, after which it will remain only to organise the official opening. The Heritage Railway Trust has provided a lot of the money for this project, which is a real trail blazer in terms of showing what can be done with disused railway tunnels. (Matt Skidmore)

August 2011. Hockley Viaduct, Winchester. Further to our report in May (click here), Winchester City Council has just released £50,000 to start repairs on this landmark viaduct, with another £450,000 on 'standby' in case of need. Further details are available in this report from the Hampshire Chronicle. (Chris Cook)

August 2011. Tryfan Junction to Bryngwyn, Gwynedd. Further to our report in June (click here), the July issue of 'Steam Railway' included the following report on page 38.

'The route of the former North Wales Narrow Gauge Railway/Welsh Highland branch between Tryfan Junction and Rhostryfan was formally opened as a public footpath on 21st May. The one-mile path, an initiative of Llanwnda Community Council, was opened by local Welsh Assembly Member Alun Ffred Jones.

'To create the path, which starts from the site of the former Rhostryfan station, the council obtained a £30,000 grant from the assembly's local environmental quality improvement scheme. Another £30,000 grant from the assembly's 'tidy towns' community-led funding budget will allow the path to be extended on the trackbed through the village.

'The trackbed has been leased to Gwynedd Council by the Festiniog Railway Company, which was represented at the ceremony by Michael Schumann. Afterwards around 40 villagers walked to Tryfan Junction and caught the train to Dinas as guests of the FR.

'The Welsh Highland Heritage Group has provided several information boards along the route of the path. The remainder of the branch, from Rhostryfan to the top of the incline at Bryngwyn, has been a footpath since 2006.' ('Steam Railway' magazine)

July 2011. Hatherleigh to Halwill Junction (Devon) and Halwill Junction to Bude (Devon/Cornwall). The Webmaster has just received the following information from Devon County Council, in reply to an enquiry about specific disused lines in Devon:

‘Turning to your other question, relating to the former railway line to Bude, I can confirm that the County Council is working to deliver cycle routes from Hatherleigh to Halwill Junction, where a significant proportion is already on the former railway line, from Halwill Junction to Holsworthy, again making use of the railway where possible, and from Holsworthy to Bude, in conjunction with Cornwall County Council. Our general strategy has been to open an interim route using low flow local roads, and to progressively replace this by off-road cycle route as we are able to acquire sections of the former railway track bed.’

In the same letter, DCC advised that, despite rumours to the contrary, the local authority had no intention of converting the disused branch line from Feniton (formerly Sidmouth Junction) to Sidmouth, although East Devon District Council had expressed interest in the past. The problems currently were the lack of funds and extensive commitments elsewhere. (Jeff Vinter)

July 2011. Alne, North Yorkshire. What is believed to be Britain's longest garden has just gone on sale (with a house, of course!) at an asking price of £340,000. The explanation is that the property - a former crossing keeper's cottage on the Easingwold branch - includes three-quarters of a mile of disused trackbed. Our correspondent spotted the story in a recent edition of the 'Mail on Sunday'. Click here for details. (Dave Taylor)

June 2011. Buckingham, Buckinghamshire. We have just become aware of a short railway path through Buckingham, which is a little under a mile in length and runs from grid reference SP 688336 to SP 699328. Originally part of the LNWR's line from Verney Junction to Brackley and Banbury, this section is now managed as a walk and nature reserve; it was designated a county wildlife site in 2003. For further details, click the link here. (Jeff Vinter)

June 2011. Radstock to Frome, Somerset. Further to our report in March (click here) which told of a major problem in extending the railway-based Collier's Way (NCN24) from Great Elm into Frome, we are pleased to report that a new route has been devised, and a solicitor is being sought to assist with the legal work involved in purchasing the necessary land. The local group behind this project has now secured the invaluable help of John Grimshaw, the founder of Sustrans, who is actively advising and working with them. Their recent newsletter commented: 'John has extensive experience in planning routes and taking this through to completion.' They certainly have the right man for the job! For further details, visit www.fromesmissinglink.org.uk. (Jeff Vinter)

Above: The Peak District National Park opened four long-closed tunnels on the Monsal Trail in Derbyshire on Wednesday 25th May. Shortly before this, a couple of intrepid railway ramblers visited to view the improvements before the official opening ceremony. This is the east end of Chee Tor Tunnel, although our correspondent remarks that the National Park's naming of this tunnels does not quite match that of the Midland Railway – this structure was originally called Chee Tor No. 1 Tunnel. Readers may be amused by the sign on which Eric Liddell is leaning: 'Warning : Tunnel'. Er ... what else might it be? Answers on a postcard, please! 18th May 2011. (Mike Hodgson)

June 2011. Yelverton to Tavistock, Devon. Further to our report in July 2005, Devon County Council has announced that it expects the Yelverton to Tavistock section of Drake's Trail, based on much of the former GWR Plymouth to Launceston branch, to open in spring 2012. The main features will be Grenofen Tunnel, which the local authority bought from the railway property board for £1, and a new £2 million Grenofen Viaduct that will span the River Walkham. At yelverton, the new trail will circumnavigate the privately owned tunnel, station site and trackbed to connect with the existing rail trail that links Clearbrook, just south of Yelverton, with Bickleigh, Marsh Mills and Plymouth. (Ralph Rawlinson)

June 2011. Silwood Junction to Old Kent Road Junction, London. The cycle trail that used this little known link line of just under a mile near South Bermondsey has been closed because the formation is required again as a railway. It will re-link the East London Line to the LB&SCR's South London line to Clapham Junction as part of the London Overground network. The southern end of the line closed originally in 1913 with the rest surviving until 1964, so it is a stroke of great good fortune that the trackbed has survived intact. (Ralph Rawlinson)

June 2011. Bilton to Ripley, North Yorkshire. Further to our report in March about the new cycle trail which will link Harrogate with the Nidd Gorge (click here), we recommend this excellent article published by the Yorkshire Post in April. (Ralph Rawlinson)

Above: An aerial view of Bennerley Viaduct, which reveals the missing bridges over the Erewash canal and river (left and right respectively), and the removed embankments. The area immediately above the structure to the right of the MR main line is the site of the former Bennerley Iron Works; the empty trackbed can be seen entering the site near the top left of the photograph. For further details, see story below. (Image taken from Multimap, prior to that company's takeover by Microsoft, and edited by Jeff Vinter)

June 2011. Bennerley Viaduct, Derbyshire. This spectacular viaduct is situated a short distance north east of Ilkeston on the Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire border. It is 1,452 ft long and 60 ft high, while its 16 lattice spans are carried on 15 wrought iron columns over the River Erewash and its flood plain. Three plate steel skew spans on brick piers bridge the MR main line, but additional bridges at the east and west ends that crossed the Nottingham and Erewash Canals are missing. The embankments at both ends have also been removed, but full public access was planned once minor repairs had been carried out in 1995/96. Ownership of this Grade ll listed structure then passed to Sustrans in 1998, but official access has still not been achieved. After visiting the structure in July 2010, members of the Sustrans board commissioned John Grimshaw, its former chief engineer and CEO, to carry out a survey of feasible east-west routes which will link towns on both sides of the Erewash valley and also tie in with longer distance routes and the Erewash Valley Trail. Bennerley Viaduct is expected to be the focal point of these routes and a cycling Mecca in this area. Click here for Graeme Bickerdike's photographs of this magnificent structure. (Ralph Rawlinson)

June 2011. Chepstow to Tintern, Gloucestershire. In October 2009, we reported that Sustrans was applying for planning permission for its 'Connect2' proposal to convert the 4¼ mile Chepstow-Tintern section of the Chepstow-Monmouth line into a cycleway. The Forest of Dean Council gave its approval in November 2010 and, at that time, it was assumed that Monmouthshire County Council would quickly do the same since only a short section of the route lies on the Welsh side, although it does include the north end of the proposed new bridge over the River Wye at Tintern. This assumption proved to be too optimistic, and Monmouthshire CC's planning department has now been accused of jeopardising the plans after the project lost the Lottery funding awarded to it, because the authority had yet to decide on planning permission. (Ralph Rawlinson)

June 2011. Maiden Newton to Bridport, Dorset. During a recent visit to the area, it became apparent that some local residents believe that Sustrans has £1 million in its coffers to carry out the conversion of this former GWR branch into a new 'trailway'. A quick enquiry to Sustrans' head office in Bristol revealed that this is definitely not the case. When asked how much the conversion would cost, Sustrans used its normal estimate of £100,000 per mile which, for a 10 mile branch, explains how the sum of £1 million was arrived at. However, Sustrans does not have this money in the bank, and never has had – the practical and financial support of communities along the route remains as vital as ever, although fortunately this support has been very strong. (Jeff Vinter)

June 2011. Yatton to Cheddar, Somerset. There are two new developments to report on the popular Cheddar Valley Railway Walk:

  • Shute Shelve Tunnel, between Axbridge and Winscombe, had to be closed during the winter because icicles formed in the roof and damaged it; inspectors were brought in to assess the damage, and immediately closed it for safety reasons. The tunnel is part brick lined and part unlined, and the cost of securing the bricks and preventing rock falls seemed exorbitant. However, the actual cost came out at about £25,000 and is a permanent solution. The tunnel was re-opened just before Easter.
  • The Sandford Station Railway Heritage Centre at the former Sandford & Banwell station now has a 1957 BR Mark 1 coach standing at the platform, alongside the two open wagons which have been there for some time. The coach arrived on 25th March and has since been painted in the chocolate and cream livery of the GWR and BR's early Western Region. The centre is open from 11:00 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays. (Cheddar Valley Railway Walk Society)

June 2011. Tryfan Junction to Bryngwyn, Gwynedd. 'Isengard', the unofficial but highly-regarded Welsh Highland Railway website, has reported that conversion of the Tryfan Junction to Rhostryfan section of the Bryngwyn branch to footpath and cycleway has been completed (see our earlier report here). Much of the remaining section, i.e. on to Bryngwyn, is currently a footpath only and apparently a detour through the back streets of Rhostryfan is required to reach it. (Chris Parker)

Above: Contractors installing a tarmac surface on Headfield Viaduct, near Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.Apart from providing cyclists with a very smooth ride, the new surface will stop water penetrating into the structure – notwithstanding the girder construction seen here, most of the viaduct is built from an attractive yellow stone. Note the folding bicycle on the left, which belongs to Mike Babbitt, the Sustrans' project manager. June 2011. (Graeme Bickerdike)

June 2011. Headfield to Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. Sustrans is making good progress with the first phase of its plan to create a number of foot and cycle routes around Dewsbury, some involving disused trackbeds. The first section, which will probably open in late July this year, will create a connection between Savile Town and Dewsbury town centre via the northern section of the former GNR Headfield Junction to Dewsbury South Junction route, crossing Headfield Viaduct.(Graeme Bickerdike)

June 2011. Weymouth to Portland, Dorset. Further to our report in March (see below) when we reported on plans to replace the important missing bridge at Newstead Road on the Rodwell Trail, the Dorset Echo has reported recently that costs have almost doubled, placing the future of the project in doubt. (Ralph Rawlinson)

June 2011. Kielder Viaduct, Northumberland. This well known viaduct (at least in railway circles!) on the former Border Counties Railway from Hexham to Riccarton Junction is in the news since access is to be improved to form part of the 'Lakeside Way', a 26 mile circuit of Kielder Reservoir, Europe's largest man-made lake. Unusually, the structure is privately owned by a Dr Geoffrey Purves, who told BBC News: 'Kielder Viaduct has been open to visitors for many years after the railway was removed, but at present it is slightly off the beaten track and not easily found. It is great that we will be able to give easier access to visitors of Kielder Water and Forest Park.' The work is due to be completed by the end of this month. (Ralph Rawlinson)

June 2011. Tiverton Junction to Hemyock, Devon. According to the Devon newspaper 'The Herald', there are proposals to convert the long disused Hemyock branch between Willand and Hemyock (ca. 7 miles) into a cycle trail. This line, a.k.a. the Culm Valley Light Railway, lost its passenger service in 1963 but retained a freight service to a large dairy at Hemyock until the late 1970s. The cycle trail idea has been mooted before, and a short section of track between Coldharbour and Uffculme has been open on a permissive basis for many years. Hopefully this time, the proposal will not just fizzle out again. For further details, click here. (Ralph Rawlinson and Jeff Vinter)

June 2011. Holsworthy, Devon. Holsworthy station on the LSWR's Bude branch had a substantial viaduct to its east and west. That to the west, Derriton Viaduct, was restored and converted into part of a cycle trail as a Millennium Project about a decade ago; the rail trail is just over half a mile long and connects into the minor road to Pyworthy, forming a route that is 2 miles long overall. Now this trail is set to become rather longer because, in February this year, Devon County Council applied for planning permission to restore Coles Mill Viaduct to the east of the former station, and the two rail-over-road bridges either side of it. This restoration will be a more substantial job than that of Derriton Viaduct, since the parapets were demolished several decades ago and must be reinstated in suitable style, as befits a listed structure. The bad news from the town is that its delightful LSWR station has been demolished and replaced by a Waitrose supermarket. (Jeff Vinter)

May 2011. Bath to Midford, Somerset. The New Somerset & Dorset Railway (NS&DR) was formed in 2009 as a land purchasing and lobbying group with the ultimate ambition of re-opening the whole of the S&D. Following its purchase of the site of Midford station, the company has undertaken extensive tree and vegetation clearance. It is also about to begin re-building the station which, at first, will serve as an information point, shop, office and refreshment room. There is no intention to lay track initially, although the railway hopes that Midford will be a working station again in the future when the Bath to Midsomer Norton section is re-opened. (Ralph Rawlinson)

Above: Hockley Viaduct on the former Didcot, Newbury & Southampton Railway skirts around the south of Winchester and is the subject of an ambitious – but seemingly stalled – project to make it part of a new cycle trail. This aerial photograph gives an impression of its size; it is one of the largest viaducts in southern England. For further details, see story below. (Image taken from Multimap, prior to that company's takeover by Microsoft, and edited by Jeff Vinter)

May 2011. Hockley Viaduct, Hampshire. Hockley Viaduct is situated on the short stetch of the former Didcot, Newbury & Southampton Railway which took this north-south line from Winchester Chesil to Shawford Junction, where it joined the Waterloo-Bournemouth main line. However, the Friends of Hockley Viaduct must be getting increasingly frustrated at the lack of progress in repairing and restoring it. In 2007, Winchester City Council announced a 12 year, £500,000 development plan, but to date nothing has been done. The City Council says that it held talks with Sustrans in April, and will speak to Hampshire County Council soon. The Friends have completed clearing vegetation along the 33 arch structure and, recently, the county council cleared all the vegetation along the trackbed. Both Winchester City and Hampshire County councils are involved in the project, since the former owns the viaduct while the latter owns the land on which it stands. The development plan aims to turn the viaduct into the central feature of a two mile cycle trail which will connect Hockley Link with central Winchester. A new link from Hockley would also connect the trail with Compton to the south, but note that this is Compton, Hampshire, and not Compton, Berkshire, which had its own station on the line. (Ralph Rawlinson)

May 2011. Millers Dale to Bakewell, Derbyshire. Further to our report in February (see below), the official opening of Headstone, Cressbrook, Litton and Chee Tor No. 1 – the four previously locked tunnels on the Monsal Trail – was performed by transport minister Norman Baker on Wednesday 25th May 2011. This means that, coupled with Chee Tor No. 2 and Rusher Cutting Tunnel, which were open to the public already, the Monsal Trail now passes through six tunnels between Bakewell and Millers Dale Junction. So far as we are aware, this sets a national record for the number of open tunnels on a railway path. (Ralph Rawlinson)

May 2011. Pontllanfraith to Nine Mile Point, Gwent. Further to our report in January 2010, the Sirhowy Valley Railpath (now the eastern part of the 353 mile Celtic Trail and NCN47), has been re-opened following a landslip in August 2008 brought about by severe flooding between Ynysddu and Cwmfelinfach. The repairs cost £110,000. The trail is already being well used again and received its official re-opening ceremony on 10 May. (Ralph Rawlinson)

April 2011. Mold, Flintshire. At the end of February, The Flintshire Chronicle announced that a short railway path through Mold – based on part of the former LNWR line from Chester to Denbigh – is to receive £20,000 from Bovril's 'Great Outdoors Revival' campaign to effect improvements to what had become a rather overgrown and under-used local resource. For further details, click here. It has been rumoured that more of this line is set to become a railway path, but we have as yet received no news of any material developments. (Jeff Vinter)

April 2011. Aberystwyth to Tregaron, Ceredigion. Readers who visit these pages often will recognise this as the new Ystwyth Trail, which is based on the northern end of the former GWR line from Aberystwyth to Carmarthen. Sustrans has recently published maps which show the current state of development:

  • NCN82: The cycle trail has been built on the trackbed north from Allt-ddu to Strata Florida where it turns NW to end at Tynygraig. The section from Tynygraig to Gwel Ystwyth is planned but not yet officially open, so currently the trail follows the B4340 instead.
  • NCN81: Gwel Ystwyth to Pen-rhiw (Dolfor) is now open. Pen-rhiw to Trawsgoed is not officially open or planned; instead, the cyclepath follows a minor road. The section from Trawsgoed to Craig-y-bwch is open. That from Craig-y-bwch to Llanfarian is not officially open or planned, but the cycle trail follows a minor road that runs alongside the old railway. Llanfarian to Aberystwyth is open with a road link for the final half mile. (Ralph Rawlinson)

March 2011. Millers Dale to Bakewell, Derbyshire. 'Rail Engineer' magazine has just published a very detailed account of the work involved in extending the Monsal Trail and in particular opening (and illuminating) the four tunnels along its course that have been closed for the last 20 years or so. Our correspondent comments: 'Initial thoughts on lighting suggested that this would be accomplished by some sort of solar energy, so it is disappointing to learn that electricity will, after all, be supplied from the national grid. The cost of 1½ miles of cabling won't be negligible and I wonder who will pay the electricity bills?' (Ralph Rawlinson)

March 2011. South Wonston to Kingsworthy, Hampshire. Earlier this month, the Worthys Conservation Volunteers created a new vista and glade near Worthy Down Halt, clearing small trees and scrub. The work has opened up a new vista with the water tower at South Wonston clearly in sight. The group intends to install a new bench on the site later in the summer. Locally, there is also interest in the western end of the Alton branch, the trackbed of which is largely intact between Winchester Junction and Itchen Abbas. It has been reported that there is now a permissive footpath of about a mile on the trackbed from Couch Green (near Martyr Worthy) to Itchen Abbas. (Brian Loughlin)

March 2011. Weymouth to Portland, Dorset. The trackbed of the Easton branch from Westham Roundabout in Weymouth to the site of Fleet Viaduct at Small Mouth has been converted into a cycleway, The Rodwell Trail, which opened in 2000. Arguably the most important missing bridge is that which carried the line over Newstead Road, part way along the trail, but at last a replacement has been authorised. This will eliminate a steep descent and climb from a high embankment to cross a busy road, and should increase levels of use on the trail. (Ralph Rawlinson)

March 2011. Whitby to Scarborough, North Yorkshire. York Potash Ltd (YPL), owned by Sirius Minerals plc, wishes to open a new potash mine between Scarborough and Whitby; its exact location will depend on the result of test drilling and seismic surveys. The company accepts that, because the entire area lies within the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, the product cannot be transported away by road and similarly Allan Williams, writing in 'Modern Railways', considers that conveyors or pipelines are ruled out because of the disturbance they would bring, which leaves only rail. This would involve relaying part of the Scarborough to Whitby line and reinstating Prospect Hill Curve to connect it once again to the Whitby–Middlesbrough line. YPL says that a planning application will be made within 18 months, and the project appears to have the support of Scarborough and Whitby Councils as well as local MPs. If there are no delays, the mine could be in production within five years. Virtually all the trackbed has, of course, been converted into a cyclepath, the Scarborough–Whitby Trailway (part of NCN1), but the many narrow overbridges and Larpool Viaduct would make it difficult to accommodate it alongside a relaid single line. (Ralph Rawlinson)

March 2011. The Train Walk, National Autistic Society. This is a bit of a departure for this website, but it's for a good cause and could be used for a sponsored walk or two by club members in 2012. (Most areas have devised their 2011 programmes already, hence the suggestion of next year.) Basically, the 'train walk' is a national event designed to raise money for children with autism which, since its inception in 2009, has raised £100,000 for the NAS. To quote from the train walk website: 'Many children with autism have a particular love of Thomas and Friends. Recent research revealed that a number parents felt that the characters played a significant role in their child's early learning and development. For children who may have little or no understanding of emotions, body language and facial communication, the bright colours and clear expressions make the characters easy to identify and relate to.' The train walks can take any form, from a human train completing laps of a park (as at Cardiff last year) to more demanding hill walks. This club has the advantage that it would instinctively, and appropriately, organise a train walk on a railway path. If area organisers want to consider this for next year, further details can be found by clicking the link here. (Jeff Vinter)

March 2011. Newton Tony, Wiltshire. Manor Farm at Newton Tony (also spelt 'Toney') on the former LSWR branch line from Grateley to Amesbury and Bulford Camp used to be owned by a farmer who was decidedly unsympathetic to anyone interested in exploring the old railway line. However, the RSPB has now acquired the farm and opened it to the public as the Winterbourne Downs Nature Reserve, which includes that part of the trackbed which used to be so emphatically 'off limits'. Further sections of the trackbed both east and west of Amesbury have been incorporated into the local footpath network, while the Romans obligingly built a road – The Portway – which provides a convenient route from Grateley Junction, just west of Grateley station, to the triangular junction at Newton Tony where the Bulford branch diverged to the north west. The railway between Grateley and Newton Tony junctions remains in use as part of the main line from Waterloo to Salisbury and Exeter. (Alan Clarke)

March 2011. Horsebridge Station, Hampshire. Further to our report in January (click here), we are pleased to report that Mrs Valerie Charrington at Horsebridge station has been successful in winning her Appeal to continue holding wedding receptions in the station grounds, which of course help to finance its continuing maintenance. She wishes to thank all those who supported her case, because she thinks that the Inspector did take into account the weight of public opinion. Her next case is with Hampshire County Council, which wants £15,000 to allow her to continue offering afternoon teas at the station at weekends during May and September. (Jeff Vinter)

Above: An early spring view of the trackbed of the Midland & South Western Junction Railway looking north between Ludgershall and Collingbourne Ducis. This 2 mile section of the old line is a permissive footpath managed by Defra and, more recently, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF). As can be seen, very little has been done to the formation and it still conveys some sense of having once been a major route from the south to the north – Southampton to Cheltenham and beyond, in this case. March 2011. (Brian Loughlin.)

March 2011. Peebles to Innerleithen, Borders. A 6½ mile section of the NBR's Peebles to Galashiels line is to be adapted to create a walking and cycling route between Peebles, Cardrona and Innerleithen. The first phase, between Peebles and Eshiels (including the restoration of the tunnel under the A72) was completed in May 2010. Included in the next stage is a new bridge over the Tweed, presumably to replace the missing structure at Woodend. (Ralph Rawlinson)

March 2011. Montrose to North Water Viaduct, Angus. Currently a 1¼ mile cycle trail exists in Montrose along part of the Caledonian Railway's Dubton Junction to Montrose (Caledonian) branch between Borrowfield and the town's harbour area. This is soon to be joined by a two mile extension along the North British Railway's Bervie branch, which will start at Broomfield Road Junction (on the north side of Montrose) and link up to the North Water Viaduct. Construction of the extension is now under way, although the trail will skirt around the west side of fields immediately south of the viaduct in order to avoid conflict with farming. From the north end of the viaduct, the trail will follow a public road to St. Cyrus. When complete, it will become part of a Sustrans National Cycle Network route and the North Sea Cycle Route. (Ralph Rawlinson)

March 2011. Bilton to Ripley, North Yorkshire. The Sustrans' 'Connect2' projects included a scheme to link Old Bilton, to the north east of Harrogate, with Ripley using parts of the former NER Harrogate to Northallerton line, and the Pateley Bridge branch. In December 2009, North Yorkshire County Council and Harrogate Council agreed to complete a 'Bridleway Creation Order' and construct the route, but there remained considerable concern from landowners. Now it is reported that, following a public enquiry, a planning inspector has approved this controversial £400,000 footpath and cycleway. The local authorities aim to have the route open by 2012; it will include Nidd Viaduct and will turn the short railway paths based on two sides of Bilton Triangle into a 2¾ mile route providing easy access into the countryside north of Harrogate from both Bilton and Starbeck. (Ralph Rawlinson)

March 2011. Chorlton-cum-Hardy to Heaton Mersey, Greater Manchester. The extension of the Manchester Metrolink system from Chorlton-cum-Hardy to East Didsbury is utilising the trackbed of the former Midland main line between Chorlton Junction and Heaton Mersey. (For full details of the new branch, click here.) The eastern end of this trackbed is also used by the Trans Pennine Trail (TPT) which will, in future, run alongside the new line. However, where the TPT passes underneath Sandhurst Road, there is insufficient space for both the trail and metro running lines to get through, so the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive plans to build steps from the Trail up to the roadway and then down the other side at a cost of £850,000. The PTE claims that this solution is four or five times cheaper than a ramp system, but it has been heavily criticised by user groups including Sustrans. (Ralph Rawlinson)

March 2011. Canterbury to Whitstable, Kent. Canterbury City Council has at last given Sustrans and the Crab & Winkle Line Trust the go-ahead to build bridges over the main London-Ramsgate railway line and across Old Bridge Road and Teynham Road in Whitstable. Click here for further details from the 'This is Kent' website. (Ralph Rawlinson)

March 2011. Markinch to Auchmuty and Woodside, Fife. Following lifting of the Markinch to Auchmuty freight line, the Böblingen Way – based on the former branch line from Markinch to Leslie – now starts from the south end of the car park at Markinch station. After half a mile, it splits at Auchmuty Junction, with one branch going off towards Auchmuty (it currently stops at the A92) and the other going off across the now opened Balbirnie Viaduct, after which further progress is prevented by the A911 road. Hopefully, both of these routes will be extended in due course – the former to Auchmuty proper, and the latter to link up with the rest of the Böblingen Way south of Woodside. (Tony Jervis and Ralph Rawlinson)

Above: Sir William Tite's Greek-styled station at Gosport has finally returned to life, thus escaping demolition which, for decades, seemed the most likely result of the sustained neglect which it suffered. It has now been restored and converted into apartments, and – to quote from our photographer – 'hasn't been so busy for years!' At the time this photograph was taken, final work was still in progress, but the positive effects of the restoration are obvious. The sun disobligingly shone from the wrong part of the sky, thus making a view of the frontage impossible, but this shot gives a good impression of the work completed to mid February. (Chris Bushell)

March 2011. Fareham to Gosport, Hampshire. The campaign by a local resident to stop Hampshire County Council's plans to convert much of this former railway into a Bus Rapid Transit route have been overturned by the Supreme Court, which effectively rejected her claim that the council had not taken the welfare of protected species (i.e. bats) into account. The beleaguered project, originally scheduled for completion this month, can now continue. However, Hampshire County Council has spent £120,000 of taxpayers' money fighting this case, and commentators estimate that the objector has spent a similar amount - some of it provided by legal aid. The southern end of this former railway between Fort Brockhurst and Gosport, will remain a cycle trail, along with part of the branch to Alverstoke. (Chris Bushell)

March 2011. Bury to Greenmount, Greater Manchester. The part of the Kirklees Trail, also used by NCN6, has stopped for some years at Woolfold, about a mile west of Bury station. However, this gap is soon to be filled, for work has started on the long-awaited replacement for Woolfold Viaduct, to be followed by conversion of the 'missing' ¾ mile section of trackbed. (Ralph Rawlinson)

March 2011. Maiden Newton to Bridport, Dorset. Progress continues to be made on the project to convert the scenic Bridport branch into a 'trailway', with the main developments recently being the re-surfacing and widening of the section from Maiden Newton station to Chilfrome Lane, the agreement of the Dorset Wildlife Trust for the Trailway to run over Powerstock Common, and the purchase by Sustrans of a section of trackbed at Loders. Click here to read the project's latest newsletter. (Peter Henshaw)

March 2011. Radstock to Frome, Somerset. Plans to extend the trackbed-based Collier's Way (NCN24) from Great Elm into Frome have run into difficulty because a key landowner has refused consent for the trail to run through his land. The objective of the project is to get the railway path from Radstock, which currently ends 2 miles west of Frome, into the town in such a way that walkers and cyclists do not have to use, or cross, the busy and dangerous A362. This refusal eliminates the cheapest option as a possibility, leaving only two alternatives which both require expensive bridge work. For further details, visit www.fromesmissinglink.org.uk. (Jeff Vinter)

March 2011. Bridgnorth to Coalport, Shropshire. Shropshire Council has just announced that, thanks to successful negotiations with the Apley and Willey Estates which own the trackbed of the former Severn Valley Railway between Bridgnorth and Coalport, NCN45 has been diverted on to the trackbed between these two communities. The estates have signed ten year leases with the council, and the official opening is to take place on Sunday 27 March. For further details, click the link here. (David Thompson)

February 2011. Duffield to Wirksworth, Derbyshire. This is a branch line that might eventually have become a railway path were it not for the efforts of the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway, which has succeeded in bringing it back to life. The grand opening weekend runs from Friday 8th to Sunday 10th April, with a two hourly service from each end of the line. Some years ago, the club negotiated a walk over the route when it was derelict, so a small number of members have actually done a 'trackbed bash' over the line. An unusual feature was the use of solar power to illuminate level crossing warning lights. One wonders if the solar panels have been preserved along with the rest of the branch. (Jeff Vinter)

February 2011. Bathgate to Drumgelloch, North Lanarkshire/West Lothian. The popular railway path between Bathgate and Drumgelloch was closed in October 2008 in order to permit the re-building and re-opening of the Bathgate to Drumgelloch railway line. The great news for local walkers and cyclists is that Network Rail has invested £7.3 million in constructing a new cycle trail which runs parallel to the re-opened railway. Both the new railway and cycle trail opened on schedule in December 2010. (Jeff Vinter)

February 2011. Yapton, West Sussex. Most travellers on the 'Coastway West' railway line between Brighton and Portsmouth probably assume that Barnham station has been there 'for ever', but it was in fact opened in 1864 along with the branch line to Bognor Regis – developments which caused Yapton station, a couple of miles east and opened with the line in 1846, to close. Miraculously, Yapton station survived in generally good condition for nearly 150 years after closure, but its luck has now run out. When the Webmaster passed by on the morning of 21 February 2011, it had been gutted by fire – presumably the work of local arsonists. It was sad to see yet another piece of local history consigned to the dustbin. (Jeff Vinter)

Above: Memories of last year's freezing December! The North Dorset Trailway is installing 'rest benches' such as the one illustrated above every third to quarter of a mile for people to rest and admire the view. One of the great features of the Trailway is that it does actually possess some fine views and is not confined (as are some railway paths nowadays) to a tunnel of trees. Will other local authorities please take note! (Graham Rains)

February 2011. Sturminster Newton to Blandford, Dorset. The following extracts from the latest newsletter of the North Dorset Trailway Network will be of interest. The context is the project to convert the former Somerset & Dorset Railway into a multi-use path between Stalbridge and Poole – last November, the longest section of the trail, starting at Sturminster Newton, was extended south from Gains Cross to Stourpaine.

  • 'Extending the Trailway: We are keen to press on to Blandford this year in spite of the cuts in Council funding. We would like the Trailway to provide a safe, scenic and direct route between Blandford and Sturminster Newton. If we are fortunate in attracting funding from other sources, and landowners along the route are agreeable, we shall arrange a clearing party in October. We shall let you know how we progress with this challenge.'
  • 'Sustrans: The achievements of the Countryside Rangers and the North Dorset Trailway Network have come to the attention of Sustrans who are working on the Bath and Bristol end of the Trailway and are interested in extending it towards North Dorset. This is very encouraging because it makes our contribution important in a much wider context.'

While it may take some skillful negotiating to get all of the landowners between Stourpaine and Blandford 'on board', this project has already achieved what was unimaginable just a few years ago – namely the replacement of two missing bridges on the Somerset & Dorset Railway at a cost exceeding £½ million – so we can only wish the Trailway success and watch out for further developments. (North Dorset Trailway Network/Jeff Vinter)

February 2011. Tralee to Limerick, Counties Limerick and Kerry. Regular readers of these pages will recognise this as The Great Southern Trail, a community-based project in the Republic of Ireland supported by CIE (the Irish state railway), which is gradually turning this scenic cross-country line into a long distance walk and cycle trail. The project has now been running for 20 years, and 22 miles of the route – between Abbeyfeale and Rathkeale – are now complete. By way of celebration, this section of the route will be traversed in its entirety around the longest day of the year. Click here for further details. (Ralph Rawlinson)

February 2011. Congresbury to Blagdon, Somerset. The New Year newsletter of the Cheddar Valley Railway Path Society included a reference to the Wrington branch line, i.e. the Wrington Vale Light Railway which built the branch line from Congresbury (on what is now the Cheddar Valley Railway Path) to Wrington and Blagdon. There has been a meeting recently between interested parties (few details are given, alas) but it seems that a plan exists for converting some of the old branch into a trail, for the report talks about the 'access points ... being modified'. We realise that Wikipedia can be unreliable, but this entry is right about other known proposals in the area so is probably sound: 'The Strawberry Line Association and Sustrans have aspirations for a cycle route on the trackbed [of the WVLR]. North Somerset council has marked the former railway as a future key cycle route in the local plan. The cycle route would connect with the Strawberry Line railway walk at Congresbury and a future route to Clevedon at Yatton station.' (Cheddar Valley Railway Walk Society)

February 2011. Tryfan Junction to Bryngwyn, Gwynedd. The local community council has started work on converting the 2 mile long Bryngwyn branch of the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railway into a permissive footpath that will start near Tryfan Junction, which is to be re-opened as part of the Welsh Highland Railway. The path should be available during the coming summer season. The southernmost section from Rhostryfan to a point just short of Bryngwyn was restored some years ago. We believe the grid references to be SH 503591, near Tryfan junction, to SH 495565, near Bryngwyn. (Chris Parker, with thanks to Stuart McNair of the Welsh Highland Railway)

February 2011. The Waverley Viaduct, Carlisle, Cumbria. Further to our two reports in January, the situation with this grade II listed viaduct has changed again. The latest situation is that BR Residuary has offered to retain ownership of the viaduct (and, presumably, maintain it) if the city council will secure the parapets and install a suitable surface. 'Securing the parapets' presumably means installing safety railings. The club has sent a letter of support to local campaigners who are trying to get the structure re-opened. (Richard Bain)

February 2011. Heythorpe Junction to Balby Junction, Doncaster, South Yorkshire. This former link line built by the Great Central Railway has been making the news recently thanks to local plans to turn it into a cycle trail that will link New Edlington and Balby with Doncaster town centre. The protests have centred around issues of visual intrusion since the line runs on an embankment overlooking homes in Balby, while objectors have predicted that wide ranging anti-social behaviour will occur when it has become a cycle trail. Despite this, the plan is going ahead, although screening will be installed to protect residents' privacy. Usually, predictions of anti-social behaviour are greatly exaggerated in such cases. The same thing happened when the Wirral Way (near Liverpool) was proposed 40 years ago, but that route became so popular that some former objectors installed gates in their garden fences so that they could get on to it more easily. Let us hope that the same holds true in Doncaster. (David Thompson)

February 2011. Millers Dale to Bakewell, Derbyshire. The Peak District National Park Authority has just announced that a section of the Monsal Trail will be closed from Monday 7th February until mid March to allow four tunnels to be opened to the public. This is great news, but it is a pity that the park authority did not name them! Our correspondent reckons that these four tunnels are Headstone (533 yds), Cressbrook (471 yds), Litton (515 yds) and Chee Tor No. 1 (401 yds). The other big question is how the park authority will avoid the cutting approaching Headstone Tunnel, which is a site of special scientific interest. Until now, it has been protected by an additional locked gate 100 yds south of the tunnel entrance, which was only opened by rangers taking parties from Bakewell to Blackwell Mill through the locked tunnels. (Ralph Rawlinson)

January 2011. The Waverley Viaduct, Carlisle, Cumbria. Further to the report below, it now seems that plans to open this important viaduct may fall victim to the current economic situation. An organisation called 'Sustainable Carlisle' presented a petition of 2,418 signatures to Carlisle City Council, calling on it to re-open the viaduct; but the council has now passed the proposal to the county council as a highways matter. Local hopes are now focussed on the railway property board giving the viaduct away with a dowry for its restoration. Click here for further details. (David Thompson)

January 2011. The Waverley Viaduct, Carlisle, Cumbria. Carlisle Council is keen to purchase the disused Waverley Viaduct over the River Eden, which had been used informally by locals ever since the Waverley line closed in 1969 – until the railway property board erected steel fences at either end during the summer of 2009, claiming that the structure was now unsafe. Councillor Jessica Riddle was keen to conclude negotaiotions swiftly, saying, 'I understand it could be purchased for a nominal amount and there has been some restoration work done already. We don’t want to drag our feet then find out it’s too late.' Click here for further details. Note: We apologise for the lateness of this story, but news has only just reached us via local campaigners – we hope for an update soon. (Jeff Vinter)

Above: The restoration of the pretty station at Horsebridge, in Hampshire's scenic Test Valley, has been a 25 year labour of love for its owner, but the local authority – Test Valley Borough Council – is getting tough about the means used to finance its continuing maintenance. For further details, see the story below. (Jeff Vinter)

January 2011. Horsebridge Station, Hampshire. This attractive rural station on the former Test Valley line from Romsey to Andover has been the subject of a bid by the local planning authority, Test Valley Borough Council, to prevent the owner (Mrs. Valerie Charrington) from holding wedding receptions in a marquee erected at the south of the station site. TVBC claims that the marquee is an ‘undesirable development in the countryside, and adversely affects the quiet enjoyment of this rural area to the detriment of the distinct landscape quality’. The marquee actually stands substantially below the surrounding tree line and is visible for no more than a few hundred yards to users of the Test Way who are travelling north. (The Test Way is a railway path which occupies the old railway formation between Mottisfont and Fullerton.) The marquee is only there for the relatively short wedding season, and the revenue that it generates helps to pay for the maintenance of the station, which – as a listed building – is anything but cheap. It is easy to argue that the case being made by TVBC is a 'sledgehammer to crack a nut'; many who know Mrs. Charrington and have enjoyed her hospitality wish her success in her bid to stop what looks rather like a case of bureaucratic bullying. (Jeff Vinter)