NEWS 2018
Above: This sylvan scene depicts the crossing of two railways near Port Penrhyn, Bangor: one remains in use while the other is now a multi-use trail. The viaduct carries the LNWR's still operational Chester-Holyhead line, while the trackbed below – once part of the Penrhyn Railway – now serves walkers, cyclists, etc. The Penrhyn Railway was constructed to carry slate from Lord Penrhyn's quarries at Bethesda to Port Penrhyn at Bangor, and the modern trail links the same two places, albeit by using part of the Penrhyn Railway and part of the later LNWR Bethesda branch. 13th July 2017. (Jeff Vinter)

April 2018. Yapton, West Sussex. Further to our report in February 2011. which described an arson attack on Yapton railway station on the Coastway West line between Ford and Barnham, scaffolding has now been erected around the remains of the historic building, but it is difficult yet to determine whether it will be repaired or dismantled. For a short history of the station and some historic photographs, click the link here. (Jeff Vinter)

April 2018. Ross-on-Wye to Monmouth, Gloucestershire. Further to our report in August 2016 about the closure of Lydbrook Viaduct (at grid reference SO 587177) on the former GWR line from Ross-on-Wye to Monmouth, we are pleased to report that Gloucestershire and Herefordshire County Councils have applied for lottery funding of £1.77 million to repair it, and support some local community projects. The structure, known as Stowfield Viaduct or Black Bridge, is an important crossing on the Wye Valley Walk and was being used by 20,000 walkers per year before it was closed. The councils will be told if their bid was successful in July. Further details are available on the BBC Gloucestershire website. (Keith Holliday)

March 2018. Gilmerton to Shawfair, Midlothian. The official opening for this new route, established by Sustrans, Railway Paths and local authority partners including Edinburgh City Council, was planned provisionally for the morning of Sunday 27th March, but has now been postponed due to 'unforeseen difficulties'. The Gilmerton-Shawfair section extends by 1¾ miles the existing 3 mile trail from Roslin to Loanhead and Gilmerton, and is intended to provide residents of Shawfair new town with high quality, green travel options. (Jeff Vinter)

March 2018. Thoresby Colliery to Thoresby Colliery Junction, Nottinghamshire. Network Rail is to lift the 1¼ mile Thoresby Colliery branch (near Ollerton) following its closure in April 2014 after the owners, UK Coal, ran into financial difficulties. As a precursor to this, HHA coal hoppers stored at Thoresby Colliery Sidings were removed by rail on 8th February. The colliery site is to be developed by Harworth Estates, which claims its scheme – featuring a zip wire and sports pitches – will create at least 500 jobs. Could the branch be re-used as a trail? Possibly, because a bridleway passes beneath it near the junction, but much will depend on the developer's plans, and how much of a destination the re-generated colliery site becomes. (Jeff Vinter)

March 2018. Whitwell & Reepham, Norfolk. The Whitwell & Reepham Railway Preservation Society, which has now been running for over 10 years, plans to reinstate over 2 miles of track back to Lenwade, but needs to clarify whether a series of Victorian Railway Acts still require it to be available for national rail use. [We doubt it. Webmaster.] Richard Bailey, the society’s safety manager, has set up a public petition to the government which asks for the term 'railway land' within the Lynn & Fakenham Railway Acts 1876-81, the Eastern & Midlands Act 1883-85, and other railway amalgamations up to the arrival of Network Rail to be clarified. The society has emphasised that it will keep Marriotts Way, which uses the former trackbed, open for the benefit of walkers, cyclists and horse riders. (Tim Chant)

February 2018. Elstree & Borehamwood, Hertfordshire. It is 150 years since the railway arrived at Elstree & Borehamwood (whose station was then called plain 'Elstree'), and to commemorate the event Elstree & Borehamwood Museum is staging an exhibition entitled 'All Change!' until 21st July. What makes this unusual is that the museum – at 96 Shenley Road, near the station – has turned itself into a railway station for the purpose. Simultaneously, the town is running a 'First Impressions' project which is adding to the 18 plaques originally installed by The British Film Institute in 1996 to commemorate the town's long association with this country's film industry. The route of the trail linking these plaques can be viewed by clicking the link here. We realise that this report is not about a railway path (as it ought to be to appear in these pages), but thought this would be of interest to members in our Chilterns Area, not to mention our Yorkshire Area Organiser who is a keen film enthusiast. (Bob Redman)

February 2018. Radstock-Great Elm, nr. Frome, Somerset. This is the railway-based part of Colliers Way (NCN24) between Radstock and Frome. Railway Paths Ltd will start work 'shortly' on replacing the damaged and leaning parapet walls on Kilmersdon Bridge, which is believed to be the overbridge at grid reference ST 699525). The masonry will be replaced with new metallic parapet rails. (Paul Thomas)

February 2018. Chapeltown to Ecclesfield, South Yorkshire. We reported a northern planned extension to NCN67, the Chapeltown Greenway (from Meadowhall), as long ago as 2010, but progress has been glacially slow. Recently, Sheffield City Council completed work to secure and protect the underbridge on Loicher Lane (grid reference SK 365943), which must bring this project a little closer to fruition. (Paul Thomas and Jeff Vinter)

Above: Bennerley Viaduct is such a large structure that it is extremely difficult to photograph in its entirety, except from a drone. This photograph shows the western end, with the spans over the Erewash Valley railway line in the distance. Beyond that, the approach embankment has been removed, leading to a steep descent on to the towpath of the Erewash Canal. 15th February 2018. (Jeff Vinter)

February 2018. Bennerley Viaduct, Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire. Following the disappointing news in December that the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) had declined Sustrans' application for a grant to help restore Bennerley Viaduct, the charity is now hoping to develop a more modest scheme which will open the viaduct initially to walkers only. This was the approach adopted for Torksey Viaduct (Notts/Lincs), which has been a great success both for the communities on either side, and local ramblers who are now enjoying many new route opportunities. The long term plan for both viaducts is to extend public access to cyclists when levels of use and popularity are established, and – perhaps – a different government adopts a more generous approach towards walking and cycling schemes. (Jeff Vinter)

February 2018. Chepstow to Tintern, Gwent (Monmouthshire). Plans to build a multi-use trail along the former GWR branch line from Chepstow to Tintern moved a step forward in early January when, after scuppering the scheme by just one vote when funds were available from Sustrans' millennial Connect2 scheme, Monmouthshire County Council finally agreed to support them. Jennifer Goslin, co-ordinator at the A-B Connecting Communities group, commented: 'There was no discussion about whether it is going to happen, it was about how it is going to happen'. (Graeme Bickerdike)

Above: The running-in board on the up platform at Okehampton station, which has been restored as though the 1923 Southern Railway was still in charge. 6th April 2014. (Jeff Vinter)
Above: Okehampton may see the return of a daily train service within the next few years, although local reports have not made it clear whether these will run to/from the historic station pictured here, or a new Okehampton Parkway station proposed for the east side of the town, where most of the new development is taking place. A new station on a new site would allow more space for a car park (210 places are planned), plus the installation of modern access facilities such as ramps. For further details, see the story below. 6th April 2014. (Jeff Vinter)

February 2018. Yeoford to Okehampton, Devon. In late January, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling ordered the West of England franchise holder, Great Western Railway, to prepare for the reinstatement of a regular service to Okehampton, which was withdrawn in June 1972. Mr Grayling told West Country MPs, by letter, of his department's instruction to GWR 'to prepare plans to introduce regular train services to Okehampton, with the objective of securing a credible and costed plan for delivering an all-week, all-year train service between Exeter and Okehampton as soon as reasonably practicable'. The re-opening of this route will make it easy for walkers and cyclists to access the popular Granite Way (Okehampton to Lydford) without having to rely on a car. In the letter, Mr Grayling added that developing an alternative route to the 'vulnerable' Dawlish main line remained his number one priority, so possibly in time we will see The Granite Way accompanied by a reinstated single track railway that continues from Okehampton to Bere Alston and Plymouth. (Graeme Bickerdike)

February 2018. Various locations, Norfolk. The county of Norfolk already contains a good number of railway paths, but members of the county council's Policy and Resources Committee have just agreed that several former railways in the county should be developed as multi-use trails for the environmental and public health benefits. Tom McCabe, who holds the council's development portfolio, said: 'It is recommended that officers investigate the feasibility of using disused railways and other underused parts of the transport system to improve cycling and walking links …Three disused railways will be investigated as a pilot, [the] Weaver’s Way [Cromer to Great Yarmouth], King’s Lynn to Fakenham and King’s Lynn to Hunstanton.' A £350,000 feasibility study will now run over the next 12 months, and will consider also the development of a county-wide network of such routes. (Graeme Bickerdike)

February 2018. Laughton Common to Thurcroft Colliery, South Yorkshire. A recent visit by our correspondent to the Thurcroft Colliery branch found that a little more can be walked than reported in Vinter's Railway Gazetteer, which states that the route runs for 2 miles between grid references SK 507864 (Laughton Common) and SK 503889 (Thurcroft Colliery). The second of these grid references was published incorrectly as 502889, although the error – fortunately – should be small enough for no one to get lost. That aside, allowing for the presumably permissive paths at either end, the branch can actually be walked between SK 507860, on Todwick Road in Laughton Common, to SK 499892, within the site of the now landscaped Thurcroft Colliery. These 'extras' add half a mile to the recent cycle trail, which runs between the points identified in the gazetteer. The colliery closed in 1991, so now only locals in their thirties have any recollection of the days when Thurcroft village was dominated by the pit. (Phillip Earnshaw)

February 2018. Yatton to Cheddar, Somerset. Parts of the Strawberry Line have been closed intermittently for a couple of years now, thanks to Bristol Water using the old tracked as the route of their new water main in the area. (The old main was inadequate for the planned development in the area.) Running the main through Shute Shelve Tunnel has been a particular problem, due to engineering problems, the presence of a small population of bats, and the 'Law of Unintended Consequences'. BW's engineers found that they could not install a single large main through the tunnel so had to opt for two smaller mains instead. The bat roosting season coincided with this work, so, in an attempt to persuade the bats, humanely, to roost elsewhere, Bristol Water installed bright lights in the tunnel … which attracted moths, which attracted bats! As a result, Shute Shelve Tunnel has had a larger bat population this winter than for many years, but the good news is that all parties are cooperating to get the route re-opened throughout in time for Easter. With the Shute Shelve diversion taking trail users on to the busy A38, the old railway has been sorely missed. (Strawberry Line Society)

January 2018. Brent to Kingsbridge, Devon. A group has been formed with the aim of developing a railway path along the former Kingsbridge branch. They state that, so far, they will be able to re-use the old line for approximately a mile north from Kingsbridge, including passing through Sorley Tunnel. Given the antipathy of some local landowners to such schemes in the past, the group will need staying power and very good negotiating skills. They have made contact with the specialist officer at Devon County Council who has been responsible for many of Devon's recent railway paths, and have received a positive email from the Historic Railways Estate about Sorley Tunnel; it may have helped that one of their number is a planning consultant. (Barry Day and Jeff Vinter)

January 2018. Attlebridge, Norfolk. Attlebridge is situated on the popular Marriott's Way railway path, which links Aylsham with Norwich. Unfortunately, a girder bridge there, which takes the trail over the River Wensum, is in urgent need of repair, and the bill has been put at £150,000. If the bridge is not repaired, the popular 26 mile trail would have to be split in two, but cabinet members at Broadland District Council were told at the start of the month that it would be cheaper to fund the repairs than spoil the route and lose the economic benefits which it brings. Broadland DC is considering asking North Norfolk District Council and Norfolk County Council to share the costs, which – with other bridges on the route also requiring repair – are expected to come to £640,000 overall. (Tim Chant)

Above: Looe Harbour at dusk, with the East Looe River as still as a millpond. If the Looe Development Trust has its way, this historic fishing town could be served by a network of new trails; for further details, see the story below. 25th October 2016. (Jeff Vinter)

January 2018. Liskeard to Looe, Cornwall. About 25 years ago, the Cornwall Mineral Tramways project started to convert the Duchy's abandoned tramways into a substantial network of off-road walking and cycling routes. Now the Looe Valley Trails Project, led by Looe Development Trust, has been researching the cost of creating new cycle links to Lanhydrock, Liskeard, Looe and Plymouth via the Cremyll Ferry, which crosses the Hamoaze from Admirals Hard in Stonehouse, Plymouth, Devon to Cremyll in Cornwall. The intention is to do for east Cornwall what the Mineral Tramways have done for west Cornwall, and reduce the tendency of tourists to whizz past the area as they head for the far west. The project aims to create 70 kilometres (43½ miles) of new trails at a cost of £8.3 million, including one up the Looe Valley alongside the scenic Looe branch line. A report published in the Plymouth Herald on 9th January (click here) gives further details, and even name-checks the Liskeard & Caradon Railway, whose extensive remains – together with those of associated railways such as the Kilmar Railway and the Kilmar Junction Railway – sprawl across Bodmin Moor, mostly on open access land. (Tim Chant)

January 2018. Bristol to Bath and Midsomer Norton, Avon. A public exhibition of plans to build new office space and residential units in Bath was publicly announced early this month. The design of this development will allow access to the former Midland Railway bridge (situated directly behind a redundant warehouse, which will be demolished) for cyclists and pedestrians to cross the River Avon, thus connecting the Bath to Bristol Railway Path with the more recent Two Tunnels Trail, which – beyond Midford – continues along much of the old Somerset & Dorset line right through to Midsomer Norton. The developers have stated that they are very keen to make their plans cycling- and walking-friendly, and linking these two railway paths will meet that objective handsomely. The double-track girder bridge is currently owned by the Historic Railways Estate of Highways England, and would need an inspection by bridge engineers before its proposed restoration and conversion could hopefully be taken a stage further to accommodate bicycles. The developers, Merrion, organised a public exhibition which was held at Bath Green Park Station on Wednesday 24th January from 12 noon until 7 pm. (Matt Skidmore)

January 2018. Preston to Longridge, Lancashire. BBC Lancashire has reported that Preston Trampower Ltd has appointed Eric Wright Civil Engineering to build the Preston Tramway. It is early days yet, but this project will affect – between Deepdale and Grimsargh – the railway path which occupies part of the old Longridge branch. We hope that the project will provide a new facility for walkers and cyclists along the same corridor, as has happened elsewhere when old trackbeds have been re-used, e.g. between Bathgate and Drumgelloch in Scotland; but this railway path is in England, so will the same fairmindedness apply? (Keith Holliday)

January 2018. Havant to Hayling Island, Hampshire. BBC News for Hampshire has reported that the ferry linking the west end of Hayling Island with Eastney on the eastern edge of Portsmouth is in financial difficulty. The service closed down in 2015 but was reinstated on 5th August 2016 under new owners. The ferry is an integral part of NCN2, the South Coast Cycle Route, which accesses Portsmouth via the former Havant–Hayling Island branch line. As we observed in 2016, the loss of the ferry would require residents and visitors travelling from the island to Portsmouth to take a very long detour via Havant, travelling north initially when they really needed to go west. We suspect that the problem is the 'seasonality' of the service; personal visits suggest that it is well used in the summer months, but it must be a different story in the dead of winter. (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)

January 2018. Blaenau Ffestiniog to Trawsfynydd, Gwynedd. Further to previous reports, especially that from September 2016, an article in the Daily Post newspaper of 3rd January suggests that the scheme to restore the railway between Blaenau Ffestiniog and Trawsfynydd Lake Halt is now in severe jeopardy. Clearance work on that section has been suspended because a bridge near Trawsfynydd Lake was damaged during operations in August last year, resulting in a public footpath being closed on safety grounds. It was hoped that it could resume following completion of a Network Rail investigation; instead the licence to carry out clearance work issued to Trawsfynydd Railway Company has now been revoked. The newspaper understands that a 10 tonne digger may have been used whereas no machinery heavier than 5 tonnes had been authorised. Blaenau Ffestiniog & Trawsfynydd Railway Society, which provides the volunteers, feels that the company should step down and allow the society to take the lead in the project. If all this comes to nought, the route would make a superbly scenic trail. (Chris Parker)