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Above: A typical Great Central Railway girder bridge carries the old GCR main line over the Midland Railway just south of Beighton Junction in South Yorkshire (east of Sheffield). This bridge has been sealed off, which is not surprising given that it has no deck, and an operational freight line passes below; the photograph was taken by holding the camera through security railings. However, much of the GCR in the vicinity now forms part of the Trans Pennine Trail, NCN67. 29th September 2018. (Jeff Vinter)

July 2019. Bere Alston to Tavistock, Devon. Plans to re-open this section of the LSWR's main line to Plymouth are beginning to look fragile. According to Devon County Council, the cost has now escalated (as it seems always to do in such cases; cf. the Portishead branch) to £70 million. Both Devon CC and West Devon Borough Council remain committed to the project, largely because traffic congestion on the A386 between Tavistock and Plymouth has reached an unacceptable level. Possibilities to keep the project alive include some kind of light rail system, possibly with an accompanying cycle trail, as a prelude to 'heavy rail' in the long term. The worst case scenario for those who favour the railway would be for the Section 106 momies that have been earmarked for it to be diverted into road improvements and bus subsidies – which is not only possible, but also perfectly legal if the rail option fails. (Graeme Bickerdike)

July 2019. Bradford to Keighley, West Yorkshire. This ex-railway route, supported by the Great Northern Railway Trail Development Group which wants to link the fragmentary open sections to form a substantial new rail trail, includes the sealed-off Queensbury Tunnel, which the Historic Railway Estate of Highways England plans to infill with concrete. On 13th July, the Bradford Telegraph & Argus reported that local landowner and farmer David Sunderland has his own take on these plans. He explained, 'I own the land and former railway cutting at the south end of Queensbury Tunnel, right up to the tunnel portal. The applicant (HRE) has indicated its intention to use my land as an access route into the tunnel and to reach the first vent shaft, as well as establishing a works compound on it. I will not co-operate with any works to abandon Queensbury Tunnel. It is an important and valuable public asset and should be listed and preserved so that future generations can benefit from its many attributes.' He added that converting the tunnel for use as a cycle path supports national and local planning policies, whilst abandonment conflicts with those policies. (Pete Walker)

July 2019. Lochearnhead, Central (Stirling). The online and published gazetteers are a little confusing in the Lochearnhead area regarding the 4½ mile trail from Balquhidder to Glenoglehead. The confusion, now corrected in the online gazetteer, arises from the fact that, years ago, the Sustrans press release about this trail referred to the then recently-restored Edinchip Viaduct as Kendrum Burn Viaduct, a mistake repeated by the British Listed Buildings website. To set the record straight, Edinchip Viaduct is situated on NCN7 at grid reference NN 583224, on the former branch line from Balquhidder to Crieff. Kendrum Burn Viaduct is situated on a permissive trail at NN 575224, on the former Callender & Oban Railway. Edinchip Viaduct is a 12-arch concrete viaduct, with a new central bowstring span that was installed by Sustrans in 1997 to replace the original steel span, which was removed for scrap after the railway closed. (Robert Greenall and Jeff Vinter)

Above: Cairngorms narrow gauge. The above bridge at Aviemore, which crosses the River Spey, now accommodates the start of a 5½ mile cycle trail that leads south east to Loch Morlich; it has a very interesting (but little known) history. For further details, see the article below. July 2019. (Robert Greenall)

July 2019. Aviemore to Loch Morlich, Highland. There is a bridge on the south east side of Aviemore at grid reference NH 895117 (see above) which, although somewhat narrow, has a distinctly 'railway' look about it. This structure turns out to be part of a 3 ft. narrow gauge railway network that was built during World War 1, at the behest of the War Office, by the then newly-formed Canadian Forestry Corps. The Germans' U-boat campaign was disrupting the UK's imports, and home-grown timber was needed urgently for the war effort, so these Canadian lumberjacks built a network of light railways through the woods to bring logs to sawmills and sawn timber to the station at Aviemore, which then was just a small Highland village. According to an online discussion on the RMweb website, the locomotives may have been Hunslet 4-6-0Ts. Historian David Rose has researched the history of this little known railway network, and, in 1997, The Herald (Scotland) published an account of a walk over the line which he accompanied; the text can be found at the links here and here, the latter being our transcription of the article in case, in future, The Herald takes down its version. The Visit Aviemore website describes the modern route thus: 'You can also take the "Old Logging Way" all the way from Aviemore up to Glenmore which is a purpose built off-road trail for walkers and mountain bikers. This trail is a bit of a gradual climb up to Glenmore but great fun on the way back down and a reward for the effort on the way up!' (For 'Old Logging Way', read 'Old Logging Railway'.) The route starts in Dalfaber Road, south of Aviemore station, at NH 895117, at the narrow gauge River Spey bridge, and then broadly follows the Rivers Druie and Luineag to reach Loch Morlich and Cairngorm Lodge Youth Hostel (NH 976098) near the loch's north-east corner. The route is waymarked throughout. Further research is needed to determine how accurately the modern trail follows the old railway (for example, it looks as if there is an off-trackbed diversion on the west side of Loch Morlich), and it does not help that the Ordnance Survey published different versions of the local map only in 1907 and 1928, i.e. before the railway was built, and after it had closed. However, there is an interesting project here for any railway rambler who wants to investigate further, and hopefully the resources provided here will assist. Do let us know via the online form on our Contact page if you find out more! (Robert Greenall and Jeff Vinter)

July 2019. Cutsyke to Methley Junction, Castleford, West Yorkshire. Further to our report in May, the new cycling and walking bridge at Whitwood Junction (grid reference SE 410252) was lowered into place on Sunday 7th July, thus re-connecting separated sections of the disused line from Cutsyke Junction to Methley Junction, which is to become the new Castleford to Wakefield Greenway. According to the Pontefract and Castleford Express in November, the cost of the new bridge was £500,000. (Kevin Bartlett)

July 2019. Alderbury Junction to West Moors, Wiltshire/Hampshire/Dorset. Two miles of this line, built by the Salisbury & Dorset Junction Railway to provide a cross-country route from Salisbury to Bournemouth via Fordingbridge and Wimborne, is already a trail, but there are plans to double its length. The current route, owned and managed by Hampshire County Council, runs from South Charford Crossing (grid reference SU 166192) to Burgate Cross (SU 154163). However, with Fordingbridge set to receive 1,000 new homes in the near future, the local Rotary Club is campaigning for the trail to be extended southwards through Fordingbridge to the old station site on the edge of the town at Ashford (SU 136144). En route, the trail would pass three schools (infants, junior and secondary), so would facilitate safe, traffic-free travel for a large number of children. The extension would be funded by a Community Infrastructure Levy (the replacement for Section 106 grants) charged to the developers; given the high number of houses planned for this small town, the levy is expected to raise £10 million, although not all of it would be spent on the railway path, which the Rotarians have named 'The Fordingbridge T'Rail Way'. A zoomable photograph of their route map, taken at a local exhibition, can be viewed by clicking the link here. (Jeff Vinter)

July 2019. Preston, Lancashire. BBC News (Lancashire) has just published a report that the 1802-built viaduct which carries the tramway-based NCN55 over the River Ribble at grid reference SD 542286 was closed indefinitely in February following an engineering inspection which discovered 200 structural defects in its beams; these are considered to put the structure at risk of collapse. A further problem is that no one seems to know who owns the structure. More than 5,000 people have signed a petition to save the viaduct, while there is – thankfully – a diversion ca. 1,000 ft. to the west, which uses the river viaduct on the closed line from Preston to Bamber Bridge. The tramway and railway viaducts both carry cycle trails, and, with the bridleways along the north and south banks of the river, form a rectangle. If something like this had to happen, it was lucky that it happened in such a location. (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)

July 2019. Clarborough Junction to Cottam, Nottinghamshire. The 4 mile long freight line between Clarborough Junction (just east of Retford) and Cottam Power Station is due to close on 30th September this year. Given Nottinghamshire County Council's enthusiasm for rail trails, it is conceivable that the authority might acquire the trackbed and convert it. Beyond Cottam, the old line – which continued on to Sykes Junction and Saxilby – traverses the recently restored and re-opened Torksey Viaduct, which crosses the River Trent to reach Lincolnshire. Given how few river crossings there are in this area, a Retford-Torksey trail might appeal to local politicians and council planners. UK Railtours has arranged a trip over the Cottam branch for 28th September, including a run over the internal EDF-owned power station network, but tickets were snapped up quickly by rare track fans. (Jeff Vinter)

June 2019. Nuneaton, Warwickshire. An underbridge on the disused Nuneaton-avoiding line, which runs between grid references SP 362925 and SP 376917, is to be demolished later this year due to the high number of bridge strikes it has suffered. Lorries continue to hit the steel span, which is located on Hinckley Road (the A47) at SP 369923. A report on the 'CoventryLive' website gives the impression that the bridge is to blame, and talks of Warwickshire County Council having difficulty in tracing the owner, and then having to force them to 'give it up'; but it says nothing about the lorry drivers who ignored local height restriction signs. At least in this location, their vehicles became wedged under the bridge so that they could not simply drive off, as happens in many bridge strike incidents. If this line is ever to be re-used, e.g. as an extension to the adjacent Weddington Country Walk – which uses the southern end of the Nuneaton-Burton line – a modern, lightweight, high-arched bridge will have to be installed. (Tim Chant and Jeff Vinter)

Above: This ex-GWR carriage, undergoing restoration, provides extra seating for the bar and restaurant that now operates in the former West Bay terminus of the Bridport Railway. 5th June 2019. (Jeff Vinter)
Above: Did ever the interior of West Bay station look so luxurious? Even though the Victorians had a penchant for opulence, we doubt that the place looked as good as this when the station opened for business on 31st March 1884. 5th June 2019. (Jeff Vinter)

June 2019. Bradpole to West Bay, Dorset. Following a recent walk along much of the Bridport branch, members of the club's South Western area found that Dorset Council is well on the way to completing a cycle trail along the trackbed from Bradpole to West Bay (3 miles). After the railway closed in May 1975, new roads (Sea Road North and Sea Road South) were built over part of the line, but the cycle trail alongside these roads has been widened, while, during the group's visit, it was noted that toucan crossings were being installed at all the road crossings. Given the advanced state of the works, it seemed likely that the council was aiming for completion before the start of the school summer holidays. The trail can be accessed in Bradpole either from Wellfields Drive (grid reference SY 479939) or from the public footpath that starts at SY 480939 on nearby Lee Lane; the old railway in Bradpole cannot be missed thanks to the replica level crossing gate at Bradpole crossing. At the western end of the line, the former West Bay station has now changed hands: it is no longer the Tea Station but the Station Kitchen, a classy bar and restaurant. The new owners have installed a railway carriage alongside the platform, and restored the interior of the historic building to a sumptuous standard. (Jeff Vinter)

June 2019. Nottingham to Edwalton, Nottinghamshire. A previously unreported railway path called 'The Green Line' has been noted on the east side of West Bridgford; it runs from Melton Road (grid reference SK 585371) to Machins Lane (SK 592355), a distance of just over a mile, and terminates to the north of the former Edwalton station (SK 593353), which has been replaced by an up-market housing estate. The trail is part of the old MR line from Nottingham (London Road Junction) to Melton Mowbray, but, south of Edwalton, the rest of it remains open and in use as the Old Dalby Test Track, where new trains for London Underground have recently been tested. It is a safe bet that the Green Line was created partly to provide traffic-free access to Rushcliffe School in Boundary Road, West Bridgford, which is situated en route. (Jeff Vinter)

June 2019. Radcliffe-on-Trent to Cotgrave, Nottinghamshire. A new 2 mile greenway was opened on 9th April linking Radcliffe-on-Trent, Cotgrave, Cotgrave Country Park and the Grantham Canal path in Nottinghamshire. The route, which links into the existing path network, was created from a disused colliery line. Unfortunately, the press release did not provide grid references for the start and end points, but SK 638393 and SK 639373 at Radcliffe and Cotgrave respectively seem likely, given the extent of the recently-closed railway. The link made by the new trail with the Grantham Canal will be useful to cyclists, for the canal's towpath accommodates a cycle trail which runs from the east side of West Bridgford (SK 607367) to Harby (SK 743315), a distance of ca. 15 miles – albeit via a serpentine route, as one would expect of a contour canal. The canal closed in 1929 but is currently undergoing restoration. (Tim Chant and Jeff Vinter)

June 2019. Bulwell (nr. Hucknall) to Calverton, Nottinghamshire. In connection with the story above, Nottinghamshire County Council leader Kay Cutts remarked that a similar rail-to-trail conversion is planned for the 5½ mile long disused colliery line between Bulwell and Calverton. (Tim Chant and Jeff Vinter)

June 2019. Droylsden, Great Manchester. A ¾ mile permissive footpath has been noted between grid references SJ 913990 and SJ 915979 on the former LNWR line from Denton to Droylsden. The trail connects Moorside Street in north east Droylsden with Manchester Road, at the junction of the A662 and A635, just a stone's throw from the Audenshaw tram stop. (Keith Holliday)

Above: The start of a short permissive trail along part of the former Somerset & Dorset Railway, seen at the site of the former level crossing on Marsh Lane, near Horsington (grid reference ST 709251), looking south towards Templecombe. For further details, see the story below. 9th June 2019 (Tim Grose)

June 2019. Templecombe to Wincanton, Somerset. A previously unreported permissive path exists along ¾ mile of the former Somerset & Dorset Railway north of Templecombe. The path starts at grid reference ST 709239 in Horsington (on Broadmoor Lane, east of the parish church) and continues to ST 709251, where Marsh Lane crosses the old trackbed. Our correspondent reports: 'I spoke to some local dog walkers who assured me you are allowed to open the pedestrian gate in the middle of the fence south from Marsh Lane (see picture above). I ran it and [found] all clear and no 'get off my land signs', even if no actual invitation signs either. You pass under a nice two-span road bridge at Batchpool Lane [ST 709243] … Otherwise all [is] too fragmented round here which is frustrating as getting to Wincanton from Sturminster Newton would no doubt be useful to many but sounds like … a huge amount of work … to even make some of it properly accessible.' (Tim Grose)

June 2019. Bovey Tracy to Moretonhampstead, Devon. After years of patient negotiation, Devon County Council expects to open the Wray Valley Trail to the public at the end of summer this year. When complete, the trail will provide a substantially traffic-free route of 6¼ miles from Bovey Tracey to Moretonhampstead, using much of the former GWR branch line between the two towns. Further details can be found at the link here. (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)

June 2019. Sowerby Bridge to Ripponden, North Yorkshire. Ordnance Survey mapping now shows a permissive bridleway on the ex-L&YR Rishworth branch from grid reference SE 053227 (off Long Lane, south of Sowerby Bridge) to SE 037191 (near Height Green, between Ripponden and Rishworth). Where the permissive bridleway does not actually occupy the trackbed, a public footpath runs parallel to the old line – a 'trackside path', in effect – to provide a route of just over 2½ miles. For further details, see the website of the Ryburn Valley Greenway, and especially the slide show of surviving engineering structures, which can be viewed here. (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)

May 2019. Wigton to Aspatria via Mealsgate, Cumbria. Just over a mile of this former Maryport & Carlisle Railway branch now accommodates a public footpath between Baggrow and Harriston. The grid references of the end points are NY 179419 and NY 162415 respectively. (Reported at 2019 AGM)

Above: A view looking north under New Town Aqueduct on the Wyrley and Essington Canal, where the waterway crosses the end of the former LNWR line from Walsall to Lichfield City. The aqueduct (at grid reference SK 053064) is a listed structure and, if our correspondent remembers rightly, is one of a couple on the canal made of wrought iron. There are well-developed plans to convert almost the whole of this old railway into a new long distance rail trail; for further details, see the story below. (Photograph supplied by Tim Kitchen of Back the Track)

May 2019. Ryecroft (nr. Walsall) to Lichfield via Brownhills, West Midlands/Staffordshire. Work continues on the conversion of the former LNWR line from Walsall to Lichfield City, which is destined to become the 'McClean Way'. Current OS mapping confirms that a trail is open from grid reference SP 016998, near Lichfield Line Junction, to SK 025031, south of Pelsall. (This section is recorded in the 2017 edition of Vinter's Railway Gazetteer.) The long term aim is to reach Lichfield, although track remains in place from City Junction, Lichfield, to an aqueduct at SK 053064 on the Wyrley & Essington Canal; this location is just west of New Town on the A5. The surviving track is used once in a blue moon by Quattro (who are fully behind the trail development group, Back the Track, and let them use their premises for parking, access, etc.) when they test rolling stock. The ironic bit is that a very small section of track is missing, which means that Quattro cannot actually access the line by rail, but need instead to load their rolling stock on to and off of low loaders. (Tim Kitchen on behalf of BTT)

May 2019. Alnwick to Alnmouth, Northumberland. According to a report in ChronicleLive, the Aln Valley Railway has now extended its line from its Lionheart terminus near Alnwick's Lionheart Enterprise Park to just east of Cawledge Viaduct (at grid reference NU 213115), with a test train comprising 0-6-0 locomotive 'Richboro' and a single BR Mark 1 carriage traversing the line on 19th March. An intermediate station is planned at Greenrigg, and the AVR confirmed again that it intends to develop the railway corridor not only as a recreational facility, but also as a sustainable transport link (i.e. multi-use trail) for the benefit of the local community and visitors alike. (Tim Chant)

May 2019. Cutsyke to Methley Junction, Castleford, West Yorkshire. Development of the Castleford to Wakefield Greenway continues to make good progress, with planning permission now granted for a new walking and cycling bridge to be installed at Whitwood Junction (grid reference SE 410252), where the disused line from Cutsyke Junction to Methley Junction – the 'backbone' of the new greenway – used to pass above the still operational lines from Castleford to Normanton and Woodlesford. When the new / replacement bridge is installed, the linear integrity of previously isolated trackbed sections will be restored, thus opening up new path development opportunities which will benefit local walkers and cyclists. A map of this area, copied from West Yorkshire's 'City Connect' website and annotated, will be found here. (Sustrans, 'The Hub', Spring 2019, page 12)

May 2019. Godley, Manchester. Sustrans volunteers are working with local schools in East Manchester to transform an abandoned railway turntable (believed to be at grid reference SJ 965947) in Godley. In 2018, the Heritage Lottery Fund donated £45,300 to the Friends of the Trans Pennine Trail to restore the 70 ft. diameter turntable, which is the perfect shape for an outdoor events area, surrounded by woodland and wetland. The site has been cleared, and the next steps are to provide drains, repair the wall, and install benches and information boards. The adjoining railway path, part of NCN62, runs from Godley to Apethorn between grid references SJ 966947 and SJ 944936, a distance of 1½ miles. (Sustrans, 'The Hub', Spring 2019, page 12)

April 2019. Glenfield, Leicester. The mile long, 1829-built Glenfield Tunnel on the former Leicester & Swannington Railway is owned by Leicester City Council and opened occasionally for tours, but Labour council candidate Lindsay Broadwell has proposed that it be opened as a new cycle route to give walkers and cyclists a safe alternative to the steep and busy roads overhead. Given that Tyler Hill Tunnel on the closed Canterbury & Whitstable Railway has collapsed in the middle, Ms. Broadwell states that 'Glenfield Tunnel is now the oldest surviving mainline railway tunnel in Britain, if not the whole world'. The tunnel is in good repair thanks to Leicester CC having spent £500,000 on it more than a decade ago to prevent the risk of collapse. (Tim Chant)

April 2019. Jackfield, Shropshire. Anyone walking the railway path which follows the disused Severn Valley Railway between Bridgnorth and Ironbridge will have seen the outsize gates at Jackfield level crossing. A year-long project by Coalbrookdale-based Small Woods Association to restore them to their former glory has now been completed, and they will be returned to their rightful place on the trail before the end of the month. The final steps will be to give them three coats of paint and then put all the metalwork back in place. Local councillor Gareth Rushton reported that the restoration took craftsmen at SWA over 1,000 hours. (Tim Chant)

April 2019. Folkestone, Kent. The disused, 1915-built signal box on the Folkestone Harbour branch, restored during recent work on the adjacent station, is set to become a café. The KentLive news website (see here) has reported that, 'Complete with the original levers, there will also be space for 12 covers inside and outdoor seating for 20 to 30 diners. It will also be kitted out with a small kitchen, where light bites will be made.' (Tim Chant)

April 2019. Hastigrow to Sinclair's Bay, Highland (Caithness). Unexpected discoveries are a delight of idly poring over Ordnance Survey maps; perhaps an activity which indicates that the sufferer needs to 'get out more' – but you, the reader, can decide. OS mapping shows a 4¾ mile long dead straight mineral railway running from grid reference ND 266608 near Hastigrow to ND 340583 on the beach at Keiss Links, in Sinclair's Bay; the eastern terminus is 6 miles north of Wick. En route, the line traverses a level crossing at ND 277604 and an overbridge (actually a bascule bridge) carrying the A99 at ND 331586. This turns out to be the 1978-built railway of Subsea 7's Wick Fabrication Site, which makes 'pipeline bundles' for the North Sea oil industry. The total length of the track, parts of which are quadruple, is 27.2km (just under 17 miles). There is a fascinating and well-illustrated account of the railway on the Friends of the Far North Line's website, which explains that this isn't an ordinary railway, for motive power is provided by offshore tugs which haul the payload (massive lengths of pipe) out to sea. The longest pipe length to date has been 7.7km (4¾ miles), and, whilst in transit, these loads are the largest moving objects in the world. Who knows? Perhaps when the North Sea oil industry is fully de-commissioned, we'll have another old line to walk. (Jeff Vinter)

April 2019. Bristol to Portishead, Somerset/Bristol. Finally, we have some good news to report about the proposed re-opening of the Portishead branch: the scheme is to receive more than £31 million in government funding, as confirmed by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, and passenger services are due to re-start in 2021. The authorities leading the scheme are North Somerset Council and the West of England Combined Authority, and Tim Bowles (West of England Mayor) remarked: 'This is excellent news for the region as we continue to work on our ambitious Metrowest rail plan which will help build a transport network that works for everyone.' As we pointed out in 2017, the River Avon Trail runs parallel to the railway between Ashton Gate and Sea Mills, so the restored branch will offer some new 'ride and stride' opportunities for railway ramblers. (Ivor Sutton)

April 2019. West Bay to Bridport, Dorset. The former GWR branch line from West Bay has accommodated a cycle trail on the trackbed for many years between West Bay station and Wanderwell Cutting near The Crown Inn (grid reference SY 467918), which overlooks a busy roundabout on the A35. From Wanderwell up to the site of Bridport's East Street station, the old railway has disappeared beneath the A35. However, at the beginning of the month, the newly-created Dorset Council announced that work had started on an improved cycle trail alongside the A35 between Wanderwell and East Street, with the footway widened to accommodate both cyclists and pedestrians, and toucan crossings installed at both ends to connect different sections of the trail. North of East Street, the trail already continues as far as the Coop supermarket on Sea Road North, which occupies the former site of Bridport's main station. The council saved the best news for last: 'It [the new cycle trail] will also become part of a wider walking and cycling network that will eventually connect these areas to Maiden Newton as part of the West Dorset Trailway.' (Tim Chant and Jeff Vinter)

Above Left: The west portals of Newchurch No. 1 (left) and Thrutch (right) Tunnels on the former Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway's line from Rawtenstall to Bacup. Above Right: The west portal of Newchurch No. 2 Tunnel on the same line. For further details, see the story below. Both photographs 2nd April 2019. (Mark Jones)

April 2019. Rawtenstall to Bacup, Lancashire. This ex-L&YR line has suffered some depredations at the hands of road builders, but the local authorities have worked hard to re-use much of what remains as a linear path; and rather a lot remains because the line ran mostly at the bottom of a steep-sided valley, in which the previously bricked-up Newchurch No. 1 Tunnel has just been re-opened. It can be viewed from the west portal, although the east portal is temporarily blocked by fences which can be removed easily, when the time comes. Currently, access is not possible because, immediately to the west of the tunnel, a bridge over the River Irwell is missing. Our correspondent presumes that the intention is to erect a replacement bridge for foot/cycle access, otherwise there was no point in opening the tunnel; but it appears that work has not yet started on this. Newchurch No. 2 Tunnel remains open, but scaffolding at the west portal indicates that some remedial work is in progress. The longer and later-built Thrutch Tunnel (parallel to the Newchurch Tunnels for westbound traffic) remains bricked-up at both ends and is reported to be in poor condition, which makes it unlikely that there are any plans to re-use it. All three tunnels will be found between Waterfoot and Slacksteads, between grid references SD 837217 and SD 842216. (Mark Jones)

March 2019. Bolton to Bury, Greater Manchester. The two large viaducts at the western end of this route, namely Burnden and Darcy Lever, are now open; our correspondent walked over them recently and found that access had been established at grid references SD 725083 (near Bolton) and SD 734084 (at Darcy Lever). Further investigation turned up a June 2015 article in the Bolton News, which revealed that the whole route had been opened throughout at that time, thanks to a grant of £1.4 million from the government's Local Sustainable Transport Fund. The new 5 mile trail runs from Scholey Street in Bolton (SD 725083) to Knowsley Street in Bury (SD 802103), and local walkers, cyclists and horse riders are said to be 'delighted'. We apologise that our article in December last year reported progress on this project as glacially slow; obviously, it has been anything but, unlike our intelligence from this part of the north! Also, it did not help that the Ordnance Survey's online mapping does not yet show the route. (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)

March 2019. Shoreditch, London. Plans have been published for the Bishopsgate Goods Yard in Shoreditch, which has been disused since the 1960s. The idea is to deliver a rather densely-packed development of new residential and business properties, with a disused railway viaduct converted into a miniature version of New York's well known 'High Line', which is now a linear park formed from an abandoned elevated railway. The Shoreditch viaduct adjoins Shoreditch station on London's Overground network. Further details will be found in this article from The Londonist: the pictures and story are interesting, but some of the language (especially the hip phrases, such as 'runty' for 'small') is likely to make grammarians writhe. (Tim Chant and Jeff Vinter)

Above: How can anyone capture on camera the size and majesty of a quarter-mile long railway viaduct when even the operator of a drone struggles to capture it all in a single photograph (see here)? The above is our Webmaster's best effort with Bennerley Viaduct, taken from the towpath of the Nottingham Canal, which lies on the viaduct's east side. 15th February 2018. (Jeff Vinter)
Above: A close-up of two of Bennerley's piers, taken from across the Erewash Valley, which it spans at a height of 60 feet. When this structure was built, between 1876 and 1877, brick was the standard material for railway viaducts, but brick could not be used here due to the risk of subsidence into coal mines underground. This led to the Great Northern Railway's engineer choosing this elegant and light wrought-iron design, standing atop lattice piers. 15th February 2018. (Jeff Vinter)
Above: A view across the deck of Bennerley Viaduct. It does not take much thought to conclude that, currently, this is no place for a comfortable walk! – but all that will change if the restoration and access scheme outlined below comes to fruition. 15th February 2018. (Jeff Vinter)

March 2019. Various. We have brief updates on the following schemes, all of which are being developed on disused railways:

  • Chepstow to Tintern, Gwent (Monmouthshire). John Grimshaw's 'Greenways and Cycle Routes' organisation is now involved with this route in the lower Wye Valley. John was the founder of Sustrans and has developed a reputation for developing rail trails which previously had faced seemingly intractable problems.
  • Cutsyke to Methley Junction, Castleford, West Yorkshire. The Castleford Greenway (on which the viaduct over the River Calder has now been restored) is to be extended by 1.2 kilometres / ¾ mile on former railway land thanks to a grant from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.
  • Bennerley Viaduct, Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire. Railway Paths, assisted by The Friends of Bennerley Viaduct, is working on a new financial package to restore this iconic wrought-iron monster and open it to the public. Update: They've done it! On Saturday 16th March, The Nottingham Evening Post reported, under the headline 'Full steam ahead for viaduct restoration', that funding has been agreed to both install a walkway over Bennerley Viaduct, and carry out essential repairs. Planning permission will now be applied for, and work could commence as early as late summer.
  • Levenshulme, Greater Manchester. Steady progress is being made on the restoration of Levenshulme South station, which, if all goes well, could open during the summer as a café, cycling centre and community hub.

We will publish further details of these projects when known, but in the meantime wish them well – especially the Bennerley scheme, which has the potential to put this quarter-mile long aerial structure on the map; there really is nothing like it, anywhere in the country. A couple of other large, disused viaducts have interesting projects forming around them, but currently these are not sufficiently developed to warrant announcements. However, keep an eye on this website! (Jeff Vinter)

March 2019. South West. On 9th March, the Western Daily Press published an article entitled 'Glimmer of light at end of tunnel for old station', which appeared to be about reinstating the former line from Cirencester Town to Kemble, but was actually based on a wider-ranging report by the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) which called for 13 closed West Country railway lines to be re-opened. While we applaud the CBT's efforts to keep rail re-opening in the public eye, this article raised questions about the quality of the underlying research. For example, it called for both Barnstaple-Braunton and Barnstaple-Ilfracombe to be re-opened, when the former is part of the latter, Then, Andrew Allen, CBT's group research manager, remarked, 'These are schemes we think could work where the route might still be clear'; but why doesn't the CBT actually know if the routes are clear? Proposals to reinstate railways which require the demolition of countless homes and work places will unleash a storm of protest, as the HS2 project has demonstrated, albeit for the construction of a new railway. Members of this club could tell Mr. Allen that virtually every disused railway in the UK has had development built over it; the exceptions will be found in places like Dartmoor where the trackbeds of remote mineral lines remain, but where no developer is likely to build anything, ever. Marlborough Town Councillor Bryan Castle summed up the situation for more than just his local Bedwyn-Marlborough re-opening proposal when he said, 'It is a good idea, but where will the money come from?' Yes, we need more railways; but can we please have a better standard of research and argument? And perhaps after that we might have a national rail authority which can build something at a price with a few less noughts on the end. (Ivor Sutton and Jeff Vinter)

March 2019. Craven Arms to Llanelli (Shropshire/Powys/Dyfed). Further to earlier reports in June 2018 and January 2017, the final section of the 'Heart of Wales Line Trail' (from Bucknell to Cynghordy in Powys) was launched officially by a ceremony at Llandrindod Wells railway station on 28th March at 12:00. As we have explained before, this is not a railway path in the conventional sense in that it does not re-use the trackbed of an abandoned railway, but links the 30+ stations on the still-operational and highly scenic Heart of Wales Line. (Chris Parker)

March 2019. Endon, Staffordshire. Developer J. Redfern has submitted plans to Staffordshire Moorlands District Council to build 4 new bungalows in the former yard of Endon station, on the former North Staffordshire Railway's line from Stoke-on-Trent to Leekbrook Junction. Nearby NCN595 uses the towpath of the nearby Caldon Canal, a branch off the Trent & Mersey Canal, rather than the former railway trackbed. (Tim Chant and Jeff Vinter)

Above: The overbridge at the southern entrance to the site of Sutton Scotney station, now cleared by members of the Watercress Way group (see story below). In December 2018, the bridge was blocked by a fence, beyond which the arch had been packed full of old refrigerators. May 2019. (Tim Grose)

March 2019. Sutton Scotney, Hampshire (updated report). The Watercress Way group, which aims to create a railway path between Alresford and Sutton Scotney using the disused western section of the Mid Hants line and part of the Didcot, Newbury & Southampton Railway, is to 'open up the old railway bridge on Wonston Road' at Sutton Scotney. The work was completed in April, and involved clearing a cutting of old refrigerators and vegetation, and creating graded access. Press reports did not provide a grid reference, but our correspondent Tim Grose visited and found it to be SU 466395, or, more precisely, approximately SU 46577 39456. This is the entrance to the old station (now the Old Station Park housing development) from the south. At the moment, the way through the cleared bridge is barred by a gate, and, even if the gate was open, trackbed walkers could not get very far . Tim believes that the idea is for the railway path to follow the trackbed to SU 467391, where the trackbed beyond has been removed and absorbed into fields. A detour around the vanished section can be provided by following the footpath (Beggars Drove) from SU 467391 to Wonston Lane, and then following the lane to SU 469386 where the trackbed can be rejoined. (Tim Chant, Tim Grose, Keith Holliday and Brian Loughlin)

March 2019. Ironbridge to Shrewsbury, Shropshire. On 31st January, The Shropshire Star published a report about the imminent demolition of the cooling towers at Buildwas Power Station, which was decommissioned in 2015 with demolition due to start later this year. The report continued: ' Up to 1,000 homes could be built on both brownfield and greenfield sites, with the full project taking up to 15 years to complete' – which means that Section 106 money could be obtained from the developers for infrastructure improvements to reduce the impact of the development. Shropshire Council's Great Outdoors Strategy Board has pointed out to the developers that currently there is no east-west route along the River Severn between Ironbridge and Buildwas, although two NCN routes meet at the Iron Bridge. The Board's proposed letter to the developers continued as follows: 'Interestingly, the old railway line continued on to Shrewsbury, the other side of Buildwas bridge, opposite Buildwas Abbey. Not to continue this route [which starts in Bridgnorth] through the power station site would be a missed opportunity should funding become available via a charity such as Sustrans or via funding from other sources to continue these long distance routes "off road" to Shrewsbury.' Unfortunately, unless government policy changes, Sustrans does not have the funds to undertake such a project, so Shropshire Council's best approach would be to seek Section 106 funding from the developers for a trail linking at least Ironbridge and Buildwas. (Tim Chant and Jeff Vinter)

Addendum #1: There is already a ¾ mile bridleway along the former Severn Valley Railway within Shrewsbury between grid references SJ 511104 (Weeping Cross on the B4380) and SJ 501113 (Pritchard Way, the A5112). Between Buildwas and Weeping Cross, several sections of the railway formation have been removed, mostly significantly where the A5 crosses the line south of Shrewsbury. (Webmaster)

Addendum #2: The club wrote recently to Shropshire Council in support of an Ironbridge-Buildwas trail. Although we have received no reply, we have obtained, via the local press, a brief update following the Great Outdoors Strategy Board meeting held on 7th February: 'The Board will now write to the developers Harworth calling for a pathway between the [power station] site and Buildwas … Telford & Wrekin Local Access Forum felt it was an ideal opportunity to include the pathway'. (Nick Hartshorne)

March 2019. Banchory (Burnett Park) to West Brathens, Grampian (Aberdeenshire). The official Deeside Way, which uses much of the GNoSR's Ballater branch, extends for some 17¼ miles from Duthie Park in Aberdeen to Banchory, but our correspondent has discovered that a further 2½ miles of trackbed on the north west side of Banchory can be walked as well. This section starts in Banchory's Burnett Park at grid reference NO 686964 and continues to West Brathens at NO 664986. Access is provided via various paths on the formation, but the route is not totally continuous due to a housing estate at East Mains (NO 680971) and some encroaching vegetation. Nonetheless, it is a 'great walk' worth adding to Vinter's Railway Gazetteer [the publisher willing that there is a new edition one day! Webmaster] . (Phillip Earnshaw)

March 2019. South west of Dess to Aboyne, Grampian (Aberdeenshire). Our correspondent reports that a further section of the Deeside Way now occupies the old GNoSR trackbed between grid references NJ 561003 (near Dess station) and NO 535988 (on the east side of Aboyne), thus providing another 2 miles of trackbed walking. Given that there is no law of trespass in Scotland, those wanting to walk an extra ½ mile of trackbed can start on the old access road to Dess station at NJ 565005, but should not approach the privately-owned (and beautifully restored) Dess station. (Phillip Earnshaw)

Above: Horderley station on the Bishop's Castle Railway (1866-1935) has been 'rebuilt to deceive'. The original building, a small bungalow which accommodated the station master, started to the left of the green door and stopped beyond the bay window; to the left of that stood a canopied shelter for passengers. It is a credit to successive owners that they have extended the building in matching style, although, seeing this, an uninformed passer-by might think that the BCR actually had money to spend! 13th November 2007. John Poyser (used under the terms of this Creative Commons licence)

February 2019. Craven Arms to Horderley, Shropshire. The Onny Trail, which was established in the 1990s along part of the Bishop's Castle Railway, has been extended. It now starts from a car park at grid reference SO 430844 (on the lane from the A49 to Cheney Longville), which is situated a few yards west of Stretford Bridge Junction on the Hereford-Shrewsbury line, where the branch used to start. The trail then follows the trackbed to SO 412861 opposite Glenburrell (on the other side of the Onny), where the railway's long skew bridge over the river has been replaced by a footbridge which gives access to the A489, the Craven Arms to Newtown road. It looks as if one can leave the Onny Trail at this point, but the OS mapping could be clearer. West of Glenburrell, the old railway ran along the south side of the A489, but it looks as if improvements to the road have absorbed the trackbed here. Accordingly, from Glenburrell to Horderley, the Onny Trail follows the river to come out by Horderley station (SO 409868), which is now a private residence, although the Bishop's Castle Railway Society has restored the platform edge. The distance now walkable from Stretford Bridge Junction to Glenburrell is just over 1½ miles, with the riverside link to Horderley bringing the total up to 2¼ miles. (Jeff Vinter)

February 2019. Bishop's Castle, Shropshire. Following on from the story above, by coincidence, we have received news that the Bishops Castle Railway Society has set up a 'Weighbridge Project', which has been chosen to benefit from the Co-op's Local Community Fund. The weighbridge building at Bishop's Castle is the last railway building in the town, and after years of neglect is now in danger of collapse. However, the area where it stands is to be re-generated, and the Society hopes that this survivor from the Bishop's Castle Railway can be saved, both as a tangible link to the town's railway history, and because many small railway buildings in vernacular styles of architecture have been lost. (Tim Chant)

Left: Winsor Hill Tunnels are situated north of Shepton Mallet on the former Somerset & Dorset Railway as it approached the line's summit at Masbury. Although left open for years, the twin bores have now been sealed at both ends. The fencing used is similar to that installed by Network Rail at either end of Bath Road Viaduct, which lies to the south on the edge of Shepton Mallet. Years ago, Sustrans published plans for a trail along this section of the S&D, which would have led from the village of Thrupe to near the A37 in Shepton, just short of the town's former Charlton Road station. There was a flurry of renewed interest in this scheme a couple of years ago, so it is disappointing to see the old permanent way being sealed up and put out of use. February 2019. (Caroline Stock)

February 2019. Shepton Mallet, Somerset. News has just reached us that Winsor Hill Tunnels, north of Shepton Mallet on the former Somerset & Dorset Railway, have been sealed at both ends. At the moment, we have no idea what has prompted this, but 'health and safety concerns' are a likely suspect. Prior to this, the tunnels had been open to the public, albeit unofficially, for years, although Rolls Royce used the southbound bore from 1968 for testing Concorde engines, and installed large steel doors at each end. In 1981, planning permission was granted for the tunnels to be used as nuclear bunkers, but this lapsed without ever being followed up. (Bob Spalding)

Above: The new railway path from Keynsham to the old Fry's chocolate factory at Somerdale, which moved there from Broadmead, Bristol, after World War 1. The factory, now a retirement village, can be seen in the distance. 23rd February 2019. (Matt Skidmore)
Above: The old Fry's factory, now restored to its former glory after years of disuse. In its heyday, 2½ miles of railway track served this plant, which retained its branch until July 1980. For further details, see the story below. 23rd February 2019. (Matt Skidmore)

February 2019. Keynsham to Somerdale, Avon (North East Somerset). The ¼ mile branch line that used to run from the GWR main line at Keynsham station to Cadbury’s chocolate factory near Somerdale in North East Somerset has just been re-opened as a high quality cycleway and footpath; access is from opposite the entrance to Keynsham station car park at grid reference ST 657689. The branch had been derelict for years since it was lifted in the 1980s (the Avon Valley Railway used it to store locomotives in the early days of the society), but now it has a useful purpose again thanks to the multi-million pound re-development of the former chocolate factory buildings as an exclusive retirement village for senior citizens, with facilities which include a pool, cinema, gym and restaurants. Click here to view the branch on Ordnance Survey's 1932-published 6" map of Keynsham (accessed via the National Library of Scotland); note also the branches of the Avon & Gloucestershire Railway, running down to wharves on the River Avon.

By a coincidence, over the April bank holiday weekend, the nearby AVR is holding an event to celebrate the launch and restoration, after many years' hard work, of their Cadbury/Fry’s Sentinel vertical-boilered steam loco No. 7492, which used to work on the branch line shunting stock. The AVR website says that any child who attends the event with their parents will get free chocolate! (Matt Skidmore)

February 2019. Shepton Mallet to Witham Friary, Somerset. Mendip District Council has voted £320,000 to fund technical studies to develop a business case for restoring rail services to Shepton Mallet, a town which local councillors feel is often overlooked. The location of the proposed 'Shepton Mallet Parkway' station has not been revealed, but the eastern edge of the town, just off the A361, is possible. Another option (which would not disturb the preserved East Somerset Railway, which operates between Cranmore West and its new Mendip Vale station) is near the village of Leighton, where the existing freight line from Witham Friary to Merehead Quarry comes within half a mile of the A361. As worthy as this proposal is in terms of providing better access to/from Shepton and supporting the town's economic development, there are two major issues: Network Rail's eye-watering charges for rail infrastructure projects, and the fact that Shepton's main traffic flows are towards Bristol and Bath rather than Witham Friary, Westbury and London. West of Shepton, the old trackbed remains the subject of the Strawberry Line Society's proposal for a multi-use trail to Wells, Cheddar, Yatton and Clevedon. (Ivor Sutton and Jeff Vinter)

February 2019. Caldicot to Caerwent, Monmouthshire. Monmouthshire Council has planned a 2.9 kilometre (2 mile) walking and cycle route from Caldicot to Caerwent, having commissioned Sustrans to assess the line’s suitability for the project, which runs just west of Crick Road (grid references ST 498882 to ST 487902). The cost to acquire the railway land will be funded from the sale of the Crick Road site to developers Merlin Homes. This abandoned line once transported supplies to the Royal Navy Propellant Factory during and after World War 2; the factory is now used by the MOD as a training base and as a filming location. (Tim Chant)

February 2019. Great Elm to Frome, Somerset. It is 15 months since we reported progress on 'Frome's Missing Links', the community-based group which is seeking to extend the Radstock-Great Elm leg of NCN24, Colliers' Way, from Great Elm into Frome town centre. At the town end, a traffic-free route is already open from near Frome station to a point on the River Mells opposite the town's sewage works (not an obvious walking or cycling destination!), but this is where the next extension will spring from. It will start at grid reference ST 771488 and continue to ST 772496, by Jack's Lane in Spring Gardens. Landowners have agreed to let the trail cross their land, some fencing has already been installed, and the group is preparing Heads of Terms and detailed drawings for Planning Permission, as well as for a footpath diversion. The 'Missing Links' website concludes: 'It will take time (as these things do) but we really are expecting to start construction work early in 2019. ' (Jeff Vinter)

February 2019. Whitby to Scarborough, North Yorkshire. This story provides the conclusion to a report from March 2011, when Sirius Minerals plc announced plans to open a new potash (actually polyhalite) mine between Whitby and Scarborough. At the time, this prompted talk about possibly re-opening part of the old railway between the two towns, which would have threatened the popular 'Cinder Trail' path which now uses the trackbed. However, it wasn't long before the talk changed from rail re-opening to a 23-mile tunnel (to protect the North York Moors National Park), although this doubled the project development phase from 5 to 10 years, with the mine then expected to commence production in 2021 rather than 2016. On 18th February, the BBC announced that the first tunnel boring machine had arrived (click here), although anyone hoping that the resultant tunnel would accommodate a railway will be disappointed to learn that it will accommodate instead a conveyor belt. Polyhalite is a naturally occurring fertiliser: Sirius aims to extract 10 million tonnes of it per annum, rising to 20 million tonnes subject to council approval. (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)

February 2019. Bradford to Keighley, West Yorkshire. A new partnership, the Great Northern Railway Trail Development Group, has been formed to extend the popular but fragmentary walking and cycling route which aspires to connect Bradford and Keighley. Several sections have been opened already, including two substantial viaducts, but now local MPs and councils want to get the project moving again, and fill in the missing links; first up are proposed extensions from Cullingworth to Keighley, and from Harecroft to Denholme. Local MPs from both major parties support the move, which is also backed by Keighley and Denholme town councils, and Wilsden, Cullingworth & Haworth, Cross Roads and Stanbury parish councils. (Graeme Bickerdike)

February 2019. Barnard Castle, County Durham. On 5th February, the Teesdale Mercury reported that a new 3-metre wide bridleway of 1¼ miles will be established on the disused railway north-east of Barnard Castle, i.e. coming in from the Darlington direction. The route will start at Dent Gate Lane (grid reference NZ 057188) and continue to a public footpath (NZ 058177) near Glaxo Sports and Social Club and Teesdale Leisure Centre. (Graeme Bickerdike and Keith Holliday)

February 2019. Chepstow to Tintern, Gwent (Monmouthshire). The day after the above report appeared, the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley Review published an article headed 'Full steam ahead for tunnel path', in which plans were outlined to effectively extend the Forestry Commission's current railway path from Tintern to Black Morgan's Wood Viaduct down to the National Diving & Activity Centre (NDAC) near Tidenham. The south end of this extension would connect with a trackside footpath, which leads on to Wye Valley Junction, whence country lanes would provide access to the eastern edge of Chepstow. The principal mover behind this development is Darren Bryce, the proprietor of NDAC, who is keen to provide traffic-free access to his facilities. Significantly, the trail would pass through the 1,190 yard Tidenham Tunnel. Mr Bryce explained: 'The proposed path will create a significant extension to the visitor experience based on NDAC and provide a local resource for walking and cycling. The works proposed will be low key in nature with a view to making a stone dust path similar to the existing trails in the Forest of Dean. The works will be carefully carried out under the supervision of the project’s ecologist and bat specialist so that the Wye Valley Greenway can become a valued component of the outstanding landscape and woodlands in this area.' (Graeme Bickerdike and Keith Holliday)

Update: Network Rail has said that it will recover the track from Wye Valley Junction to Tidenham and donate it to the Dean Forest Railway for use on their extension from Parkend to Cinderford. This track has had a very long lying in state, for the last freight train from Tidenham ran in 1981. (Matt Skidmore)

February 2019. Roslin to Loanhead and Shawfair, Midlothian. Further to our report in March 2018, our correspondent reports that this newly extended trail now runs to 5 miles, with a hard surface and lighting. The grid references of the end points are NT 279640 (Roslin) and NT 316690 (Shawfair), although one can walk unofficially up to Millerhill Road, the A6106, at NT 320690. (Phillip Earnshaw)

January 2019. Folkestone Harbour, Kent. In April last year, we reported on the restoration of the formerly derelict station at Folkestone Harbour. Further to that development, the BBC has reported recently that the trackbed to the north of the station and its approach viaduct is to receive attention, having become overgrown and unsightly. Mark Ellerby of Network Rail South East commented: 'While the station section of the line is now a vibrant hub with shops, cafés, homes and cycle paths, the northern section has become overgrown and blighted by fly-tipping. We have deliberately opted to leave some of the old track in place to allow this to be a feature of any future scheme.' NR will remove old equipment and clear the site, but – most unusually – wants people to email them with suggestions as to how this part of the old railway might be re-used. Curiously, the BBC did not provide an email link. (Tim Chant)

January 2019. Holmsley, Hampshire. Further to our report in August last year, Hampshire County Council has now finalised plans for replacing the old rail overbridge near Holmsley station, which carries the A35 across the former railway from Brockenhurst to Hamworthy via Ringwood and Wimborne. The new bridge is to be a single concrete span, and the local authority will straighten out a 380 metre section of the A35 at the same time. During construction, the old and new bridges will stand side by side until the latter is completed, when the road will be re-aligned and the old bridge demolished. The cost remains at £5.5 million, unlike comparable Network Rail projects which frequently suffer alarming price escalation. (Tim Chant)

January 2019. Wetherby to Newton Kyme, West Yorkshire. There has been a 2¾ mile railway path from a point just south of Wetherby Race Course (grid reference SE 413485) to Thorp Arch (SE 441462) for some time, but the old trackbed can now be walked or cycled for a further 1¼ miles to SE 454447, opposite Station House (formerly Newton Kyme station) on the A659. Our Yorkshire Area coordinator provided the following report, which we should point out describes the route in the reverse direction:

'The Yorkshire branch has now walked the full length of the York & North Midland line from the GT Andrews-designed Newton Kyme station on the A659 (grid reference SE 454447) through to Wetherby. The newly-opened section is a walkway and cycleway, part of Sustrans' route NCN665. This has been made possible by the renovation and re-opening of the grade II listed and long-derelict viaduct which crosses the River Wharfe at SE 447454. The work was funded by Redrow Homes who have completed a new housing development nearby, on the site of the old Papyrus paper mill.'

Details of Redrow's work can be read at the link here, while an illustrated history of Newton Kyme station and its railway can be read here. (Keith Holliday and Jane Ellis)

Above: No one can deny that President Trump is a controversial figure, but what can he have done to upset the residents of the Isle of Wight? This Trump graffito adorns the portal of St. Lawrence Tunnel on the Isle of Wight Central Railway's former branch line from Ventnor West to Merstone. 23rd January 2019. (Richard Lewis)

January 2019. Bratton to Wellington, Shropshire. We have recently learned that a 1½ mile section of trackbed at the south end of the GWR's former Nantwich-Wellington line has been converted into a cycle trail called the Silkin Way. It starts at grid reference SJ 633140 (Bratton Road, Bratton) and ends at SJ 641120 (Wrockwardine Road, Wellington), just east of the former Market Drayton Junction. John Silkin (1923-1978) was a Labour politician who held office in the Labour governments of the 1960s and 1970s; the Silkin Way here is a continuation of the same one which starts at Coalport Bridge on the River Severn and re-uses much of the LNWR's Coalport branch. As such, this trail is almost certainly not a new construction but rather a long-established trail which we had missed. (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)

Update: Further north up the same line, east of Hodnet, a public footpath of just under a mile occupies the trackbed between grid references SJ 621281 (on Station Road) and SJ 621295. Aerial photographs suggest that only the goods shed survives from Hodnet station, which was situated immediately south of the rail overbridge on Station Road. (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)

January 2019. Whitland to Cardigan, Dyfed. BBC Wales has reported that an application has been submitted to Carmarthenshire County Council to create a public right of way on the trackbed of the Cardi Bach branch from Login to Llanglydwen. Llanglydwen resident Eurfyl Lewis said sites like the ancient Neolithic cromlech, Gwâl y Filiast, which is near the old track's route, would be a draw for visitors. A public consultation period runs until 4th February but, almost inevitably, a recent report by the local authority indicated that a local landowner was objecting to the plan; therefore, it is likely that the final decision will have to be made by a planning inspector. Local councillor Dorian Phillips has said the long-term aspiration is to re-open the whole line as a footpath from Cardigan to Whitland. A section at the Cardigan end, passing through the Teifi Marshes nature reserve, is already a footpath and cycle route. (Chris Parker)

January 2019. Lubenham to Market Harborough, Leicestershire/Northamptonshire. In September 2006, 13-year old Adam Mugridge was killed by a lorry on the busy A4304 while cycling from his home in Lubenham to school in Market Harborough. Ever since, his family has been campaigning to have the old railway line from Lubenham to Market Harborough (once part of the LNWR's Rugby-Market Harborough line) converted into a traffic-free cycle trail. Predictably, they were beset by reluctant landowners and – because the line crosses the county boundary not once but twice – bureaucratic difficulties, so they turned eventually to the Secretary of State for the Environment. Now, at last, Leicestershire County Council has recognised the mile-long route, from Old Hall Lane, Lubenham, to Farndale View, Market Harborough, as a public right of way; the grid references for the trackbed section are SP 708869 to SP 721868, with access at the Lubenham end from the public footpath which starts on Old Hall Lane at SP 708870. The fundraisers of the AdamSmile group have worked tirelessly to raise £140,000, which will pay for upgrading the route to a cycle trail. (David Thompson and Jeff Vinter)

January 2019. Disused Tunnels in Wales. Further to our report in August 2018, we are pleased to relate that plans to re-open a number of disused railway tunnels across Wales have encountered no insurmountable problems and are still progressing. This report from the Western News provides further details and covers the front-runners for re-opening: Rhondda, Abernant, Tregarth (open already), Pennar and Usk. (Tim Chant)

January 2019. Greenodd to Bardsea, Cumbria. On 13th January, the Westmorland Gazette announced that there is official interest in re-opening a scenic path near Ulverston which uses parts of the former Furness Railway's network. The paper writes as though the route was once a single line, but actually it was two; the branch lines from Plumpton West Junction, east of Ulverston, respectively to Windermere Lakeside and Conishead Priory, near Bardsea. The proposed trail would have to cross the still operational Cumbrian Coast line near Plumpton Hall, but fortunately there are two existing grade-separated crossings of the railway, the eastern one of which accommodates a public footpath. The paper reported, 'Parts of the route from Greenodd [southwards] to Bardsea have been used by cyclists, horse riders and walkers for some time, but a section of the route close to the Ulverston Canal, which is owned by Network Rail, was fenced off a few years ago. However, campaigners are now pressing to re-open [this] section, a move which if successful would not only allow access along the entire route, but would also provide users with a safer alternative … to the busy A590.' Local councillors and Barrow MP John Woodcock support the idea, and staff from Network Rail were due to attend the next meeting of the local council's 'Cumbria Better Connected' campaign group, although local councillor Mark Wilson admitted that Network Rail 'have not been on board as much'. North of Greenodd, a section of the Windermere branch is already part of NCN70 between grid references SD 318825 and SD 326829, a distance of just over half a mile. After that, NCN70 continues (off the trackbed) into Haverthwaite, where the rest of the branch to Windermere Lakeside is now the preserved Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway. (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)

Above: One of the portals of Usk Tunnel, seen in the jungle-like conditions of high summer. There are proposals to convert the tunnel into part of a new cycle trail, as reported in the story below. 21st August 2008. (Andrew Lewis, used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0)

January 2019. Usk to Little Mill Junction (nr. Pontypool), Monmouthshire. We reported in June 2018, December 2016 and June 2015 plans to convert the disused railway line between Little Mill and Usk into an off-road cycle route of about 4 miles. Recently, we have learned from articles published in 'Wales Online' and the BBC's website that this proposal includes the 256 yard Usk Tunnel east of Usk station site. Usk Tunnel now features in Monmouthshire County Council's Integrated Network Map (INM) to improve cycling and walking routes, but a council spokesman stressed that 'nothing has been decided yet on priorities for scheme development in 2019-20'. (Don Kennedy, Tim Stannard and Chris Parker)

January 2019. Stalbridge to Poole, Dorset. Just when we thought that the North Dorset Trailway might have 'run out of steam' due to government funding cuts, the Bournemouth Echo published a story (on 7th January) revealing that North Dorset District Council is to be asked to approve a £70,000 grant to cover the 'very significant' cost of purchasing former railway land to extend the route. (The charity behind the NDT, the North Dorset Trailway Network, seeks to re-use the trackbed of the former Somerset & Dorset Railway as a long-distance, multi-use trail.) The funds being sought would enable the Trailway to be extended north from Sturminster Newton – which is the current northern terminus – to Stalbridge, and, according to the newspaper, the council is actually proposing to make the grant. Hugh de Iongh, a council development officer, remarked that the Trailway 'delivers long-term economic and community benefits', and explained that the funding represents 'a continuation of work that the council is already involved in'. He added: 'The North Dorset Trailway has great potential as an element of the north Dorset economy and also has considerable health and wellbeing benefits'. (Tim Chant)

Update: On Monday 14th January, the Cabinet of North Dorset District Council voted to make the above grant. Dorset's local government will be re-structured in April, with most of the county then coming under the auspices of a new unitary authority, Dorset Council; it is believed that NDDC voted to spend this money on its own area while it still existed and had the power to do so. (Tim Chant)

Above: Stephen Ash's model of the former bridge near modern Tutshill Sluice, which carried the Weston, Clevedon & Portishead Light Railway over the River Yeo, was exhibited recently at the Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust's 2019 Model Railway Exhibition at Edington, Somerset. The viaduct in the bottom right of the picture is from a separate model, which (in terms of historical accuracy at Tutshill) was rather unfortunately placed! The story below tells how this bridge is to be replaced. January 2019. (Ivor Sutton)

January 2019. Wick St. Lawrence to Ham Lane, Somerset. Most readers can be forgiven for never having heard of Wick St. Lawrence and Ham Lane (near Kingston Seymour) because they are the names of former halts on the Weston, Clevedon & Portishead Light Railway, a very minor railway which closed on 18th May 1940 and is now largely unacknowledged on modern Ordnance Survey maps. However, on 18th December 2018, the 'BristolLive' website reported that a new walking and cycling route from Weston-Super-Mare to Clevedon was to go ahead, incorporating the Wick to Ham Lane section of the former trackbed. This railway part of the trail will start at grid reference ST 377653, east of Wick St. Lawrence, and continue for just over a mile to Ham Lane at ST 384668. The WC&PLR had halts at both locations and, so that users will not miss the southern one, a replica of Wick St. Lawrence Halt will be built. Even more remarkable is the fact that the railway's bridge over the River Yeo near Tutshill Sluice (ST 380658) is to be replaced and will form part of the English Coastal Path. Currently, the ECP in this area does not trouble the coast very much! South of Wick St. Lawrence Halt, public footpaths can be followed near the old railway to Ebdon Lane Farm (ST 370643), where a further footpath follows the old trackbed to the bank of the River Banwell at ST 368641. (Ivor Sutton and Jeff Vinter)

January 2019. Bourne End to High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. Julian Holland's 2013 book, Dr Beeching's Axe 50 Years On: Memories of Britain's Lost Railways (David & Charles, ISBN 978-1-4463-0267-5) states on page 61 that 'the majority of the trackbed between High Wycombe and Bourne End is now a footpath and cycleway'. We believe that this statement is incorrect, although public footpaths run parallel to a couple of sections, and Buckinghamshire County Council had plans to create such a trail; see here. However, with the imminent opening of the Crossrail project, it seems that attention has now turned towards reinstating the line, initially as a light rail project, but now for heavy rail. In March 2017, the Bucks Free Press reported that (High Wycombe) councillors had agreed to a £100,000 feasibility study to examine re-opening, and this 2016 report provides the background. An update from local members will be appreciated, so, if you can help, please get in touch using the Online Form on our Contact page. (Jeff Vinter)

January 2019. Meldon Junction to Halwill Junction, Devon. Devon County Council's ambition to re-open as much as possible of the former Bude branch as a multi-use trail is moving closer. Partial obliteration of the trackbed by the new A30 west of Meldon Junction requires walkers to follow minor roads to East Bowerland (grid reference SX 544930), but from there it is now possible to walk or cycle 4 miles along the trackbed to Broadbury Cottages, alongside the A3079 at SX 489950. We should mention that, during the winter months, the unsealed surface requires cyclists to be hardy and impervious to mud. A further extension, to Ashbury & North Lew station by minor road, was being worked on last year. In September, the trackbed west of Broadbury Cottages was a dead end. Further down the line, access to the trackbed had been created from Ashbury, by minor road, but – according to the owner of Ashbury and North Lew station – no work had been done on the old railway formation. The trail will avoid the station, which is now privately owned, but the next leg of the route, to Halwill Junction, appears to be moving forward. (Phillip Earnshaw)