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An Appeal. The Webmaster is grateful for the supply of news which arrives from across the UK, and even the world; it is remarkable how much disused railways are in the news. What will help even more is if contributors will supply local stories in the form of a summary that is ready to publish. Hyperlinks, PDF files and downloaded news articles are useful resources, and please don't stop sending them; but when news arrives in this form only, it takes a lot of work to reduce them down to the short stories that we publish in these pages. Thank you.

The Watercress Way

The Watercress Way is a proposed long distance path which is intended to use as much as possible of the former railway lines from Alresford to Winchester Junction, and from Winchester Junction to Sutton Scotney, being parts of former Mid Hants Railway and Didcot, Newbury & Southampton Railway respectively. Much has been achieved on the ground already thanks to a motivated committee with professional attitudes and good connections. The link here will open the group's 2017 Annual Report, which sets out their purpose, strategy, and wehat has been achieved so far. (Graham Lambert and Marcus Heap)

Frome's Missing Links

This charity is working to bring the Radstock-Frome leg of Colliers Way (NCN24) into Frome town centre via a level traffic-free route instead of switching trail users on to local roads at Great Elm, as it does now. The group suffered a major setback in April 2016 when the government slashed by 85% its spending on walking and cycling schemes, thus making match-funding worth 180,000 disappear overnight. However, FML has now set itself up as an independent charity, raised 29,000 in its own right, and secured a grant of just over 48,000 from the Heart of Wessex Local Action Group. Its re-designed website can be visited here, while you can become a member – for free – by enrolling here. Please consider this because the group needs 'critical mass' to demonstrate that it has substantial support both in the Frome area, and more widely.

A visit on Monday 1st June 2015 to see the work in progress revealed the high quality route that now exists between ST 787478 (the junction of Wallbridge and New Road near Frome's railway station) and ST 771489 (Low Water on the west bank of the River Frome). A further visit on 30th December 2016 (illustrated here) revealed the extensive clearance work that has been carried out over the railway bridge at Great Elm, in readiness for the next phase of construction. The gap is now under 1 miles, which is tantalisingly close, but public support is essential. (Webmaster)

Above: Drilling out a core sample from the overbridge north west of Frome which carries the A362 over the still operational freight line from Whatley Quarry. One of the most difficult parts of the 'missing link' between Frome and Great Elm is the crossing of the A362, which is a fast and dangerous road with blind bends and steep gradients. The best and safest option is to tunnel through the blocked up arch of the railway bridge which was infilled some time ago, presumably to reduce the span of the bridge and allow it to carry heavier traffic. At the time the arch was redundant as the railway was using only one track, even though there was enough width for two tracks. In order to assess the technical feasibility of cutting a tunnel through the blocked arch, it was necessary to take core samples from within in order to determine what had been used for the infill. It turned out to be concrete, of precisely the right strength to support the road above the proposed tunnel. 12th April 2012. (Frome's Missing Links; text and photograph used with permission)

Above: Several core samples were taken from both sides of the A362 bridge; the photograph above shows the west side with the proposed tunnel outline marked in chalk. There will be no need to duck because the ground level will be reduced to the same level as the railway track. In passing, it is good to see Network Rail cooperating with a community-led project like this. 12th April 2012. (Frome's Missing Links; text and photograph used with permission)

The Queensbury Tunnel

Take some time out from the Christmas shopping to watch a well-produced film on YouTube, 'A Walk Over Queensbury Tunnel', plus a couple of films that follow a walk through it. What could be a useful footpath/cycleway through the Lower Pennines, forming an integral part of The Great Northern Railway Trail, is in danger of being lost, so if you haven't signed the online petition organised by the admirable Queensbury Tunnel Society, please do, and please forward this news on to any interested friends or family members. This could be a marvellous tourist attraction in a rather neglected area, in much the same way as The Two Tunnels Greenway just outside Bath, which has been such a success. (Jane Ellis)

The Otter Trail

Staff and pupils at The King’s School, Ottery St Mary, Devon, are campaigning for the disused railway from Feniton (ex Sidmouth Junction) to Ottery St. Mary to be converted into a new shared use trail. Encouragingly, Sustrans has carried out a feasibility study which accentuates the improved safety which such a trail would provide, as well as spelling out the benefits from improved public health and increased local spending from 'green tourists'. In January 2015, Devon County Council’'s Place Scrutiny Committee' reviewed the council’s transport plans to 2030 and included a cycling route not only from Feniton to Ottery, but on through Tipton St. John to Sidmouth. To sign the petition for this trail. click the link here and search for 'Sign our Petition'.

The Wye Valley Line

The disused railway from Tintern to the eastern edge of Chepstow hasn't seen a train for decades, although the rails remain in place from the junction east of Chepstow up to Tidenham Quarry, which last saw a train in 1981. The Tintern end of the line has been used as a path for many years thanks to the good offices of the Forestry Commission, but the rest of it is a tale of lost opportunity. At the turn of the Millennium, Sustrans earmarked a seven-figure sum for converting the line into a multi use trail, including replacement of the missing bridge over the River Wye immediately south of Tintern station, which is a popular visitor centre open to the public. The Forest of Dean District Council voted in favour of the scheme so far as it affected the part in their ownership, but in Monmouthshire County Council the vote was lost by the narrowest of margins – one vote, by all accounts, allegedly due to the influence of residents who feared an invasion of bicycle-carrying cars that would clog up local roads and parking places. The link here provides an opportunity to support the revived campaign for this trail, while more detail is available on the website of 'Wye Valley Communities for Safe Cycling'. The general feeling is that Monmouthshire CC is dragging its feet, so please support this campaign in order to get the project moving. We cannot improve on the words or sentiments of the Wye Valley group: 'At a time when local services are being cut it would be a great shame to lose this opportunity to invest in our local community. We passionately support the project and invite you to do likewise.' (Webmaster)

The Strawberry Line Project

This campaign group in Somerset aims to create a multi use network of paths based largely on old railways between Clevedon and Shepton Mallet, Somerset. Much of the necessary preparatory work has been completed already by Somerset County Council, which has published detailed plans for an extension of the existing Yatton-Cheddar section eastwards to Wells. However, the project has reached an impasse thanks to local authority inaction, as a result of which it has launched an online petition at www.thestrawberryline.org.uk. So far, they have gained nearly 4,000 supporters, which is good but nowhere near enough. Let's see if we can make this 10,000 by publicising the petition more effectively. Everyone benefits from a railway path, and railway paths in the west country enjoy huge levels of use from visiting holidaymakers - who may include you and your family. Share this news as widely as you can – let's see if we can make this happen. (Webmaster)

The Friends of Ashburton Station

Ashburton station is a remarkable survivor, thanks to its re-use as 'Station Garage' after closure in 1971. It is a Brunel-inspired building with an overall roof, a type of station which has vanished almost entirely from the West of England; the only other example that we know of is at Frome in Somerset. Unfortunately, Dartmoor National Park Authority seems determined to demolish Ashburton station for re-development, thereby making Frome the only survivor of this type. In November 2015, the South Devon Railway Trust achieved a stay of execution by pointing out various flaws in DNPA's handling of the planning procedure: when these were upheld, DNPA returned the status of its plan to 'draft', but the final outcome for the station and the whole Chuley Road area of Ashburton is still uncertain. The South Devon Railway has aspirations to extend from Buckfastleigh back to the town, and local campaigners are making it clear that this will be the community's last ever chance to get re-connected to the national rail network at Totnes. Please support this petition, if not for the sake of the railway, then for the sake of saving this historic building from wanton destruction. Other uses could be found for the station, e.g. as a local museum, while the SDR rebuilds the line. Millions of tourists visit the west country, not only for its scenery, but also for the history that is so evident in many of its cities, towns and villages. What is the point of destroying part of the historical fabric of a town? Once gone, it cannot be replaced. (Webmaster)