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The Bridport Branch, Dorset. Much of the former branch line from Maiden Newton to Bridport can now be walked, but there are two sections where walkers should stay off the trackbed, namely (1) Tollerford, near Maiden Newton, to the bridge over the River Hooke, just north of Toller (subject to delicate negotiations with the landowner), and (2) Loders to Bradpole (line ploughed out). The branch crossed an area of outstanding Dorset scenery and it is good to report that Sustrans is working hard, via its local ranger and the communities along the route, to establish a cycle trail over it. The following batch of photographs show how the line looked in May 2010.

Above: The old line crosses two bridges in the village of Loders in quick succession, this being the first as the route is traced from Bridport to Maiden Newton. The trackbed here is not accessible and probably never will be, since it runs along an embankment that overlooks people's gardens. Not far to the left of the picture, the old railway has been ploughed out and does not re-appear until Bradpole is reached. 1 May 2010. (Jeff Vinter)

 
Above: This is the second, i.e. more easterly, bridge in Loders, where the trackbed can be accessed via the steps seen in the left foreground. It is then a clear walk of two miles to lonely Powerstock station, which is actually closer to Nettlecombe than Powerstock. Nettlecombe has a good pub, The Marquis of Lorne, which makes a convenient destination if you fancy an out-and-back walk from here. 1 May 2010. (Jeff Vinter)
 
Above: This is the trackbed north east of Loders, looking towards Powerstock. This is a particularly fine section of trackbed walking, with fine views developing over a long combe to the left. The fence posts are of a distinctive metal type that characterises this line; they will last for decades yet! 1 May 2010. (Jeff Vinter)
 
Above: The north parapet of Whetley Bridge, which is situated beyond Powerstock en route to Toller. The stencilled writing reads 'BRP 5-12'. 'BRP' stands for 'Bridport line' and is the Engineer's Line Reference. All lines have a 3- or 4-character code to identify them, although Bridport used to be BPT. (A full list of line codes is available at the link here – scroll down to the bottom of the page for the A to Z index.) '5-12' indicates 5 miles and 12 chains from the junction at Maiden Newton, a chain being the old imperial measurement for 22 yards, i.e. one-eightieth of a mile. If you can interpret these old railway markings, it gives you a good idea of how far you have travelled, or how far you have yet to go. While the rust and decay make for an arty photograph, the bridge clearly needs some tender loving care. 1 May 2010. (Jeff Vinter with help from Ron Strutt on the caption)
 
Above: The south parapet of Whetley Bridge still wears its Southern green beneath the drab black that British Rail sloshed all over the branch in the late 1960s. Being lead-based, the Southern paint was much tougher than its replacement and arguably looked better in the countryside than BR's dreary corporate image. Mind you, when you consider what BR did to its branch lines, black was an appropriate colour to paint the structures on them. 1 May 2010. (Jeff Vinter)
 
Above: This bridge on Witherstone Bank illustrates the other type of bridge on the branch – the classic brick or stone arch as opposed to the steel trough mounted between opposing abutments. This bridge carries a bridleway over the line which, on this occasion, looked as if it had not been used since the end of the previous winter. 1 May 2010. (Jeff Vinter)
 
Above: The view from Witherstone Bridge looking north-eastwards along the trackbed towards Toller. This part of the line has been open to the public almost since closure, thanks to its early purchase by the Dorset Nature Trust. Witherstone Bank was the summit of the line, where heavily loaded coal trains sometimes stalled, especially in damp weather, thus requiring help from a banking engine. 1 May 2010. (Jeff Vinter)
 
Above: This bridge is situated on Powerstock Common, two miles from Powerstock and one mile from Toller. The trackbed to the left of the photograph is not publicly accessible and will not become so, but a convenient detour starts behind the photographer, also on the left. 1 May 2010. (Jeff Vinter)
 
Above: In negotiating terms, the most difficult part of the conversion of the branch into a cycle trail is probably from Tollerford to the railway bridge over the River Hooke, just north of Toller. This bridge, just over a mile from the junction at Maiden Newton, is in the middle of that section and carries the old line over the lane to Toller Fratrum. If the trackbed to the right of the picture cannot be used, it is hoped that this can be where trail users pick it up again for the run into Toller. There are two Toller villages in the area – Toller Fratrum and Toller Porcorum, meaning 'Toller of the brothers' and 'Toller of the pigs' respectively, names which suggest that there used to be a monastic settlement here. The old railway station was at Toller Porcorum; residents of Toller Fratrum wishing to catch a train had to walk to Maiden Newton! 1 May 2010. (Jeff Vinter)