NEWS 2001
Above: View across Meldon Viaduct, Devon, in July 2000. This viaduct, near Okehampton, has recently been restored for public access and carries a new cycle trail which will link Okehampton and Tavistock within the next few years. For further details, see entry for February 2001. (Richard Martin)

December 2001. How about some more pictures for this page, folks?

October 2001. Canada. Fancy a really long railway walk? Then perhaps the Trans Canada Trail is for you. It does just what it says - i.e. cross Canada - using a large proportion of disused railways. The distance is a tad under 10,000 miles. See you there? (Ralph Rawlinson)

October 2001. The Portishead Branch, Bristol. This long moribund branch - one of the few to have had all the track left in place after closure - is being re-opened between Ashton Junction and Pill, where a new section of line continues along the west bank of the River Avon to Royal Portbury Dock. The 3 miles between Pill and Portishead remain closed, although vegetation on this section was cut back a few years ago, which suggests that the possibility of re-opening may not be entirely dead. Does anyone know what became of plans for the Avon Metro, which would have seen this line re-opened for light rail use? (Ralph Rawlinson and Jeff Vinter)

October 2001. Horsebridge, Hampshire. The asking price of the restored station at Horsebridge has been reduced from 850,000 to only (!) 700,000. Despite the large drop in price, members may still feel the need of help from the Lottery God! For further details, see entry for May 2001. (Ralph Rawlinson)

September 2001. Cheddar, Somerset. The Cheddar Valley Railway Walk offers a near continuous walk and cycle trail from Yatton to Cheddar. The September newsletter of the Cheddar Valley Railway Walk Society carried the following interesting snippet: 'Two new groups are working beyond Cheddar, from Rodney Stoke towards Cheddar and from Westbury [Sub Mendip] towards Wells. Some of this will follow the old railway but some of it will be along paths and droves, as much of the old track and the stations have found other uses. My dream of walking from Yatton to Wells might yet come true.' (Mandy Brading)

August 2001. Shoreham by Sea, West Sussex. Funds are being raised locally to restore the Old Toll Bridge at Shoreham. The bridge is situated about a mile north of the town centre and provides a valuable traffic-free crossing of the River Adur. It is an elaborate timber structure, once owned and staffed by the railway, which had to provide two members of staff to collect the tolls on busy days. At the east end of the bridge, there was a level crossing on the branch line from Shoreham to Christ's Hospital, now the popular Downs Link. This is a quiet spot now, but used to be a major bottleneck when the road over the toll bridge was the A27. (Sustrans Ltd)

August 2001. Abingdon, Oxfordshire. Construction of a new railway path on the western end of this branch line was completed by Sustrans Ltd in May. For further details, see the entry on this route for November 2000. (Sustrans Ltd)

August 2001. Chichester, West Sussex. After a delay due to the Foot & Mouth crisis, the northward extension to Centurion Way, the railway path between Chichester and Lavant, is finally under way. Click here for further details. Also in the Chichester area, a link to the marina (actually in Birdham) is under way. It is believed that this will involve further improvements to the towpath of the Chichester Canal. (Sustrans Ltd/Jeff Vinter)

August 2001. Groombridge, Kent. The popular Forest Way railway path from East Grinstead is being extended into Groombridge so that it no longer peters out on the edge of the town where it meets the A264. The extension will utilise the trackbed of an abandoned curve that once allowed trains to travel from Edenbridge Town to Tunbridge Wells West without reversing at Eridge. Further west at Forest Row, where a demolished bridge created a difficult crossing of the busy A22, the trackbed is being re-graded to create a ramp, and a 'Pegasus' crossing is being installed - this has traffic lights for horses, cyclists, and walkers. These works should be completed during the winter. (Sustrans Ltd.)

June 2001. Lancaster. For some years now, Lancaster has had three separate railway paths radiating out to Glasson Dock, Morecambe, and Caton Green. A new Millennium Bridge over the River Lune, linking the three trails, was officially opened (6 months late) on Friday 18 March 2001. (Ralph Rawlinson)

June 2001. Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria. The Hartley to Stenkrith path (1 miles), part of the former Stainmore line from Tebay to Darlington, was first reported by Colin Rowley in Railway Ramblings No. 87. It has now been completed but, unfortunately, is closed at present due to Foot & Mouth restrictions. The trail is notable in that it includes two imposing stone viaducts, namely Merrygill (366ft long, 78ft high, 9 arches) and Podgill (466ft long, 84ft high, 11 arches). F&M restrictions are also delaying the construction of the footbridge over the River Eden to Stenkrith Park adjacent to Kirkby Stephen East station site. (Ralph Rawlinson)

June 2001. Leamington-Rugby-Long Itchington-Marton Junction, Warwickshire. These lines were chosen for the annual Chairman's Walk in 1992, and the same year it was reported that Sustrans had agreed to buy them, and had prepared a detailed report for a cycle trail. Have there been any developments since? If so, please let us know by sending an e-mail via our Contact page. (Ralph Rawlinson)

June 2001. Princes Risborough to Thame, Berkshire/Oxfordshire. This route has now been completed and was opened officially on Wednesday 20 June. The trail starts at the eastern end of Thame (at Howland Road level crossing on the town's eastern bypass), and extends all the way to Princes Risborough, although the trackbed is left for the last 1 miles, since the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway, and Chiltern Trains, still use it. The complete trail is 7 miles long, and a couple of pre-opening pictures can be viewed in our Photo Gallery. Further information about this route will be found in the entry for January 2001. (Sustrans Ltd/Jeff Vinter)

May 2001. Horsebridge Station, Hampshire. This is nothing to do with a new walk, but readers may be interested to know that the superbly restored station at Horsebridge on the former Test Valley line from Romsey to Andover is up for sale through Winchester estate agents Knight Frank. The asking price is 850,000, but that includes the station building, a signal box, various original outbuildings, and a 1922 coach built by the London & South Western Railway, all in a site of 1.85 acres. As our informant said, 'This might interest you - particularly if the Lottery God has been kind!' (Chris Cook)

May 2001. Kings Worthy to South Wonston, Hampshire. In 1970, Hampshire County Council purchased the Winchester end of the former Didcot, Newbury & Southampton Railway for improvements to the A34 trunk road. However, the 1 mile section from Kings Worthy to South Wonston was not used in this scheme, and gradually locals 'adopted' it unofficially for walking, cycling and horse riding. Now the local authority has decided to dedicate the route as a bridleway, although the HCC Countryside Service will first move in to clear vegetation and repair the long-neglected fencing. (Chris Cook)

May 2001. The Tissington Trail, Derbyshire. For many years, the southern end of this scenic railway path ended on the 'wrong' side of Ashbourne Tunnel, thus obliging path users who wanted to visit Ashbourne to make a long detour over a steep hill. However, in June 2000, the 400 yard tunnel was re-opened, courtesy of Sustrans Ltd, with a 6 ft wide path throughout, so that walkers and cyclists now arrive in Ashbourne at the site of the town's former station. The tunnel is fully illuminated, and a plaque on the wall adjacent to the south portal records its re-opening by a local politician. Sustrans now hopes to extend the trail southwards via minor roads and bridleways to Etwall, where it will join the Etwall-Mickleover railway path (3 miles), before continuing to Derby city centre via on-road cycle trails. It is hoped that the Ashbourne-Etwall section can be routed via the scenic Osmaston Park. (Grahame Cox and Michael Hodgson)

April 2001. Didcot to Upton, Oxfordshire. Sustrans has just announced that, after 7 years of negotiation with local landowners, this 1 mile section of the former Didcot, Newbury & Southampton Railway is to be opened as a key link in the National Cycle Network, with possible future extensions towards Wantage and Newbury. Although relatively short, the line runs on an embankment and offers extensive views of the surrounding countryside. It can already be used by walkers and those with mountain bikes. (Sustrans Ltd)

March 2001. Chichester to Selsey, West Sussex. 25,000 was earmarked in mid March by Chichester District Council for the construction of a cycle trail between Chichester and Selsey, which will re-use part of the Selsey Tramway. For further details, click here. (Jeff Vinter)

March 2001. South Wales is already a great area for exploring disused railway lines, with routes on offer such as the Taff Trail (Brecon-Cardiff, 55 miles) and local networks such as that in the Afan Valley (ca. 20 miles), but developments continue. For further details, click here. (Ralph Rawlinson)

March 2001. Chepstow to Tintern, Gloucestershire. The southern end of this line, once part of the Wye Valley Railway, survived until the 1990s to convey stone traffic from quarries at Tidenham, south of Tintern. Sustrans Ltd, the path-building charity, is interested in constructing a cycle trail along the route, but the newly formed Wye Valley Railway Company proposes to put Tintern back on the passenger rail network. The 1,188 yard Tidenham Tunnel (the 21st longest on the Great Western Railway) presents a problem for any would-be cycle trail, but the preservationists have offered to carry cycles on their trains free of charge so that the line would still be useful to cyclists. (Chris Cook)

March 2001. Watchet to Gupworthy, Somerset. Readers who know their railway geography will recognise this as the former West Somerset Mineral Railway. Exmoor National Park Authority has recently purchased the line's steeply graded incline, which ascends the Brendon Hills in mile at a gradient of 1 in 4. The Authority has obtained a tree-felling licence to clear the mature trees which now block the route, after which the drainage will be repaired. Later, consultations will be conducted with private landowners to establish a long-term management plan for the line and its structures, and provide limited access for the public. (Jeff Vinter)

February 2001. Canterbury to Whitstable, Kent. A new walking and cycling trail - 'The Crab & Winkle Way' - has been established between Canterbury and Whitstable, using a mile of the former Canterbury & Whitstable Railway at the north, i.e. Whitstable, end. The line closed to passengers in 1931 and freight in 1952, so the absence of re-usable trackbed is not to be wondered at. As if this were not problem enough, part of Tyler Hill Tunnel at Canterbury had to be infilled, with concrete, in order to prevent the university buildings above subsiding into it. Clearly, no one can expect to walk or cycle here! Canterbury City Council designated the whole line a conservation area in 1999, so it is possible that more of the trackbed may become accessible in the future. The trail has just won an award for 'sustainable tourism' from the South East of England Tourist Board. (Sustrans Ltd/Kentish Stour Countryside Project)

February 2001. Glen Ogle, Scotland. A new route has been opened up through Glen Ogle, which enables walkers and cyclists to avoid the nearby A84. This route re-uses the listed Kendrum Burn Viaduct on the former railway line between Balquhidder and Killin Junction. Work on the viaduct included the erection of a new steel span, presumably to replace one that had been demolished earlier. South of Balquhidder, 8 miles of the former line to Dunblane can be walked between Strathyre and Callander, with a further half mile east of Callander. (Sustrans Ltd)

February 2001. Barnstaple, Devon. A long missing bridge on the Tarka Trail between Barnstaple and Braunton has been reinstated. This is the former LSWR railway bridge over the River Yeo, just north of the former Barnstaple Town station, which still stands. The replacement structure is a swing bridge, just like the original. When it is 'open' (to river traffic), there is a well sign-posted alternative path to cross the river via the first fixed bridge. The new bridge normally saves this half mile detour. As well as being part of the Tarka Trail and the National Cycle Network, this route also forms part of Britain's longest national walking trail, the South West Coast Path. (Sustrans Ltd, with additional information from Andrew Lack)

February 2001. Meldon Viaduct to Lake Viaduct, Devon. This is part of a growing railway path which was planned originally to link Okehampton with the A386 near Bridestowe. However, Devon County Council has now acquired most of the trackbed as far as Lydford, so the trail could end up being a lot longer than envisaged. The new extension from Prewley Moor to Lake Viaduct extends the route to 3 miles. During the summer season, occasional local trains run from Okehampton station to Meldon, where the trail can be joined. It is hoped that future negotiations will allow the trail to be extended alongside the railway back into Okehampton. (Jeff Vinter)

January 2001. Princes Risborough to Thame, Berkshire/Oxfordshire. After a protracted battle with local landowners who did not want a railway path to pass their property, it now turns out that Chiltern Trains want to re-build a railway line past their back door instead! For further details, click here. Incidentally, the landowners lost their battle against the railway path. Will they choose to do battle with Chiltern Trains? (Jeff Vinter)