NEWS 2006
Above: Just to prove that members do occasionally get out on to an operational railway, this is a picture of members from the Yorkshire Area enjoying a brake van trip on the Bowes Railway – the only railway in the country which features an operational rope-hauled incline. Unfortunately, the future of the Bowes Railway is in some doubt at the moment. August 2004. (Richard Lewis)

December 2006. Aberdeen to Banchory, Aberdeenshire. The Sustrans website states that a cycle route is being developed along the old railway line from Aberdeen to Banchory, but gives no further details. The distance involved is 19 miles and represents just under half of the Great North of Scotland Railway's former branch from Aberdeen to Ballater. (Ralph Rawlinson)

December 2006. Egginton to Etwall, Derbyshire. In June this year, Sustrans completed this section of the Mickleover Trail, which forms part of National Cycle Network route 54. This re-uses the whole of BR's former Mickleover test track, and provides an 8 mile off-road route from Egginton into Derby. (Ralph Rawlinson)

December 2006. Edinburgh, Scotland. Rodney Street Tunnel at Canonmills in Edinburgh is due to be re-opened as part of a cycle trail, having been closed in 1968 when freight trains ceased to use it. When re-opened, the tunnel will provide a missing link in National Cycle Network route 75 and enable walkers and cyclists to avoid a busy road junction above. The project is expected to cost £350,000 and should be open in time for summer 2007. (Richard Lewis)

December 2006. Changes to Railway Regulations. While not strictly to do with walking old railways, this news and advice from one of our members on future railway closures, the protection of closed routes and railway photography will be of interest to many who visit this site. (Ralph Rawlinson)

November 2006. Radstock to Frome, Somerset. The 1½ miles from Mells to Great Elm near Hapsford Junction was completed by Sustrans in July this year. This completes the shared use cycle trail from Radstock to Great Elm, which forms part of Colliers Way, National Cycle Network route 24. The tarmac path mostly runs beside the still in situ track but crosses it at three places. The Hapsford Junction to Frome section is still operational with aggregate trains worked by Mendip Rail. (Ralph Rawlinson)

November 2006. Chorlton Junction to Fairfield, Greater Manchester. Ten years after the first proposals were published for the Fallowfield Loop Line, the route is now complete along the whole of the former railway, passing through the southern suburbs of Fallowfield and Levenshulme. NCN6 follows the central section, the rest being part of NCN 60, the Greater Manchester orbital route. Various links already made include a path along the infilled Stockport Canal at Debdale. For further details, click here. (Ralph Rawlinson)

November 2006. Tralee to Limerick, County Kerry/Limerick, Eire. Members of the club and regular visitors to this site probably know already that the 53 mile line from Tralee to Limerick, closed in the 1980s, is still owned by CIE (the Irish state railway) but being converted into a long distance walking and cycling trail. The project, known as The Great Southern Trail, has just published a new guide to railway walks in north Kerry and west Limerick, with assistance from Foras na Gaeilge. In addition to Irish and English, the text also includes French, German, Italian and Spanish; you can access a PDF version of the brochure here. Note that, because this is designed to be printed on A3 paper and then folded to DL size, some of the text will be upside down - just use the controls in Adobe Reader to rotate the page. Copies are also available by contacting 00353 (0) 69 62597. (Great Southern Trail)

October 2006. Fiddleford, nr. Sturminster Newton, Dorset. Following repair work to the piers of Fiddleford Viaduct, Dorset Countryside has just lowered into place a new steel span which replaces the one removed nearly 40 years ago when the Somerset & Dorset Railway was closed. The new span is an elegant looking structure, whose gentle arc will prevent water pooling on the deck and causing corrosion. At the time of our visit (Saturday 7 October), the new bridge was not yet open to the public since the fenced parapet had not been installed fully, but we would guess that opening can be only a matter of days or weeks away. The new bridge combines two previously separate sections of the North Dorset Trailway, and will enable users to travel from Sturminster Newton to within a mile of Shillingstone, where another two miles of trackbed can be walked southwards. A waymarked trail using nearby field paths links these two sections of trackbed via the tiny village of Hammoon. (Jeff Vinter)

October 2006. Carisbrooke to Yarmouth, Isle of Wight. The Autumn 2006 edition of Sustrans' quarterly journal The Hub (South East/South Central) contained details of a well-funded proposal to create a cycle trail along the course of the former Freshwater, Yarmouth & Newport Railway between Carisbrooke and Yarmouth. Click here for further details. (Sustrans Ltd)

October 2006. Peasmarsh, nr. Guildford, Surrey. Following earlier reports in these pages, a new bridge at grid reference SU 995464 has just been opened over the River Wey Navigation at Peasmarsh. 'New' is a bit of an exaggeration, since the central span actually sits on the restored abutments of an old railway bridge, which was removed decades ago. The bridge forms part of a westward extension to the Downs Link which takes this popular railway path (from Shoreham-by-Sea and Christ's Hospital) right up to Peasmarsh Junction (SU 991469), where the observant can still spot some old rails in the ground. For good measure, the long disused connection from Peasmarsh Junction towards Shalford has also been cleared and opened, these works as a whole creating – with the Wey Navigation – an interesting and attractive circular walk of just under two miles.

To the east of Peasmarsh, anyone following the Downs Link towards Bramley will cross another new bridge, this time over a stream, shortly after crossing the A281. It looks as if this new structure has been built on top of the old one, with the path built up on both sides so that it is barely noticeable. If our correspondent is right, this mimics the 'bridge over a bridge' further down the line at Rudgwick, which was constructed when the 19th century railway builders had to ease the gradient at Rudgwick station in order to meet the requirements of the Railway Inspector, who was concerned that trains calling there might run away back down the slope. The embankment leading into Rudgwick already contained a bridge, so the builders had not only to heighten the embankment, but also to build a new bridge on top of the original one. A few years ago, the local authority installed a viewing platform here so that path users can inspect this unusual structure – one of the strangest sights on any railway path. (Tim Grose/Jeff Vinter)

September 2006. Mirfield to Huddersfield (Newtown Goods), West Yorkshire. The whole of this 4½ mile former Midland Railway goods-only branch is now a cycleway. The first 2½ miles, including Bradley Viaduct, form part of the new Calder Valley Greenway and, at Bradley, the route connects into the existing two-mile long Birkby-Bradley Greenway. The Midland closed the line on 12th August 1937, so it has been lucky to survive intact for this re-use to be possible. (Ralph Rawlinson)

September 2006. Wootton Bridge to Whippingham, Isle of Wight. This new railway path starts opposite the Isle of Wight Steam Railway's new Wootton Bridge station. To describe it as going to Whippingham is a bit of an exaggeration, since it goes to the now closed (and privately owned) Whippingham station, which was inconveniently situated nearly 2 miles from Whippingham village. Here, it joins an earlier railway path which follows the old Ryde to Newport line as far as Belmont Lane at grid reference SZ 517914, where a three-quarter mile diversion south-westwards along the nearby A3054 leads to Fairlee, where the route can be picked up again (at SZ 509905) and followed right through to Newport. This last section includes the short Newport Tunnel, now open to walkers and cyclists, and featuring a curious modern extension at the western end which suggests that Isle of Wight trains could negotiate the most extraordinary curves – visit it and see! The whole route is nearly 3 miles in length, with all but the road diversion on the former trackbed. A short distance away through the backstreets of Newport, the trackbed of the 1862 line to Cowes can be followed along the west bank of the River Medina, offering another 4½ miles of railway walking. Part way along the route, the hulk of the former 'Ryde Queen' presents a forlorn site on the east bank. Once a floating nightclub, this vessel started life as the paddle steamer 'Ryde', one of several such vessels which plied the Portsmouth-Ryde crossing until 1969. On our visit, the funnel had partially collapsed into the hull. (Roger Mayo/John Elson)

August 2006. Rye Area, East Sussex. A recent visit to Rye produced some pleasant surprises. Click here for further details. (Jeff Vinter/Richard Martin)

August 2006. Haltwhistle to Lambley and Alston (Northumberland/Cumbria). Following the recent restoration of Alston Arches Viaduct (actually in Haltwhistle), the whole of the former branch line from Haltwhistle to Alston is now open as a railway path. The route has long been known as the South Tyne Trail, but now continues 9½ miles beyond Alston, i.e. not on the former railway, to the source of the South Tyne River, east of Tynehead. See also the entry for March 2006 on the connecting Lambley to Brampton route, which was formerly Lord Carlisle's Railway. (Jeff Vinter)

August 2006. Lincoln to Boston, Lincolnshire. As reported in March last year, Sustrans is converting the Great Northern Railway's former line from Lincoln to Boston via Bardney into a cycle trail. The 9 mile section from Lincoln to Bardney is open already, but the remaining 15 miles into Boston should be complete by the end of this year. Known as the 'Water Rail Way' due to the proximity of local canals and drainage channels, this new railway path will form part of National Cycle Network Route 1 between Hull and Harwich. When finished, it will offer walkers and cyclists a quiet, off-road route between Lincoln and Boston, and is expected to generate about 320,000 trips per year. Update: In autumn 2006, Sustrans appointed contractors to build the next four miles of this route, from Bardney to Five Mile Bridge, including the renovation of Bardney Lock Viaduct over the River Witham. (Jeff Vinter; update by Ralph Rawlinson)

July 2006. Ludgershall to Collingbourne Ducis, Wiltshire. Two miles of the former Midland & South Western Junction Railway between Ludgershall (grid reference SU 260510) and Collingbourne Ducis (SU 245536) are now a 'Defra Conservation Walk', which is a form of permissive footpath. The walk is best tackled from the Ludgershall end, where a clear, beaten path can be seen leading up on to the trackbed opposite the army's railhead on the south side of the A342. At the Collingbourne end, there is a steep drop at the site of a demolished bridge which leads down into a RUPP (a 'road used as a public path'), so be prepared, and be careful. Irritatingly, there is no waymarking at either end, although Defra signs will be encountered along the way. (John Everest/Graham Lambert)

July 2006. Aughton northwards, Wiltshire. Staying with the M&SWJR, there is a further permissive walk on the trackbed which starts in the tiny village of Aughton at grid reference SU 241564. (Aughton is just north of Collingbourne Kingston on the A338.) This permissive walk follows the trackbed for 1¼ miles northwards to SU 241587, where it turns west to join local footpaths and, eventually, the A338 south of Burbage. At this point (i.e. SU 241587), a metalled road follows the trackbed as far as a pumping station, or something similar, which blocks further progress. Please note that the road on the trackbed is not part of the permissive walk, so please follow the waymarking signs, or return via the trackbed to Aughton. Notes: (1) This and the Defra path from Ludgershall to Collingbourne Ducis are reasonably close, and the two sections can be linked by using local roads and public footpaths – you will need OS Landranger maps 184 and 174. (2) If you are interested in the M&SWJR, you should have a look at Neil Lover's comprehensive website on the line. (John Everest/Graham Lambert)

July 2006. Wells to Dulcote, Somerset. We are probably years late in finding out about this, but 1½ miles of the former East Somerset Railway has now been converted into a cycle trail between Wells and the village of Dulcote. This trail could become part of a large scheme to use old railways to create a cross-Somerset cycle network. For further details, click here to see entry for May. (Phillip Earnshaw)

July 2006. North Connel to Ballachulish (Glencoe), Oban/Highlands. While checking websites for news that had escaped our radar, your webmaster came belatedly across a Sustrans proposal which seeks to convert as much as possible of the former Caledonian Railway's line from North Connel to Ballachulish into part of National Cycle Network Route 78 between Oban and Fort William. The railway based part of the route could be as much as 27 miles long, affording excellent coastal views. (Jeff Vinter)

May 2006. Oswestry to Nantmawr, Shropshire. Following a £2.1m restoration, the former railway station at Oswestry should now be open as a tourism hub, featuring shops, offices, a tourist centre, restaurant and new coach park facility. Many original Cambrian Railway features have been retained. Earlier in February, Shropshire County Council was set to buy the whole of the line from Gobowen to Oswestry, Llynclys Junction, Blodwell Junction and Nantmawr Quarry. The council intends operating the line as part railway and part cycle track, with the railway part leased to either the Cambrian Railways Society or the Cambrian Railways Trust. (Ralph Rawlinson)

May 2006. Takeley, Essex. After years of neglect, Takeley station (near the eastern end of the Flitch Way between Bishop's Stortford and Braintree) has finally been restored. It has become the Flitch Way Rangers Office and is reported to display scenes of the former railway, closed to passengers in 1952 and freight in 1966. We are delighted that Essex County Council took action before it was too late to save the building. (Phil Wood)

May 2006. Cheddar to Shepton Mallet, Somerset. There is quite a lot going on here, as can be seen below:

  • Cheddar to Wells. Somerset County Council has recently lodged a planning application to construct a shared path between Cheddar and Wells, using as much as possible of the old railway line that once linked them. (This was the original East Somerset Railway, whose name has been revived by the preserved railway based at Cranmore.) A section of the new path is already open between Wells and Haybridge.
  • Cheddar to Dulcote. Phillip Earnshaw reports that a railway path of about 1½ miles has been built on the old ESR trackbed between Cheddar and Dulcote. Construction of this escaped our radar, so we do not know how long it has been in place.
  • Dulcote to Shepton Mallet. In March, the equestrian group Mendip Cross Trails Trust (MCTT) and Let-Everyone-Go-Safely (LEGS, a group of residents from Wells) applied to the Somerset Aggregated Levy Sustainable Fund for a grant to finance a feasibility study by Sustrans into using the old railway line from Dulcote to Shepton Mallet as a further multi-use path. (Until 1969, Dulcote Quarry remained rail-connected eastwards to Witham Friary for stone traffic.)
  • Shepton Mallet to Cranmore and Elsewhere. This is where it gets really interesting! At Shepton Mallet, the East Somerset Railway crossed the Somerset & Dorset line, so Sustrans intends to include in its brief a study of the disused railways leading to Cranmore (ESR), Radstock (S&D) and Evercreech (S&D).

The ultimate goal of these proposals is to create a 'Cross Somerset' path linking the railway stations at Frome and Yatton. (Phillip Earnshaw/Cheddar Valley Railway Walk Society)

Above: If a railway path is ever established southwards from Shepton Mallet along the course of the old Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway (see story above), it will cross the magnificent Charlton Viaduct, which is situated on the north eastern edge of the town. After the S&D was closed in 1966, the viaduct was purchased by a local company, Showerings Ltd., in order to prevent its demolition. Showerings started out as a small local brewery, but gave up brewing in 1953 when it launched 'Babycham', which older readers will remember as the 'original champagne perry' – thanks to a very effective national advertising campaign. This product was a huge success, which no doubt accounts for the business and factory having survived several changes of ownership over the years. It is currently part of the Constellation Group, which kindly gave permission for a group of club members to walk across the viaduct in early May this year. The landscaped gardens established by the Showerings family can be seen below. April 2006. (Ivor Sutton)

April 2006. Bodmin and Wenfordbridge, Cornwall. Most railway paths re-use closed railways, but at Bodmin a new 1¼ mile trail now runs alongside the Bodmin & Wenford Railway. The trail, a cross-town link from east to west Bodmin, accompanies the B&WR's preserved line from Bodmin General to Boscarne Junction between Bawden Road and Halgaver Road. In the same area, there have been two extensions to the popular Camel Trail, which re-uses the trackbed of the 1834 Bodmin & Wadebridge Railway, and the North Cornwall Railway's later extension from Wadebridge to Padstow. These are Bodmin Gaol to Scarletts Well (¼ mile), which takes the Camel Trail right into the heart of Bodmin, and Poleys Bridge to Wenfordbridge, near St. Breward (¾ mile), which extends the trail to the 1836 terminus of the line. (Jeff Vinter from NCDC press release)

March 2006. Hengoed, Caerphilly. Railway paths do not have to be especially long to be useful. The 16 arch, 130ft high Hengoed Viaduct hosted a ceremony in November last year to celebrate its £1.8 million restoration. The path over the structure sees heavy use, not least because it links Maesycwmmer with Hengoed station. The 'Wheel of Drams' sculpture adjoining the viaduct, designed by Andy Hazell and completed in June 2000, is also noteworthy and can be viewed here. (Ralph Rawlinson/Jeff Vinter)

March 2006. Dunton Green to Westerham, Kent. This line closed on Saturday 28 October 1961, so this year sees the 45th anniversary of the closure. As luck would have it, 28 October 2006 is also a Saturday, so member Ron Strutt is considering an anniversary visit to the remains of the railway. While about half the line has disappeared under the hard shoulder of the M25, a local website (click here) states that it is possible to walk the mile or so from Dunton Green to the site of Chevening Halt. Ron believes that the trackbed was bought by Kent County Council and assumes that it is still in their ownership, although it is not a dedicated right of way. There is a similar stretch at the Westerham end which might possibly be accessible – we are happy to negotiate with landowners for a one-off visit. Any information from local residents would be gratefully received via the e-mail link on our Contact page. (Ron Strutt)

March 2006. Thorndon Cross to Halwill Junction, Devon. The county of Devon is already well endowed with railway paths, but still new schemes are coming forward. The latest of these, discussed recently by the Devon Local Access Forum, is a proposal to convert 7 miles of trackbed between Thorndon Cross and Halwill Junction (on the former Meldon Junction to Bude line) into a bridleway. Beyond Halwill Junction, part of this line has already been converted into a cycle trail in the Holsworthy area, including a fine viaduct to the west of the town. (Ralph Rawlinson)

March 2006. Lambley to Brampton Junction, Northumberland/Cumbria. The first phase of the Lord Carlisle Railway Path is now open from Lambley to Tindale (4½ miles). Subject to funding, it is hoped to extend the path to Hallbankgate (a further 2½ miles) later this year, which will leave just under a mile to Brampton Junction on the still open Newcastle-Carlisle line. This new trail connects with the South Tyne Trail at Lambley just after it has crossed the River South Tyne on Lambley Viaduct, which is worth a visit in its own right. Update: Click here for Peter Burgess's excellent history of this former railway, including archive photographs and 60 recent views, accessible from the 'Pictures' link. (Ralph Rawlinson)

February 2006. Bedford to Sandy, Bedfordshire. Almost the whole of this line has been converted into a railway-based cycle trail, but its future has been under threat for some time since it once formed part of a through route from Oxford to Cambridge which was due for re-opening. However, the government has now announced that this scheme has been put on hold for at least 20 years, so cyclists and railway ramblers can continue to use the old line for the foreseeable future. (Ralph Rawlinson)

February 2006. Cranleigh, Surrey. The old Guildford to Horsham railway, which used to run through the centre of Cranleigh, is now the Downs Link long distance trail. The route through the village has recently been improved and widened, and the crossing arrangements in Station Road made safer. We assume that this work was carried out by Surrey County Council and/or Waverley District Council, who maintain the trail. (Tim Grose)

February 2006.Stalbridge to Corfe Mullen, Dorset. This will be a good year for fans of the former Somerset & Dorset Railway, which Dorset County Council and its partners are slowly converting into a long distance rail trail called the North Dorset Trailway. According to the council's latest circular, 'This year, more work than ever before will be undertaken to help create the Trailway.' The first activity was a clearance day on 4 February, when volunteers cut back years of vegetation that blocked access to the site of the long demolished bridge over the River Stour near Fiddleford Mill. A new bridge is due to be installed at this location in the autumn. For further details, click here for our report, and here for Dorset County Council's web page on the Trailway; the latter includes a copy of a brochure, in PDF format, which identifies those sections of trackbed which are open to the public already. (Dorset Countryside/Tim Grose)

January 2006. Havant to Hayling Island, Hampshire. Unfortunately, plans to build a new bridge across Langstone Harbour on the piers of the old railway bridge have had to be scrapped. The news from the Transport Department at Havant Borough Council was that the proposal by Sustrans to construct a suspension bridge was 'unattainable' due to the prohibitive cost – a result of the type of bridge proposed, which had to be very high to allow sailing boats to pass underneath. There were also problems with the existing bridge piers, which have received no maintenance since before the line closed in 1963. Currently, Hampshire County Council is looking into widening the approaches to the existing road bridge (on the A3023) to accommodate a shared use path. Although this is not the ideal solution, it would mean that cyclists could continue their journey without having to cycle on the carriageway alongside road traffic, which can be very heavy here. In passing, don't forget to check out HBC's very useful website on the Hayling Billy Trail, which we discovered earlier this month. (Tracey Ford/Jeff Vinter)

January 2006. Alvescot to Little Faringdon Crossing, Gloucestershire. Public bridleways have now been dedicated along two lengths of the former GWR Fairford branch east of Lechlade, namely:

  • SP261026 to SP253018 (¾ mile), and
  • SP243009 to SP235006 (½ mile)

Local footpaths can be used to link these two sections together. While little of the Fairford branch is available to walkers nowadays, it has a superb website which can be viewed by clicking here. (Jeff Vinter)

January 2006. Tetbury, Gloucestershire. A 1½ mile linear walk and cycle trail has been established on part of the former Tetbury to Kemble branch, starting at the long-abandoned goods shed in the town and running in a north-easterly direction towards the tiny community of Ilsom. Amazingly, parts of the route were still owned by the BR Property Board, nearly 40 years since the last train ran! (Jeff Vinter) Update: Further details of the plans for this route will be found on our 2014 page; click here.

January 2006. Havant to Hayling Island, Hampshire. Havant Borough Council has added to its website this extremely useful section on the Hayling Billy Trail, a railway path which utilises the trackbed of the old Havant to Hayling Island branch line The trail is intended eventually to accommodate the South Coast Cycle Trail from Chichester to Portsmouth, which will be routed via Hayling Island and the ferry over Langstone Channel (Sinah-Eastney) in order to avoid heavy traffic on the east side of Portsea Island. The web pages on the trail include some excellent archive material. (Jeff Vinter)

January 2006. West Auckland to Ramshaw, County Durham. This two mile section of the former line from West Auckland to Barnard Castle has now been converted into a public footpath. (Ralph Rawlinson)

January 2006. Leicester. The Great Central Way used to cross Western Boulevard in Leicester by a large bowstring girder bridge, but the trail was diverted alongside the the River Soar after the council discovered that repairs would cost £495,000. As a result, the council has now opted for demolition. It would be interesting to know if the council obtained multiple quotations for the repairs, since this sounds reminiscent of the 'scare costs' presented by British Rail in the 1980s to make a case for closing the Settle-Carlisle line. (Ralph Rawlinson)

January 2006. Tiffield, Northamptonshire. Thirty volunteers at Tiffield who cleaned up an embankment on the former Stratford and Midland Junction Railway to make it suitable for walkers have been presented with a 'Sustainable Community Award' by the Mayor of Northampton. (Ralph Rawlinson)

January 2006. Stranraer, Dumfries & Galloway. Sustrans reports that Dumfries & Galloway Council is progressing the Stranraer Branch cycleway, which will utilise the former Military Railway to link Stranraer with Cairnryan for the Irish ferries. (Ralph Rawlinson)

January 2006. Drumgelloch to Bathgate, North Lanarkshire/West Lothian. Work is expected to start on re-building a double track line between Drumgelloch and Bathgate in 2007. When complete, the reinstated route will provide a 15-minute interval service of electric trains between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Until then, members may wish to take advantage of the well established 14 mile cycle trail that currently occupies the trackbed – there will be no room for it when the line is relaid. (Ralph Rawlinson)

January 2006. Hengoed, Mid Glamorgan. Work is expected to be completed soon on the listed 16-arch Hengoed Viaduct, which once formed part of the GWR branch line from Hengoed to Pontypool Road. The £1.2 million restoration scheme, started in June 2004, includes masonry repairs, re-pointing, new safety fencing and lighting. (Ralph Rawlinson)

January 2006. Sandford & Banwell, Somerset. This station on the former GWR Yatton to Cheddar line was for many years the home of Sandford Stone, who used it as offices for their retail operation in the old station yard. Unfortunately, Sandford Stone has now gone out of business and the site has been purchased by the Bird Group, which is expected to apply for planning permission for housing and possibly business units. Fortunately, the station buildings are all listed and should therefore survive. (Cheddar Valley Railway Walk Society)