Creech St. Michael (nr. Taunton) to Chard. It was a pleasant surprise when part of this west country branch line was converted into a trail in 2003-04. The branch was built by the Bristol & Exeter Railway, which opened it to passengers in 1866 and freight in 1867. Passenger services were withdrawn in September 1962 with freight following two years later, although it was not until October 1966 that freight services were finally withdrawn over the connecting section of ex-LSWR line which ran from Chard Town to Chard Junction on the Salisbury-Exeter main line. In its early years, the railway managed to finish off the heavily engineered but spectacularly unsuccessful Chard Canal, which followed roughly the same line.

Above: This is Hatch, the second station on the branch after the long-demolished Thornfalcon. The name of its village is actually Hatch Beauchamp (pronounced 'Beacham'), so perhaps the abbreviated name was meant to give residents of nearby West Hatch, Hatch Park and Hatch Green a sense that this was their station too. The building is now used by Sterling Services who describe themselves as 'architectural precast specialists', i.e. manufacturers of concrete products which can be seen on the grassy bank. The station is clearly visible from Station Road, but a hedge has been planted which eventually will remove this view. The trackbed here is not part of the trail; public access begins further south at Ilminster. 15th August 2015. (Jeff Vinter)

Above: Ilminster station is now in retail use by 'Glamour Pets', so this is the place to come if your poodle needs to be re-styled! The trail does not start here, but both this and the adjoining goods shed (see below) can be viewed during normal opening hours, Monday to Saturday. 15th August 2015. (Jeff Vinter)
Above: Ilminster goods shed has been used for many years by 'The Carpet Shed', which is a large carpet shop; the canopies on the right hand side are unusual survivors. The running line passed on the far left of the photograph, out of shot beyond the grey Unit 2b. 15th August 2015. (Jeff Vinter)
Above: The Chard Canal closed in 1868, although no one is certain of the precise date because the records do not survive. Quite a lot remains from the waterway, but one has to know where to look. This section near Ilminster town centre was re-watered some years ago and is now used by the local angling association. It leads to Ilminster Incline (completely extant) and Ilminster Tunnel, where the top of the arch of the nothern portal can be found – but, again, only if one knows where to look . 15th August 2015. (Jeff Vinter)
Above: This overbridge in Donyatt Cutting is typical of the bridges on the line and reflects the quality of workmanship carried out by the Bristol & Exeter Railway's contractor. The cutting narrowly escaped Somerset County Council turning it into a landfill site, but a vigorous local campaign resulted in it being converted into a nature reserve in 1981-81. The trail from Ilminster to Chard is now part of NCN33, known as the Stop Line Way after the many World War 2 defensive structures along its course.15th August 2015. (Jeff Vinter)
Above: A general view of the restored halt at Donyatt, which opened as a late addition to the line on 5th May 1928. A decade ago, this wayside stop was almost imperceptible beneath vegetation but was cleared and made into a feature in 2008-09. 15th August 2015. (Jeff Vinter)
Above: A close up of the new running-board and restored shelter at Donyatt. The scuplture of the little girl sitting on her packing case is a reminder that this area was used to receive evacuees during World War 2, including the photographer's aunt. This particular evacuee was Doreen Ash, whose story is told on the display panel visible on the outside wall of the shelter; the sculptor was Ian Edwards of Chard, whose grandfather was evacuated to the area at the same time. The transformation of this site over the last few years is a credit to the local community. 15th August 2015. (Jeff Vinter)
Above: This is the Grade II listed Chard Central Station, with the now enclosed overall roof clearly visible on the right. After years of use by a garage and tyre company, when the building began to look rather tired, it has been beautifully restored as the local branch of discount retailer 'The Original Factory Shop', which has branches across the west country. The text of the listing describes the building's construction as follows: 'Flemish bond brick with Bath stone dressings; hipped slate roof, brick ridge stacks.' 15th August 2015. (Jeff Vinter)
Above: A close up of the train shed at Chard Central. This is the southern aspect, facing Chard Town and Chard Junction. Until 1949, the station was known as Chard Joint; it had bay platforms at either end for local trains to Taunton and Chard Junction respectively. 15th August 2015. (Jeff Vinter)
Above: Despite the retail shelving which obscures a lot of detail on the left hand side, the Factory Shop chain has made a fine job of restoring the station's interior, and it probably hasn't looked this good since it was opened in 1866. The station was built on the site of the earlier basin for the Chard Canal. The connecting railway line to the LSWR's Chard Town station was built on the course of a 19th century tramway which ran south from the old canal basin; this has been infilled somewhat, but remains as a pleasant open space in the town and can be walked. 15th August 2015. (Jeff Vinter)