June 2022 – Tyelaw Burn, Northumberland.

Here is a disused railway path not shown as such on OS maps nor is it listed in Railway Rights of Way or Vinter’s Gazetteer and has never been reported in Railway Ramblings. Promoted on the letsgoforawalk.uk website as the ‘Tyelaw Burn Railway’, this is in fact the former standard gauge mineral line which ran from Shilbottle Colliery to the East Coast Main Line near High Buston, approx 1.25 miles south of Alnmouth Station. The “path alongside the railway” referred to in the dog walk description is part of the trackbed so would need to be included by the purist, though the direct field path goes northwards to High Buston Farm. The total distance is 2 miles and the grid references are NU 217081 (west) to NU 239092 (east). There is a small parking area at each end. The 1957 6″ OS map shows the line, while the 1926 edition shows it as under construction. Shilbottle Colliery closed in 1982 but was linked underground to the neighbouring Whittle Colliery in 1978. Branch Line News (BLN) 363 of 7th Feb 1979 states that the main line connection had been taken out at least a month before. Six years earlier (BLN 218) the rails were already “slightly rusty” but a steam engine was noted at the colliery. The footpath is clear, well surfaced and appears well maintained. The waymarkers are well weathered wooden finger posts so the path “conversion” clearly isn’t recent. The 1984 Landranger OS map shows the Shilbottle line as lifted but the Whittle Colliery line as in situ. BLN has an official closure date for it of 27 August 1983 although the colliery itself lasted until 9 January 1987, evidently using road transport. From Google Earth photography the Whittle line is now used as farm access, with “Private” and “No Entry” signs displayed. Rural Branch Lines of Northumberland says the latter-day colliery opened in 1921 and was steam operated till February 1973. (Chris Parker; Geoff Blyth)

Two other walks in the area also use short sections of disused line, on the old Alnwick – Coldstream branch: the Lemmington Woods walk near Edlingham, and the Rugley Burn walk on the southern outskirts of Alnwick.