News 2000

Above: A party of ramblers from the club’s Yorkshire group cross the valley of the River Belah, once spanned by a massive viaduct on the Stainmore route between Barnard Castle and Kirby Stephen. Two stone abutments are all that remains of this structure. (Look for the vertical edges on the skyline to the left and right of the picture.) When in use, the viaduct extended 1,040 ft across the valley floor, reaching a maximum height of 196 ft. Designed by Thomas Bouch, it was constructed from wrought iron lattice work girders supported by 16 cast iron piers. Bouch’s career was later blighted by the collapse of the Tay Bridge, which he also designed, but Belah viaduct was sound until the end, which came with closure of the line in January 1962. 19th August 2000. (Richard Lewis)

December 2000. Wivenhoe to Brightlingsea, Essex. Wivenhoe, on the line from Colchester to Walton-on-Naze, used to be the junction station for Brightlingsea. A railway path (of sorts) links the two communities, although scrap dealers dismantled a vital bridge 1½ miles out of Wivenhoe shortly after the line closed. However, ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’, and a trio of dedicated (or should that be mad?) members from the club’s Eastern Area proved that even a missing bridge is no obstacle to the committed trackbed basher. For further details, click here. (Phil Wood)

December 2000. Halewood to Southport, Merseyside. Improvements to the Trans Pennine Trail mean that a nearly continuous railway path now extends from Halewood (south east of Liverpool) to Southport on the Lancashire coast. The total distance is about 25 miles, with the only non-railway section following the towpath of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. For further details, click here. (Ralph Rawlinson)

December 2000. Chester, Cheshire. A new railway path has been created from Hoole, in the east of Chester, to Hawarden Bridge station on the line from Bidston to Wrexham. The path is 10 miles long and re-uses much of the former freight line from Dee Marsh Junction to Mickle Trafford. At the western end, the route continues as a cycle trail towards Flint, although this section is not railway-based and follows local roads. The new railway path forms part of ‘The Millennium Cycle Route in Cheshire’, which was funded by a consortium of bodies including Sustrans Ltd, Chester City Council and Cheshire County Council. (John Fisher, Maurice and Hilary Blencowe)

December 2000. Leigh to Kenyon Junction, Greater Manchester. This 2 mile railway path has been obliterated largely by new housing and road building in the area. For further details, click here. (Ralph Rawlinson)

December 2000. Rolleston, Nottinghamshire. The popular Southwell Trail from Southwell to Farnsfield was extended a few years ago from Southwell to Rolleston station on the line from Newark Castle to Nottingham. It turns out that the 1½ mile extension no longer has any railway interest since it has been converted into a tarmac access road for Southwell Racecourse, but at least it provides easy access from the station to the eastern edge of Southwell, where the more interesting trail to Farnsfield can be joined. (Chris Allan)

Above: Larpool Viaduct, viewed on a rainy day from the window of a passing train on the branch line to Whitby. The curious shape above the middle of the parapet is scaffolding from the recent restoration work. (Richard Lewis)
November 2000. Whitby, North Yorkshire. The massive Larpool Viaduct which spans the River Esk to the south of Whitby Town station has now been opened to the public and forms part of the 22 mile long railway path between Whitby and Scarborough. (In fact, this viaduct is the path’s crowning glory.) Restoration was carried out under a joint scheme involving the cycling charity, Sustrans Ltd, and various local authorities. The opening of the viaduct reduces the time taken to get between Whitby and the railway path by 20 minutes, and the views from the top are stunning. (Frank Watson)
Above: I n 1999, a group of members from the club walked the abandoned Waverley Route between Carlisle and Edinburgh. It looks as if our photographer had an eye on the postcard market, but is Leaderfoot Viaduct on the official trail between Melrose and Galashiels? Information please! (Richard Lewis)

November 2000. Melrose and Galashiels, Scottish Borders. The old ‘Waverley’ line between these two towns is now a well used footpath and cycling route. We believe that it is 5 miles long, but confirmation would be appreciated. Also, does the trail have any notable engineering features? If you can tell us, please get in touch via our Contact page. (Chris John)

November 2000. Balloch to Glasgow Exhibition Centre (20 miles). This trail is now known as the ‘Loch Lomond Cycleway’. It incorporates the following lengths of reclaimed railway (total 5¾ miles):

  • Partick West to Scotstoun West Junction (2 miles, ex Caledonian Railway main line)
  • Scotstoun West Junction to Yoker (1 mile, ex CR Rothesay Dock Branch)
  • Yoker to Clyde Street, Clydebank (½ mile, ex CR main line)
  • Bowling Basin to Dunglass (¾ mile, ex CR main line)
  • Dunglass to Dumbarton East (1½ miles, ex North British Railway main line)

Away from the railway, the trail mostly follows the Forth & Clyde Canal, or runs alongside roads. Other parts of the disused Caledonian Railway can be walked, but do not form part of the official route. (Ralph Rawlinson)

November 2000. Abingdon, Oxfordshire. One mile of the former branch line from Abingdon to Radley is being converted by Sustrans Ltd into a new railway path. The trail will start at the east end of the Abingdon Science Park in Barton Lane (grid reference SU 508973) and extend to SU 522973, where it will continue northwards via a public footpath to reach Radley village. The section of old railway being converted is owned by Vale of White Horse District Council, but – amazingly – the council’s Principal Engineer appeared to know nothing about the conversion works. Beyond SU 522973, the trackbed is owned by National Power. Sustrans hopes that this section too may become available at a future date. (Michael Steptoe)

Above: How big do you like your viaducts? When photographed in December 1992, this massive example at Cefn Coed, north of Merthyr Tydfil, was just another mouldering monument to the age of steam. Now it’s part of the Taff Trail, a 55 mile walking and cycling route from Brecon to Cardiff. Consisting almost entirely of old railways, tramways and canals (both used and disused), the Taff Trail has become a popular tourist attraction in its own right. At the southern end, cycling commuters use it to get to and from work in Cardiff. It certainly beats the city traffic! (David James)

November 2000. Bude, Cornwall. Thanks to a generous injection of Millennium grant money, the seaward end of the Bude Canal has been restored (including the sea lock), along with the course of the former narrow gauge sand railway which was used to convey sand from the beach for use as a soil conditioner in local fields. (The course of this railway is now an official heritage trail.) Much of the former branch line to Bude, once part of the London & South Western Railway, is also being converted into a walk and cycle trail, and this will eventually include the two magnificent viaducts either side of Holsworthy. Update, February 2001: Derriton Viaduct on the west side of Holsworthy has now been restored, and access to it is provided by the ‘Cornish Corkscrew’, an elaborate spiralling ramp. (Chris Cook)

October 2000. Fallowfield, Manchester. Local authorities in Manchester are now giving serious consideration to converting the 5 mile Fallowfield Loop Line into a walking and cycling route that will link up with the Trans Pennine Trail. It will give access to up to 8 local schools, as well as the Commonwealth Games in 2002. ‘If you live in the Manchester area, please contact your local councillor to lobby for the development of the Fallowfield Loop as a vital urban cycle route. Surgeries will be advertised in your local library, or you can contact them via Membership Services at the Town Hall on 0161 234 3235.’ (Sustrans Ltd)

September 2000. Bedford to Sandy, Bedfordshire. A 4 mile length of the former Bedford-Sandy line between Bedford and Great Barford has been converted into a cycle trail. There are plans to extend the route into Sandy, presumably also along the former railway line, but the extension is being delayed until the local council can obtain more money. (Phil Wood).

August 2000. Barcombe Mills, East Sussex. A permissive route has been opened on part of the former Lewes to Uckfield line. It starts at Barcombe Mills station, which has been lovingly restored and is open to the public as a tea room, and extends for a mile northwards to Anchor Lane, where those who are only out for a pint should turn right to reach the Anchor Inn on the River Ouse. There are plenty of footpaths in the area, which provide access from the Anchor Inn to Isfield, where there is another finely preserved station, this one the home of the Lavender Line steam railway. (John Simmons)

May 2000. Rye, East Sussex. A 2 mile route has been opened between Rye and Camber, which provides a quick and traffic-free link for walkers and cyclists, who no longer have to use the busy A259. We suspect that the route uses the trackbed of the former Rye & Camber Tramway. If you have any information, please get in touch via our Contact page. (Sustrans Ltd)

Feature Articles


The Essex branch line from Wivenhoe to Brightlingsea, closed to passengers in June 1964, is open for most of its length as a railway path, although unfortunately the girder bridge over Alresford Creek was demolished for scrap after closure. As a result, walkers normally have to make a diversion of 3½ miles around the creek to reach the other side. However, members from the club’s Eastern Area noticed that the local Ordnance Survey map (Landranger Sheet 168) shows a public footpath across the creek just over a quarter of a mile east of the missing bridge. Phil Wood takes up the story.

‘We walked through the trees with occasional views along the estuary before reaching Alresford Creek, where the bridge had long since disappeared. So we came to the object of the exercise – to cross Alresford Creek at low tide!

‘We intrepid three made our way to the slipway which is marked on the OS map as a public footpth crossing the creek. Yes, the water was very low, only a few inches deep, but what about the mud? We donned our wellie boots and, apart from one of our number, made it fairly easily down the slope to the water level. Geoff Forward, in his home made garb, seemed to make fairly good progress to the opposite bank, but David Flood proceeded to get stuck in the mud on the Wivenhoe side. I tried to follow in Geoff’s footsteps, but found the going more and more difficult as I sank to top-of-wellie-boot level. Finally, I felt that I was going to topple over into the mud and not be able to get up again.. We must have looked really stupid to any passers-by – three old stick-in-the-muds, if ever there were any!

‘With visions of being stuck until high tide, I considered calling out the coastguard on my mobile phone. And time was running out to reach the pub! David was finally making some progress, and I managed to change direction to walk in what I thought to be slightly shallower mud. I gradually began to move very slowly, trying not to leave my wellies in the mud, which threatened to suck them off my feet. I really know now how it must feel to be stuck in a quicksand. Geoff had taken my bag, and I eventually joined him, and then went back to try to assist David. My dog was also having problems, but we all managed finally – covered in mud – to assemble on the Brightlingsea side of the creek.

‘After difficulty in cleaning the mud off our clothes, we legged it along the estuary path into a strong wind, stopping to view the creek from the Brightlingsea side of the former bridge, and again at a freshwater lake for the dog to wash off the drying caked mud. We then walked into Brightlingsea to reach The Railway Tavern before closing time (3 p.m.) and sample their superb ‘Crab & Winkle’ mild, which is named after the former railway. The pub also has some photos of the former station, which was situated opposite.

‘We caught the bus from outside the pub back to Wivenhoe, and just made it to the Horse & Groom, the only other mild outlet in the area. From here, we walked back to Wivenhoe station, just as the rains came down. However, mission accomplished, we had crossed Alresford Creek! Don’t you wish you had?’

Report by Phil Wood


The Halewood to Aintree cycleway – part of the Trans Pennine Trail (TPT) – previously came to a dead stop at Fazakerley North Junction, as the result of a missing bridge (GR 366964) over Merseyrail’s Liverpool Central to Kirkby line.

In 1999, the bridge was replaced and, more recently, the trail has been extended north through the short but illuminated Warbreck Road tunnel (A59) to the site of Warbreck station. It continues north through a cutting and under Merseyrails’ Ormskirk line until, approaching the site of Aintree Central station, it leaves the Cheshire Lines Committee trackbed to join the former North Mersey branch at the bridge over Warbreck Moor (A59), the site of the former Racecourse station. The TPT follows the North Mersey branch east, eventually joining the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, which takes it to the final railway section from Maghull (not Ainsdale, as stated in Vinter’s Gazetteer) to Southport.

Report by Ralph Rawlinson


A 2 mile footpath once ran from Leigh to north of Kenyon Junction, but because of housing development and road building, only a short section (now upgraded to a cycleway) remains. It runs for half a mile between St Helens Road (A572) and Atherleigh Way (A579), although it is possible to pass under the A579 and cycle into Pennington Country Park, following a short section of the former Pemberton – Bickershaw West Junction line alongside Pemberton Flash.

The A579 changes its name to Lowton St Mary’s Bypass (at the site of Pennington East signal box) and this road now occupies the formation between St Helens Road (A572) and the The East Lancashire Road (A580), a distance of one mile, leaving only the last half mile to Kenyon Jn. This final section has reverted to agricultural use and is crossed by several fences. Approaching Kenyon Junction, Wilton Lane overbridge is sealed off with the ubiquitous 7ft security fencing.

Incidentally, the section south of the A572/A579 junction was originally part of the the Kenyon & Leigh Junction Railway, an extension of the Bolton & Leigh Railway, engineered by George Stephenson, which opened for goods traffic in 1828 with one of his locomotives Lancashire Witch hauling the wagons. Atherleigh Way has been built over 2¾ miles of this line, ending at Wigan Road (A577).

Report by Ralph Rawlinson