News 2003

Above: The club sometimes uses preserved buses to provide transport for members, especially as an easy way of linking short sections of railway path that are not worth a visit in their own right. This is ex London Transport RF single decker MXX 481, seen at Chawton, near Alton, Hampshire. When the photograph was taken, the passengers were walking along the trackbed of the old Meon Valley line between Faringdon and Butts Junction, Alton. (Jeff Vinter)

Help! Does anyone have any photographs of the routes reported in this section? There’s all this good news, but not a single relevant picture to illustrate it!

November 2003. Meadowhall to Chapeltown, South Yorkshire. Work began this summer on the Meadowhall to Chapeltown Greenway, which is being built along the former GCR Tinsley to Barnsley line. It is hoped to complete through to Chapeltown in 2004. (Sustrans Ltd)

November 2003. Witney to Lechlade, Oxfordshire. Where access can be negotiated, Sustrans proposes to use this section of the former Fairford branch as part of its Oxford to Lechlade cycleway. (Sustrans Ltd)

November 2003. St Austell to Wheal Martin China Clay Museum, Cornwall. Restormel Borough Council has given permission for Sustrans to build a cycle trail on two miles of the former Trenance Valley branch, opened by the GWR in 1920. (Sustrans Ltd)

November 2003. Bedford to Sandy, Bedfordshire. A route over the former LNWR between Bedford and Sandy has been completed as far as Blunham, and plans are being drawn up to complete the missing link to Sandy in 2004. (Sustrans Ltd)

November 2003. Leighton Buzzard to Dunstable, Bedfordshire. Earthworks for a new bridge over the A505 near Stanbridge were due to be completed in September, with the bridge itself due to be installed in 2004. The bridge will link together two sections of old railway, bisected when the A505 was built. Information received indicates that there is a railway path here, but how long is it? If you have details, please get in touch via our Contact page. (Sustrans Ltd)

November 2003. Newton Abbott to Moretonhampstead, Devon. An attempt is to be made to convert the Bovey Tracey to Moretonhampstead section into a cycleway. The route would extend for 7 miles, but there will be considerable difficulties due to private ownership. The first mile, from Bovey Tracey to Wolleigh, was converted into a railway path by Dartmoor National Park some years ago, but public use of the line elsewhere is unofficial. (Ralph Rawlinson and Jeff Vinter)

November 2003. Wellington (Stafford Junction) to Donnington, Shropshire. In connection with a new freight terminal, 3 miles at the western end of the old LNWR line from Wellington to Stafford are to be relaid. The reinstated line will run from Stafford Junction to Donnington, and a walkway and cycleway will be built alongside. (Ralph Rawlinson)

November 2003. Belmont to Pittington, County Durham. In January this year, Durham County Council’s Planning Committee recommended the granting of planning permission for a railway path of 2½ miles between Belmont, on the outskirts of Durham, and Pittington. Parts of the route exist already, but Durham CC plans to lay a 3 metre wide whinstone path for the joint use of walkers, cyclists and horseriders. We apologise for the late publication of this information, which has only just reached us. (Northumberland Railway Walks Society)

August 2003. Dumfries to Maxwelltown, Dumfries & Galloway. Dumfries & Glalloway Council has recently produced designs for a cycle route to run parallel to a proposed re-opened railway to the Shell Oil terminal at Maxwelltown, the only remaining part of the former Dumfries to Stranraer line. The distance is just under 3 miles. (Ralph Rawlinson)

August 2003. Weston, Clevedon & Portishead Light Railway, Somerset. Sustrans has just acquired a short length of the WCPLR between Wick St. Lawrence and the River Yeo Sluices. The company plans to cross the river via the sluices and thus use this length of old railway to form part of a route between Weston and Clevedon. (John Grimshaw)

August 2003. Carmarthen to Aberystwyth and Lampeter to Aberaeron, Ceredigion. The county council’s planning application for conversion of the trackbed between Tregaron and Rhydfelin, just south of Aberystwyth, has been successful, and plans for this 14 mile section are now being discussed with Sustrans. On the Aberaeron branch, upgrading of the track between Llanerchaeron Halt and Aberaeron (1 mile) should now be complete. (Ralph Rawlinson)

August 2003. Wiseman’s Bridge to Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire. The beautiful Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, which uses a section of the former Saundersfoot Railway between Wiseman’s Bridge and Saundersfoot, has now been upgraded. Work on the tunnels en route should now be complete. (Ralph Rawlinson)

August 2003. Machen to Bedwas, Gwent. A new two mile railway path has been opened between Machen and Bedwas, which enables cyclists and walkers to avoid the busy A468. (Ralph Rawlinson)

August 2003. Southam to Rugby, Warwickshire. Now that re-opening of the line from Rugby to Southam Cement Works has been shelved and the new Rugby relief road is being built further away from the track, it is planned to incorporate more of this disused railway into the cycle trail from Leamington to Rugby. Contractors have already started work at several locations. (Ralph Rawlinson)

August 2003. Potteries Loopline, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. Stoke City Council has confirmed that work is due to start on the next section of the ‘Potteries Loopline Greenway’, which will follow the Potteries Loopline north of Hanley through Burslem. (Ralph Rawlinson)

Above: Breamore station was an intermediate stop on the line from Salisbury to West Moors, where it formed a junction with ‘Castleman’s Corkscrew’ – the old main line from Southampton to Dorchester via Ringwood and Wimborne. The line closed on 4th May 1964, but the station still stood 36 years later. However, it is in a poor state and its future is uncertain. (Richard Lewis)
Above: A view of the canopy and platform at Breamore, with the photographer’s Mini Clubman (itself now a piece of transport history) visible to the left. The station had a fully signalled passing loop and, beneath the vegetation to the right of the picture, lies the southbound platform. The site is now owned by Hampshire County Council. (Richard Lewis)

August 2003. Havant to Hayling Island, Hampshire. The first section of the ‘Hayling Billy’ cycle route has been opened from Havant to Langstone Harbour. A railway path already exists from Langstone Harbour to the old Hayling Island terminus, and the two sections will be linked when the superstructure on the harbour bridge is replaced. The route is known as the ‘Hayling Billy’ trail because this was the local name for the two-coach Terrier-hauled trains that used to ply the branch. (Ralph Rawlinson)

August 2003. St. Ives to Cambridge. There are plans for a traffic-free route between St. Ives and Cambridge alongside the proposed guided bus route which will utilise the trackbed of the former Eastern Counties Railway. Completion is not expected until 2006 at the earliest. (Ralph Rawlinson)

August 2003. Ilkeston to Derby. Derbyshire County Council is proposing a multi-user trail from the outskirts of Derby to Ilkeston following the line of the former Great Northern Railway. (Ralph Rawlinson)

August 2003. Barnstaple to Ilfracombe, Devon. Devon County Council is soon starting construction work between Willingcott (near Mortehoe station) and Lee Bridge on the edge of Ilfracombe in order to provide a 3 mile traffic-free cycle route into the town. The long-term aim remains to convert the whole of the former branch, but there are sections of private ownership between Braunton and Willingcott. The first 5½ miles between Barnstaple and Braunton are already part of the Tarka Trail. (Ralph Rawlinson)

August 2003. Spetisbury to Charlton-on-the-Hill, Dorset. Dorset County Council is progressing with plans to improve the surface of the old Somerset & Dorset Railway between these two villages in order to create a traffic-free section of NCN route 25. Work on this 1½ mile section should be completed by the end of the year, and there are plans to extend it to Blandford Forum. (Ralph Rawlinson)

August 2003. Ilminster to Chard, Somerset. A section of the old Great Western line between Ilminster and Peasmarsh (on the A358) has been open for a couple of years now, but Sustrans has just started work on an extension to Chard Reservoir, half a mile from Chard, in order to create a good traffic-free route between the two towns. The new section features a number of fortifications such as dragon’s teeth, and we would like to know how these came to be there. Please get in touch via our Contact page if you know their history. Update: These structures turn out to be defensive fortifications from World War 2, built as part of the Taunton Stop Line – described here on Wikipedia. (John Grimshaw)

August 2003. Shepton Mallet, Somerset. More good news for fans of the lamented Somerset & Dorset Railway – a further stretch of trackbed is being opened up to walkers and cyclists. The new route will run from a minor road at Thrupe (grid reference ST 604466) to just short of the A37 at Shepton Mallet (ST 623438). The distance involved is a little under two miles, is entirely on the old railway trackbed and includes Winsor Hill Tunnel. Update: This development had not started as at April 2006. While an unofficial path exists along parts of the trackbed north of Shepton Mallet, there are major obstructions: Bath Road Viaduct is securely fenced off, and private land is reached shortly after crossing Ham Wood Viaduct. However, both of the tunnels at Winsor Hill are open and appear to be in good condition. (John Grimshaw and Jeff Vinter; update by Phillip Earnshaw)

July 2003. Scottish Borders. Scottish Borders Council have incorporated a mile of the Waverley line (Carlisle-Edinburgh) into their Minto Hills Walk. The railway part runs from Hassendean station bridge to Clockerhall Farm accommodation bridge and is signed throughout. The Council continues to incorporate railway routes into its footpath plans, with the Borders Abbeys Way using much of the old Jedburgh branch. Parts of the Ravenswood Junction to Kelso line are also walkable. Most of the Waverley route is due for opening as walkways south of Hawick in due course once land issues have been settled. (Chris John)

July 2003. Newport to Sandown, Isle of Wight. Further to the entry for March, q.v., a visit this month revealed that the conversion of this route into a walk and cycle trail by the Isle of Wight County Council has been carried out to a high standard. Most noteworthy is the section south of Merstone station, where the council has excavated the former trackbed and a road-over-rail bridge, all of which had been buried by infilling. (Jeff Vinter)

March 2003. Honeybourne to Broadway, Gloucestershire. The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway has applied to Cotswold District Council to take over management of 4 miles of trackbed between Honeybourne and Broadway. It would then construct a cycleway sympathetic to eventual track reinstatement, which it says Sustrans might not. (Ralph Rawlinson)

March 2003. Newport to Abergavenny, Gwent. A new cycleway that has come to light following the re-issue of Landranger maps 161 and 171 is National Cycle Network Route 46 from Newport to Abergavenny. This incorporates five miles of converted trackbed, namely the whole of the former GWR Pontypool (Trevethin Junction) to Abersychan & Talywain line (including Cwmnantddu Viaduct), and the southern end of the LNWR Brynmawr to Abersychan & Talywain branch. These two lines, closed to passengers in 1941 and to all traffic in 1980, made an end-on junction at Abersychan & Talywain. NCN 46 also includes a two mile stretch of the former Monmouthshire Railway & Canal Company line between Newport Mill Street and Pontypool Crane Street. (Ralph Rawlinson)

March 2003. Wetherby to Walton, West Yorkshire. A new railway path of 1½ miles between Wetherby and Walton should now be open. (Sustrans Ltd)

March 2003. Kirklees, West Yorkshire. A new railway path of 2 miles has been opened from Leeds Road, Deighton, to Huddersfield. The route, which passes near Deighton Railway and two local schools, has been developed by Kirklees Council and will be integrated into the National Cycle Network on completion of a link to Dewsbury. (Sustrans Ltd)

March 2003. Doncaster, South Yorkshire. A new 3 mile route between Bentley Doncaster and Highfields Country Park has been opened at a cost of £180,000. The route avoids the Great North Road by using the former Brodsworth mineral line to link with the Trans Pennine Trail at Scawthorpe. The project included the acquisition of Castle Hills, a protected Norman earthwork, for care and maintenance. Local farmer Robert Smith supported the proposal and is delighted to see so many family cyclists using the route. (Sustrans Ltd)

March 2003. Abercynon to Merthyr Tydfil, Mid Glamorgan. Plans are well in hand to celebrate the bi-centenary of the pioneering run of Richard Trevithick’s steam locomotive along the Pennydarren Tramroad in 1804. The first 2½ miles of the tramroad form part of the Taff Trail, and, if Merthyr Tydfil Borough Council can secure funding, the remaining sections north of Pontygwaith Bridge will be developed into a trail, with the narrow bore Plymouth Tunnel restored and re-opened. (Ralph Rawlinson)

March 2003. Queensbury to Cullingworth, West Yorkshire. A proposal has been made to turn this route into a new railway path and cycle trail, and Bradford Council has rejected an application from a waste disposal company to continue dumping waste in its cuttings. If successful, this 5¼ mile route would be known as ‘The Great Northern Rail Trail’. It includes viaducts at Pinch Beck, Hewenden and Cullingworth. (Michael Steptoe and Ralph Rawlinson)

March 2003. Ringwood, Hampshire. The former railway line from Ringwood station to the Dorset county boundary at Ashley Twinning has now been opened to the public, thanks to a joint scheme between Sustrans (the Bristol based path building charity) and Hampshire County Council. Sustrans has undertaken to maintain the three viaducts over the River Avon, while the county council has put in a good quality surface suitable for walkers and cyclists. An official opening is planned for May. At Ashley Twinning, the new route connects with Dorset C.C.’s ‘Castleman Trailway’, which follows the old railway to West Moors and eventually Upton (near Hamworthy), although a detour takes the route off the trackbed between West Moors and Oakley, south of Wimborne Minster. (Tim Grose)

March 2003. Ringwood, Hampshire. Oops – we missed this one! We have just discovered that Hampshire C.C. dedicated a public footpath from Ringwood (near the station site) eastwards to Crow Arch Lane, a distance of about 1½ miles, back in the early 1990s. If you are considering a long distance railway walk in the south of England, it is worth considering the former main line from Brockenhurst to Hamworthy via Ringwood, since so much of it is now open to the public. The old trackbed can be followed with relative ease from Lymington Junction, west of Brockenhurst, as far as the lane south of Burley. From here, public footpaths should be used to reach Crow Arch Lane, then it’s plain sailing all the way to Upton, mainly on the Castleman Trailway, described in the entry above. (Tim Grose)

March 2003. Ringwood, Hampshire. While we are on the subject of Ringwood, it is worth mentioning the former line from Ringwood to Christchurch via Hurn. The northern part of this has disappeared beneath the modern A338 Ringwood to Bournemouth road, but a short section, including a cutting and the site of the 19th century navvies’ camp, survives in Avon Forest Park, at the Ringwood end. Things improve at Hurn station, which is now the Avon Causeway Hotel. A few years ago, this proclaimed its railway past with a Pullman carriage and diesel locomotive, albeit an industrial one. Are they still there? Between Hurn and Fairmile, on the northern edge of Christchurch, the trackbed is owned by Hall & Co, the aggregate company, but locals use it freely for walking and horseriding. (Jeff Vinter)

March 2003. Newport to Sandown, Isle of Wight. A few years ago, this cross-island branch line was fragmented into two main sections, Shide to Blackwater (1½ miles) and Horringford to Sandown (3½ miles). However, the Isle of Wight County Council has been filling in the gap between Blackwater and Horringford so that, by July this year, it will be possible to walk or cycle along the old railway all the way from Shide to Sandown. The only detours will be half a mile north of Merstone station, and a similar distance around Horringford station. Unfortunately, the section from Newport to Shide has disappeared beneath a new road, but these improvements will create a new railway path of about 9 miles – welcome news indeed as the summer approaches. (Graham Lambert)