News 2005

Above: The rusting clock at Carron station on Speyside, frozen in time, calls to mind Rupert Brooke’s famous poem, ‘Grantchester’, which asks if the church clock still stands at ten to three. For how many years has this Victorian timepiece shown twenty past four? Normally, photographs in our ‘News’ pages illustrate a story, but this one was just too good not to use. It was taken in September 2004 on a Midlands Area trip to Scotland, led by Bob Prigg, who was also the photographer.

December 2005. Midford to Wellow, Somerset. Another short section of the former Somerset & Dorset Railway opened on 4th December between the south end of Midford viaduct and the edge of Wellow village. Access has been negotiated on the basis that it is a permissive path and subject to closures. This isn’t well publicised yet and current booked closures are listed on the ‘Two Tunnels’ web site (which campaigns for a shared use path along the S&D to Bath in order to retain the structures) just in case anyone travels some distance to visit the path. The trackbed passes close to the site of the upper interchange basin between the Somerset Coal Canal and its tramway, built to overcome a change of levels at Midford. The basin itself does not enjoy public access. (Mark Annand) Update: If the above link no longer works, a Google search for ‘Midford Wellow path closures’ will usually do the trick.

November 2005. National Initiative. Sustrans has just launched an appeal called ‘Bridging the Gap’, which seeks to raise money for the maintenance of the 1,100 bridges on the National Cycle Network – many of them former railway bridges which now segregate walkers and cyclists from road traffic. Without them, ‘the Network would just be a random collection of unconnected paths, and of little use’. (Jeff Vinter)

November 2005. Bath to Radstock, Somerset. We don’t know how long this link will be active (but see below), so click here to view it while you can – it’s full of good news and interesting possibilities for the north end of the former Somerset & Dorset Railway. For those not familiar with the route, this was the most heavily engineered section of the line. (Ivor Sutton) Update: In January 2006, the website linked to from this paragraph was moved to a new, dedicated web address, so it looks as if it will be around for some time. (Jeff Vinter)

October 2005. Thrapston to Irthlingborough, Northamptonshire. This 8 mile section of the former LNWR line from Northampton to Peterborough is now open as part of the Nene Valley Way. The Irthlingborough end is not far from Rushden, where the station (the intermediate stop on the Midland Railway’s Wellingborough to Higham Ferrers branch) is now owned by the local transport society. The gas-lit bar and museum are worth a visit for their real ales and railway artefacts – and day membership costs only £1. (Phil Wood)

October 2005. Cheddar to Wells, Somerset. Following the award of a grant for £50,000 from the Somerset Aggregated Levy Sustainable Fund, Somerset County Council has appointed Mike Sendall as dedicated project officer for the development of a multi-user path between Cheddar and Wells, using as much as possible of the former Cheddar Valley railway line. Mike is currently involved in discussions and negotiations with local landowners, but expects to apply for planning permission before the end of the year. (Cheddar Valley Railway Walk Society)

September 2005. Midford to Wellow, Somerset. Fans of the former Somerset & Dorset Railway that linked Bath and Bournemouth will be pleased to hear that the club is currently negotiating with Sustrans Ltd to make a grant that will help to open up this 3 mile section of trackbed to walkers and mountain bikers. Subsequent improvements will make the trail accessible to all users. The company is keen to make more use of the S&D by linking together existing sections between Bath and Midsomer Norton, namely:

  • Bath to Devonshire Tunnel
  • Lyncombe Vale (the section between Devonshire and Combe Down Tunnels)
  • Combe Down Tunnel to Midford
  • Shoscombe to Radstock
  • Radstock to Midsomer Norton

A Bath to Midsomer Norton rail trail is now a distinct possibility, and there’s plenty more trackbed on towards Bournemouth! (Richard Martin/Jeff Vinter)

August 2005. Waterford to Dungarvan, County Waterford, Eire. €1m has just been allocated to converting this 30 mile section of the Waterford-Lismore railway into a cycle trail. Work was expected to commence at Dungarvan early this year, with completion due in 2009. Principal features along the route are three substantial viaducts and the quarter mile long Darrow Tunnel. (Ralph Rawlinson)

August 2005. Cossington to Bawdrip, Somerset. It is not often that we have to report bad news, but unfortunately a local farmer has withdrawn permission for National Cycle Network Route 3 to follow the trackbed of the Somerset & Dorset Railway between these two villages. Sustrans is urging Somerset County Council to intervene, but in the meantime access is barred by a locked gate and diversion signs are due to be erected. (Ralph Rawlinson)

August 2005. Tynygraig to Dolfor, Ceredigion. The Ystwth Trail is a new project designed to create a cycle trail between Aberystwyth and Strata Florida, using parts of the former GWR railway line between these two points. Sustrans has just opened a short section of the route on the disused trackbed between between Dolfor and Tynygraig. More should follow as the project progresses. (Sustrans Ltd)

August 2005. Buxworth to Dove Holes, Derbyshire. Yet another railway path for the Peak District! Funding has been secured for the initial stage of a scheme to convert the disused Peak Forest Tramway into a walking and cycling route. The first tranche of funding will be used to start designing the trail between Bugsworth and Chapel-en-le-Frith. (Ralph Rawlinson)

August 2005. Stenkrith to Hartley, nr. Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria. RMC, the owner of Hartley Quarry, has just donated the nearby Merrygill Viaduct to the Northern Viaduct Trust, which intends to restore the viaduct and trackbed for public use. The NVT has already upgraded the trackbed between Stenkrith Park and Podgill Viaduct (also restored), so this new project will create a 2 mile trail along part of the old line between Kirkby Stephen and Barnard Castle. With help from English Heritage and the Countryside Agency, £50,000 has already been raised to repair Merrygill Viaduct. (Ralph Rawlinson)

August 2005. Irthlingborough to Thrapston (Northamptonshire). Further to the entry for March (click here), this route is due to open this month. The bridges – including those over the River Nene – had all been repaired by Easter, but further work was delayed until after the bird nesting season! (Roger Knight)

Above: They don’t do things by halves in Lancashire! Contractors are seen laying a new deck on the viaduct at Crook o’Lune (bridge no. 123), which now carries the Lancaster-Caton cycle trail. The views from the viaduct are excellent, and it makes a fine study from river level as well. The repair work cost £880,000 – according to the local paper, the bridge was ‘almost taken apart stone by stone before being put back together’. The work was necessitated by a hole appearing in the decking in summer 2004. (Ralph Rawlinson)

July 2005. Lymington Junction to Ringwood, Hampshire. This is the eastern half of the ‘old road’ that once linked Southampton and Dorchester via Ringwood and Wimborne Minster. Click here for details of recent developments and an overview of where you can walk this 30 mile line. (Tim Grose/Jeff Vinter)

Above: An artist’s impression of the new bridge over the River Walkham near Grenofen (south of Tavistock) in Devon. This structure will replace the former Grenofen Viaduct. Graham Cornish from Devon CC advises: ‘If you look carefully at the tree line vertically above the end of the new bridge you can just make out the old abutment, giving some idea of its massive scale.’ (Devon County Council)

July 2005. Whitchurch to Horrabridge, Devon. The reclamation of disused railways in Devon continues apace, the latest plan being to create a new railway walk and cycle trail along this 3 mile section of the former GWR line between Tavistock and Plymouth. Both Magpie Viaduct and Grenofen Tunnel are included in the scheme, although the 1100ft Grenofen Viaduct over the River Walkham was demolished soon after the line closed. Amazingly, a new bridge is to be installed in its place (see picture above). Please do not attempt to use this route until it is opened formally – at the moment, much of the line remains in private ownership with no public access. (Ralph Rawlinson)

July 2005. Carnhell Green to Helston, Cornwall. Sustrans intends to utilise the trackbed of the Helston branch between Carnhell Green and Helston for a new cycle trail. Since Carnhell Green is just three-quarters of a mile south of Gwinear Road (the former junction station on the Plymouth-Penzance main line), this proposal covers virtually the whole branch. The company intends to work with the Helston Railway Preservation Society. (Ralph Rawlinson)

July 2005. Gate Hemsley to Stamford Bridge, Yorkshire. Sustrans has converted a 1¼ mile section of trackbed between Gate Hemsley and Stamford Bridge – part of the former York to Beverley line – into a new cycle route. It includes the restored Stamford Bridge Viaduct, comprising fifteen brick built arches and a central cast iron span. The eastern part of this line, between Market Weighton and Beverley, has been in use as the Hudson Way for many years. (Ralph Rawlinson)

Above: The lonely Dava Way threads its way across Dava Moor following the course of the old Highland Railway’s line from Forres to Grantown-on-Spey. It offers walkers and cyclists a great way to enjoy Scotland’s fantastic scenery with a minimum of steep gradients. The club’s visit predated the official opening (see below) but took place with permission from local landowners. April 2004. (Richard Lewis)

July 2005. Forres to Grantown-on-Spey, Morayshire, Scotland. A new 23 mile long railway path has been opened between Forres and Grantown-on-Spey. Known as The Dava Way, after Dava Moor and the intermediate settlement of Dava, the trail re-uses much of the Highland Railway’s former line between Forres and Aviemore, although diversions have been negotiated with local landowners to avoid badly overgrown sections; it would be good if, in time, these sections could be cleared and opened up. The new route, which is open to walkers and cyclists, affords spectacular views, but note that the Dava Moor section is closed annually between 12th August and the end of September (Sundays excepted) for grouse shooting. If you have the energy, at Grantown-on-Spey, you can switch to The Speyside Way, which re-uses much of the trackbed of the Great North of Scotland Railway to Craigellachie and Dufftown. Additionally, Grantown-on-Spey will eventually become the northern terminus of The Strathspey Railway, which currently operates trains along the Highland Railway’s line between Broomhill, Boat of Garten and Aviemore. (Phil Wood/Jeff Vinter)

Above: Alright, it’s not got much to do with walking old railways, but hopefully visitors to this site can make allowances for a picture of a steam-powered bus. Our photographer reports: ‘Rumour has it that it was on trial as a rail replacement vehicle for next September’s West Coast Main Line closures, but Virgin ruled it out as they found it required too many water and refuelling stops!’ This fine vehicle, known as ‘Martha’, is claimed to be the only steam bus in the world. Please tell us if you know better! (Ralph Rawlinson) Update: Alas, the Sentinel steam bus is no longer running – member Richard Lewis reports that ‘the operators were getting complaints from elderly passengers riding on it, saying that it was uncomfortable. Thus when I went to ride on it, the service had stopped the week before.’

May 2005. Website of Old Stations. Later this year, we hope to add a new page of links to other sites that focus on disused railways, but this one was too good not to include right away … so click here for Subterranea Britannica’s illustrated list of closed railway stations. Many thanks to member Tim Grose for bringing this to our attention.

April 2005. Bowerland to Thorndon Cross, nr. Okehampton, Devon. A one mile section of the former line from Meldon Junction to Halwill Junction, used by trains en route to Bude, has been designated as a bridleway. Examination of the local map (Landranger 191) shows a bridleway running parallel to the line between these points, but it has now been diverted on to the old trackbed and extended up to the bridge under the A3079 at Thorndon Cross. A link back to the Granite Way at Meldon Junction looks unlikely since the old railway is severed by the new A30 dual carriageway, and the deep cutting leading up to the new road has been used as a dump. (Tim Grose)

April 2005. Tayport to Tay Bridge, Fife. We’re a bit late with this one, but last July the Tayport to Tay Bridge railway path was opened, complete with two new bridges and an all-weather surface. (Sustrans Ltd)

April 2005. Newark to Cotham, Nottinghamshire. The existing railway path from Newark Northgate station has been extended to Cotham, thus re-using the first 6 miles of the former Great Northern line from Newark to Bottesford North Junction. Joint running rights with the London & North Western Railway meant that this line once formed part of a through route from Newark to Market Harborough. (Sustrans Ltd)

April 2005. Wells to Shepton Mallet, Somerset. A group of Wells-based residents have recently established a group called ‘Legs’, which stands for ‘Let Everyone Go Safely’. In conjunction with the Shepton Mallet Regeneration Officer, they are looking at the feasibility of a path from Shepton Mallet to Wells based on the trackbed of the former East Somerset Railway. Shepton falls within the scope of the ‘Market and Coastal Towns Initiative’, and a path linking it to Wells could bring financial benefits to the town. A group is also working locally to develop a railway-based trail from Wells to Cheddar, where a link would be made with the existing railway path from Cheddar to Yatton. (Cheddar Valley Railway Walks Society)

April 2005. Peasmarsh, nr. Guildford, Surrey. For many years, the first half mile of the former Guildford to Christ’s Hospital branch between Peasmarsh Junction and A281 south of Shalford has lain disused and overgrown; but now Surrey County Council has cleared the vegetation and laid a good quality surface, prior to installing a new bridge over the River Wey where the original railway bridge used to stand. We believe that the purpose of these improvements is to provide a traffic-free connection between the Downs Link and the towpath of the Wey Navigation (which is kept in excellent repair by the National Trust), as well as access to and from the village of Peasmarsh. See also the January 2005 entry for this route. (Tim Grose)

April 2005. Hockley Viaduct, near Winchester (Hampshire). According to a report on Meridian television news on 31 March, English Heritage has rejected the latest claim for listed status on the 33 arch Hockley Viaduct. The viaduct, built in 1890-91, once enabled trains from the Didcot, Newbury & Southampton Railway to access the Bournemouth main line at Shawford Junction and thereby reach Southampton Terminus. The viaduct is the largest in Hampshire (and one of the largest in southern England), and is the first to have used concrete in its construction. This accolade was long thought to have belonged to Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland (built in 1894), but a test bore into Hockley in September 1996 proved conclusively that it is a concrete structure with brick facing.

As a result of the decision by English Heritage, the Friends of Hockley Viaduct Group will be campaigning amongst Winchester people to save the viaduct from the likely threat of demolition. People are urged to write to their MP, councillors etc. Finding a role for the viaduct could be the answer to saving it. This could be linked to a park-and-ride scheme under which buses rather than trains would use the structure to access the centre of this historic but traffic-crowded city. (Tim Stannard/Jeff Vinter)

March 2005. Hengoed Viaduct (Mid Glamorgan). A £1.2 million restoration of the 16 arch Hengoed Viaduct over the Rhymney Valley commenced in June last year. The works will safeguard this magnificent piece of railway heritage and include new safety fencing, lighting, interpretation panels and public viewing platforms. The viaduct was part of the former GWR line from Hengoed to Pontypool Road. (Ralph Rawlinson)

March 2005. Cricklade (Wiltshire). A cycle trail is being established on part of the former Midland & South Western Junction Railway at Cricklade, but construction was suspended last August when a farmer blocked the route in protest at trespass by workers on land which he owns alongside the trackbed. Further details of this route would be appreciated – if you can help, please get in touch via the e-mail link on our Contact page. (Ralph Rawlinson)

March 2005. Huddersfield to Mirfield Junction (West Yorkshire). The Huddersfield end of the Midland Railway’s former goods branch from Mirfield has been converted into a cycleway. It ends just short of the 15 arch Bradley Viaduct over the Colne Valley, which is to be renovated to form part of a new Calder Valley Greenway. (Ralph Rawlinson)

March 2005. Whitchurch (Shropshire). The final mile of the GWR’s old line from Oswestry to Whitchurch is now officially ‘Hatton Way’, part of Regional Cycle Route 31. (Ralph Rawlinson)

March 2005. Irthlingborough to Thrapston (Northamptonshire). Like Lincolnshire (see below), Northamptonshire used to be a county with only a single railway walk, from Northampton to Market Harborough. Now, however, Regional Cycle Route 71 will use the Nene Valley trackbed from Irthlingborough to Stanwick Lakes and Thrapston, most of which is owned by Rockingham Forest Trust. A large grant is imminent which, amongst other things, will enable crucial river bridges to be repaired before Easter this year. (Ralph Rawlinson)

March 2005. Twizell Viaduct (Northumberland). Following the joint efforts of Northumberland County Council and the Railway Heritage Trust, the 390ft. long six-arched Twizell Viaduct over the River Twill north-east of Coldstream has been renovated and made part of a public path. The viaduct is on the former line from Tweedmouth to Kelso. (Ralph Rawlinson)

March 2005. Lincoln to Boston (Lincolnshire). For many years, Lincolnshire was a county with but one railway path – The Spa Trail from Horncastle to Woodhall Spa; but things are changing. The 9 mile Lincoln to Bardney Lock section of the Lincoln to Boston Railway Path was opened last June, and Sustrans, the national path-building charity, has now secured £1½ million for the remaining 13 miles into Boston. (Ralph Rawlinson)

March 2005. Whitstable (Kent). Part of the long-closed Canterbury and Whitstable Railway could gain a new lease of life if talks between Canterbury City Council and the Crab & Winkle Line Trust are successful in devising a way of reinstating two missing bridges on the way into Whitstable. The line here is already part of Sustrans’ National Cycle Route 1, which improves the prospects of success. (Ralph Rawlinson)

March 2005. Whitehill to near Longmoor Camp (Hampshire). Railway cognoscenti will recognise this as part of the former Longmoor Military Railway from Bordon to Liss. Sustrans and Hampshire County Council have submitted a proposal to the MoD for cyclists to use a 2 mile section of the former LMR trackbed between Whitehill and Greatham in order to avoid a dangerous section of the A325. Walkers can already use this section, and much more of the LMR besides, on a permissive basis. Further south, the last mile into Liss now forms an attractive walk managed by East Hampshire District Council, where much remains of the former railway, including buffer stops, telegraph poles and sleepers. (Ralph Rawlinson/Jeff Vinter)

March 2005. Bedford to Sandy (Bedfordshire). Following the conversion of the section from Bedford to Blunham, reported in November 2003, the remaining section of this former cross-country line was converted into a railway path in autumn last year. (Ralph Rawlinson)

January 2005. Vire to Mortain, Normandy, France. This is a new official railway path, open to walkers, cyclists and horseriders. Our correspondent thinks that the line was open as recently as 1989, with probably one train each way daily to link up with the line from Granville to Paris. A lot of smaller French lines have closed in recent years, but many are now being turned into railway paths. (Brittany is another good area to look.) With similar developments as far away as Spain, Bermuda and America, railway paths really are becoming an international phenomenon. (John Fisher)

Above: Bramley & Wonersh station on the Down’s Link (see report below) has recently been turned into something of a local feature, with even the passenger waiting shelter on the down platform being re-built. It is good to see something of interest being added to this route, since it suffered badly after closure, with all the stations except Baynards being demolished. All that is missing now from the above scene is the signal box – which stood to the left of the crossing gates – plus a set of rails and an Adams M7 setting off with its three-coach train towards Horsham. (Ron Strutt)

January 2005. Christ’s Hospital towards Slinfold, West Sussex. This is part of the well known ‘Downs Link’, which utilises the former London, Brighton and South Coast Railway’s branch lines from Shoreham to Christ’s Hospital, and Christ’s Hospital to Guildford. For many years, walkers and cyclists travelling from Christ’s Hospital to Slinfold and beyond have had to put up with a lengthy diversion around the first half mile of the old railway line, which is now very overgrown. However, signs have now gone up in the area saying that it is intended to designate a bridleway along this section, running from Christ’s Hospital station to Baystone Bridge (grid reference TQ 139297). Comments are invited. Elsewhere, Sustrans has become involved in making improvements to the Downs Link, which, at over 30 miles, is one of the longest railway paths in the country. (Tim Grose)

January 2005. Haltwhistle to Alston, Northumberland/Cumbria. We are delighted to announce that Railway Ramblers has given a cheque value £2,000 to the North Pennines Heritage Trust. This grant forms part of a £300,000 package to secure Alston Arches Viaduct, which carries the old Alston branch (closed in May 1976) southwards from Haltwhistle station and over the River Tyne. The Hexham Courant published the following details on 7th January: ‘The work, which is due to start in April this year and be completed by spring 2006, will involve repairing and conserving the fabric of the viaduct and making it safe for public access. Local schools and interest groups have been invited to get involved in the education and interpretation work of the project.’ When the project is complete, all of this scenic branch line will be open as a rail trail. (Richard Martin, Ralph Rawlinson et al.)

January 2005. Wells to Cheddar, Somerset. The following report is taken from the New Year newsletter of the Cheddar Valley Railway Walk Society, and will be great news for railway ramblers who live or holiday in the west of England: ‘There is a real sense of momentum about an off road path between Wells and Cheddar. The idea of a multi-user path remains part of the county council strategy to improve traffic conditions along the A371. They are firmly committed to developing the first stage of the path out of Wells – from the Leisure Centre to Haybridge – along the old railway track. Sustrans are taking a more active interest in the route, symbolised by their decision to re-route the national cycleway from Bristol to Padstow along the valley (i.e. the Cheddar Valley), and are leading some sensitive negotiations in different areas.’ There is already an established railway path from Cheddar to Yatton, on the Bristol-Taunton railway line, which is itself the subject of work in several locations to improve conditions for walkers, cyclists and disabled users. It will be a wonderful achievement if a path based largely on the old railway can be taken all the way back to Wells. (Cheddar Valley Railway Walk Society)

Feature Articles


Lymington Junction to Ringwood, Hampshire. For some years, the eastern part of ‘Castleman’s Corkscrew’ – the sinuous line that snaked its way from Southampton to Dorchester via Ringwood and Wimborne – has been something of a forgotten backwater; but now things are changing. Two long-demolished bridges between Lymington Junction and Long Slade Bottom (near Holmsley) have been replaced, while the official ‘Castleman Trailway’ has been extended east from Ringwood to the last of three level crossings at Crow (grid reference SU 168037). As a result, the current situation on the Corkscrew is as follows:

  • Hamworthy Junction to Upton: not part of the official ‘Castleman Trailway’ but used by locals and accessible from a public footpath at grid reference SY 988924.
  • Upton-Broadstone-Merley: all converted and now part of the official Trailway.
  • Merley-Wimborne-West Moors: much of the trackbed has been re-used, especially in and around Wimborne, so the Trailway follows a diversion, partly on the bank of the River Stour.
  • West Moors-Ringwood-Crow: all converted and now part of the official Trailway.
  • Crow-Burbush Hill (south of Burley): currently inaccessible due to Bagnum Bog being a conservation area.
  • Burbush Hill-Holmsley-Cater’s Cottage (near Lymington Junction): passable throughout, although care must be taken on the one mile section east of Holmsley station, which has been converted into a road.
  • Cater’s Cottage-Lymington Junction: not used (½ mile only) although a forest trail runs parallel on the south side giving access to the B3055 and Brockenhurst.

Hampshire County Council is keen to ‘bridge the gap’ between Crow and Burbush Hill, but it is unlikely that it will be able to use the trackbed here, partly due to its special designation, and partly due to it being badly flooded. Anyone wishing to follow the whole 30 miles between Hamworthy and Lymington Junctions can use public footpaths and forest trails to get from Crow to Burbush Hill (via Sandford), and this may be the route that Hampshire ends up waymarking. Time will tell.

Report by Tim Grose and Jeff Vinter