News 2012

Above: The crossing keeper’s cottage at Leasey Bridge Level Crossing on the former GNR line from Hatfield to Dunstable via Welwyn Garden City, Wheathampstead, Harpenden and Luton. The level crossing is situated between Wheathampstead and Harpenden, and marks the point where a new section of rail trail regains the trackbed, which has been used for many years between Welwyn Garden City and Wheathampstead by the Ayot Greenway. January 2011. (Phil Mullarkey)

Something to Think About

Even though 2012 is not yet very old, it is becoming obvious that new bridges and viaducts are going to be a main theme of the year. The wanton destruction of railway infrastructure that followed the route closures of the 1960s and 1970s saw many old trackbeds split into two or more parts, which in recent years Sustrans and its local authority partners have been working tirelessly to re-connect. Major achievements reported on this page include the new Navvies Bridge at Workington, the new Woolfold Viaduct just west of Bury, and a new bridge on the former railway line between Weymouth and Portland. However, the big daddy of them all, weighing in at a cost of £2 million, will be Devon County Council’s new ‘Gem Bridge’ on the former GWR railway line from Tavistock to Plymouth. This is no ordinary bridge but a full scale viaduct, featuring a design that would warm the heart of any Victorian railway engineer. The Gem Bridge is not due to open for a couple of months yet, but the new span has already been lowered into place over the Walkham Valley and work continues as I write this.

Readers may wonder whether all of this expenditure is justified. Clearly, Sustrans and the local authorities think so, and the arguments about improving the nation’s health by providing safe routes for walkers and cyclists have been well rehearsed. Less well know are the arguments about recreational spending and the cost of road traffic accidents involving walkers and cyclists.

Cars enable motorists to take with them much that they need for a day out. It is very different for walkers and cyclists, who (even when equipped with the largest rucksacks or panniers) travel light by comparison and therefore buy what they need as they pass through the towns and villages on their way. Put a really good railway path into the combination and, over a year, you are delivering a lot of spending money into local communities.

Then there is the road safety angle. In Hampshire, the cost to the public purse of a road traffic accident involving death or serious injury to a pedestrian or cyclist is now £23,000. That figure will not be much different for any local authority anywhere in the British Isles. All this has to be paid out of general taxation. Just look up the figures for road traffic accidents and do the sums to get an angle on what road-related pedestrian and cyclist deaths actually cost us. It doesn’t take many such accidents in a given transport corridor to start building up a case for getting walkers and cyclists out of harm’s way. Clearly, this is a complex issue with many facets, including (not least) better training for all road users. But you don’t need to save many walkers’ and cyclists’ lives for the big investments that we are now seeing in bridges and viaducts to start justifying themselves.

Jeff Vinter (Webmaster)

December 2012. Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire. A short section of trackbed through Tewkesbury has become a public footpath. It runs from SO 909332 (Gannaway Lane) to SO 901331 (the site of Quay Branch Junction), whence separate branches run to SO 899329 and SO 897331, near the respective sites of Tewkesbury goods terminus and passenger station. (Jeff Vinter)

December 2012. Hay-on-Wye, Powys. A short section of the Midland Railway’s line from Three Cocks Junction to Eardisley and Hereford has been converted into part of NCN48. It runs through Hay-on-Wye from SO 228425 to SO 220421 and currently is only half a mile long. There is a considerable mileage of old trackbed in this scenic area, if only the local authorities could be persuaded to take an interest in them. (Jeff Vinter)

Above: A working party on the Hincaster Trailway (see story below). You won’t find many footpaths like this, even in rugged Cumbria. The construction of such a cutting will have taken plenty of explosives, but much more in terms of human labour, since the navvies will have removed all the debris with picks, shovels and wheelbarrows. Just occasionally, railway ramblers come across a rock face like this where one can see the surviving halves of the drill holes where the explosives were packed. A few of these holes show serrations from the cutting edge of the drill bit that made them – a direct visual link to the navvy who stood there in the 1870s patiently preparing the virgin rock for blasting. (Hincaster Trailway Group)

December 2012. Hincaster to Arnside, Cumbria. The Hincaster Trailway Group is a local community project which is busy converting the former Furness Railway’s disused branch line from Hincaster to Arnside into a multi-use trail. The club has recently made a grant to the group to support the next phase of their work, and so we were delighted to read the following report in their Winter News bulletin: ‘Phase II of the wheelchair track at Hincaster is now complete following generous funding for materials from The Hadfield Trust, Railway Ramblers and Councillor Brenda Grays’ allocation from Cumbria County Council. Work parties from Sustrans, South Lakes Federation, 1st Kendal Boys Brigade, Storth Women’s Institute, Geocachers and South Cumbria Federation of Young Farmers Clubs have all contributed their time this summer. With the winter weather closing in, it was time for a final push from our most enthusiastic volunteers and, with a little help from Sam with a digger, the full one kilometre is now surfaced. Regular users on foot, cycle, horseback and mobility scooters are delighted with the finished track and enjoying the opportunity to enjoy the countryside without getting too muddy.’ (Bridget Pickthall, Secretary, Hincaster Trailway Group)

December 2012. Bangor to Caernarfon, Gwynedd. This ex-LNWR line has made it into the news recently thanks to the illegal use of the disused twin-bore tunnels at Faenol (Vaynol) for an intensive cannabis farm. (The tunnels are situated about a mile south of Afonwen Line Junction, which was near Menai Bridge station.) Ostensibly operated as a mushroom farm, the tunnels concealed a sophisticated cannabis-growing facility with the potential for a turnover of at least £1½ million per year. Prosecutor Gareth Preston remarked: ‘This is one of the best-designed and constructed commercial operations that North Wales Police have ever encountered’. For further details, click the links here (The Mail Online) or here (BBC News). The horticultural engineering was impressive, if not in the best tradition of railway enterprise. (Subterranea Britannica email loop via Roger Cleaver)

December 2012. Bangor to Caernarfon, Gwynedd. The above story prompted another look at the Bangor to Caernarfon line, which, of course, continued all the way south to Afonwen. The current OS Explorer map for the area shows that the trackbed has been re-used as part of NCN8 from SH 536682 (just north of Port Dinorwic) to SH 482634 in Caernarfon (just north of the local Asda superstore). A couple of short sections have been lost at Y Felinheli and near Llanfair Hall Farm, but this represents 6miles of new (to us) railway path. If one follows the NCN8 signs through Caernarfon, one can then re-join the trackbed south of the Welsh Highland Railway’s station (at SH 480624) and follow it for another 12½ miles to Bryncir. Sadly, the last 8 miles from Bryncir to Afonwen were sold off to local landowners long ago, but to have some two-thirds of this long cross-country route available as a multi use trail is no mean achievement on the part of the local authorities. (Jeff Vinter)

Above: In March 2011, Devon County Council installed this new bridge on the former Moretonhampstead branch just south of the town’s former station. The distance from Moretonhampstead to Bovey Tracey via the old trackbed is about 7 miles, and already half a mile has been completed at the north end, and another mile at the south end. The high standard of the work is obvious from this quality bridge; see story below for further details. 8th May 2011. (Guy Wareham under the terms of Geograph’s Creative Commons Licence).

November 2012. Moretonhampstead to Heathfield, Devon. Over the last three years, Devon County Council has spent over £13 million on expanding and improving its cycle network, and another 13.9 million has been earmarked for the next three years to 2015; the purpose is to make ‘Devon recognised as a prime destination for cycling holidays and breaks’. As part of this work, the local authority is gradually converting the disused railway line between Moretonhampstead and Bovey Tracey into the Wray Valley Trail. The first section out of Moretonhampstead (from Pound Lane, near the old station, to Steward Wood) opened in 2011, including a replacement rail-over-road bridge spanning the A382 at SX 760855, while this summer improvements were agreed for the southern end. Here, the National Trust has long owned a one mile section of trackbed between Wolleigh and the A382 at Bovey Tracey, which it manages as a path. The problem was that it effectively stranded users on a busy road which they had to cross to reach the town. All that is now set to change, thanks to a new connection which will provide walkers and cyclists with a traffic-free path under the A382 and then alongside the River Bovey right into the town centre. Looking further ahead, the next phase of development work on the Wray Valley Trail is scheduled for the financial year 2014-15. (Jeff Vinter)

November 2012. Sturminster Newton to Spetisbury, Dorset. Regular readers of these pages will recognise this as the soon-to-be completed longest section of the North Dorset Trailway, based on the trackbed of the former Somerset & Dorset Railway. (It is actually two shorter sections north and south of Blandford Forum, which are being joined together by the construction of the ‘missing link’ this winter.) Anyway, the NDT people do not miss a trick! The 2nd October edition of the Bournemouth Daily Echo reported thus: ‘The DT11 Trailway Broadband team has submitted its bid for a share of £20 million in Government money to install superfast broadband. The plan is to install fibre optic cable along the North Dorset Trailway and into the five villages along the route. The scheme has now been updated to include the married quarters at Blandford Camp and the North Dorset Business Park at Sturminster Newton … If the project is completed, it will give top quality broadband access to over 2,700 homes and 180 businesses which could otherwise remain with an almost non-existent service. The money would come from Defra’s Rural Community Broadband Fund.’ This is an outstanding idea which will reinforce the usefulness of the Trailway and, hopefully, increase general support for it. (Tim Chant)

November 2012. Stourpaine & Durweston to Blandford Forum, Dorset. Staying with the North Dorset Trailway, the latest newsletter from the team has just arrived. Before the new section from Stourpaine & Durweston to Blandford can be used by the public, there is still more work to be done including installing a new surface, improving fencing, removing some trees, and constructing a new car park at Manor France Farm. However, it was hoped that most of this would be complete by the end of this month. Further good news comes in the form of a survey of the economic benefits of the Trailway, sponsored by the DT11 group, which found that it had already delivered a boost to the turnover of local businesses, particularly B&Bs, hotels, pubs, convenience stores and cycle shops. (Lesley Gasson, The Trailway Network)

November 2012. Plymouth (nr. Friary West Junction) to nr. Turnchapel, Devon. What became of the Turnchapel branch in suburban Plymouth? A section of it through Oreston became a railway path, from SX 506537 to SX 500530: the start is just off the A379 west of Laira Bridge, near the site of the former Plymstock station, while the end is on the north side of Hooe Lake. The distance is only ¾ mile, but this is an interesting area for the railway rambler …

At SX 498529, the piers which once supported the swing bridge to Turnchapel remain in place while, between SX 502542 and SX 500543, the LSWR’s substantial bridge over the River Plym remains in place, still carrying traces of its lead-based Southern Region green paint. This bridge, known as the Laira Rail Bridge, is the subject of a bid by Plymouth City Council for a grant from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund: the intention is to restore it for use by walkers and cyclists as part of a package of measures designed to upgrade local ‘west-east cycle and bus routes, connecting deprived areas with employment opportunities, and creating an environment to encourage sustainable travel.’ On the north west side of the bridge, a railway path already uses a further section of ex-LSWR trackbed up to Plymstock Line Junction, where it crosses under and then runs alongside the still open Cattewater Harbour branch to finish just short of Friary West Junction with a link into Lucas Terrace. (This point is probably the site of Lucas Halt Terrace.) From here, one can follow local streets to the site of nearby Plymouth Friary station.

Given the restoration of Laira Rail Bridge and a safe link from its south east end to the start of the trail through Oreston (which should be easy because the trackbed survives, unused), we could see virtually all of the Turnchapel branch brought back into use as a railway path within the next five years or so. The only place where the line is a complete ‘goner’ is in Turnchapel itself. (Jeff Vinter)

Above: An archive photograph of the long-departed Brixton Road station, on the GWR’s branch line from Plymouth to Yealmpton. We owe this photograph to Ben Brooksbank, a retired medical scientist, who has been taking railway photographs since before 1950. Ben also provided this informative caption: ‘View southward, towards Yealmpton; ex-GWR Plymouth – Plymstock – Yealmpton branch. The station and branch were closed finally to goods on 29/2/60, passenger services having ceased on 4/10/47. The passenger service on the branch had previously been withdrawn on 7/7/30, but was restored on 3/11/41 to cater for people displaced by the bombing of Plymouth.’ Photograph by Ben Brooksbank (see original here) and used under the terms of the Wikipedia Creative Commons licence.

November 2012. Elburton Cross to Brixton Road, Devon. The GWR’s branch line from Plymstock to Yealmpton has not been anywhere near so lucky as the neighbouring line to Turnchapel (see story above), but a short section between SX 538530 (on the eastern edge of Elburton) and SX 541522 (by Fordbrook Farm, south of Brixton Road station) is now in use as part of NCN2, although it is only half a mile long. There was not time during a visit to establish exactly where the railway path could be joined at the Elburton end, but, being part of NCN2, there should be good signs in the locality. Elburton Cross station was situated at SX 535533 at the north end of Station Road, where it becomes Hazel Grove; the building has vanished without trace. Brixton Road station was situated at SX 541525; the site is now occupied by a modern stone-built residence. (Jeff Vinter) Update: If you want to explore this short section of line, click here for directions by local member Mike Knight.

November 2012. Winchester, Hampshire. The autumn edition of ‘The Hub’, Sustrans’ quarterly supporters’ magazine, contained the following brief article. ‘Work has commenced on the re-invigoration of Hockley Viaduct on National Route 23 south of Winchester. The project will open up the structure for walking and cycling, providing fantastic views of the water meadows and the cathedral and, with the construction of new paths north and south of the viaduct, this work will complete a vital missing link in National Route 23 between Reading and Southampton. Work on the viaduct will be completed in time for your spring rides.’ The last-advised date for opening was April 2013. (Sustrans Ltd)

November 2012. Newton Farm to Moorfields, Hereford. While investigating the story below, we discovered that part of the former GWR line from Barr’s Court Junction to Red Hill Junction (basically a north-south link that ran across Hereford just west of the A49) has been converted into a cycle trail, part of NCN46. The current OS Explorer map shows the route starting near Newton Farm at SO 498375 (with links to local housing estates) and continuing northwards to SO 506406, near the former Barton Curve Junction. The distance is about 2 miles and, although the north end looks from the map to have been re-developed extensively, the trail includes a substantial bridge over the River Wye at SO 502393. This discovery ends Herefordshire’s long reign as the last known rail trail desert amongst English counties. (Jeff Vinter).

November 2012. Bartonsham to Rotherwas Industrial Estate, Hereford. On the south east side of the city, the Hereford Connect2 Greenway gained planning permission in August 2011 with construction work scheduled to run through most of 2012. The project, which will form part of NCN44, will feature a new cable-stayed bridge over the River Wye, accessible from the dubiously named Outfall Works Road which ends at SO 520390 near a large sewage works. The local council’s website continues the story: ‘Once across the river, the route will be traffic free via the railway underpass into the Rotherwas Industrial Estate, then following for most part the line of the dismantled railway and making the all important wider connections into the rest of the estate. The dismantled railway then allows for the future development of the route through to Holme Lacy.’ The line mentioned here is the former GWR branch from Hereford to Ross-on-Wye. It looks, therefore, as if Hereford could have two railway paths in the near future; the distance from the proposed River Wye crossing to Holme Lacy would be about 2½ miles. (Tim Chant)

November 2012. Frome to Radstock, Somerset. Mendip District Council has finally validated the planning application for the Welshmill Lane to Whatcombe Farm section of the ‘Missing Link’ on NCN24 between Frome and Great Elm. Frome’s Missing Link – the organisation behind this project – has also made an application to Natural England for a grant to help finance this part of the route, while it is also planning further ‘Chain Gang Days’ over the weekend of 15th-16th December to trim vegetation on the railway path between Great Elm and Frome. (Frome’s Missing Link)

October 2012. Brompton-on-Swale, Yorkshire. Further to our report of exactly a year ago, the Connect2 scheme to open a foot and cycle path across the disused railway bridge at Brompton-on-Swale, formerly part of the Catterick Garrison branch, has been completed. A new deck and fencing is now in place on the three-span structure and earthworks built at the north end. The new river crossing offers a safer alternative to the adjacent road bridge which has a narrow footpath on one side only. (Graeme Bickerdike)

October 2012. Bath to Midford, Somerset. Conversion of the Somerset & Dorset Railway south of Bath into a multi-use trail continues to attract attention, the latest news coming from no less a source than the webmaster of the outstanding Forgotten Relics website, who updates our earlier report from July. Drainage repairs and re-pointing have now been carried out to both Combe Down and Devonshire tunnels, while lighting and fibre optic cabling are awaiting installation of the associated equipment. A full scaffold has been assembled to allow Tucking Mill Viaduct to be refurbished; two smaller underbridges have also received attention. It is expected that the second of two new footbridges will be hoisted into place in November. Around 2¼ miles of path will have to be tarmacked before the route opens, hopefully in January next year. A story about the project will feature on Forgotten Relics in November. Our correspondent concludes: ‘Please excuse the shameless plug!’ – It’s a pleasure. Incidentally, if you haven’t seen had a look at the Forgotten Relics website, add it to your favourites now. Just remember it’s there when the broadcasting schedules make you want to lob a house brick at your TV set. (Graeme Bickerdike)

Above: Thornton Viaduct, north of Bradford, on the GNR’s former Queensbury line to Keighley is now part of Bradford Metropolitan District Council’s Great Northern Railway Trail; see the story below. 21st March 2010. (John Farman; photograph used under the Wikimedia Commons licence.)

October 2012. Queensbury to Keighley, West Yorkshire. Thanks to the determination and hard work of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, progress continues to be made on converting this little known but scenic line into the Great Northern Railway Trail. Recently, a new section from Queensbury was opened, creating about 2 miles of continuous railway path from Queensbury to the north side of the S-shaped Thornton Viaduct. There is no route yet from Thornton to Hewenden, although BRB Residuary is happy for the intermediate 662 yard Wells Head Tunnel to become part of the trail. However, at Hewenden, another mile of trail is already complete, including both Cullingworth and Hewenden Viaducts. The council will not be able to take the trail through to Keighley because the tunnel there has been sealed at one end, so it plans instead to run the trail west to Haworth to make a link with the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway. Anyone who explores the Queensbury end of this route may wonder why the trail undulates: this is because the trackbed was being infilled, in some cases illegally, when the project began – so this really is an old railway that has been saved from extinction. The driving forces are the motivation of the council to create a legacy of lasting benefit to the local communities, and of course the age-old problem of what to do with redundant viaducts. Youngsters who attend Thornton Primary now have the most amazing off-road cycle trail into school! (Jeff Vinter)

October 2012. Portland to Easton, Dorset. On the Isle of Portland, locals tell us that the informal railway path along the east coast of the island is to be extended. They say that the fence by the firing range that blocks the route (believed to be at SY 701731) is due to be removed and the walk extended, although a deviation will be necessary where the original railway route has been absorbed into people’s gardens. We have checked this story with both Weymouth & Portland Borough Council, and Dorset County Council. The borough has advised that they have no plans for the route, so all now hinges on the county’s response. We will publish further details as soon as we are able to confirm or deny the story. (Paul Stewart)

September 2012. Slack (near Hebden Bridge) to Walshaw Dean Reservoirs, West Yorkshire. We have been informed recently that there is an obscure but exceptionally scenic railway walk on the hills north of Hebden Bridge, based on the route of the former Hardcastle Crags Railway which was used in the construction of the Walshaw Dean Reservoirs in the early years of the 20th century. The distance from Slack to the reservoirs is about 3 miles as the crow flies, but a bit more detective work is needed to determine how much of the old railway is accessible and walkable – perhaps a possible outing for our Yorkshire Area? If you thought that contractors’ railways were insignificant things, have a look at the photographs here and here, which depict the trestle bridge over Blake Dean – presumably Black Dean on the modern OS map. This map published by The Daily Telegraph, which made the route its Walk of the Week on Saturday 22nd September, will get you started – the railway walk is marked in brown and will be found on the south and west side of the river, Hebden Water. (George Reiss)

September 2012. Holt, Norfolk. Although this item is not about a new railway walk, we are sure that visitors to the site will be interested to hear that there are plans to rebuild the line from the existing Holt station on the North Norfolk Railway (near High Kelling) to a new station closer to Holt town centre. (Alan Frewin)

September 2012. Minsterley to Pontesbury, Shropshire. On 12th August this year, the BBC reported good news about the former Rea Valley branch: ‘Parts of an old Shropshire railway line could be re-opened as a new traffic-free cycle path as soon as next year. Volunteers are applying for a share of a £2m grant from Natural England to develop some of the old Minsterley railway line in the Rea Valley. Two years ago part of the line near Pontesbury re-opened as cycle paths, which campaigners hope to extend. The Rea Valley is between Shrewsbury and the Shropshire Hills area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB).’ A local radio report indicated that the Minsterley to Pontesbury section of the old branch is involved, the A488 road between these points being very hazardous for cyclists and walkers. (Chris Parker)

September 2012. Ramsgate, Kent. From the Kent Underground Research Group (KURG) comes news of plans to re-open part of the Ramsgate Deep Shelter System, which was used to accommodate local residents during air raids in World War 2. Interest extends to the disused railway tunnel as well, and it is helpful that the group promoting the idea includes the town’s mayor. However, KURG comments: ‘After the banking crisis, and the recent Comprehensive Spending Review, local authorities across the country are feeling the squeeze on front line services, so heritage projects can expect a rough ride. Funding is a huge problem at Thanet District Council and they have made it very clear that there is no money available …’ (KURG)

September 2012. Barnstaple to Ilfracombe, Devon. The Ilfracombe branch fared reasonably well after closure, with sections from Barnstaple to north of Braunton, and from south of Mortehoe & Woolacombe to Ilfracombe, being converted into trails. However, for many years, the trackbed between Knowle (north of Braunton) and Willingcott Cross (south of Mortehoe & Woolacombe) has remained inaccessible, requiring walkers and cyclists to use a less than ideal diversion. In January this year (and we apologise for the late notification of this), Devon County Council announced plans to ‘fill the gap’ using £240,000 of funding that it had set aside for the project. There have been objections but local councillor Andrea Davis remarked, ‘Considering the Tarka Trail stretches for many miles already I suspect that this is an issue encountered before – the result speaks for itself.’ Presumably, the ‘result’ is the economic benefit from increased tourism, not to mention a reduction in road traffic accidents if walkers and cyclists are given safe passage away from the busy A361. (Tim Grose)

September 2012. Wimbledon to Raynes Park, Greater London. Those of a certain age who watched ‘Star Trek’ in the 1960s may remember Mr. Spock remarking to Captain Kirk, ‘It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it’. Now we have news of a railway path (but not as we know it) thanks to plans to convert into a cycle trail the footpath that runs on the north side of the LSWR’s main line between Wimbledon and Raynes Park. Further details are available here on the Cycalogical blogspot, which offers ‘Musings mainly about cycling, transport and the environment, particularly in the London Borough of Merton’. We notice that this project was reported here at the end of 2010 – if you can provide an update, please get in touch via our Contact page. (Tim Grose)

September 2012. Exmouth to Topsham, Devon. As a sequel to the above story, Devon County Council’s new multi-use trail that follows the operational Exmouth branch between Exmouth and Topsham is now complete – and a very fine job the council has made of it too. (The first section to open was between Exmouth and Lympstone, which we reported in December last year.) Those who are concerned that, as a nation, we do not invest properly in the building of these trails should take a look at this one, for it includes several substantial elevated sections over salt marshes and the like, which will have cost a tidy sum. The link into Topsham takes walkers and cyclists past The Bridge Inn, which is on the edge of the village and a pub not to be missed. (Jeff Vinter)

September 2012. Torphins to Wester Beltie, Aberdeenshire. Back in March, Torphins Community Council announced plans to upgrade one kilometre of the former Aberdeen to Ballater branch, much of which is a railway path already (see below). The proposal was to install a 2 metre wide aggregate path to allow more users to enjoy the trail, such as cyclists, the less able-bodied, and families with push chairs. The section concerned starts at NJ 623019 and ends at NJ 615024. The existing parts of this line which can be walked are, from east to west:

  • Duthie Park (in Ferryhill, Aberdeen) to Peterculter and Banchory (7¼ miles); and
  • Dinnet to Cambus o’May and Ballater (6½ miles).

Torphins is between Banchory and Dinnet, so these works will actually increase the proportion of the Ballater branch which can be walked or cycled. (Tim Grose and Jeff Vinter)

September 2012. Folkestone to Canterbury, Kent. Railway cognoscenti will recognise this as the Elham Valley line, which closed in the 1940s; some may even be aware that there has long been a 3 mile railway path on or near the trackbed between Lyminge and Elham. Our correspondent reports that there is now a proposal which effectively will extend this route 2 miles south to Peene, near the former Cheriton Junction (which has been obliterated by the modern Channel Tunnel Terminal). A promotional website for the project – no longer available as at October 2014 – included the following planning details: ‘Proposal to establish a riding, cycling and walking route along the disused Elham Valley Railway track between Peene and Lyminge villages providing a safe off road route between the villages of Newington, Peene, Etchinghill and Lyminge.’ If this is implemented, railway ramblers will be able to walk just over 5 miles of this scenic and little known Kent branch line. (Tim Grose)

September 2012. Frome to Radstock, Somerset. From Great Elm to Radstock, this ex GWR branch line is already a popular railway path; the problem lies with the non-railway section between Frome and Great Elm. Frome’s Missing Link (FML) has been working hard during the summer, submitting a planning application for the in-town section of the missing link, which will run from just north of the town centre out towards Whatcombe Farm, broadly following the river valley; the organisation describes the cooperation from landowners as ‘great’. Progress on the out-of-town link has not been so good, though: FML is still waiting for Network Rail to grant a licence for the sections of path on its land, while the signing of agreements with landowners continues to be delayed. FML’s website now includes an excellent Youtube video produced by two Frome College students, plus a recent BBC Radio Somerset interview. It is great to see the younger generation supporting a project like this: the students’ conclusion would make a fine motto for any railway path anywhere in the country – ‘Safe. Sustainable. Forever. Free.’ (Frome’s Missing Link)

Response from Railway Ramblers to Frome’s Missing Link: ‘I can give only limited space to your campaign, but will continue to do what I can to support your efforts. I remain impressed by your tenacity and success in generating publicity. Many multi-use trails based on former railways suffer the same problem as your route from Frome to Radstock. When the railways were closed in the 1960s, the then BR Property Board went out of its way to dispose of as much trackbed as possible, driven along largely by the then Conservative government which wanted to prevent an incoming Labour administration from reversing its rail closure policy. (It need not have worried – Labour in due course took to closing railways with equal if not greater vigour than the Conservatives.) The net result of all this was that railway land disappeared most rapidly in towns and cities, where sales and re-use were easiest to achieve. As a result, a very high percentage of all railway paths in the UK start some way distant from the town and city centres which the railway used to serve, but town and city centres are exactly where these railway paths ought to start and end. Your campaign is one that deserves to be imitated in hundreds of communities around the UK. All power to your elbow … and your cycling knees!’ Jeff Vinter, Chairman and Webmaster

September 2012. Hawkhurst to Paddock Wood, Kent. Further to our report in December 2011 that local authorities in the area (with the exception of Horsmonden Parish Council) wanted to see this former SECR branch line converted into a multi use trail, our correspondent has come across a report from Kent Countryside Access Forum which includes under the heading ‘Hop Pickers Line’ the following update: ‘Provision of a multi user route along the old Hawkhurst – Paddock Wood Branch Line – clearance work to create a bridleway between Gills Green and Cranbrook Station has started. DS will be submitting a lottery bid to fund the project in December 2011.’ Our correspondent also discovered that a promotional walk was arranged last June. The new trail is to be called the ‘Hop Pickers’ Line’, and it is obvious from these reports that those involved have really got a move on. (Tim Grose)

September 2012. Tanygrisiau, Gwynedd. We thought that visitors to our site might be interested in the side benefit that members of the club’s Welsh area enjoyed whilst carrying out a recce for a forthcoming walk around the old Ffestiniog Railway and associated tramways/inclines, even though it’s not strictly the type of industrial archaeology that we usually go in for! Here’s the link – and it’s great to see the replica ‘Lyd’ of Lynton & Barnstaple fame in action. (Bob Morgan)

September 2012. Dornoch to Embo, Highland. A report has arrived, corroborated by the ‘Visit Dornoch’ website, that ‘3 miles’ of the former Dornoch Light Railway between Dornoch and Embo are now a railway path. The route is not yet shown on the maps published by Sustrans or the Ordnance Survey, so this may well be a new development following the recent re-assessment by Scottish local authorities of walking facilities in their areas. The trail appears to start at NH 802906 at Achinchanter, just north east of Dornoch, and continue to the south west edge of Embo at NH 814927. If this interpretation is correct, then the distance on the old trackbed is 1½ miles, although an out-and-back walk, obviously, would make up the 3 miles referred to on the ‘Visit Dornoch’ website. If anyone can provide further details, please get in touch using the online form on our Contact page. (Richard Bain)

September 2012. Nationwide. ‘They are as much a part of Britain’s landscape as red telephone boxes but the signal box … is approaching the end of the line.’ This story is tangential to our normal reporting, but Network Rail has announced that time will soon be up for all the surviving signal boxes on the nation’s railway network. The full story can be read here, by courtesy of the BBC. NR’s plans create the possibility that, within the next 30 years, the UK’s disused railways could have more surviving signal boxes on them than the operational railway network. Who’d have thought it? (Benny Hansen and Bob Hipgrave)

September 2012. Tavistock to Plymouth, Devon. The local west country television news has just shown Grenofen Tunnel on the new Drake’s Trail as officially open. This is believed to be the final step in opening up most of the ex-GWR line from Tavistock to Plymouth as a multi-use trail. Our correspondent is planning to visit the tunnel with his camera shortly. (Bob Spalding)

Above: Although the last train steamed out of Laxfield station in July 1952, the platform still survived 60 years later just off the B1117 at grid reference TM 289724, although it is easily missed due to the dense growth of trees. August 2012. (Ron Strutt)

Above: The newly cleared trackbed east of Laxfield station looking towards Laxfield Mill, with the gates to the new cemetery visible in the left foreground (see story below). This part of the Mid Suffolk Light Railway was the start of a planned extension from Laxfield to Halesworth, which was never completed. A mile of track was laid from Laxfield to a freight terminus at Cratfield, which operated only between 1906 and 1912. August 2012. (Ron Strutt)

September 2012. Laxfield to Cratfield, Suffolk. The old trackbed east of Laxfield heading towards Laxfield Mill, which was heavily overgrown, has recently been cleared. Our correspondent did not have time to explore but wonders if the improvements are intended for the diversion of a parallel footpath. The cleared trackbed also gives access to a new cemetery being established in a lineside field. If anyone can supply further details, please get in touch using the online form on our Contact page. (Ron Strutt)

August 2012. Wimborne Minster, Dorset. There are calls in east Dorset for access to the path over Lady Wimborne Bridge to the south of the town to be withdrawn following an accident in which a local man was left paralysed from the waist down. The bridge has low parapets of just 2 ft., but its listed status means that there are limits to what the Borough of Poole can do to improve safety. The local authority has installed a higher fence within the parapets, but locals vandals persist in damaging it. The victim and his friends had lit a camp fire on the bridge (on top of a listed structure?) when he climbed through the damaged inner fence to sit on the parapet, where he lost his balance and crashed to the ground below. Unfortunately, experience shows that closing the bridge will not stop people accessing it, while this regrettable incident also raises questions about the responsibility that members of society have to others and themselves. The victim’s family have placed the matter in the hands of their solicitor which means that a case against the borough – presumably for negligence – can be expected. (Tim Chant)

Above: Re-development of the long-empty station yard at Breamore, Hampshire. The station canopy can be seen in the right foreground, while the recently opened railway path runs to the left of the security fencing which currently surrounds the building site. For further details, see story below. 2nd August 2012. (Tim Chant)

August 2012. South Charford to Breamore and Burgate Cross, Hampshire. Our correspondent visited Breamore on 2nd August to view progress on the re-development of the station site, which can be seen above. There are two new semi-detached houses nearest to the station with a further group of three further south – a reflection on the sizeable plot of land which the railway occupied here. Fortunately, the new buildings have not been crammed in and allow the old station some space. Currently, the builders are using the station as an office and, according to one of the workmen on site, it will be re-let as an office when the development work is complete. The railway path through the site has been preserved and now boasts a good, dry surface. (Tim Chant)
Above: LED lighting being installed in Earlsheaton Tunnel on the Ossett to Dewsbury Greenway (see story below). This club made a donation towards this project in 2011. Despite the route’s short length, it is not wanting in terms of engineering structures. Apart from this tunnel, it also includes the impressive Headfield Viaduct, which comprises 14 masonry arches, a plate girder span over a road, and two bowstring spans of 126 and 100 feet respectively over the River Calder. July 2012. (Graeme Bickerdike)

August 2012. Dewsbury to Savile Town, West Yorkshire. Work on the Ossett to Dewsbury Greenway has started up again with Kirklees Council staff focussing their attention on the 179 yard Earlsheaton Tunnel and its western approaches. The project is a complicated one involving the re-alignment of a road, substantial associated earthworks, the dismantling of two bridge abutments, re-grading of the trackbed and repairs to the tunnel’s drainage system, lining and portals. The route of the Greenway follows part of the Great Northern’s short line from Runtings Lane Junction to Batley via Dewsbury Central Station which closed in 1965. It is expected the work will take the best part of six months but one of the early tasks has been to erect the lampposts that will host the tunnel’s LED lighting. Two sections of the Greenway – one passing through the former site of Earlsheaton’s station and another across Headfield Viaduct – are already open. (Graeme Bickerdike)

July 2012. Shawford Junction to Winchester, Hampshire. Following earlier reports in June and May, BBC’s ‘South Today’ programme reported on 31st July that Winchester City Council, Hampshire County Council and Sustrans are to spend £1m to repair Hockley Viaduct and bring it into use as part of NCN23, with completion and opening scheduled for spring 2013. This trebles the amount of funding previously available for the work and ends decades of uncertainty for this historic structure, which is to become the principal feature on a new multi-use trail which will link the east end of Winchester’s shopping centre with villages to the south of the city. (Graham Lambert).

Above: The surface on the new section of railway path between Mangotsfield and Yate gets rolled in shortly before the official opening. The lady at the wheel of the roller is Janet Biggin, the leader of South Gloucestershire Council, who was given the job of laying the very last stretch of path to ceremoniously finish it for the cameras. For further details, see story below. July 2012. (Martin Smith, Pucklechurch Parish Councillor and local cycleway campaigner)

July 2012. Mangotsfield to Yate, Gloucestershire. Further to our report earlier this month (see below), significant progress has now been made on the long-awaited extension of the Bath-Bristol Railway Path from Mangotsfield northwards. Janet Biggin, the Chairman (sic) of South Gloucestershire Council, opened the multi-use path from Coxgrove Hill to the M4 in Pucklechurch on Sunday 29th July, describing the work as ‘the completion of a significant stretch of the sustainable transport infrastructure in South Gloucestershire.’ The new section was completed in record time and at reduced cost thanks to the support of volunteers, including members of the Pucklechurch Countryside Access Group, and individuals from as far away as Manchester and Blackpool. This was the first time that volunteers have worked alongside South Gloucestershire Council’s ‘Street Care’ team, and was described as ‘a model for future community involvement’. Future developments will see the route extended right through to Station Road in Yate, generally following the rail corridor, although field boundaries and existing public rights of way would be used north of the M4, since the railway here is still operational. Alas, the press release for the opening went seriously awry when it claimed that the Bath-Bristol path built by Sustrans between 1979 and 1986 was the ‘first railway line conversion in the country’. By 1979, there were already dozens of rail trails around the UK, with Merseyside’s Wirral Way, and West Sussex and Surrey’s Downs Link, being amongst the first in 1972. However, we will admit that Sustrans’ routes always had the better surfaces! (Martin Smith)

July 2012. Scotland. ‘Following successful lobbying from Sustrans supporters, staff and other organisations, including the civic society, the Scottish Government retained two capital budgets for cycling: it continued its £9m ring-fenced Cycling, Walking and Safer Streets sum, which goes direct to local authorities on a per capita basis, and it increased Sustrans’ grant-funding to £25m over the next three years’ (extract from ‘The Hub’, Sustrans, Summer 2012). Part of this money will go into significant railway path projects, such as the 20 mile scheme to re-use the former Ballachulish branch between Connel Ferry and Ballachulish as a multi-use trail; this is already about half complete, so this excellent news means that there is a real chance that this project will be completed and all the gaps closed. (Sustrans Ltd)

July 2012. Maiden Newton to Bridport, Dorset. A planning application has now been submitted for the Bridport-Bradpole section of the proposed trailway, and the team are looking at options for extending the path from Bradpole to Loders, and from Maiden Newton to Toller Porcorum. The section between Loders and Toller Porcorum is already accessible to walkers, although no surfacing work has been carried out and there is no waymarking, which means that only those with local knowledge can follow the route easily. The long term objective is to create a ‘trailway’ from Maiden Newton station to Bridport, built to the same standards as the trailway currently being constructed in Dorset along the course of the former Somerset & Dorset Railway. (Peter Henshaw)

July 2012. Mangotsfield to Yate, Gloucestershire. Our correspondent reports: ‘I have recently been working alongside former Sustrans boss and engineer John Grimshaw, who is currently making plans to finish the last bit of the Bristol to Bath Railway Path that has not yet been converted to shared path use. [This is the feeder route to/from Yate which leaves the main Bath-Bristol route at Mangotsfield. Webmaster.] From 23rd to 29th July, around 15 fellow volunteers from the village of Pucklechurch, where I live, will be helping to convert half a mile of the former Midland Railway’s trackbed from Coxgrove Hill rail bridge to the bridge under the M4, where it meets the Murco Oil and Network Rail depots. The path will then continue alongside and adjacent to the railway, where it is planned that, eventually, it will go all the way to Yate. The Coxgrove Hill to M4 section is a partnership with Pucklechurch Parish Council and South Gloucestershire Council.’ (Matt Skidmore)

Above: Tucking Mill Viaduct (see story below). This view across Tucking MIll Lake – apparently a fishing site set up by Wessex Water for disabled fishermen – shows scaffolding erected for access to three of the piers and two of the eight spans to allow the first re-pointing and repairs in forty years in preparation for the Two Tunnels shared path which will cross the structure. Until 1966, the viaduct carried the Somerset & Dorset Railway’s mix of local and long distance trains across Horsecombe Vale, the soffit of the tallest of the arches being at a height of 52 feet. It’s a complicated structure: within the east side of its double track blue brick skin will be the greater part of the original rather slender masonry viaduct, at least one of whose piers needed major strengthening works early on in its existence. The early viaduct was completely masked when at the turn of the 20th century the trackbed at this point was doubled. 21st July 2012. (Photograph and caption by Mark Annand; for more of Mark’s photographs, which depict this and other major engineering works on the former S&D between Bath and Midford, click the link here.)

July 2012. Bath to Midford, Somerset. The Bristol-based contractor Hydrock has started work on building the second of the two missing bridges on the Two Tunnels Route, which will re-use the former Somerset & Dorset Railway between Bath (Lower Bristol Road) and Midford. This has taken some time because a gas main must be re-located in order for the bridge to be constructed. Hydrock have also just started work on the final phase of the project, which comprises the whole route from the north portal of Devonshire Tunnel, through Lyncombe Vale and Combe Down Tunnel, then on to and over Tucking Mill Viaduct. The works to restore the viaduct for use as a path have just started. So, at last, it is ‘all systems go’, with completion scheduled for November or December this year. (Matt Skidmore, Two Tunnels Project)

July 2012. Fullerton to Mottisfont, Hampshire. On 12 June, a new link footway and cycleway was opened at Stockbridge, north of the site of the town’s former railway station. For about half a mile here, the former trackbed has disappeared beneath the modern A30 and A3057, and it wasn’t much fun walking alongside (let alone cycling) these busy stretches of road,. Now, thanks to the efforts of Hampshire County Council, Sustrans and Test Valley Borough Council, this is no longer necessary, since walkers and cyclists have their own segregated route. The TVBC website states: ‘The footway/cycleway is … part of … NCN246 and the Test Way. Apart from a short length on carriageway at Trafalgar Way, the works will complete 7.5 miles of off road route between Fullerton [and] Timsbury, with connecting routes on road to Andover and Romsey’. This re-connects the two towns that were separated by the closure of the Test Valley railway in September 1964, although only the core section from Fullerton to Mottisfont is based on the old trackbed. (Tim Grose)

Above: A view of the solitary road-over-rail bridge on the steeply graded section of line between Tipton St. John and Bowd Cross on the LSWR’s former Sidmouth branch (see story below). For once during the summer of 2012, it wasn’t raining, although the recent combination of heavy rain and high winds had brought down a number of trees on the line. The route exists by courtesy of Clinton Devon Estates, who have opened it as a permissive bridleway; one hopes that the organisation employs a tree surgeon or two to clear the way! 15th July 2012. (Jeff Vinter)

June 2012. Tipton St. John’s to Sidmouth, Devon. How lucky can any man be? The webmaster spent the last day of June writing letters to obtain permission for his August walks from Tipton St. John’s to Exmouth, and Sidmouth Junction (now Feniton) to Sidmouth. In the course of his research, he checked these two lines on Sustrans’ online mapping service and found that just over one half of the branch line from Tipton to Sidmouth is now shown as a railway path and part of NCN248, the Southampton to Exeter route. The new section of trail starts on the south of Tipton at Hayne Hill (SY 091911) and continues to Bowd Cross (SY 107901), which is conveniently close to the highly regarded Bowd Inn. The new route is just under 2 miles long; a visit on Sunday 15th July confirmed that it is indeed open, and exists by courtesy of the Clinton Devon Estates, who have designated it as a permissive bridleway. Unfortunately, the heavy rain and high winds which were a feature of the weather between April and July this year have brought down a few trees across the line, so we must hope that the Estates have a resident tree surgeon who can be sent out to clear them. (Jeff Vinter)

June 2012. Stourpaine & Durweston to Blandford Forum, Dorset. The North Dorset Trailway has now all but created a continuous off-road route between Sturminster Newton and Blandford Forum by constructing a new section of rail trail south of Stourpaine & Durweston. There are a few small hitches before it can be opened officially, namely obtaining planning permission for a barn which has to be demolished and replaced (the original one straddled the trackbed), diverting a footpath through the Stourpaine allotments and across Manor France Farm on to the trackbed, and installing secure fencing to prevent livestock getting on to the trail. The most time-consuming of these tasks will be the footpath diversion order. It is hoped that the new section of trailway can be opened this November. (Lesley Gasson, The Trailway Network)

June 2012. Launceston to Egloskerry, Cornwall. TRAC (Tourism and Rural Access in Cornwall) has been aiming to build a multi-use trail between Launceston and Egloskerry for some time. The Launceston Steam Railway was to have provided access to land it owns between Launceston and Newmills in return for Cornwall Council acquiring the former railway land between Newmills and Egloskerry. In February, the LSR withdrew from the project due to ‘constantly changing council plans and failure to progress land acquisitions’. This prompted a meeting where the LSR offered a revised proposal, still dependent on the council acquiring the trackbed west of Newmills. The council’s response is not yet known. (Jeff Vinter)

Above: A ghostly scene from Haddon Tunnel, Derbyshire, which crosses land owned by the Haddon Estate; the dome in the centre of the arch is a ventialtion shaft. The tunnel comprises a central bored section with cut-and-cover approaches, necessitated by the Duke of Rutland ‘s insistence that he should not be able to see the railway from Haddon Hall. Plans to open the tunnel for walkers and cyclists have had to be put on hold, as explained in the article below. A story about the tunnel’s construction will be added to Graeme Bickerdike’s excellent Forgotten Relics website on 1st August, marking the 150th anniversary of its opening, and there is already a gallery of photos showing the tunnel here. (Graeme Bickerdike)

June 2012. Bakewell to Rowsley, Derbyshire. Articles in the railway press have stated that, following successful negotiations with the Haddon Estate, the 1,058 yd Haddon Tunnel is due to open shortly to walkers and cyclists as part of the Peak District National Park’s ‘Peak Cycle Links Project’. Unfortunately, this does not really reflect the current situation. The planning application for the route needs to be re-submitted as a result of changes made to address a number of issues raised locally. The project also has to identify a means of taking the path beyond its originally planned finishing point on Church Lane, Rowsley. This might involve the use of Rowsley Viaduct but a licence would have to be negotiated with its owner Peak Rail. When the planning hurdles are overcome, the necessary funds to carry out the construction work will then have to be secured. (Graeme Bickerdike)

June 2012. Treffry’s Viaduct to the Wheelpit, Cornwall. One hears more often of flood relief works sweeping things away, but in Cornwall’s Luxulyan Valley such a project will see the Carmears Tramway turned into a pedestrian route. The conversion will be carried out at the same time as remedial work which is intended to prevent a repeat of the flooding in November 2010 which saw part of the county’s Bodmin & Wenford Railway washed away. The project, commissioned by Cornwall Council’s environment service, is expected to be delivered over a three week period; it is being financed by a ‘Friends’ group along with funding from St. Blaise Parish Council. Treffry’s Viaduct, which spans the operational Par-Newquay line, includes an aqueduct which was built as an integral part of the structure to carry a leat over the Luxulyan Valley; it will be interesting to see if this is restored to become part of the modern water management scheme. (Chris Cook)

June 2012. Shawford Junction to Winchester, Hampshire. The well known Hockley Viaduct which has stood crumbling for over 50 years on the south side of Winchester, moved a significant step closer to restoration and re-use recently. Following Winchester City Council’s grant of £350,000 towards restoration (see our report in May), the Hampshire Chronicle reported on 31 May that the council had voted unanimously for the viaduct to become part of route 23 of the National Cycle Network linking Reading with Southampton. The council has appointed cycling charity to oversee the work, which will begin in July. Councillor Ray Pearce called for the restoration to include the installation of a plaque to commemorate the fact that it was ‘the old Great Western Railway there’. (Chris Cook)

June 2012. South Charford to Breamore and Burgate Cross, Hampshire. The railway path through Breamore station (which previously used 1.3 miles of the former trackbed between South Charford Crossing and the station) has now been extended south to the A338 at Burgate, finishing with a new small wooden bridge over a ditch. Building work is under way opposite the station, where one of the workmen reported that the development is for five houses for a housing association for low cost rent. We hope that the work does not spoil the look of the station, which was reported initially to have been used as a holiday let. Near the building works, the railway path is rather boggy due to the recent wet weather, but the rest is fine and, hopefully, any damage will be made good when the building works are complete. The railway path is now 2¼ miles long and runs from SU 166192 to SU 154162. (Tim Chant)

June 2012. Shepton Mallet to Wells, Somerset. A controversial scheme to build ten new homes on former railway land in Shepton Mallet has been rejected by Mendip District Council’s Planning Board following ‘fierce objections from the town council and local residents’. Now a call has been made for a proper development plan to be drawn up for the former trackbed in the town between Townsend Retail Park and the Ridgeway Estate. The Strawberry Line project wants to convert the Shepton Mallet to Wells trackbed into the easternmost link in a network of rail trails which will stretch across the county to the coast at Clevedon. (Tim Chant)

June 2012. Blaenau Ffestiniog to Trawsfynydd, Gwynedd. Further to the story immediately below on Normandy’s vélo rail facilities, we are informed that there is a possibility of something similar being introduced on the disused branch line which once linked Blaenau Ffestiniog with Trawsfynydd nuclear power station. The initial proposal is for a vélo rail scheme between Blaenau Ffestiniog and Manod, apparently later this year. The group behind the scheme is Antur Stiniog, a wordplay on the Welsh for ‘Ffestiniog Enterprise’. (Maurice Blencowe)

May 2012. Vélo-Rail, Normandy, France. We have known about ‘draisines’ (pedal-powered railway vehicles) for some time; they give an entirely new meaning to the expression ‘I’m off for a cycle ride along the old railway’. Nowadays, the French seem to have dropped the term ‘draisine’ in favour of ‘vélo-rail’ (‘cycle-rail’), which gives a pretty clear idea of what is on offer. For details of old lines in Normandy which offer vélo-rail facilities, click the link here. Incidentally, it’s great to see the French putting their old railways to such imaginative re-use; it makes Britain’s historic treatment of old railways look even more negative and vandalistic than we remember it. This clip from YouTube provides a brief front-of-train (i.e. front-of-draisine) view of what’s on offer; the contributor remarked: ‘What a find !!!!’ – well, precisely! So why don’t we have any of these things in the UK? Or do we … ? Note: If the first vélo-rail clip whetted your appetite, here’s a rather longer one. (Chris Cook)

May 2012. Shawford Junction to Winchester, Hampshire. Winchester City Council agreed in April that up to £350,000 can be spent on repairing the historic Hockley Viaduct, which once carried trains from Didcot and Newbury to Southampton, prior to installing a new cycle trail across it. The project is backed by both Hampshire County Council and cycling charity Sustrans. When complete, the viaduct will form the showpiece of a largely traffic-free route from Hockley right into the centre of Winchester, but several sections must be repaired first, especially parts of the parapet over the River Itchen which vandals have pushed into the river below. The restoration work will take place between July and October this year in order to avoid disturbing bats at the site. American concrete specialist Robert Courland describes the viaduct as ‘… easily the most important concrete structure to have survived from the 19th century, not only for its beauty, but also [for] the lessons learned from its construction and remarkable durability’. The viaduct is brick-faced; its underlying concrete construction was unsuspected until the 1980s, when industrial archaeologists led by Dr. Edwin Course from Southampton University took core samples from the piers. At this point, it became clear that Hockley predated several McAlpine-built viaducts in Scotland, which had been thought to be the first to use concrete. (Chris Cook)

May 2012. Tavistock to Bere Alston, Devon. The long-standing plans to reinstate a railway on this long-closed formation, with a footpath and cycle trail alongside, finally seem to be moving forwards. In last week’s ‘Tavistock Times’ (week ending 4th May), there was an article detailing proposals to establish an ‘informal footpath’ between Monksmead in Tavistock (where the railway bridge is out on the A389 Tavistock-Callington road) and Rumleigh Lane, about 1 mile north of Bere Alston. This is due to be completed ‘later this summer’, giving a new rail trail of about 4 miles. Access points will also be provided at Gawton bridge and at Slymeford farm bridge near Bere Alston, which will connect to the Tamar Valley Heritage sites in the area. Hopefully, in a few years’ time the railway and trailway will be running side by side. Our correspondent understands that a Transport and Works Order is currently being worked on for submission to Parliament by the Kilbride Group, which is behind the large housing development on the south side of Tavistock which is driving all this along. There was an inspection of an old railway bridge a couple of weeks ago, which necessitated closure of the lower Tavistock to Bere Alston road – another encouraging sign. (John Skinner)

May 2012. Bury to Holcombe Brook, Lancashire. Further to our report in February (click here), the new Woolfold Viaduct crossing the Kirklees Valley on this former L&YR line was opened officially on Bank Holiday Monday, 7th May. Click here to view a report from the ‘AboutMyArea’ website. (Mark Jones)

May 2012. Brynmawr to Llangattock, Gwent. In preparation for this year’s AGM weekend, the club’s Chairman visited the Abergavenny area on 4th May to recce the AGM walks. As a result of this, he has been able to update the entries in the online gazetteer for the Brynmawr area (search for ‘Brynmawr’ and ‘Llangattock’). Apart from the ex LNWR Heads of the Valley line, which comes up from Abergavenny, there are three walkable tramroads in the area: the Upper Darren Disgwylfa Tramroad, the Lower Darren Disgwylfa Tramroad and the Llangattock Tramroad, the latter incorporating two knee-trembling inclines which the local OS Landranger map helpfully marks as ‘Danger Area’. (The map makers are not kidding – and the Chairman can attest that the inclines are twice as difficult if you’re going downhill with a bicycle.) The total length of these three routes is 7 miles, and locals advise that there are several other old tramroads in the area, parts of which have also been incorporated into the local rights of way network. What is obvious is that this scenic area holds a good few days’ walking and exploring. (Jeff Vinter)

April 2012. Park House (near Far Forest) to Dowles (near Bewdley), Worcestershire. Crack out the champagne, folks; we have just received news of Worcestershire’s first ever rail trail! In the Wyre Forest National Nature Reserve along the border with Shropshire, 2 miles of the old Bewdley to Tenbury Wells line is now marked as a cycle path from SO 740760 to SO 772763. This is part of NCR45. No more will Jeff Vinter’s gazetteer read, ‘No railway paths of any significance, and the only county left in England which has yet to construct a single such route.’ Hurrah! Our correspondent advises that this route may have existed for a decade or so, unknown to us. (George Reiss)

April 2012. Okehampton to Lydford, Devon. Along the Granite Way, there is now a Devon CC compulsory purchase notice at Bridestowe station to fill in the gap in the trail which currently exists in this area. This will create a continuous trackbed-based path all the way from Okehampton to Lydford. Where next? Tavistock? Such a link would afford a cross-town connection with the soon-to-be-opened Drake’s Trail which, between Tavistock and Marsh Mills, re-uses the GWR’s old branch line from Launceston to Plymouth. (George Reiss)

April 2012. Clowne to South Creswell, Derbyshire. Our correspondent has recently discovered that this part of the Great Central Railway’s former route from Woodhouse to Langwith Junction (near Shirebrook) has been converted into a rail trail. A diversion is required around Creswell, but otherwise this section is fully intact, ending at the south (i.e. Creswell) end near Frithwood Farm (SK 521729). Unfortunately, we do not have the grid reference for the start of the trail, but it is believed to begin near the roundabout in Clowne where the B6417 and B6418 cross (SK 492756). For some reason, the railway removed the ‘e’ from the name of Clowne, rendering it as ‘Clown’; one wonders what the locals felt about that. If anyone can confirm or correct the start point in Clowne, we will be very pleased to hear from them; please use the online form on our Contact page. Our correspondent noted that the Midland Railway’s line through Cresswell had also just been lifted; this ran from Creswell Junction (between Shirebrook and Worksop) to Tapton Junction (between Chesterfield and Dore) for colliery traffic, although latterly it had been cut back to the east side of the M1. This development creates the opportunity for a further rail trail in the area if the local authority has the will and the funds. (Phil Earnshaw)

April 2012. Congresbury to Yatton, Somerset. Immediately north of Congesbury station, the Strawberry Line railway path (Cheddar-Axbridge-Yatton) crosses the busy A370 and then takes a diversion to the west to negotiate a long-demolished bridge over the River Yeo. This section has now been greatly improved by the installation of a toucan crossing on the A370 and the diversion of the path on to the river’s southern flood bank. This takes walkers and cyclists away from the traffic, and also provides some attractive views northwards towards Yatton. The new section of trail is 350 metres long, cost £30,000, and took 4½ weeks to install. (Tim Chant)

April 2012. Sturminster Newton to Corfe Mullen, Dorset. There are several items of news regarding this section of the former Somerset & Dorset Railway, which is being converted into the North Dorset Trailway:

  • Sturminster Newton to Blandford: Currently, the longest continuous section of the NDT starts at Sturminster and ends at Stourpaine, but an extension to the Milldown will be open by November this year. At the Milldown, the extension will connect with the existing railway path which leads on to the site of Blandford station. Graham Rains of the NDT has taken some fine pictures of the work to date, which you can see by clicking here, here and here. (We are very grateful to Graham for permission to use these photographs; in the future, we will reduce their size so that the above links involve downloading rather less than the current 2 megabytes!)
  • Blandford to Spetisbury: The problem here has long been the missing link from Blandford Forum to Blandford St. Mary, where an existing section of trailway leads on to Spetisbury. To quote from the March edition of ‘The S&D Telegraph’: ‘The gap in the NDT between the [Blandford] bypass roundabout and Ward’s Drove should be resolved by creating a better farm access from the A350.’ We suggest that improvements to the signing of the Trailway across Blandford are also needed, but hopefully Dorset CC will address this issue when the link from Sturminster arrives in the town.
  • Spetisbury to Corfe Mullen: The big problem in this section is landowner opposition, which appears to have been influenced by an application from Cemex to Dorset CC to commence gravel extraction in the lower Stour Valley. There are fears that, if this application is not handled carefully, much of the trackbed could be lost between these two points. On the plus side, the lengthy consultation process is far from complete, which means that supporters of the trailway will have further opportunity to put their case, while it is obvious that Dorset CC is highly committed to the trailway, which will boost tourism and trade in the county. (Jeff Vinter)

April 2012. Yarmouth to Newport, Isle of Wight. There are two snippets of news from this former railway. First, the local council has sold the old station at Yarmouth (which served for many years as a youth club) to a local man, who is considering turning it into a coffee shop. If this goes ahead, it will provide an opportunity not only to take refreshments while using the Freshwater-Yarmouth railway path, but also to view the interior of the building. Second, the footpath from east of Hill Place Crossing (SZ 375893) on the line east of Yarmouth has been significantly extended almost as far as Ningwood Manor Farm. This provides just over 1½ miles of new trackbed walking and means that, with a one mile diversion via Thorley between Hill Place Crossing and Thorley Bridge (SZ 974896), it is now possible to walk most of the line between Freshwater and the west side of Ningwood. Advice as to where exactly the trail ends at the Ningwood end will be appreciated, as will information relating to the local authority’s further plans for this old line; please use the online form on our Contact page if you can help. (Chris Bedford)

April 2012. Malmesbury, Wiltshire. A house for sale in Malmesbury has a very unusual feature ‘out the back’ – its own railway tunnel. According to estate agents Bridges Lockstone, ‘the half acre grounds still incorporate a section of the Malmesbury railway tunnel designed in 1872 by an apprentice engineer to Isambard Kingdom Brunel’. The current owners, Gavin and Elizabeth Cook, in association with the Malmesbury River Valleys Trust, have installed lighting in the tunnel and provided an information board for the benefit of walkers using footpaths in the nearby wood. (Tim Chant)

March 2012. Bath to Midford, Somerset. One of the two missing bridges on the Somerset & Dorset Railway between Bath and Midford has just been replaced; the second one will take a little longer because Transco must move a gas main out of the way first. It is now expected that the two tunnels (Devonshire and Combe Down) will be opened this autumn. (Huw Davies)

March 2012. Alresford to Winchester Junction, Hampshire. Part of the trackbed at Itchen Abbas has now been confirmed officially as a Hampshire County Council maintained path with permissive rights for cyclists, and there are plans to open up further stretches of the trackbed through to Alresford. For further details, click the link here. East of Alresford, the rest of this route to Alton remains open as the Mid Hants Railway. (Marcus Heap)

March 2012. Ringwood to Poole via Wimborne, Dorset. Members may recognise this route as the Castleman Trailway, which uses much of the LSWR’s ‘old road’ to Dorchester and now is managed as a multi-use trail by Dorset County Council and the Borough of Poole. These two local authorities are developing proposals to improve the Trailway over the next few years, two of which will be of particular interest to members:

  • This spring, 3½ miles of the trailway between Ashley Heath and Ferndown will be re-surfaced using funding from ‘Verwood Developer Contributions’ – presumably, monies levied on development companies which have been building in the Verwood area.
  • The authorities also plan to work with landowners to resolve the 2½ miles of missing cycle link at the Poole end of the route.

In years to come, the North Dorset Trailway, based on the old Somerset & Dorset Railway, will join the Castleman Trailway at Wimborne, which will put that town at the hub of trackbed-based links to Poole, Ringwood, Brockenhurst, Blandford Forum, Sturminster Newton and Stalbridge. The club has already contacted the ranger’s office at DCC to express its support. (Tim Chant)

March 2012. Bristol to Portishead, Avon. According to a report in the edition of the Western Daily Press published on Saturday 10th March, the re-opening of the Portishead branch is on the cards – at a cost of £33 million for the branch itself, plus another £7 million for doubling the track at Filton Bank to increase capoacity. The proposals form part of a consultation exercise by the Department of Transport, which is planning a new, 15 year contract. The branch featured in 2010 in a local TV documentary, when a journalist spent over an hour travelling the 10 miles from Portishead to Bristol with a local commuter – no journey for the feint-hearted. The eastern part of the branch was re-opened a few years ago to serve Royal Portbury Dock, but the last few miles into Portishead remain a weed-tangled mass which has buried the rails in situ. By good fortune, the Railway Property Board was never asked to sell the trackbed, which means that no tricky land purchase negotiations are in prospect, except possibly in relation to new station sites at Portishead and Pill. (Tim Chant and Jeff Vinter)

February 2012. Abercynon to Merthyr Tydfil (Penydarren Tramroad), Mid Glamorgan. On Tuesday 21st February, Sustrans Cymru together with representatives from the local council and pupils from Afon Taf school celebrated the opening of the ‘Puddlers Bridge’ on the Trevithick Trail, which re-uses the historic Penydarren Tramway as a walking and cycling route. The bridge is a new traffic-free crossing of the busy A4060 between Pentrebach and Merthyr Tydfil town centre, which will allow walkers and cyclists to cross over the road in complete safety. In contrast to other bridge openings reported on this page, this bridge is entirely new and not a replacement for one demolished after closure. For Sustrans’ report on the event, click the link here. (Jeff Vinter)

February 2012. Broughton to Talla Reservoir, Borders. This little known line of 8 miles, which branched off the Caledonian Railway’s route from Peebles to Symington, was opened in 1912 and closed just 15 years later. It was built to facilitate the construction of Talla Reservoir, which still supplies water to Edinburgh. Now plans are in hand to convert it into part of a railway path network. The driving force behind the idea is the Upper Tweed Railway Paths Group, which has included proposals for the Talla Valley line along with those for the connecting 20 mile Peebles to Symington route. The group’s objective is to open up both lines for use by walkers, cyclists and horse riders, and the first step will be a feasibility study which is due to be completed this year. The group believes that a railway path network in the area will boost both tourism and the economy, helping to make local campsites, B&Bs, pubs and shops more viable. At the moment, only a short section of the main line at Peebles is open as a footpath, although it does include a fine viaduct over the River Tweed near Hay Lodge Park. (Dave White)

Above: A wintry view of the newly opened Shallcross Incline in Derbyshire. Railway ramblers are used to walking old lines which closed in the 1950s, 1960s or 1970s, and just occasionally the 1930s. This route closed in 1892! For further details, see story below. (Brian Bethune)

February 2012. Shallcross Incline, Derbyshire. The northernmost of the 9 original inclines on the Cromford & High Peak Railway has just been converted into a rail trail. The project took nearly two years from obtaining the funding to completion, so it was slow progress – but our correspondent is optimistic that it will be the catalyst for further progress in 2012, despite the difficult economic climate. Click here for a full report. (Brian Bethune)

February 2012. Stourpaine & Durweston to Blandford Forum, Dorset. The following report is quoted directly from the February newsletter of the North Dorset Trailway. ‘Clearing has begun on the new stretch of line between Blandford and Stourpaine. A great deal of spoil had been dumped on the Trailway on both the Stourpaine side and the Blandford side, which made it very dangerous for the usual volunteer force to approach and clear … The Rangers have been using contractors to flatten the huge mounds of spoil and remove the dangerous objects. Unfortunately, once the bird nesting season begins in March very little tree and bush removal can be done but the work on the surface can continue. The Trailway from the cutting near the Milldown [north of Blandford station site] has been cleared and surfaced as part of the Safe Routes to Schools [project] paid for by Sustrans. This means that pupils at Blandford School can use the trail if they live in that area. Sustrans is also helping to pay for the new extension into Blandford once all the hurdles have been cleared.’ (Lesley Gasson, North Dorset Trailway)

February 2012. Derry/Londonderry, County Derry/Londonderry. A Sustrans report on the grand opening of the Peace Bridge over the River Foyle last summer highlighted the traffic-free cycling walking and facilities that now exist on the east and west banks of the river. On the west side, 5 miles of the narrow gauge Great Northern line towards Carrigans are now a traffic-free rail trail, while Sustrans’ online map service now shows a similar trail on the east bank. Could this occupy part of the former Northern Counties line from Londonderry to Strabane? If you know the answer, please get in touch using the online form on our Contact page. (Jeff Vinter)

February 2012. Belfast to Comber, County Antrim/County Down. We are delighted to report that the Comber Greenway, a 7 mile former railway which links Belfast with Comber and is Northern Ireland’s longest rail trail, is now unlikely to be used as guided busway. Following extensive lobbying by Sustrans, Northern Ireland’s Department for Regional Development has accepted that ‘the route is better used as a greenway rather than a busway.’ (Sustrans Ltd). Comment: It would be good to see similar conclusions reached on the eastern side of the Irish Sea, e.g. in Bath and Bristol where we understand that plans to appropriate for buses parts of the Bath-Bristol railway path have not been dropped. (Webmaster)

February 2012. Bury to Holcombe Brook, Lancashire. This former Lancs & Yorks branch line closed on 5th May 1952 with Woolfold Viaduct, which took the line over the Kirklees Brook and its valley, being demolished in 1974. Sustrans and its partners have now – at a cost of £654,291 – installed a replacement viaduct, which is said to offer excellent views of the surrounding countryside. NCN6 already occupies 1½ miles of the trackbed between Woolfold and Greenmount, while reports in the local press suggest that the intention is to bring the whole of this old railway back into use as a cycle trail between Bury and Greenmount. (Sustrans Ltd and Jeff Vinter)

February 2012. Workington, Cumbria. The so-called Navvies Bridge in Workington, actually a former railway bridge over the River Derwent, collapsed on 20th November 2009 during devastating floods. Work to install a replacement bridge began in May 2011, with the new structure opening to the public on 10th September amidst the kind of celebration that might have greeted a new railway a century and a half before. The new Navvies Bridge is wider than its predecessor, which ‘not only enables people to pass each other without having to give way but offers a popular place to stop for a chat or watch for salmon going up river. It also has built-in lighting to make commuting on dark winter evenings much more pleasant.’ Workington is a good place to go railway rambling, with both NCN71 and NCN72 making extensive use of old railway lines in the area. (Sustrans Ltd)

February 2012. Methley to Lofthouse, West Yorkshire. In 2009, Sustrans conducted a feasibility study in Castleford with a view to developing a cycle network for the town. The company has now completed work on the first phase and hopes that further phases will follow, starting this year with the conversion of the ‘former Methley railway line’. This is believed to refer to the Methley Joint line, which ran from Methley to Lofthouse Junctions (North, South and East) via Stanley. A 1¾ mile section of this line is already used for NCN67 and the Trans Pennine Trail between SE 384256, near Watergate, and SE 356247 on the eastern edge of Stanley. It makes sense to re-develop the old line back to Methley, since this will provide an off-road feeder into the TPT. (Sustrans Ltd and Jeff Vinter)

February 2012. Cullingworth to Queensbury, West Yorkshire. The Yorkshire and North East edition of ‘The Hub’, Sustrans newsletter for supporters, contains good news about the Great Northern Trail. It is seven years since the first section of this route opened at Cullingworth, but Sustrans is now a step closer to completing it: ‘The missing section between Queensbury and Thornton has always been problematic due to complex negotiations on public access rights at a critical section of the former railway track. However, approval has now been granted for this section to become a public bridleway and we hope to open it in the near future.’ (Sustrans Ltd)

February 2012. Meltham to Meltham Branch Junction (Lockwood), West Yorkshire. The first kilometre of the Meltham Greenway is now complete and runs from Station Street, Meltham to Huddersfield Road, Meltham Mills, with a voluntary support group called ‘The Friends of Meltham Greenway’ helping to maintain the route. This Lancs & Yorks line was an early closure, losing its passenger service on 23rd May 1949, although freight continued until 3rd May 1965. It is believed that the freight traffic was farm tractors from David Brown’s factory in Meltham, where these vehicles were made for 52 years until the plant closed in 1988. (Sustrans Ltd and Jeff Vinter)

February 2012. Weymouth to Portland, Dorset. Work on installing a new bridge at Newstead Road, Weymouth, which will re-connect the two halves of the Rodwell Trail after 25 years, is running a little late, but now has a completion date of 6th March – just in time for a club walk over the route 11 days later. The original railway bridge was removed in 1987 in connection with road improvements, but revival of the former railway as a rail trail has made it desirable to create a ‘grade segregated’ crossing for walkers and cyclists. (Martin Reeves)

February 2012. Blaenavon to Pontypool, Gwent. The old GWR line between Blaenavon and Pontypool has been a railway path for some years, but this month received some extra publicity in the Welsh edition of ‘The Hub’, Sustrans quarterly magazine for supporters. Click here to read the article. (Sustrans Ltd)

February 2012. Crumlin to Pontypool, Gwent. A new path is being constructed which will link Crumlin and Swffryd. By following the old GWR railway line, the trail will provide walkers and cyclists with spectacular views of the Ebbw Valley. Sections through Hafodyrynys and on to Pontypool are also in development and are due to be completed in November. It is not clear from Sustrans’ publications which route this extension will take; looking at the local OS Explorer map, it appears that the A472 has claimed much of the old railway between Crumlin and Pontypool. (Sustrans Ltd and Jeff Vinter)

February 2012. Rugby to Nuneaton, Warwickshire. We are delighted to report that the southern end of this line at Rugby is being converted into ‘the Viaduct Cycleway’, which will take walkers and cyclists over the magnificent 11 arch Grade II listed Leicester Road Viaduct. When the viaduct is finally opened, the route across it will connect Rugby with areas to the north of the town, including industrial and employment centres at Cosford. This is good news for Rugby, which already has a 2 mile rail trail – part of NCN41 – along the former Great Central Railway from near the town’s railway station southwards to Onley Lane at grid reference SP 517725. The OS Explorer map shows the trail continuing south of this point, but it does not; Sustrans has already corrected this error in its own online mapping. (Sustrans Ltd, Jeff Vinter and David Thompson) Addendum: Sustrans’ announcement in ‘The Hub’, its quarterly supporters’ magazine, that Leicester Road Viaduct is already open is premature. On 24th March, new paths had been laid to the north of the viaduct, but the viaduct itself was securely fenced off at both ends and overgrown with weeds. We expect that the low parapets will have to be raised, or secure fencing installed, before opening can take place, especially as the busy Leicester Road dual-carriageway passes beneath. (Phil Mullarkey)

February 2012. Berkswell to Kenilworth, Warwickshire. The Burton Green to Kenilworth railway path, which has been in place for quite a few years now, has always terminated at the point where it met the A429 a mile or so north of Kenilworth. All that changed on 29 September 2011 with the opening of an extension incorporating a brand new bridge over the A429, which took the path further south west along the former line to its junction with the still operational Coventry-Leamington line. From here, the new path extends along a non-railway route to Kenilworth’s Abbey Fields, making an excellent, highly attractive route right to the heart of the town. A further extension (again, non-railway) is due to be constructed this year to provide a link to Warwick University and Coventry. (David Thompson)

Above: Goodbye to more of the GWR in Devizes. This could be the last picture to record these bridges as they exist now (see story below). The nearest is Hillworth Road bridge, while under the far Southgate bridge the contractors’ vehicles can just be seen. 15th Febraury 2012. (Tim Chant)

February 2012. Devizes, Wiltshire. In Devizes on 15th of this month, one of our members heard that two bridges on the former line from Patney & Chirton to Holt Junction had become weak and were to be infilled in order to support them. The two bridges concerned carry Hillworth Road (SU 006610) and Southgate (SU 007609) over the former railway line south-east of the former Devizes railway station. Our member visited the site and found that contractors had already started work at the rear of the NHS building in Southgate. In Hillworth Road, he got talking to a local resident, who allowed him access, via his garden, down on to the former trackbed in a cutting – hence the photograph above. Devizes was on a secondary line from Paddington to Bath and Bristol. Trains would travel via Reading, Newbury, Pewsey, Devizes and Bradford-on-Avon. To this day, there are Devizes residents who feel that it was wrong to remove the town from the UK rail network; its misfortune was that it was the only community of any size on its particular section of line. (Tim Chant).

February 2012. Hastings to Bexhill, East Sussex. This is not a conventional railway path in that the line between Hastings and Bexhill is still open, but we thought that readers might like to know that a new mile-long link alongside the railway line between these two Sussex towns was completed in December. It joins two existing traffic-free routes (one west from Hastings, the other east from Bexhill) to form a continuous 3½ walking and cycling route between the two towns. The link is the result of a Sustrans Connect2 project designed to avoid the busy A259 coastal road, which sees 32,000 vehicle movements per day. The coastal views from the new section of trail are described as ‘stunning’. (Sustrans Ltd and Jeff Vinter)

February 2012. Glossop, Derbyshire. If you thought that the Trans Pennine Trail already contained all of the disused railways that it possibly could, think again! Derbyshire County Council announced on 11th January completion of a new section of the trail, which runs the length of the former Great Central Railway’s Gamesley Sidings near Glossop – from grid reference SK 000936 (Botany Lane at Bankwood Gate) to SK 014941 (Green Lane). There are plans in place to fill the remaining gap between Green Lane and Glossop Road where the trail heads off north, again on disused rail tracks – this being the Longdendale Trail, which re-uses about 7 miles of the former GCR Woodhead route as far as the west portals of the various Woodhead Tunnels. On the subject of these tunnels, the National Grid will soon vacate the original Victorian tunnels, used since the 1960s to convey Manchester’s power supply across the Pennines, in favour of the modern tunnel which was opened in 1953. (David Thompson and Jeff Vinter)

February 2012. Middleton-in-Teesdale to Barnard Castle, County Durham. A report in the edition of ‘The Teesdale Mercury’ published on 26th January 2012 reveals that the Tees Valley Railway Path, which currently runs from Lonton (near Middleton-in-Teesdale) to just south of Cotherstone, is to be further extended beyond Cotherstone to Barnard Castle. Work is due to start ‘this autumn’. For further details, click the link here. (David Thompson)

February 2012. Yatton to Wrington, Cheddar and Wells, Somerset. The latest newsletter from the Cheddar Valley Railway Walk Society brought positive news about future developments on the Strawberry Line, so called after the large quantities of strawberries which used to be taken out by rail from the Draycott area in years gone by:

  • The management plan for the Strawberry Line Linear Nature Reserve 2012-16 is almost complete. Its aspirations, inter alia, include a multi-use trail along the Wrington Vale Light Railway (Congresbury to Blagdon), a bridge across the River Yeo and an improved crossing of the A38.
  • In the near future, Sustrans will be presenting its plans to a public meeting for a multi-use trail, based largely on the former railway, between Cheddar and Draycott.
  • In Cheddar, the planned road widening in Sharpham Road, including the road-over rail bridge at ST 451535, has been modified to take account of past objections. The bridge is to be extended in keeping with its original design and will feature a 6ft wide footpath on either side of the road (where currently there is none), plus a ramp down to the rail trail which will be suitable for bicycles, wheelchairs and mobility scooters.

The society is also looking for volunteers to help with clearing litter and conducting surveys of use – very much the sort of activities that this club’s area groups could help with. (Cheddar Valley Railway Walk Society)

February 2012. Tiverton Junction to Hemyock, Devon. The Culm Valley Light Railway was one of the very last west country branch lines to close, thanks to milk traffic from a large dairy at Hemyock, so it is perhaps surprising that its recreational potential was ignored after closure – with the exception of a half mile section between Coldharbour and Uffculme, which has been open as a footpath for many years. Now, however, the promoters of the Culm Valley Trail have obtained funding to open 800 metres of trackbed from Culmstock towards Uffculme. A ‘Culm Valley Trail Open Day’ will take place on Saturday 4 February between 10:30 am and 1:00 pm at Culmstock Village Hall. People are being invited to find out more about the project and sign a petition of support. Keen volunteers can also join the team behind the plans. The purpose of the project is to convert the old railway between Willand and Hemyock into a multi-use trail for walkers, cyclists, horse riders, mobility scooters and wheelchairs, which will re-link the communities in the Culm Valley. The M5 now blocks the trackbed on the east side of Willand so the final short link into the now closed Tiverton Junction station is a ‘goner’, but Devon CC has already created a largely traffic-free trail from Willand to Tiverton Parkway. (Simon Bramley and Jeff Vinter)

January 2012. Sandy to Bedford, Bedfordshire. If you have not yet sampled this 8 mile rail trail, 2012 might be the year in which to do so. Despite the Labour Government announcing in 2006 that reinstatement of the Oxford to Cambridge line (of which Sandy to Bedford is a part) had been put on hold for at least 20 years, Chancellor George Osbourne mentioned reinstating the line from Oxford to Bedford in his Autumn Statement, with future options to continue on to Cambridge, Ipswich and Norwich. For further details, click here. (Tim Grose)

January 2012. Colliery Branches to Bilsthorpe, Clipstone, Cotgrave and Calverton, Nottinghamshire. Notts County Council is interested in buying four disused colliery lines from Network Rail for conversion into new off-road walking and cycling routes to extend and enhance what is on offer in the county alread. The Bilsthorpe and Clipstone lines would link the Southwell Trail with NCN6. For further details, click here. (David Thompson) Update: Notts CC has now purchased three of these routes, and is working on the purchase of the fourth. (Tim Grose)

January 2012. Frome to Great Elm, Somerset. We are pleased to report that there has been some movement towards providing an improved, traffic-free and therefore completely safe link for walkers and cyclists between Frome and Great Elm, where the former GWR branch line to Bristol via Hallatrow can be followed all the way to Radstock and Midsomer Norton. Click here (Jeff Vinter).

Above: At New Mill End between Harpenden and Luton, a missing GNR railway bridge has been replaced by this new structure – photographed in January 2011 – which enables two long-disconnected sections of trackbed to be used for a new railway path. For further details, see story below. (Phil Mullarkey)

January 2012. Luton to Welwyn Garden City, Bedfordshire/Hertfordshire. According to the online maps published by Sustrans, there is now a near continuous railway-based cycle trail from Luton to Welwyn GC. The only significant interruption is a one mile gap west of Wheathampstead, between the town’s Station Road and Leasey Bridge Level Crossing, which is illustrated at the top of this page. A cycle link is proposed in due course but, in the meantime, walkers can use public footpaths to ‘bridge the gap’. (Phil Mullarkey and Jeff Vinter)

Feature Articles


Further to our short report of November 2012 on the remains of the former GWR line from Plymouth to Yealmpton, a local member has sent us details of how to find the section from Elburton Cross to Brixton Road, and what to look out for.

To join this walk from Elburton, take Sherford Road from the Elburton Inn (at the roundabout on the A379) and at the mini-roundabout, with Station Road on your left, turn right – walking up Dawes Lane, between houses. After a short upward stretch, the lane becomes a typical ‘sunken lane’ going steeply downhill, so watch your footing. Before you get to the bottom of the hill, turn left on a footpath which will, after about ¼ mile, join the railway path (note the raised railway section on your left hand side, just before you join the path, which is now in private ownership). The going is good from here to the end, with much of the path covered in tarmac, and a steep cutting to enjoy. At the end of the walk (the line beyond being ploughed into farmland), turn left up the hill (take care – it’s a narrow road, shared with cars) until Otter Nurseries appears on your left – good tea rooms!

Near to the mini roundabout on Sherford Road are characteristic metal fences, an original ‘kissing gate’, and what appears to be the old station in a back garden (partly adapted for private use as a shed / garage).

Report by Mike Knight


The following extract from provides further details of Normandy’s Vélo-Rail facilities, including where to find them. Rather than providing a link, we reproduce the article here in full because, when we were researching this story, we found that the ‘whatson-normandy’ site had been infected with a couple of viruses.

Normandy has several Vélo-Rail sites, where modified multi-person bikes are rigged up to an old railway track. It is a great way of seeing the countryside and getting exercise. Each bike needs two riders on either side – one of whom must be an adult and the other at least tall enough to reach the pedals. In between there is room for another two or three people.

  • The Vélo-Rail in Etretat runs from Les Loges (Seine-Maritime) to Etretat and the ride takes about half an hour. You can then choose to take a train back, or cycle the return journey which is slightly uphill and takes about 45 to 60 minutes. Booking is essential and the site is open daily in July and August. Tickets are €24.40 for four people with return by train (€26.40 for five). Or save a few euros by cycling back and the price falls to €20. Call 02 35 29 49 61 or see
  • In the Manche, there is a Vélo-Rail between Condé-sur-Vire and Gourfaleur at €17 per bike for a return journey of about 10km. Open daily in July and August except Monday mornings. Reserve by calling 02 33 77 42 22 or see
  • In the Suisse Normande, there are two schemes operating. The Vélo-Rail from Pont Erambourg to Pont du Voudray costs €18 for a two-hour round trip. Call 02 31 69 39 30 or see
  • For a longer ride, take the Vélo-Rail from Val de Maizet station, which takes you on a scenic 22km ride over three or four hours and costs €30 per bike. Call 06 32 88 51 62.

Please bear in mind that the prices quoted are for 2011; given the state of Europe’s economies at the moment, they will have increased by now. If any members get out to Normandy this summer and are willing to supply a few photographs of vélo-rail vehicles in action, we will be delighted to publish them.


The following article, which has been abridged to focus on the most salient points, was published by Jackie Porter, the Liberal Democrat Councillor for the Itchen Valley Division, on 8th February 2012..

‘Today, Penny Flemons, Chairman of the Parish Council, and I went to speak at the Regulatory Committee at Hampshire County Council about the Itchen Valley Railway path. After months of discussion and consultation, there were two possibilities, either as a footpath with permissive rights for cyclists, or a path with dedicated rights for cyclists. The committee agreed with us that at the moment, with the current accesses, the status for cyclists should remain as “permissive”, effectively as it is now.

‘This is the main body of my speech today: “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak today. I want to support the proposal made by the officer, Emma Noyce, for the Itchen Valley Railway Line, to be a public footpath with permissive cycle rights. It is to the great credit of the County Council that the Community has been consulted widely on this, and this proposal can be considered as a milestone in the progress of this path towards creation of a longer route between Alresford and Kings Worthy. This is something that the Community sees as a real possibility and is actively pursuing opening other sections with the Green Group in Alresford and the Conservation Group in Kings Worthy …”‘

The original of this article can be seen on Jackie’s website; we have reproduced the text above in case the article is removed. [This has now happened. Webmaster]


The Cromford & High Peak Railway was one of the earliest railways in Britain, being opened in 1831. Originally the desire was for a canal route to shorten that involved when using the Trent & Mersey Canal to connect the industrial centres of the North and the Midlands. The expense and logistics involved were addressed and a railway transportation system was seen as the best option to connect the Cromford Canal in the south with the Peak Forest Canal in the north. Built by canal engineers, it followed their normal building strategy of level sections contouring through the countryside trying to avoid as many cuttings, embankments and tunnels as possible, even if this meant a tortuous route which included sharp curves. Having to climb over a limestone plateau to a height of 1,266ft (386m) involved 9 inclined planes, 8 of which were served by stationary steam engines which acted as the control system for balanced loads on a double line system using a continuous chain and pulley drive.

During the 19th century, the railway system expanded rapidly connecting into the C&HPR in both the north and south. In 1892, 6 miles of line between the Shallcross goods yard and Ladmanlow closed thereby, bypassing the two inclines at Shallcross and Bonsal. The line eventually flourished, not only transporting goods between the two canal systems, but also as the result of the opening up of quarries and industries along its length. Eventually decline came in the 1960s with the expansion of road haulage, and most of the line was closed by 1967. Only a two mile section remains open for limestone traffic from the quarries of Dowlow and Hindlow, bringing their products past what was High Peak Junction North down into Buxton.

In the 1970s, Derbyshire County Council and the Peak District National Park Authority purchased the track bed of the C&HPR south of Hurdlow and created the High Peak Trail. At the same time, Whaley Bridge Town council opened the Whaley Incline and a linear parkway at Horwich for pedestrian use.

Now after a lull of over 40 years, yet another small section of the line has opened as a public right of way. Shallcross Incline was restored by Derbyshire County Council and Whaley Bridge Town Council under one of their Green Way Strategies; it was opened to public use in December 2011 with the official opening ceremony following on 26th April 2012. The bottom 80% of the incline was cleared of vegetation before being resurfaced with hard core and a track coat; the way was then ‘capped’ at both ends with traffic control barriers. This now means that there is a pathway of just over a mile that follows the C&HPR from its northern start at the canal basin up to Shallcross Road. Just one short detour is required on this route, and that is where the railway originally passed beneath the Stockport to Buxton line. Here it is necessary to drop down on to the A6 to pass under the original main line cast iron bridge (No. 42) before returning after a short diversion on to a section through Horwich, after which one enters what was Shallcross Goods Yard and the newly opened incline. Although many were involved in bringing this project to fruition, it is worth remembering that Alan Rimmer was a participant in the early investigation and survey for Whaley Bridge Town Council. Its opening is a fitting memorial for a man who was an authority on this unique line, and who did so much to publicise its importance through his writing and broadcasting.

Shallcross Incline: 1831 – 1892:

  • Gradient: 1 in 10¼
  • Length: 817yds (747m)
  • Altitude, bottom: 574ft (175m)
  • Altitude, top: 788ft (240m)
  • Elevation: 214ft (65m)

The section which can now be walked runs from Horwich End (grid reference SK 0130 8039) to Shallcross Road (SK 0145 7982). Shallcross was the second incline from the north out of the nine inclines on the original line of the Cromford & High Peak Railway, 1831-1892.

Report by Brian Bethune, 2nd February 2012 with updates on 30th July 2012


The following article, which has been abridged to feature only the ex-railway elements, was published by the Teesdale Mercury on Thursday 26th January 2012.

About £400,000 will be spent on making Teesdale a mecca for walkers and countryside lovers. Projects set to start include enhancing the Teesdale Way, creating a Barnard Castle Viaduct Walk, [and] making a cycle route from Cotherstone to Barnard Castle … A massive extension of the Tees Valley Railway Path is also being planned – a move that would link Middleton-in-Teesdale to Barnard Castle.

A number of organisations, including Durham County Council and parish councils, are joining forces for the project, and volunteers are to be recruited to help. The scheme, which is called ‘Paths for All People’, is part of the Heart of Teesdale Partnership – a publicly funded £2 million initiative to make more of the district’s countryside. Paths for All People aims to improve the range and quality of footpaths in the area. The centrepiece of the scheme is extending the Tees Valley Railway Path. The walk follows the old railway, which was closed in the 1960s. At present, people can trek along the old route from Lonton to Cotherstone.

Work will begin this autumn to lay down a hard-wearing surface for walkers, cyclists and horse riders between Cotherstone and Barnard Castle. People would then be able to walk the entire route, which will be developed and managed by Durham County Council. Lartington Parish Council is also pioneering a project to promote cycling along the Tees Valley Railway Path, especially from Cotherstone and Lartington to Barnard Castle. ‘In doing so, it will promote green exercise and an alternative means of short commutes into Barney for villagers young and old,’ said Charlotte Hursey, officer for the Heart of Teesdale …

Teesdale Marketing say a Barnard Castle Viaduct Walk will help make Barnard Castle a ‘unique walking centre’. It will focus on the restoration of Victorian pathways and views of the Tees to ‘create an attractive, easy walk, starting and ending in Barnard Castle’. ‘The principle aims of the project are to re-create the unique view from the old railway straight down the river to the castle and offer an alternative to the traditional artists’ views from Towler Hill,’ said Ms, Hursey. Teesdale Marketing said the proposal would complement plans to create a record-breaking suspension rope bridge in the town. But Ms. Hursey said: ‘The viaduct walk would act as a tourist attraction in its own right.’

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The following article was published by the Nottingham Post on Friday 13 January 2012.

Almost £2 million could be spent on breathing new life into four former colliery railway lines. Nottinghamshire County Council is talking to Network Rail about buying the disused lines which served Bilsthorpe, Cotgrave, Calverton and Clipstone. If a deal is struck, the council plans to spent £1.7 million creating new routes for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. The authority is offering to pay up to £80,000 for the lines after Network Rail said it wanted to sell them. The development would also create safer crossings over the A614, A60, and A52.

Councillor John Cottee said: ‘This is a one-off opportunity to make good use of four railway lines which have fallen into disuse and create valuable links between various towns and attractions across the county. The new routes would not only benefit people using them for recreational purposes; they will bring an economic boost by attracting more tourists to the county. They will also help reduce congestion by encouraging people to walk or cycle when making short journeys and improve access to employment and training opportunities in built-up areas for rural residents.’

The four railway lines run to 15.3 km (just over 10 miles). The 4.2 km Bilsthorpe and 1.2 km Clipstone lines would link the Southwell Trail with National Cycle Route 6 which runs all to the way to Cumbria and the Lower Linear Route which continues into Derbyshire. They would also create a route between Sherwood Pines Forest Park and Center Parcs, Vicar Water Country Park at Clipstone and the forest north of Rainworth. The 3.5 km Cotgrave line would provide a route to Radcliffe-on-Trent and the Trent river path into Nottingham. The 6.4 km Calverton line would improve links from the north of Nottingham, with National Cycle Route 6 to the south of Sherwood Forest, and attractions such as Burntstump Country Park, Papplewick Pumping Station, Calverton Forest Park and Samson Wood.

The council wants to find the £1.7 million needed for the project through external sources. A Network Rail spokeswoman said: ‘We are in discussions with the council about a number of sales of redundant lines but those deals are not completed yet. Any money raised from the sale would be reinvested in the railway.’

Report reproduced from


There has been some progress over the last 2-3 months regarding landowner permission with two very generous offers of permission. However, there are a couple of sections where we have yet to get agreement and are still negotiating. Without the agreement of every landowner, the route is obviously not possible so we can’t apply for planning permission yet.

We are still waiting for the go-ahead from Network Rail to take core samples from the blocked up arch of the A362 railway bridge at Murtry. If the arch is blocked with concrete, as we hope, this means that we can cross the A362 at this point.

As we are hopeful of a positive outcome to the above, we are wanting to make a start on the route at Great Elm on land owned by Sustrans. At the same time, we will be restoring species-rich grassland on the railway embankment. This is the section over Buckland Bridge at Great Elm (i.e. where the current cycle trail ‘ends’). For this, we need volunteers to help with clearance work over the weekend of 4th-5th February. We need to do this work in the winter to limit its effect on wildlife (especially nesting birds).

Finally, we now have some useful high profile support.

Report reproduced from the newsletter of Frome’s Missing Link