News 2013

Above: A steam-hauled passenger working in Sichuan Province, China. We realise that this photograph is not representative of a railway walk, but thought that members might enjoy seeing anywhere in the spring as we in the UK slosh through a winter that Neptune would be proud to call his own. The photographer supplied these comments with a few samples of his work: ‘Your club really cool. Actually you also can experience the steam trains in China. One of them can be found in Sichuan Province, which has been running for almost half a century, this one is manned, you still can sit in it. And the other[s] are in forest areas of northeastern China, which are used to carry wood and coal [from] mines. I send you some pictures in attachment.’ This is typical of the messages that we receive from all over the world, although not all of our correspondents send us super photographs like this – further examples will be added to our Photo Gallery in due course. Thank you, Shang! (Shang Qin)

December 2013. Lavenham, Suffolk. The old station at Lavenham was situated at grid reference TL 917497. It was demolished many years ago and the site used to accommodate a new factory, first used by E.R. Holloway (for cosmetics) and more recently by Amorex (for cement products); but now the factory also has been demolished. Since the local authority, Babergh District Council, could not find a commercial buyer for the land, it lodged a planning application which included a change of use to housing. However, the council’s development proposals were rejected in August 2012 in a flurry of criticism which targetted the height and density of the planned housing, the lack of affordable homes for local residents, and the damaging impact on local infrastructure of a further increase in traffic levels. Currently, the project appears to have stalled, leaving this picturesque East Anglian village with a sizeable blot on its landscape. (Tim Grose)

December 2013. Lavenham to Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk. As a follow-up to the story above, visitors to this site will be interested to learn that two sections of the old trackbed north of Lavenham have found their way into the local rights of way network over recent years, namely:

  • Knight’s Hill, north of Lavenham, to near Cockfield: TL 914522 to 905542 (ca. 1 mile); and
  • Little Welnetham to Hawker’s Lane, Sicklesmere: TL 887594 to TL 879606 (ca. ½ mile and part of St. Edmund’s Way).

There are plenty of footpaths in the area, some of which cross or follow further sections of the old railway. This is an attractive rural area, so we suggest that a bit of exploration with the aid of an up-to-date OS Explorer map might not go amiss next summer. (Jeff Vinter)

December 2013. Braunton to Mortehoe, Devon. This is the ‘missing link’ in the section of the Tarka Trail between Barnstaple and Ilfracombe. Devon County Council is resolute in closing this gap, as is made clear in the 2011 report accessible here. Note the references to the ‘international dimension’ of the route, which is now part of the Velodyssée from Ilfracombe to Brittany in France. (Jeff Vinter)

December 2013. Great Elm to Frome, Somerset. Frome’s Missing Link now has funding to start preparation work for ‘Phase 2’, which will run from Great Elm to Hapsford (click here) . The team reports: ‘The first job here is to clear vegetation on the access track that will enable materials to be taken up to the proposed route. As ever, this has to be done during the winter to minimise disruption to wildlife. You will be pleased that the vegetation is not as dense as it was along the railway track and, once done, we can fell any trees that would prevent us gaining access and fence our new boundary with the adjacent field where we have leased a narrow strip to make our works access track wide enough before we receive planning consent.’ There will be a ‘Chain Gang workday’ on Saturday 11th January 2014 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; meet at Buckland Bridge, where the path end is shown on the map (click here) at Great Elm. It is good to see how closely this route will follow the railway into town, which will help to guarantee far easier gradients than exist on the current road-based route. (Frome’s Missing Link)

December 2013. Stalbridge to Sturminster Newton, Dorset. The latest newsletter of the North Dorset Trailway reports that work is beginning on the next section of the route. ‘It is still in its very early stages but our next objective is the link between Sturminster Newton and Stalbridge [4 miles]. An application has gone to the Planning Department [of Dorset County Council] for a link between Rolls Mills industrial estate and Bath Road at Snooks Builder’s Yard. This will give access from the town [i.e. Sturminster Newton] to Rolls Mills and also to the Trailway. It would be wonderful if we could walk, ride or cycle from one end of North Dorset to the other.’ This part of the project will require the reinstatement of two more bridges, one just south of Stalbridge, and the other immediately north of Sturminster Newton; both will be over the River Stour. (Lesley Gasson, Trailway Network)

Above: Two views of the former GWR line through Tavistock (see the report below). Like most towns, Tavistock has seen modern development reclaim much old railway land in the the town, but that the fact that the GWR line went through this steeply incised cutting has enabled it to survive ever since the line closed on 31st December 1962. November 2013. (Bob Spalding)

December 2013. Tavistock, Devon. Just north of the site of Tavistock South station, part of the old GWR line through the town still survives; access is via a disused graveyard. No fences have to be climbed over or notices ignored, other than those warning about land subsidence due to the age of the site (sunken graves). The northern end of the track terminates suddenly at the point at which a longish viaduct has been removed and the main road out of Tavistock realigned to use the trackbed for a few hundred yards. The southern end likewise stops suddenly due to the removal of a road bridge just short of the station. We have no idea who owns this section of trackbed, but it provides a little more to explore if one is ever visiting this attractive west Devon town. (Bob Spalding)

December 2013. Alderbury Junction (Salisbury) to Alderholt, Wiltshire/Hampshire/Dorset. This part of the former LSWR line from Salisbury to West Moors and Wimborne is now the subject of a local campaign to develop it into a traffic-free multi use trail which would be called The Charford Way. The campaign’s website explains: ‘There is a disused railway line that, in various states of existence, lies between Alderbury and Alderholt and the group are at the early stages of considering if this former transport artery could form the basis of a traffic-free route, either using the former route or passing close to it in areas where it has been built upon or irreversibly changed.’ There are no plans currently for the trackbed south of Alderholt, but The Charford Way, as envisaged, would provide a valuable link from the Fordingbridge area into Salisbury, incorporating Hampshire CC’s recently opened two mile railway path through the restored Breamore station. (Tim Chant)

December 2013. Peebles to Innerleithen, Borders. We’re a bit late with this story but, on 20th August this year, Paul Whitehouse, the Environment and Climate Change Minister in the Scottish Parliament, formally opened the new Tweed Valley Railway Path between Peebles and Innerleithen. The route runs from NT 261403 on the eastern edge of Peebles to NT 331362 on the western edge of Innerleithen. It includes a new bridge over the River Tweed at NT 308380, just east of Cardrona, and utilises an old railway tunnel under the A72 at Eshiels, just outside Peebles. The new trail, based on part of the former North British line from Leadburn to Galashiels, is 6 miles long and cost over £1 million to construct. Our correspondent reports that this route is going in the opposite direction from Peebles compared with the Peebles to Symington and Broughton to Tweedsmuir routes reported in May, so collectively a very significant network is in prospect. We reported in May 2012 that the Scottish government had voted to retain its large budgets for cycling, so this must be where some of that money has gone. (Tim Hewett)

December 2013. Further to our story in March (click here), we are pleased to report that the new ‘Hereford Greenway’ will be opened officially on Tuesday 10th December at 3:00 p.m. The greenway is a new walking and cycling route from the eastern gate of Hereford Cathedral to Rotherwas Industrial Estate, which – once across the River Wye – uses the trackbed of the old GWR branch line from Hereford to Ross-on-Wye. The intention for the future is to extend the route to Holme Lacy, ‘opening up access to the Wye Valley’. (What a pity that such a different view pertains further south along that valley – click here for details.) The crowning glory of the greenway is a stunning new bridge over the River Wye, which is within sight of the still operational Newport-Shrewsbury line. If any reader can supply us with a photograph of this bridge, do please get in touch via our Contact page. (Tim Chant)

Above: Tintern station on a supremely miserable day in late October – the light levels in this image are the result of some wizardy with a graphics program and have nothing at all to do with the weather on the day! The station café, reported in the story below, is accessed via the pagoda on the platform. 23rd October 2013. (Jeff Vinter)

December 2013. Tintern, Monmouthshire. The café at The Old Station Visitor Centre in Tintern has just been named the best café in Wales, beating off competition from over 400 rival entries. Sadly, visitors will not be able to walk south of the station any time soon because proposals to install a new bridge over the River Wye immediately south of the station, and create a multi-use trail along the old branch line to Chepstow, have been defeated by local opposition. Click here for further details. (Tim Chant).

November 2013. Blakeney to Soudley, Gloucestershire. Gloucestershire County Council is supporting local villagers in their bid to win £50,000 from the People’s Millions in order to restore and upgrade an ‘ancient horse drawn tramway’ which once linked these two villages. If successful, the route will also provide improved access to the intermediate communities of Brains Green and Two Bridges. The project was featured on ITV West Country on Tuesday, 26th November, when viewers had a chance to vote for it; it was in competition with community radio station ‘Frome FM’. If you can supply further details of the ‘ancient horse drawn tramway’ between Blakeney and Soudley, please get in touch via our Contact page. Update: The tramway project won the vote by 28 supporters to 7 – good news, although a low turnout. The 28 was the highest poll for any of the six projects. (Tim Chant)

November 2013. Mangotsfield, Bristol. Mangotsfield first station is up for sale – and it comes with its own preserved train, mounted on a track panel. The estate agent is David James, and the guide price is £550,000. The ‘train’ comprises an 0–4–0 industrial saddle tank and a brake van. The station is situated on the long-closed line from Bath Green Park to Yate, and was replaced by a later, much larger station to the south. This second station had six platforms to serve a triangular junction with lines fanning out to Bath Green Park, Yate and Bristol St. Philip’s. Most of this network has been re-used in the Bath to Bristol Railway Path. (Tim Chant)

November 2013. Penarth to Cosmeston, Vale of Glamorgan. Campaigners fighting to have part of a rail trail through Penarth designated a ‘village green’ are attempting to prevent the existing stone dust path being replaced with tarmac. The usual reason for replacing such a surface with tarmac is to make it more robust and cheaper to maintain in the long run. Back in the 1970s and 1980s when rail trails were first constructed in any number, quarry companies used to give away limestone dust as a free by-product of their stone crushing activities, while the Manpower Services Commission funded the construction teams which built the trails – but those days are long past. Limestone dust is now a product in its own right which has to be paid for, and MSC construction teams are a distant memory. The one mile trail runs from grid reference ST 184710 to ST 183692 and is part of NCN88; it is built on part of the former Taff Vale Railway’s line from Penarth to Cadoxton. (Tim Chant and Jeff Vinter)

November 2013. Bath to Bournemouth, Somerset and Dorset. Sustrans is organising a cycle ride next year from Bath to Bournemouth, following as much as possible of the route of the former Somerset & Dorset Railway. We hope to publish further details in due course. The ride, obviously, will take in both the existing rail trail from Bath to Midsomer Norton, and those sections of the North Dorset Trailway which are open already. One of the intended outcomes is to ‘energise’ Somerset County Council about the potential of the old line if they were to ‘get on board’ with the neighbouring local authorities who have done so much to re-use the old line – Bath & North East Somerset Council, Dorset County Council, North Dorset District Council and East Dorset District Council. (Jeff Vinter)

November 2013. Westport to Achill, County Mayo. We reported the opening of the 42 kilometre (28 mile) Great Western Greenway in May this year, but it was good to see it featured recently in the November edition of ‘GoRail’, the magazine of Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail). Under the heading ‘Take a Spin on the Great Western Greenway’, this is what the magazine had to say: ‘Escape the bustle of urban life on the multi-award-winning Westport to Achill Great Western Greenway, the longest off-road walking and cycling trail in Ireland. The first 14 kilometre stage of the Greenway from Newport to Mulranny opened in 2010 and a year later extensions were finished lengthening the route to 42 kilometres, almost entirely off-road.

‘The Greenway follows the path of the old Westport to Achill Midland Great Western Railway line which closed in 1937. The Greenway meanders through some of the most beautiful and idyllic countryside you’ll find anywhere in Ireland. Walkers and cyclists can drink in the views of the spectacular Nephin Beg mountain range, Clew Bay, Clare Island, Croagh Patrick and Achill. You could even stop off for a hike on one of the Derradda loop walks or take a break on Mulranny’s Blue Flag Beach. Clew Bay Bike Hire has bases at various locations along the route. For more information please see‘ (Jeff Vinter from Iarnród Éireann’s ‘Go Rail’ magazine)

November 2013. Frome, Somerset. Further to our report last month (click here) about Rossetti House (Gracewells) donating a vital strip of land in Welshmill Lane at the town end of the ‘Missing Link’ to Radstock, Network Rail has now formally confirmed agreement for the path to be built under its railway bridge on the operational line to Whatley Quarry. There now remain the final details to be sorted out with Mendip District Council, which, aside from coming up with funding for construction, has been helpful to the project as the owner of some of the land needed. Sustrans and Frome Town Council have funded the land assembly. Rupert Crosbee, Sustrans’ Area Manager, commented: ‘With Mendip, Gracewell and other partners, the project is really showing how public authorities, the third [i.e. voluntary] sector and commercial organisations can work together with the community to produce something that we know will be a real asset to local people’. The project also has reason to hope that a grant of £5,000 will be made by Aster, which will enable a start to be made on the rural section of the Missing Link in the Low Water area of Frome within the next few months. (Frome’s Missing Link)

November 2013. Petite Ceinture, Paris. The Parisians need Sustrans! They have a 20 mile abandoned circular railway which once conveyed passengers around the city along the route of its ancient walls, but the line went into decline from the 1930s thanks to competition from the more modern underground Metro, and now the route is overgrown and officially ‘off limits’ – not that this has stopped people from exploring it. A short section was re-opened in August this year as a park, and a fierce debate attends the forthcoming mayoral elections as to whether the route should be converted into a cycle trail or a string of further parks. Click here for a report by the BBC. (Graham Lambert)

November 2013. Norham Station, Northumberland. MSN Money and Rightmove have just featured Norham railway station, Northumberland, which is for sale at £420,000. It is complete with the booking office, waiting room, porters’ office, telegraph office, a three-bedroom station master’s house, both platforms, fully intact signal box, engine shed, goods shed, lime shed, coal shed and 3 acres. In its working days, the station was a stop on the former Berwick-Upon-Tweed to Edinburgh line. The agents’ write-ups say that it had been used as a museum until 2010, which rather over-eggs the pudding since it was essentially a private home with some features, such as the signal box, which the owners opened up to the public for a few days during each summer season. Nonetheless, the station would make a great home for a railway enthusiast. (Sebastian Davis-Ansted and Dave Hurley)

November 2013. Midleton to Youghall, County Cork. Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail) reinstated rail services between Cork and Midleton in 2009 but, according to IE staff at Cork station last month, the re-opening is unlikely to extend further east along the rest of the branch to Youghall. The problems are cited as the cost (625,000 euros) and occupation of the trackbed by farmers, which – unless defeated in the courts – takes the route out of play for any future use whatsoever. The same problem exists at Abbeyfeale on the former line from Limerick to Tralee, which local groups have been developing into the Great Southern Trail. (Jeff Vinter)

November 2013. Timoleague to Courtmacsherry, County Cork. The trackbed of the former Timoleague and Courtmacsherry Extension Light Railway is now open as a traffic-free trail for walkers and cyclists. The 2½ mile route was the last roadside railway to operate in Ireland, closing (together with the rest of the extensive west Cork network) on 31st March 1961. The trail follows the south side of the tidal estuary of the River Arigideen, which provides users with some fine views. (Tom Ferris, The Trains Long Departed: Ireland Lost Railways, Gill & Macmillan, ISBN 978 17171 4785 4, p. 143) Note: For recent news of other Irish railway paths, click here.

October 2013. Hamworthy to Hamworthy Goods, Dorset. Poole Harbour Commissioners hope that the current lack of traffic over this line will be temporary only, since they believe that a rail connection is vital for a successful modern port. Accordingly, any hope that this branch might have become a new cycle trail has been scotched for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, planners at Poole Borough Council have approved unanimously a plan to install a ramped foot and cycle bridge over the railway line between the Harbour Reach development and Hamworthy Park, which will eliminate a long walk to the park along the busy Blandford Road. Work is expected to commence next spring and should be complete by the end of 2014. Hamworthy Goods was Poole’s first railway station, built in 1846 and opened to passengers in 1847; parts of its crumbling platform still remain. (Tim Chant)

October 2013. Marsh Mills, Plymouth, Devon. The historic bridge on the Lee Moor Tramway near Marsh Mills, which received a mighty blow from a fallen tree trunk swept downstream along the swollen River Plym last November, has now been repaired. The work took a while to organise because the bridge is a scheduled ancient monument, but the damage – which affected the east abutment – was made good during July and August this year; the stone mason engaged on the work delivered a high quality repair. The anti-slip mesh on the bridge was renewed at the same time. (Jeff Vinter)

October 2013. Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. Major repairs to Vauxhall Bridge at Great Yarmouth have been completed at a cost of ca. £750,000, and a cycle path across it is now open. There is no mistaking the restored structure thanks to an application of red paint, which looks particularly bright in sunlight. This major structure is situated at grid reference TG 520080 near Great Yarmouth railway station. Can anyone supply us with a photograph of the ‘finished article’? If so, please get in touch using our Contact page. (Jeff Vinter)

Above: This may seem a strange photograph to include on this site, but it shows the landslip which in late 2012 collapsed on to the track of the former Wye Valley Railway between Chepstow and Tintern, just north of Tidenham Tunnel. This is the view looking north along what used to be the running line – which is still there, incidentally, although now buried. The gentleman climbing over the pile of fallen earth and trees is one of a team from Railway Paths Ltd., whose directors and engineers recently surveyed the branch and its structures. There is now no chance of this route becoming a multi use trail for the foreseeable future, and members of the public are advised to keep away from this location, especially during and after wet weather. For further details, see the story below. 21st October 2013. (Jeff Vinter)

October 2013. Chepstow to Tintern, Monmouthshire. The proposed multi use trail along the southernmost 5 miles of the Wye Valley line between Chepstow and Tintern will not now be constructed. Residents at Brockweir, just north of Tintern, were worried that the majority of trail users would bring their bicycles by car, leading to major parking problems in the area. This in turn affected the attitude of the local authorities. The promoters of the scheme, which was one of Sustrans’ Connect2 projects, worked long and hard to bring it to fruition, but there were so many issues – both political and legal – that they could not all be resolved in the time available. To add to the difficulties, during the final very wet months of 2012, there was a landslip north of Tidenham Tunnel which buried the still extant rails and blocked the route; this slip cannot be removed because it has now stabilised and is holding up the steep bank on the east side of the line. By way of consolation, there is a railway walk of 1½ miles from SO 529002 on Main Road (the A466) in Tintern village to ST 539982 in Black Morgan’s Wood. This follows the Tintern Wireworks Branch via its bridge over the River Wye to the site of the old junction (just south of Tintern Tunnel), where a right turn – i.e. towards the south – takes one on to the ‘main line’ which can be followed for just over a mile on land owned by the Forestry Commission. The most notable feature on this section is the three-arched Black Morgan’s Viaduct at ST 538987, but it is easily missed due to the density and proximity of the surrounding trees; the only obvious clues are the viaduct’s parapets. (Jeff Vinter)

October 2013. Northampton Town Centre, Northamptonshire. Further to our story in June (click here), we are pleased to report that West Northamptonshire Development Corporation (WNDC) has purchased from Network Rail the disused railway line from Brackmills to London Road (Cotton End) with the specific intention of converting it into a multi use trail. (David Thomas)

October 2013. Aberaeron to near Ciliau Aeron, Ceredigion. There has been a short railway path along the westernmost end of the GWR’s Aberaeron branch for some years; it forms part of NCN822. We are pleased to report that this trail has been extended, on a permissive basis, east from Llanerchaeron to Crossway Wood, just west of Ciliau Aeron. The end points are now SN 461619 (Aberaeron) and SN 489597 (Crossway Wood), giving a total distance of just over 2 miles. A detour is used around the still extant river bridge at SN 476598. (Bob Morgan)

October 2013. Oakhill to Binegar, Somerset. Readers who are interested in brewing and brewing history may know of the Oakhill Brewery, near Shepton Mallet, whose famous ‘Invalid Stout’ became a national brand long before such things were commonplace. The brewery building is currently being converted into housing, but this work has prompted a revival of interest in its history, and the narrow gauge railway which conveyed the brewery’s products to Binegar station on the Somerset & Dorset Railway. The brewery built the railway itself because its steam-powered lorries were damaging the local roads; it opened the line, reputed to be the only one of its kind in the country, in 1904. (Other breweries, such as Bass at Burton-on-Trent, had their railways built to the standard gauge.) Local historian Percy Lambert has a personal interest in the Oakhill Brewery railway because his late father, Harry, used to drive the engine during and just after the World War 1. Following a lot of research and field work, Percy has now pieced together the railway’s route. The results should be published in due course by the Oakhill and Ashwick Local History Group, whose members Tony Parker and Terry Ashton have helped with the project. (Tim Chant)

October 2013. Lutterworth, Leicestershire. Lutterworth Town Council is currently considering plans to ‘clean up’ the trackbed of the former Great Central Railway to the south of the town. It is understood that a mile long designated footpath could be created running south from Gilmorton Road (SP 548850) through an area that already sees extensive informal use by walkers. Examination of the local OS Explorer map reveals that a bridleway exists alongside the trackbed south of Gilmorton Road, while a footpath exists alongside the trackbed near Cotesbach (SP 547830); it rather sounds as if local walkers have created a ‘desire line’ along the trackbed between the two rights of way. Rev. Peter Campbell-Barker, the recently retired pastor from Lutterworth’s Pentecostal Church, is behind the idea: he observes that ‘Lutterworth has a good park on the Magna Park side of town, and a park has been developed along Bill Crane Way also, but our side of the town parallel to the M1 has been left as it was since Lord Beeching took the line out of service.’ (David Thompson)

October 2013. Great Elm to Frome, Somerset. The place names for this entry describe what has been known for many years as ‘Frome’s Missing Link’ – the gap of ca. 2 miles between the railway path from Radstock and Frome town centre. Now Gracewell Healthcare, the owners of Rossetti House (a new care home in the town), have ‘gifted’ a 15 square metre section of land at the rear of their care home to form a key component in the traffic-free link from Great Elm, which local campaigners have been working on for years. Mark Vose of the Missing Link campaign told the Western Morning News: ‘This is one of the final pieces in the puzzle and will mean that we can now look forward to a completely uninterrupted cycle path from Bath all the way down into the heart of Frome. On behalf of the campaign I’d like to thank Gracewell Healthcare for their generosity and for helping make the Missing Link a reality.’ (Tim Chant)

October 2013. Tavistock, Devon. As regular visitors to these pages will know, there are now several trails from Tavistock which re-use both the town’s old canal towpath and former railway trackbeds. The former GWR route to Plymouth via Yelverton includes the £2.1 million Gem Bridge (actually a viaduct) which spans the River Walkham – and has just been named the ‘civil engineering project of the year’ in the ‘under £3 million’ category at the British Construction Industry Awards. The report in the Western Morning News published on 12th October went on to add: ‘It is on the route of the Velodyssey [sic], a 265 mile (440 km) cross-Channel cycle link that will eventually stretch 870 miles (1,400 km) from Ilfracombe [to Plymouth and then] … through Brittany to the border with Spain.’ The Ilfracombe-Plymouth leg of the route will be based almost entirely on old railways, and we understand that several disused railways in Brittany will be incorporated in the scheme as well. (Tim Chant)

October 2013. Dyce to Maud, Maud to Peterhead, and Maud to Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire. Work has been going on since 1987 to convert these former lines of the Great North of Scotland Railway into multi use trails, but finally the project is complete. Known as the Formartine and Buchan Way, the trails re-use 53 miles of old railway; they were opened officially – to walkers, cyclists and horse riders – on 25th September by Councillor Jill Webster, the Provost of Aberdeenshire Council. One controversial feature of the project back in its early days was the removal of a number of rail-over-road bridges which reduced long-term maintenance costs, but at the cost of removing the all-important ‘grade separation’ of trail users from road traffic. Plenty of bridges remain on the route, e.g. over rivers, but we would be pleased to hear from anyone who has walked or cycled it (see our Contact page) whether or not the lost bridges create any problems. In the meantime, we implore local authorities to think carefully before removing former railway bridges: with the average cost of a road traffic accident involving a walker or cyclist now well over £20K, there’s a good economic case for retaining the bridges. (David Thompson)

October 2013. Radstock, Somerset. Further to our reports in August (see here and here), Green Rail Radstock – the local group campaigning against Bath & North East Somerset Council’s plans for Radstock West station site – has been awarded a £10,000 grant from cosmetics company Lush towards the first phase, which is to commission a survey and report against the proposed new road which will cross the railway land, and to start ecological work. The latter cannot start until the group gets planning consent, so it is still busy raising funds for the planning application; support for the campaign is reported to be growing – you can add to its numbers. (Sebastian Davis-Ansted)

October 2013. Abbey Village to Brinscall, Lancashire. We have been reminded of a short railway path of about 1 mile from Abbey Village to Brinscall via Withnell. Known as ‘Railway Park’ or ‘Withnell Local Nature Reserve’, and developed by Chorley Borough Council, it appears to run from grid reference SD 639228 to SD 629215. Beyond the Abbey Village end, a public footpath runs alongside the old railway formation for another half a mile to SD 642236, where, unusually, the OS map shows it coming to a dead stop in some woodland. This is because the area beyond was fenced off and used for landfill; although this use ceased some years back and the area is now (young) woodland, it is still fenced off. Of more interest are the various sidings and offshoots that led into once rail-served quarries and printing works. The trackbed once formed part of the Lancashire Union Joint Railway’s line from Chorley to Cherry Tree, just west of Blackburn. Although opened to the public only 20 or so years ago, Chorley BC purchased this old railway land way back in 1971, just before the first stirrings of public interest in creating ‘rail trails’ were about to find their voice. (Les Simpson and Mark Jones)

September 2013. Friargate Bridge, Derby. The Grade II listed rail-over-road bridge which once carried trains into Derby Friargate station has some friends at last – friends who want to see it restored. Derby City Council purchased the structure from the British Rail Property Board in 1976 for just £1, at a time when that organisation was desperate to get rid of its long term liabilities. (About ten years later, an edition of the Daily Telegraph’s Saturday supplement included a multi-page spread which offered ‘interested parties’ a whole range of disused viaducts for just £1 each – the ultimate gift for the railway enthusiast who had everything!) Derby City Council is supposedly looking at possible alternative uses for the bridge, but Lynn Marley (one of the campaigners) remarked tellingly: ‘I cannot understand why Andrew Handyside’s work at St Pancras is honoured and polished so you can see your face in it, yet he did one of his best bits of work in Derby and it has been left to rot.’ Click here to read the Derby Telegraph’s article on the campaign, and here to view Mark Miley’s excellent photographic survey of the station as it is today. (David White)

September 2013. Peak District, Derbyshire and Staffordshire. As an addition to the report below, visitors might like to take a look at the map here (but be aware that it’s 1.1 megabytes in size), which comes from page 4 of Derbyshire CC’s bid to the Department for Transport to improve the cycling infrastructure in the region. The black routes on this map, described in the key as ‘existing infrastructure’, are actually existing railway paths. The map shows clearly how these existing rail trails are to be linked together, although it does not make clear which sections of new route will use more of the region’s disused railway network. We do know that Bakewell to Rowsley is intended to re-use more of the Midland Railway’s old main line from Matlock to Manchester via Miller’s Dale, while we have heard that developments in the Stocksbridge area north of Sheffield are to use parts of abandoned Great Central lines, although we have yet to receive firm confirmation of this. (David Thompson and Jeff Vinter)

September 2013. Millers Dale to Bakewell, Derbyshire. Seasoned railway ramblers will recognise this route as the Monsal Trail, whose long-closed tunnels were finally opened to walkers and cyclists on 25th May 2011. Plans to extend the route south to Rowsley appear to have made no progress recently, but there have been other developments, including the replacement of the somewhat inadequate lights in the tunnels with much better fluorescent panels. A rather more curious development is the appearance on the end wall of the extant part of Miller’s Dale Station of an extensive display of proposed developments by students at Nottingham University. These consist mainly of ‘developing’ existing structures such as the station and kilns to provide ‘cycling hubs’ and ‘horse riding hubs, and even a tramway (sic) to provide ‘goods and passenger facilities’. The drawings showed modern electric trams heading west to Buxton, but unfortunately our correspondent did not have his camera with him during his visit. (Mike Hodgson)

Update: The above comment about lack of progress over the extension to Rowsley may accurately reflect what is happening on the ground, but it is a different story behind the scenes. ‘The White Peak Loop’ is a key feature of the recent successful bid by the Peak District National Park for cycleway funding from the Department for Transport. Work on this and other projects is due for completion by 2016. The White Peak Loop aims to create an off-road cycle circuit of about 60 miles through the White Peak area, nearly all of it based on former railway lines. There is a lot of detail on the Derbyshire CC web page. If you read this, don’t forget that the 11 miles listed under the White Peak Loop are just what’s required to complete it – the rest is open already. (David Thompson)

September 2013. Coniston to Torver, Cumbria. We have just been alerted to a new railway path that was opened in the Lake District on Monday 2nd September by local resident Wing Commander Geoffrey Kenyon, who first suggested the idea in 1995. The new trail takes the long-existing railway path that ran for half a mile southwards from grid reference SD 297962 (at Park Gate, south of Coniston) and extends it three-quarters of a mile further south to Torver. The extension is the result of a two month project by the local community, the ‘GoLakes Travel Programme’, and the Lake District National Park. The new route is known as the ‘Torver Community Trail’. What we don’t know at this stage is whether or not it has been extended up into Coniston itself, or whereabouts in Torver it ends. (If only newspaper reporters would think to mention these things!) If you can supply these important details, please get in touch using our Contact page. (David Thompson). Addendum: In February 2014, we received the following additional information from one of our members:

‘I was there recently and can give the following information. The new section of path leaves the A5084 about 30 yards from the centre of Torver and passes behind the former station (now holiday cottages). It uses the trackbed almost exclusively and, after ¾ mile, passes under a minor road (connecting the A593 with the A5084) by a railway underbridge. Soon after this, it makes an end-on junction with the pre-existing National Park path, which immediately leaves the railway track to run alongside the A593, mainly in sight of the trackbed. It rejoins the line just before the Caravan Club site at Park Coppice, and about ½ mile later rejoins the A593 where an underbridge is filled in. Turn right, towards Coniston, and about 100 yards down the road turn left up a track. The line can then be followed to the site of Coniston station (now a housing estate) and goods yard (now an industrial estate). The centre of Coniston is just down the hill.’ (David Pedley)

September 2013. Clevedon to Yatton, Somerset. A recent edition (30th August) of The Shepton Mallet Journal stated that the old railway line from Clevedon to Yatton is now part of the ‘Strawberry Line’, a network of actual and proposed railway paths across Somerset. We would like to make it clear that this is not the case. While the re-use of the trackbed as a multi use trail is the subject of a feasibility study by North Somerset Council, currently it is not open to the public. One particular difficulty is that the M5 crosses the old line more or less on the level just west of Kenn. The cost of installing a new bridge over the M5 for what, after all, is only a trail would be prohibitive, so the likely solution will be to divert this part of the route via the B3133 which crosses the motorway nearby. (Tim Chant and Jeff Vinter)

September 2013. Wells to Cranmore, Somerset. On Tuesday 3rd September, Shepton Mallet Town Council discussed whether it wanted the ‘Strawberry Line’ to come to the town, and were offering a £10,000 grant to kick-start the project if the townspeople were in favour. Currently, the Strawberry Line is open from Yatton to Cheddar, with plans for an extension from Cheddar to Wells at an advanced stage; at least sufficient for Somerset County Council to have published a set of detailed maps online. (Much of the Cheddar-Wells route will use the old trackbed, so presumably the necessary negotiations with local landowners have been brought to a successful conclusion.) The full text of the article can be read here as a PDF file free from advertisements. Note that a connecting route from Shepton to Evercreech is mentioned as a possibility, which might conceivably re-use the trackbed of the former Somerset & Dorset Railway. (Tim Chant)

Above: Darcy Lever Viaduct, near Bolton, Lancashire, on a wet and wintry day before it was restored. Note that this view shows only one half of the structure. The viaduct was built in 1848 and consists of eight wrought iron spans mounted on stone piers and abutments: two spans are 54 ft. long, while six are 84 ft. long. The line closed in 1970 but, according to Wikipedia, the structure was not designated as ‘non-operational’ until 1983. An occasional local pastime was trying to throw potatoes over the viaduct from the pavement on the right of this picture, which itself forms part of Darcy Lever’s road bridge over the River Tonge. Word of this spread until, eventually, a few bowlers from the England cricket team succeeded in getting their spuds over the viaduct’s full 86 ft. height. For news of this structure’s future, please see the story below. 21st December 2005. (Roger May, used under the terms of this creative commons licence.)

September 2013. Bolton to Bury, Lancashire. Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council and Bury Council are committed to re-opening much of the former Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway’s line between the two towns as a multi use trail. The route will include both Burnden Viaduct (which crosses the A666 just south of Bolton town centre) and the gigantic Darcy Lever Viaduct which crosses the valley of the River Tonge. Both of the viaducts have been restored already by Sustrans, while the local authorities have cut back the vegetation along the formation ready for a proper path to be installed. Bolton MBC will also install a new bridge over Lower Darcy Street (grid reference SD 731083), where the original rail-over-road bridge was removed many years ago. The whole route will be approximately 4 miles long and should be open by June or July 2014; the viaducts will ensure that it is something special. (Jeff Vinter)

Above: A montage of photographs from Radstock West station. Top left: The former passenger platform, looking east towards Frome on a cheerless winter’s day. Top right: The overgrown running line which once led into the town’s former railway forge and wagon works, all of which are proposed for demolition. Bottom left: Although the rails through the station platforms have now been removed, elsewhere in the area various railway relics survive, including this GWR chair which remains bolted to its decaying sleeper. Bottom right: The GWR’s goods shed in Radstock is the only building on the site that Bath & North East Somerset Council has undertaken to keep. All photographs taken on 8th June 2013 except top left, 17th February 2013. (Sebastian Davis-Ansted)

Radstock West really is quite a site, although partially obscured by years of vegetation. Apart from the engine shed, both the forge building (once part of Marcroft’s wagon works) and passenger platforms survive. All of the track is in situ too, except in the immediate station area and into the old forge; the tracks even survive alongside the old goods platform. The station has lost its signal box, which would appear to be a loss until ones learns that it was moved to the Didcot Railway Centre in 1973, where it has been beautifully restored (see here). For further details of what’s happening at Radstock West, see the story below.

August 2013. Radstock, Somerset. Friends of Radstock Railway Land have asked us to explain that their proposals are not just a case of opposing Bath & North East Somerset Council’s own plans for the town’s old GWR station site. FRR aims to extend the railway path from Great Elm (see story below) through the Radstock sidings and station site, thus keeping trail users off the roads. (The existing path leaves the trackbed before Radstock and requires cyclists/walkers to use Meadowview Road, Kilmersdon Road and then the main roads before picking up another path.) FRR aims to restore the engine shed, forge building, turntable and both platforms, and keep the rail corridor right into Radstock – the council’s plans include only restoration of the engine shed. FRR aims to keep the old rails in place, but to manage them since the area has become a good habitat for nature. The group’s aims, primarily, are a combination of railway path development and railway heritage preservation, so quite closely aligned to those of RR. With Frome’s Missing Link working flat out at the east end of the railway path to bring it right into the centre of Frome, why should Radstock not have equally safe and convenient access at its end of the trail? (Sebastian Davis-Ansted)

August 2013. Frome to Great Elm, Somerset. Regular readers of these pages will recognise this as ‘Frome’s Missing Link’, i.e. the gap between Frome town centre and Great Elm, where the popular railway path to Radstock begins. Frome’s Missing Link (FML) is also the name of the organisation campaigning to create a safe link between these two points so that trail users do not have to use the current on-road link which, to be frank, is not really satisfactory, especially for younger users. FML has just published the following news on recent progress:

  • The path from Welshmill [a section of the new link] passes over some land that was part of the Frome gasworks which has to be decontaminated. A scheme for this has now been agreed and our contractor is expected to be on site late this year or early next year. The delay has been frustrating, but at least it gives us a few months to raise the rest of the money for this first phase.
  • A way forward has also been identified with Network Rail to extend the path from Buckland Bridge to Elliots Bridge (Hapsford). [This is part of the new link which will run alongside the NR freight line from Frome to Whatley Quarry.] We hope this will enable us to apply for planning consent in the next few months.

You can find all of these places easily on OS Explorer Map 142, Shepton Mallet and Mendip Hills East; look to the north west of Frome. (Frome’s Missing Link)

August 2013. Bridgnorth to Coalport. Did you know that the permissive (and highly scenic) railway path from the northern edge of Bridgnorth (just beyond the town’s golf course) to the preserved Coalport station is closed between November and January each year for the shooting season? No, we didn’t know either until our correspondent told us. There is nothing about this on the ground, but Sustrans’ online mapping (see says so. Don’t get caught out! (George Reiss)

August 2013. Nationwide. On Monday 12th August, the government made an announcement about a massive increase in investment for cycling, the scale of which is unprecedented in England. Malcolm Shepherd, the Chief Executive of Sustrans, summarised the news thus:

The Department for Transport has announced successful recipients of its ‘Cycling ambition’ grants scheme. This invited cities and national parks to bid for funding support, and included two very welcome innovations in the bidding process: bidders were required to demonstrate a long-term (10 year) commitment to cycling strategy and investment, and they also had to show that the local public health function was an active ‘partner’ in the project. The fund was approximately £40 million.

The Government has – encouragingly – decided to raise the scale of the investment, and is now putting in a total of £77 million to a project budget expected to reach £148 million, including local ‘match funding’. This means a level of local investment reaching around £10 per capita per annum – the level that we (i.e. Sustrans) have long advocated as the minimum to bring about behaviour[al] change.

This increase in funding means that eight cities or city regions – Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Birmingham, West of England, Newcastle, Cambridge, Norwich and Oxford – have all received the total value of their bids, as well as [the] Peak District, New Forest, Dartmoor and South Downs national parks.

This investment will be spent over the two coming years, but the ongoing commitment of the local authorities offers hope for a longer-term, and hence more effective, approach.

The relevant press releases can be viewed here:

All of this can be expected to do something, at least, to improve railway paths, whether by the extension of existing routes, the creation of new ones, or the development of connections between routes. This must rank as being amongst the most significant news that Railway Ramblers has ever published. (Malcolm Shepherd and Jeff Vinter)

Above: The old pithead wheel from Kilmersdon Colliery – the last pit in the North Somerset Coalfield to close (in 1973) – was moved to Radstock town centre where it now forms part of this striking sculpture. The foot of the sculpture stands on what was once the trackbed of the Somerset & Dorset Railway through Radstock North station, of which no trace now remains. Radstock West station on the GWR line from Frome to Bristol via Hallatrow has fared rather better; the platforms and a goods shed remain, the former being situated a short distance behind the photographer. See the story below for details of a local scheme to alter the development plans for the site. 29th October 2010. (Photograph by ‘haywain’, used under this creative commons licence)

August 2013. Radstock, Somerset. We have reported previously local authority plans to re-develop the site of the former GWR station at Radstock. However, the Friends of Radstock Railway Land are not satisfied that this represents the best use of this resource and have set up a website which, inter alia, supports their appeal to raise £1,600 for a planning application to give the council and local people of Radstock a better alternative to removing the station, Marcroft sidings and the local wildlife, and replacing it with roads, industrial units and housing. The website has information about the site, why the group are trying to save it, the wildlife and plant life they are trying to save, the railway they are trying to save, and their plans for a nature reserve, heritage railway, extended cycle path and community activities. The site is at the west end of the trackbed-based NCN24 (Colliers Way) from Frome. (Sebastian Davis-Ansted)

August 2013. Sidmouth Junction to Sidmouth, Devon. Edition 727 of ‘Rail’ magazine (24th July to 6th August) reported that, at Ottery St. Mary, an online petition has been launched to support the appeal for the proposed Otter Valley cycleway from Feniton (formerly Sidmouth Junction) to the town. It is hoped eventually to extend the route all the way to Sidmouth, incorporating the existing 2 mile trail from the southern edge of Tipton St. John to near the Bowd Inn, but crucial to this will be the attitude of the Clinton Devon Estates. For further details, and to pledge your support, see (Jeff Vinter)

Above: Singleton goods shed on the former branch line from Chichester to Midhurst is now the last surviving goods shed designed by Thomas Harrison Myres, who worked as an architect for the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway. Myres had a style which was well suited to the leafy byways of East and West Sussex, where most of ‘his’ stations were situated: solid but elegant, and with decorative flourishes that suggested a strong influence from the Arts and Crafts Movement. Summer 2012. (Steve Obey)

Above: Detail of the panelling at Singleton goods shed. The frames with their quatrefoil design are far more elaborate than any goods shed really deserved, and the same goes for the incised pargetting (plasterwork) below them. Both of these are typical examples of the artistic embellishments which T.H. Myres lavished upon his designs. Compare this with, say, the bus-shelter type of passenger facility installed by British Rail on its stripped-down railway platforms in the mid 1980s, and you will realise how far the standard of railway architecture sank between the 1880s and 1980s. Summer 2012. (Steve Obey)

August 2013. Singleton, West Sussex. It is not part of a railway walk and stands on private land believed to be owned by the Edward James Foundation, but Singleton goods shed on the former LBSCR branch line from Chichester to Midhurst was awarded Grade II listed building status in April this year. So what, you may think? Well, this is what! Singleton possesses the last surviving goods shed designed by the architect Thomas Harrison Myres, who originated from Preston, Lancashire. Myres was responsible for the design of a number of railway stations and associated buildings in rural Sussex (both east and west), and well preserved examples of his work can be seen at Kingscote, Horsted Keynes and Sheffield Park on the preserved Bluebell Railway. Steve Obey’s pictures above give some indication os why the building has been listed. Myres lavished embellishments upon all of his buildings, however small their size or prosaic their purpose, to produce a series of structures which should have appeased even the most demanding of landowners. Half-timbering and incised pargetting are typical features, and contributed to a style which anticipated the ‘brewers’ Tudor’ applied to new suburban pubs during the expansion of the suburbs in the 1920s and 1930s. (Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society and Jeff Vinter)

August 2013. Ayrshire, Scotland. Yes, that’s right – this entry is about the whole of Ayrshire. The Oakwood Press is just about to publish member Alasdair Wham’s new book, Ayrshire’s Forgotten Railways; A Walker’s Guide. If this volume is well received, Oakwood hopes that this will become the first of a series. Click here for the press release. (Jane Kennedy, Proprietor, Oakwood Press)

July 2013. Plymouth (nr. Friary West Junction) to nr. Turnchapel, Devon. Further to our report in November last year, we have just received news from Plymouth City Council that the planning application (number 13/01008/FUL) to restore the disused Laira railway bridge as part of a multi use trail has been approved. Not only will restoration of the bridge preserve another piece of local railway history; it will also increase the proportion of the former Turnchapel branch which can be walked and cycled. The official notice read as follows: ‘Development: Refurbishment and conversion of redundant Laira Rail Bridge to pedestrian and cycle facility together with associated decking, parapet rail and lighting and provision of connecting pedestrian and cycle access ramp to The Ride. I write to inform you that permission has now been granted.’ There is no information yet as to when work will start, but we will report that as soon as known. (Jeff Vinter)

July 2013. Rugby, Warwickshire. The disused 11 arch viaduct in Rugby which once carried the Midland Railway’s line from Rugby to Leicester via Broughton Astley was re-opened to walkers and cyclists on Wednesday 17th July as one of Sustrans’ Connect2 projects. According to the Rugby & Lutterworth Observer: ‘The path starts in Newbold’s Brownsover Road and crosses the Oxford Canal – linking to the Glebe Estate – before taking cyclists and walkers over the viaduct which spans Leicester Road and the River Avon. From there, it follows the old raised railway bank and then leads down to the end of Hunters Lane before connecting with the Black Path, where the old steps to the railway bridge have been replaced by a ramp. Cyclists and walkers can then either head for the town centre via Park Road or the railway station via Wood Street and Railway Terrace.’ The start point of the railway path in Brownsover Road, Newbold, is at grid reference SP 496774, while the end at Hunters Lane is at SP 505762, it re-uses approximately 1 mile of old trackbed. The connecting Black Path, which provides an important north-south link over the West Coast Main Line, was improved in 2008-09. As noted before in these pages, the route ends a short distance from Rugby’s Great Central Walk, which starts at SP 515756. These two railway walks are within half a mile of each other, with Rugby station at the mid-point. (David White)

July 2013. Llandre to Hafan, Ceredigion. The eastern end of the short-lived Plynlimon & Hafan Tramway survives as a public footpath and trail over open moorland. When we say ‘short-lived’, we mean it: the 7¼ mile line opened in 1897 and closed just two years later. If you can supply the grid references for the start and end of the publicly accessible section, please get in touch using our Contact page. The nearest community of any size is Borth, which is a few miles north of Aberystwyth on the still operational line from Aberystwyth to Dovey Junction. (Chris Parker)

July 2013. Radstock, Somerset. Plans to re-develop the site of the former GWR station in Radstock town centre have moved forward recently. The latest report on the ‘This is Somerset’ website reveals that objections have been taken into account in order to produce an improved scheme, which will see the Brunelian railway shed restored, one half of the site preserved as open space, and good access to NCN24 (a.k.a. Colliers Way) which follows the old GWR line to Great Elm, a couple of miles short of Frome. The report does not mention the surviving station platform, which some would like to see retained in case a rail link between Frome and Radstock is ever restored. However, in practice, we suspect that a restored rail link would benefit from a new station in a new location. One of the factors behind Radstock losing its railways in the first place was the traffic mayhem caused by the town having two railway stations with adjoining level crossings over the A367, all within a few yards of each other. These level crossings were on entirely separate lines with entirely separate timetables, which meant that a motorist might sigh with relief as the S&D crossing gates opened, only for the neighbouring GWR gates to swing shut before he could get into first gear. Luckily for Radstock, a re-opened line from Frome would not have to cross the A367, and so there is no risk of a level crossing returning to the town to torment road users. However, if a new station were to be constructed on the now empty GWR station site, the consequences for local road traffic would be troublesome because anyone driving to or from the station would have to negotiate a very busy set of junctions, which suffer their fair share of gridlock already. To view the report from ‘This is Somerset’, click the link here. (Tim Chant and Jeff Vinter)

June 2013. Wells to Dulcote, Somerset. A mile of the former East Somerset Railway’s former line from the edge of Wells to the edge of Dulcote has been in use as part of NCN3 for some years. At the Wells end, a large Nutricia baby factory blocked the way until it was removed in 2005, brick by brick, and transported to Scotland; the site has been neglected ever since. Now developers have been given the go-ahead to develop it for 165 new homes and a 64-bed nursing home, and their plans include a cycle trail – but there is a problem. Despite strong local lobbying to make this a through route which would link NCN3 to the local athletic ground, the city centre, and the many places of employment in and around the city centre, the new path will come to a dead end against a hedge. It is believed that Mendip District Council want to sell off the sports ground for housing and do not want to ‘de-value the site’ by having a trail go through it – hence the obstructive hedge. When will our local politicians realise that a multi use trail that goes nowhere is pointless, and that the provision of safe facilities for non-motorists (especially on a local scale like this) can actually make new developments more attractive by providing safe routes for children (and others) to get where they want to go? It wouldn’t be so sad if Wells were not clogged with traffic already; presumably the planners at Mendip DC are quite happy for the residents of all these new homes to go everywhere – even locally – by car. Meanwhile, the Chairman of Wells Athletic Ground has resigned in frustration at the lack of support from the council. (Bob Murrell, Strawberry Line Society Newsletter, Summer 2013, with commentary by Jeff Vinter)

June 2013. Derby to Ilkeston, Derbyshire. The Great Northern Greenway, which is being developed on 13 miles of the Derby-Ilkeston route between Breadsall and Ilkeston, has just received grant funding of £100,000 from Sustrans. The money will go towards extending the Great Northern Greenway at Broomfield, with additional money for the project coming from the Local Transport Plan. (John Swan)

June 2013. Meldon Junction to Bude, Devon/Cornwall. There is good news and bad about this long cross-country line, which Devon County Council and Cornwall Council have been working on for 25 years. The bad news is that the planned restoration and re-opening of Coles Mill Viaduct east of Holsworthy station site (see our report from June 2011) has been put on hold as the result of the Heritage Lottery Fund declining to support an application to fund repairs. The good news is that the local authorities remain undaunted, and are pressing ahead regardless with their project to open up the whole of this old line. For further details, have a look at this article from the North Devon Journal, which, despite the title, is actually very encouraging. When you read this, you may wonder why the planned route is to be called the ‘Ruby Way’; the name reflects the Red Ruby breed of Devon cattle, which are a distinctive feature of the countryside through which this line once passed – and along which, in a few years’ time, walkers and cyclists should be able to pass again. (Jeff Vinter)

June 2013. Bath to Midford, Somerset. Just south of Bath Junction (where the Midland Railway and S&D diverged), the Somerset & Dorset Railway crossed over the GWR’s Paddington to Bristol line on a single track bridge which has been out of use since the S&D closed on 7th March 1966. We have just received news that Network Rail is to grant a licence to use this bridge to the Two Tunnels Greenway, which will incorporate it into its new Bath-Midford Trail. However, there is even better news. When the Paddington-Bristol line is electrified in a few years’ time, the old S&D bridge will have to be removed because it is not high enough for the overhead wires to pass beneath – but Network Rail will install a higher replacement bridge in order to preserve the linear integrity of the greenway. (Matt Skidmore)

June 2013. Northampton Town Centre, Northamptonshire. A now overgrown stub of disused line in Northampton has been declared ‘non operational’, and the Office of Rail Regulation has given Network Rail permission to close it. The line in question runs between Brackmills and London Road (Cotton End), and the Northampton Chronicle & Echo remarked that it could be used as a ‘sustainable transport corridor’ in the future; presumably, this means a multi-use trail. The line used to connect Northampton Castle (on the current main line to Rugby) with Northampton Bridge Street, and thus provided a connection between the Roade-Northampton-Rugby, Northampton-Market Harborough and Blisworth-Northampton-Peterborough lines. (Northampton Chronicle & Echo and Disused Stations website)

May 2013. RIP Bill Pertwee, 21st July 1926 – 27th May 2013. Bill Pertwee was best known for his portrayal of the irascible ARP warden William (Bert) Hodges in the classic BBC sitcom, ‘Dad’s Army’. What was rather less well known was that he was a keen railway enthusiast. He first came to the club’s notice after the publication of his 1991 book, ‘The Station Now Standing: Britain’s Colourful Railway Stations’, which prompted an invitation in 1994 to act as one of Railway Ramblers’ Vice Presidents – a post he held continuously thereafter. In real life, Bill was a kind and sympathetic man, and quite the opposite of Warden Hodges. His wife, the actress Marion McLeod, died in 2005 and therefore did not live to see him receive an MBE in 2007 for his charitable work, especially in support of children’s hospices. His son, Jonathan, captured his underlying modesty: ‘He’d say, “Marvellous, isn’t it, to be in this business”, because he said “I’m not really a proper actor” – but he was extremely versatile.’ Bill became ill over Christmas and died peacefully in the small hours of Bank Holiday Monday, 27th May, surrounded by his family; he will be greatly missed. Two recent obituaries can be read here and here. (Jeff Vinter)

May 2013. Weston-super-Mare to Clevedon, Somerset. Who’d have thought it? There are now advanced plans to re-use much of the southern end of the former Weston, Clevedon & Portishead Railway for a new multi-use path. The Western Morning News on Tuesday 28th May contained this short article: ‘Long-awaited plans to create a cycle link between Weston-super-Mare and Clevedon have taken (sic) a step closer. North Somerset Council and sustainable transport charity Sustrans have been working on the project to form a cycle link between both seaside resorts since the mid 1970s. The route would go from Wick Lane, Wick St Lawrence to Yeo Bank Lane, Kingston Seymour, and would follow the route of the historic Weston, Clevedon and Portishead Railway. The council resolved to secure the route in 2012 and now has reached agreements with landowners. The next stage in the project will be to secure funding.’ (Tim Chant)

May 2013. Masbury, Somerset. Lonely Masbury station, at the summit of the former Somerset & Dorset Railway, is up for sale, and the owner has given first refusal to the Somerset & Dorset Heritage Trust (S&DHT) which has gone public with plans to buy it. The S&DHT operates a section of preserved line from Midsomer Norton South, and the acquisition of Masbury would give it a long-term target to aim for. The group has until September to raise the necessary funds. According to ‘Steam’ magazine, the sale includes ‘the entire station site, including the goods yard and sidings on the down side, as well as two outbuildings; the waiting room and ticket office are in need of restoration, although the wooden waiting shelter on the down platform and the signal box have disappeared’. (Sebastian Davis-Ansted and Tim Chant)

May 2013. Cwm Ratgoed, Nr. Machynlleth, Powys. We have just learned of a tramway walk in Cwm Ratgoed which follows part of the Ratgoed Tramway and could be combined easily with some of the old Corris line to make a fascinating longer walk. Details of the Cwm Ratgoed walk, devised by Derek Brockway and published by the BBC as a ‘Weatherman Walking’ route, can be accessed here on the BBC website, or here if the BBC link no longer works. Mr. Brockway’s walk (2½ miles) starts at SH 774106, but a quick look at the local OS Explorer map suggests that the tramway’s trackbed is accessible from SH 777101 to SH 780121 (ca. 1½ miles). The route passes the entrance to Ratgoed Hall, which begs the question, ‘Why ever did the owner allow this?’; but the owner was one Horatio Nelson Hughes, a wealthy Liverpudlian quarry owner, who had the hall built in ca. 1870. There’s nothing like having a job on your doorstep! (Derek Richards)

Above: The official opening of the latest section of the North Dorset Trailway took place at Blandford Forum’s former station site on a rather hazy Sunday 19th May – but at least the weather stayed dry for the occasion. The gentleman in the hi-vis jacket who is about to cut the tape is Giles Nicholson, the North Dorset ranger who is the driving force behind getting this new path built along the old Somerset & Dorset Railway. Giles thoroughly deserved this privilege – what he and his team have achieved so far would have been thought impossible even a decade ago. The trio are standing at what used to be the ‘station throat’, and fifty years ago would have been in danger from passing trains. 19th May 2013. (Matt Skidmore)

Above: It can’t be, can it? Well, obviously this is the England football team coach, seen here at the site of Sturminster Newton station on the day when the village regained a railway link to Blandford, albeit via a railway path rather than an actual railway; but where are the members of the squad? One possibility is that they were out training on the newly extended North Dorset Trailway – see above and below for further details. 19th May 2013. (Matt Skidmore)


May 2013. Stourpaine to Blandford Forum, Dorset. The new section of the North Dorset Trailway (ex Somerset & Dorset Railway) finally opened to the public on Sunday 19th May, when three committee members from the Two Tunnels Project in Bath – Andrew Nicolson, Matt Skidmore and Frank Tompson – were in attendance; all thoroughly enjoyed their visit, along with over a thousand other users who tried out the new route on the day. Our trio cycled to the festival site at Stourpaine for music, food and cycling themed events, and noted that Sustrans had a stand with staff in attendance. Matt then carried on cycling to Sturminster Newton where, unexpectedly, he saw parked in the old station car park the England football team coach! There was no sign of Wayne Rooney and his team mates, but we wonder if they were all out training on the railway path. (Matt Skidmore)

May 2013. The Somerset & Dorset Railway. If you want to explore the Somerset & Dorset Railway on foot or by bicycle, a new book by Robin Summerhill is precisely what you need. Robin has just published Cycling the Somerset & Dorset Railway: it is available from him directly (click here) at £7.95 for a downloadable e-book, £8.95 for an e-book on CD, or £15.95 for a full colour printed edition. The ISBN is 978-0-9576369-0-3, should you need it, but please buy directly from the author if you can. Amazon offers no saving on this title and is in the mud with the press for alleged tax avoidance, on top of which authors who are not John Grisham or Stephen King do not actually receive much in the way of royalties. If you are buying the printed version, why not ask Robin to send you a signed copy? Anyway, this useful book is subtitled ‘Long distance cycling or walking in nice easy chunks’, which should encourage even reluctant walkers and cyclists to get outdoors – and where better to start than on a disused railway with its gentle gradients? The book is very well illustrated with well reproduced full colour photographs, and uses schematic maps (also in colour) to indicate where the trackbed is open to the public and where it is privately owned; in the latter case, the route of the best diversion is shown clearly. This is a very worthwhile addition to the resources available on this famous and much-loved line. (Robin Benton)

Note: The Bath to Bristol Railway Path and the new Two Tunnels Greenway at Bath finish within a quarter of a mile of each other. We hope that it will not be beyond the wit and wisdom of the local authority to establish a safe, well signed link between the two for walkers and cyclists. A growing number of both cycling and railway enthusiasts think it is about time that we had a coast-to-coast route in the south west to rival C2C and The Trans-Pennine Trail in the north. Bristol to Poole would do very nicely. (Jeff Vinter)

May 2013. Westport to Achill, County Mayo. There is now a 42 kilometre (28 mile) multi-use trail along the former railway line from Westport to Achill in the west of Ireland. The route, which closed to passengers back in 1937, is now known as the Great Western Greenway (GWG), and is currently Ireland’s longest rail trail; however, the Great Southern Trail, which is being developed along the former CIE (Irish state railway) line from Limerick to Tralee, should eventually be longer. The principal attractions of the GWG are its lack of traffic, the easy gradients in a hilly and even mountainous area, and the spectacular views of Ireland’s Atlantic coast. (Chris Allan from The Irish Times)

May 2013. Limerick to Tralee, County Limerick and County Kerry. On 2nd February, a group of 150 supporters of the Great Southern Trail (GST) set off from the old railway station at Abbeyfeale in County Limerick to walk along the most recently developed section of the trail, which would take them across the county border with Kerry. The purpose of the walk was to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the route’s closure to passengers. However, at the border, the walkers were confronted by a barricade manned by 30 local farmers, who would not let them pass. The Garda were called in, but all attempts at negotiation failed. Due to CIE’s failure to enforce its ownership of the old trackbed, the farmers are claiming ‘adverse possession’. If this claim is successful, then it will make it very difficult for the GST to reach Tralee. The Irish Minister for Transport, Leo Varadkar, has made it clear that CIE ‘is the owner of the property [and] will object to any application by others to register these lands’. The GST has received 1.5 million euros of public funding and is being developed with CIE’s full support, so hopefully the farmers’ claims will be rebuffed. For further details, see the report here in the Irish Times. (Chris Allan from the Irish Times)

May 2013. Counties Sligo, Mayo and Galway, Ireland. Further to the reports above, there are hopes to establish rail trails on the following sections of closed Irish railway:

  • Athenry to Sligo. Although ‘West on Track’, a pressure group for re-opening this section of the western rail corridor, wants to see this line re-opened, the Irish Minister for Transport has said that he would not re-open it even as far as Tuam. If he holds to this view, then the railway will be available for a greenway.
  • Collooney, near Sligo, to Claremorris. This section of line has been proposed as a new rail trail, which would weigh in at 75 kilometres (50 miles).
  • Kiltimagh to Castlebar. There was no direct railway between Kiltimagh and Castlebar, but this route has been mooted as a cross-country link to connect a future Collooney to Claremorris trail with the Great Western Greenway (see story above on Westport to Achill).
Brendan Quinn, who is campaigning for the Athenry to Sligo route, says that projects like these would bring considerable benefits to the west of Ireland by bringing walking and cycling tourists into communities in the west or Ireland which never normally see them. (Chris Allan from the Irish Times)

May 2013. Peebles to Symington and Broughton to Tweedsmuir, Scottish Borders. Further to our report in March 2011, things are moving in the Borders to create a pair of multi-use trails on the area’s abandoned trackbeds, namely the Caledonian Railway’s line from Peebles West to Symington, and the connecting Talla Valley Railway which was used between 1897 and 1910 to help build Talla Reservoir, south of Tweedsmuir. The engineer for the project is John Grimshaw, the former Chief Engineer and Chief Executive of Sustrans Ltd, the national path-building charity, so some high calibre expertise is on hand. (One of John’s recent projects was that to open up the long-closed tunnels on the Monsal Trail in Derbyshire.) The Upper Tweed Railway Paths project has created an excellent website in support of the scheme, which can be viewed by clicking the link here. (Jeff Vinter)

May 2013. South Molton to North Molton, Devon. This may seem an unlikely place for a railway (well, a tramway actually), but a pair of tramways from local mines used to provide traffic to South Molton station on the Devon & Somerset Railway, which until 1966 linked Taunton with Barnstaple. The two tramways were the New Florence Mine Tramway and the Crowbarn Mine Tramway, although the latter appears to have been a branch of the former rather than a separate entity in its own right. The 2¾ mile public footpath from SS 721271 (north of South Molton) to SS 742296 in the centre of North Molton includes about 1½ miles of the New Florence Mine Tramway on the west bank of River Mole. (Click here for further details.) Some interesting remains can be found in the local woods extending up to South Radworthy, where the remains of New Florence Mine can be found at SS 752320, although we do not know if public access is permitted; please let us know via our Contact page if you can tell us, one way or the other. (Mark Jones and Jeff Vinter)

Above: A wintry view of Wilden Top bridge in Leapgate Country Park; the moss-covered sandstone of the cutting can just be seen in the left foreground. For further details, see the story below. (Bob Prigg)

May 2013. Stourport-on-Severn to near Hartlebury, Worcestershire. Having stated for many years that Worcestershire was very short on railway paths, we are pleased to report that the Stourport section of the Severn Valley Railway between the A449 at Hartlebury and Stourport-on-Severn, known locally as The Leapgate Country Park, is a ‘late 20th century’ route of 1¾ miles that we had missed; it has been converted into a rail trail following its last turn of duty serving Stourport Power Station. The route features a deep sandstone cutting, an overbridge and a viaduct; it makes a magical experience when combined with the nearby Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal as a round trip. The trackbed part of the country park, which is incorporated in NCN45, starts at grid reference SO 817718 and continues to SO 837720; the viaduct is situated at SO 822719. The section from SO 837720 to the A449 at SO 845718 may also be open; confirmation or correction via our Contact page will be appreciated. (Bob Prigg)

May 2013. Stourpaine & Durweston to Blandford Forum, Dorset. We have just received details of the official opening of the latest section of the North Dorset Trailway, which will complete a railway-based trail all the way from Sturminster Newton to Blandford Forum. Full details are available by clicking the link here. (Lesley Gasson, Trailway Network)

May 2013. Aldeburgh to Sizewell, Suffolk. There is a footpath alongside most of the former Great Eastern line between Aldeburgh and Sizewell, whence the branch remains open to the junction at Saxmundham for the occasional freight train carrying away a nuclear flask. The footpath can be picked up on the west side of Aldeburgh at TM 459570 and then followed for a quarter of a mile to TM 460574. Here, a diversion is required via the B1122 to TM 462594, where the trackbed is rejoined for just over 1½ miles to Grimsey’s Lane, south of the rail terminal at Sizewell. There is no trace of the former station at Aldeburgh, but wooden and concrete fence posts still line the trackbed, while there is a level crossing gate and keeper’s cottage before the platform at Thorpeness is reached. The entire route, including the diversion, is about 3¼ miles, which would make a comfortable out-and-back stroll during the shorter days of winter. (If you start at Sizewell, the Mill Inn in Market Cross Place, Aldeburgh, is recommended; it sells the locally-brewed Adnams ales from Southwold.) Our correspondent and some friends walked this trackbed on Monday 15th April and, on arrival at Sizewell, found two Class 37 locomotives (402 and 601) in charge of the ‘nuke’ train to Saxmundham, which on this occasion was in the charge of an enthusiastic lady driver. The group then ‘chased’ the train by car and filmed it arriving and departing at both Leiston, with its intact building and platform, and Saxmundham. For once, in what so far has been a cold and grey spring, sunshine attended the scene. (Phil Wood)

Above: The trackbed of the former Tewkesbury & Malvern Railway at the Mythe, on the west side of Tewkesbury. This independent railway suffered the usual problem of small, rural companies – a lack of capital – and had to be rescued by the Midland Railway. The line was single on opening in 1864, but was doubled later although partly reduced to single track again in 1913. The section between Upton-on-Severn and Great Malvern closed on 1st December 1952. Passenger services were withdrawn between Upton, Tewkesbury and Aschurch on 14th August 1961, with freight following on 1st July 1963. 30th April 2013. (Paul Stewart)

May 2013. Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire. It’s the ‘last chance to see’ for a section of the Tewkesbury & Malvern Railway at the Mythe, west of Tewkesbury. The previously overgrown trackbed has recently been cleared of years of vegetation prior to the demolition of the embankment and bridges, which can be seen to good effect in the photograph above. Fortunately, parts of the trackbed east of the town can still be walked, as reported in December 2012. (Paul Stewart from ‘Branch Line News’)

April 2013. Derby to Ilkeston, Derbyshire. Further to our report in January 2010 about Sustrans and Derbyshire County Council’s plans to convert the 13 miles of Great Northern trackbed between Breadsall and Ilkeston into a cycle trail known as The Great Northern Greenway (NCN672), the planning application for the section from Breadsall to Morley has just been published here. It can seem as if projects like this take for ever, but often a lot of hard work goes on behind the scenes, not least with local landowners, and it is important to get this aspect of the work completely right: it is far better to have a delay than a rushed planning application that fails. (John Swan)

April 2013. Bath to Midford, Somerset. On Saturday 6th April at 10:00 a.m., 100 VIPs cycled through the ‘Two Tunnels’ on the old Somerset & Dorset Railway south of Bath. (Don’t be sore about the VIPs getting special treatment – they paid £175 each for the privilege and thus raised a five figure sum to help finance future maintenance.) The trail was opened officially to the general public at 12:30 p.m., after which some 10,000 walkers and cyclists tried it out. And to think that, years ago, members of this club were told that there was no demand for rail trails! (Jeff Vinter)

April 2013. Pill to Portishead, Somerset. The last remaining unused section of the Bristol to Portishead branch is expected to re-open in 2017 as part of the Greater Bristol Metro. Road communications along the A369 between Portishead and Bristol are dire during the morning and evening rush hours with an hour or more frequently being required to cover the 10 or so miles. However, a debate is now under way about the location of the new station in Portishead. Initial plans had sited this in Harbour Road, fairly near the town centre, but that would require a new level crossing over Quays Road at ST 475763. Now North Somerset Council says that a level crossing is no longer ‘appropriate’ and that a new bridge costing £4 million will be necessary … unless the station is moved further away from the town centre. These are not encouraging developments: modern level crossings with barriers that cover the entire road have proved themselves perfectly safe elsewhere (Canterbury and Chichester spring to mind), while it seems undesirable either to move the new station further from the town centre, or to add a further £4 million to the existing £38.9 million project cost. The location of stations at the periphery of towns and cities is what caused many of them to be closed in the 1960s. Do our politicians learn nothing from the lessons of history? (Tim Chant from The Bristol Times)

April 2013. Rays Bridge (nr. Billingsley) to Netherton (nr. Highley), Shropshire. We haven’t pinned down all the details yet, but there are publicly accessible tramway and railway trackbeds on the west side of the Severn Valley Railway between Bewdley and Bridgnorth; they were constructed initially to serve local collieries. The route listed as the title of this entry is one that we are sure of: it is part of the old line which once ran from Billingsley Colliery to a junction on the SVR about half way between Arley and Highley stations. The trackbed runs along the south side of the Borle Brook and appears clearly on the OS Explorer map as a public bridleway then footpath from SO 715834 to SO 734823, a distance of about 1¾ miles. At the north end (SO 715834), one can see clearly the course of the incline that led down from the mine, while at the south end (SO 734823) the map shows the old line continuing as a farm track (with no public access) for another 1¼ miles down to the junction with the SVR. (Derek Richards)

April 2013. The Bind to The River Severn (nr. Brooksmouth Farm), Shropshire. Further to the entry above, the north bank of the Borle Brook was used by a tramway which predated the colliery railway. This can be followed from SO 726836 to SO 753817, a distance of 2 miles (including ½ mile on the B4555). The local website,, provides the following historical details: ‘At the end of the 18th century, coal mines and a blast furnace were opened in the nearby parish of Billingsley. The coal and iron were brought alongside the Borle Brook through Highley by a horse-worked tramway to the River Severn where they were sent downstream in boats. This tramway worked for no more than 15 years, but its route can still largely be traced as a footpath alongside the Borle Brook, running via shallow embankments and cuttings.’ (Derek Richards)

March 2013. The Daily Mail. Could this be a bandwagon we are witnessing here?!? (See the next two stories below.) On Thursday 28th March, The Daily Mail published this interesting re-assessment of Dr. Richard Beeching, whose infamous 1963 report – The Reshaping of British Railways – gave us so many empty trackbeds to re-use. (Justin Cottrell)

March 2013. The Guardian. On Friday 22nd March, The Guardian published an excellent article on the soon-to-be-opened Two Tunnels route, which will re-use the old Somerset & Dorset Railway south of Bath (click here). The route will be opened officially on Saturday 6th April. (Matt Skidmore)

March 2013. The Independent. It is not often that we can promote a newspaper, but on Wednesday 27th March, the Independent published an article by Tina Ediss which looked at the consequences of the Beeching closures from the point of view of the leisure opportunities afforded by the re-development of some of the old railways which the good doctor had no use for. The timing, of course, owes everything to the fact that 2013 is the 50th anniversary of the publication of Dr. Richard Beeching’s now infamous report, ‘The Reshaping of British Railways’. Tina’s article, which can be read online by clicking the link here (or here if the link no longer works), gives a plug to some good railway paths. (Jeff Vinter)

March 2013. ‘Back on Track’, National Railway Museum, York. On Wednesday 27th March 2013, from 6:30 to 8:00 pm, the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) is holding a lecture and panel discussion at the NRM which will look at the impact the Beeching cuts had on communities up and down the country, and how communities are developing the services they kept, or re-opening routes that were lost. Attendance is free but prior booking is required – click here for further details. The Webmaster apologises for not promoting the previous event held in London on 11th March; this was overlooked due to pressure of work. (Susan Dye, CBT)

March 2013. Edinburgh Waverley to Tweedbank (City of Edinburgh, Midlothian and Scottish Borders). 30 miles of new – or rather reinstated – railway between Edinburgh and Tweedbank are due to open in summer 2015. (Click here for further details.) This major project costing £294 million will lead to the closure of a number of local rail trails which re-used parts of the formerly abandoned trackbed, but the project will construct new cycle routes to replace those which are lost. The new trails will not be quite so pleasant as the old rail trails, but their design objectives are to connect communities not only with each other, but also with their soon to be re-opened stations. Currently, a half-hourly rail service is planned, and all station car parking along the line will be free to encourage commuters to use rail in preference to road. (John Palmer and staff at Sustrans Ltd)

March 2013. Bartonsham to Rotherwas Industrial Estate, Hereford. Further to our story in November 2012, the new multi use trail on the south east side of Hereford from Bartonsham to Rotherwas has now appeared on Facebook (click here); when complete, the route will string together some otherwise isolated bits of old railway and give them a new lease of life. This Connect 2 project – partly funded by The People’s £50 Million (remember that?) – includes some very impressive engineering, the principal feature of which will be a new suspension bridge over the River Wye. A commentator on Facebook describes the cost of that as £70K, but we would expect it to cost at least 4 times that. (Tim Chant)

March 2013. Stalbridge to Sturminster Newton, Dorset. More good news about the revival of the old Somerset & Dorset Railway as the North Dorset Trailway! Hot on the heels of the announcement of the official opening of the new section from Stourpaine to Blandford Forum on Sunday 19th May (see below) comes this item from the latest newsletter of the Trailway Network, the supporters’ group: ‘Just when everyone thought that was enough and there is no money for anything, we met North Dorset District Councillors and Dorset County Councillors on 19th February to talk about the next stage of Trailway development. The Town Councillors, District Councillors and County Councillors were agreed that the link between Sturminster Newton and Stalbridge is the next most important section of the Trailway to work on. It is always a long, slow operation achieving the next major link but each bit creates its own momentum and gradually the Trailway expands. People are so enthusiastic about it; money is not always the most difficult hurdle. As you can image people south of Blandford are also keen to see their end of the Trailway reach Poole; that also has to be encouraged, negotiated and financed.’ (Lesley Gasson, The Trailway Network)

March 2013. Corringham to Thames Haven, Essex. The 8th March edition of the Thurrock Gazette carried a story entitled ‘MP gets walking to back railway bid’, although – rather than being an actual railway – his efforts were to support a new railway path project. The subject is the Corringham Light Railway from Corringham to near Thames Haven, which operated as an independent railway from 1901 to 1952 before being absorbed into the Mobil Oil company on 20 September 1971. According to the newspaper, the objective is to ‘transform the old railway line into a free heritage walk and cycle track, allowing visitors to make the most of the historic pathway and to preserve an important part of local history.’ The biggest problem is that the railway currently forms part of the land owned by the Coryton Oil Refinery and therefore ‘falls under PricewaterhouseCoopers’ administration package, meaning the future ownership of the land is uncertain.’ Stephen Metcalfe, the MP for East Thurrock, commented: ‘The Corringham Light Railway has [the] potential to be a great feature of Thurrock and if the practical problem of land ownership under PwC can be overcome, I see no reason why the old trackbed cannot have a future as part of our industrial heritage.’ (David White)

March 2013. Tavistock to Bere Alston, Devon. Next year, 46 years after this part of the LSWR’s main line from Exeter to Plymouth via Okehampton was closed, Tavistock is due to get its trains back. The original line was double track, but only one set of rails is to be relaid, with the unoccupied space reserved for a multi-use trail; see our earlier report from May 2012. The re-opening will make Bere Alston a junction once again, although initial timetable drafts showed no ‘splitters’, i.e. trains that divide en route. Instead, it looks likely that trains from Plymouth to Gunnislake will continue to call at all or most stations, as they do currently, with a fast service operating from Plymouth to Tavistock. Both services will call at Bere Alston, which makes that village a clear winner in terms of service frequency. (Campaign for Better Transport) Update: Summer 2014 came and went without the line to Tavistock re-opening, but in September 2014 the housing project on which the reinstated railway depends received planning permission; click here for further details. (Jeff Vinter)

Above: Shute Shelve Tunnel on the ex-GWR line from Yatton to Cheddar is of interesting construction, being unlined at the south end but brick-lined at the north end. The difference is betrayed by the portals, both of which are clearly visible in the photograph above. The tunnel has just had a bit of a tidy-up, as reported in the story below. In passing, this photograph illustrates why it is best to photograph this structure on a cloudy rather than a sunny day – bright sunshine makes it particularly difficult to obtain a shot which does not have parts either bleached out or cloaked in Stygian gloom! 1st April 2012. (Jeff Vinter)

March 2013. Yatton to Cheddar, Somerset. On 1st March, The Western Daily Press reported that North Somerset Council had re-opened Shute Shelve Tunnel, near Winscombe, following a week-long closure to remove loose rock, trees and vegetation that might obstruct the railway path or present a hazard to its users. However, in exceptionally cold weather, the tunnel still has to be closed due to the icicles which form, and sometimes fall, from its roof. (Tim Chant)

March 2013. Porth Penrhyn, Bangor, to Bethesda and Llyn Ogwen, Gwynedd. This 4 mile rail trails, part of an 11 mile cycle route known as Lôn Las Ogwen, currently uses much of the Penrhyn Railway, which opened in 1801 to transport slate from Lord Penrhyn’s slate quarries at Bethesda to Port Penrhyn near Bangor. The modern trail can be picked up near Bangor at SH 592725 and has long provided a traffic-free route to SH 607681 on the northern edge of Tregarth. Gwynedd CC is now increasing the railway content of the route by another 1¼ miles by extending the trail through the old railway tunnel at Tregarth (SH 608681 to SH 610679), after which it will pass Bryn Bella crossroads and run on the west side of the A5 to ca. SH 618669 near Bethesda rugby ground, remaining on the old trackbed throughout. Gwynedd CC’s ‘Habitats & Vegetation Survey’ makes it clear that the 279 yard tunnel at Tregarth will be opened up, although this will require lighting due to its length and the fact that it is on a curve; the lighting will have to be environmentally sensitive since the tunnel has become a bat roost since it was last used in 1962, although only one bat was found in residence at the time of the survey! Work on the extension is underway at present, although no opening date is known yet. When complete, this will make virtually the entire length of the Penrhyn Railway accessible to walkers and cyclists, although the continuation of the trail to Llyn Ogwen is via quiet lanes and off-road tracks. (Huw Davies and Jeff Vinter)

March 2013. Damage to Railway Paths, Nationwide. No visitors to this website will need reminding that the weather in 2012 was the second wettest in the UK since records began; according to the Met Office, the only wetter year was 2001. It will come as no surprise, therefore, to learn that the weather has done a great deal of damage to Sustrans’ railway paths around the UK, such that the charity has launched an appeal to raise funds so that the most serious damage can be put right before spring gets underway and use of the trails starts to climb again. Just to take one example, in west Devon, an entire tree fell into the River Plym and then floated downstream until it delivered an almighty blow to one of the bridges on the Plym Valley route, now re-branded as Drake’s Trail and extending all the way from Tavistock to Plymouth – largely via the old GWR railway line. Damage of equal severity has been inflicted on routes around the UK, including scour damage around bridge and viaduct piers, path foundations being undermined by floods, and whole sections of paths being washed away, as has happened with the C2C route near Consett. If you feel that you can make a contribution to the very worthwhile and important work of making good all of this ‘meteorological mischief’, please do so. (Huw Davies)

February 2013. Hockley Viaduct, Hampshire. The BBC local news reported on the morning of Tuesday 26th February that Hockley Viaduct was opening that day for walkers and cyclists, thus beating the estimated opening date of April 2013 by over a month. It is not known yet whether the associated railway path along the trackbed from Hockley to the Chesil area of Winchester is complete, but that too was a part of the overall restoration package. (Tim Chant) Update: Our Southern Area coordinator, Graham Lambert, visited the viaduct five days later – click here for his report.

Above: Recent work on the North Dorset Trailway. This substantial bridge south of Stourpaine – almost a small tunnel – used to carry the Somerset & Dorset Railway underneath the busy A350. After closure, the bridge and its approach cutting were infilled, and getting it to look this this has taken Dorset County Council a lot of time and effort. We have been informed that the University of Bournemouth recently conducted a survey of the benefits of the Trailway, which is said to be generating 80,000 journeys per year. That is very good considering that the route is not yet complete and the longest sections are only 5-6 miles. The new section seen here will supply an important ‘missing link’ so that users can travel for some 13 miles between Sturminster Newton and Spetisbury via Blandford Forum, almost entirely on the old trackbed. The demolition of the substantial railway viaduct across Blandford means that a ground-based link across the town will have to be established, but there are good options for that already. 2nd March 2013. (Mike Rutter)

February 2013. Stourpaine to Blandford Forum, Dorset. This section of the North Dorset Trailway (based on the former Somerset & Dorset Railway) will now open officially on Sunday 19th May. Last autumn, it had been hoped to complete the works earlier than this, but there have been many problems to overcome, not least of which has been the weather – 2012 has gone down as the second wettest year on record. Also, the Trailway between Stourpaine and Blandford will be 4 metres wide instead of the usual 2½ metres because the horse riders want a different surface from the cyclists, and Sustrans has decided to accommodate both. This has had a knock-on effect on the fencing, the clearance work and the surfacing, so all has taken longer than expected. (Lesley Gasson, The Trailway Network)

Above: In watery sunshine, train 6Z17 from Tunstead, Derbyshire, works a cement train into Lafarge’s works at Moorswater in Cornwall on Thursday 14th February, thus demonstrating that the branch has not closed despite the ‘last train’ operated by Freightliner on 3rd January this year. (Peter Murnaghan)

February 2013. Coombe Junction to Moorswater, Cornwall. Further to our article in January, and to paraphrase Mark Twain, ‘Reports of the last train to Moorswater are greatly exaggerated’! Our correspondent’s report was written in good faith and recorded correctly the last operation of the train by Freightliner Heavy Haul but, unbeknown to us at the time, a new contract was being agreed with DB Schenker for an alternative service from the Tunstead cement works. (These details have been confirmed with the manager of Lafarge at Moorswater.) The photograph above demonstrates that this little Cornish branch is still alive and well. (Peter Murnaghan)

February 2013. Carlisle, Cumbria. Back in March 2010, we reported that Cycle Carlisle (a campaign group for cycling in Carlisle) had drawn up a petition to ask both Carlisle City and Cumbria County Council to purchase and restore the Waverley Viaduct to secure its future as a walking route, and to open it up to cycling for the first time. Three years on, the prospects of this happening do not look good. British Rail Board (Residuary), which is responsible for the Grade II-listed structure and put up fences in 2009 as a ‘temporary measure’ to stop vandalism, applied in 2011 to keep them in place for another three years. The City Council granted an extension of one year only, but BRPB has just submitted another application for a three year extension. In 2010, more than 2,400 people signed a petition calling for the viaduct to be opened, while there have been 36 objections to BRPB’s latest application – including one from the Ramblers’ Association. Ideally, BRBR would like to pass responsibility for the viaduct on to another agency, but no-one is offering, even with the promise of a dowry. Additionally, the landowner on the northern bank has made it clear that he will not allow users of the viaduct to cross his land in order to reach a public footpath on the other side, and, without that, opening the viaduct to the public would be a hollow victory. (David White)

February 2013. Daventry, Northamptonshire. Another railway path that is new to us is that within Daventry. It uses part of the ex-LNWR line from Weedon to Marton Junction, near Warwick, and runs from SP 576629 to SP 565643, a distance of just under a mile. On 29th January, the Daventry Express announced that Daventry District Council now plans to extend the trail 335 metres north to SP 560648, where it will meet a bridleway from Middlemore Farm to Drayton Fields Industrial Estate (which also seems to be known as Heartlands Business Park). The motivation for the plan is probably to improve access to an area of the town where many people work – it is never a bad idea to offer safe walking and cycling routes for employees who live locally. According to the Daventry Express, ‘Councillor Chris Over, DDC’s economic, regeneration and employment portfolio holder said: “It’s been part of ours and the County Council’s strategy for some time to create a new path on the disused railway line to create a link to the Middlemore estate from the town centre. While that stretch is unofficially used as a footpath at the moment the ground is very rough and overgrown. If the proposed footpath extension is approved it will not only improve access to Middlemore, it will also boost our green agenda by encouraging people to walk and cycle rather than drive into Daventry.”‘ This is good news, but there’s plenty more of the old LNWR north and south of Daventry as well! (David White)

Above: The overbridge on Ninfield Road, Sidley, which crosses the disused railway line from Bexhill West to Crowhurst. As can be seen, the trackbed level has been raised in order to accommodate a motorcycle training school, which will have to move elsewhere when the new Bexhill to Hastings Link Road comes through (see story below). It is obvious not only that the ground level in the foreground will have to be lowered, but also that the bridge will have to be replaced with a much wider, arch-free structure in order to accommodate the width of the new road and provide sufficient clearance for modern traffic. 16th February 2008. (Bill Johnson, used under the terms of the Geograph Creative Commons Licence)

January 2013. Crowhurst to Bexhill West, East Sussex. Another part of the Bexhill West branch, which closed to passengers on 15th June 1964, is set to disappear. The ‘culprit’ this time is the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road, of which East Sussex County Council’s website says this: ‘At 5.6km long and starting at the A259 in Bexhill, it will run along the line of the disused Bexhill to Crowhurst railway line and then pass around the northern side of the Combe Haven Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Crossing Crowhurst Road and the Hastings to London railway line, it goes round the southern edge of the Marline Valley Woods SSSI before joining Queensway just north of Crowhurst Road.’ At Sidley, near the southern end of the line, this spells the end for two rather fine road-over-rail bridges, which are to be replaced with concrete box structures to increase headroom. (Tim Grose)

January 2013. Cheddar to Wells, Somerset. As part of the Strawberry Line Project, Somerset County Council has now published its planning application for a new railway path from Cheddar to Haybridge, which will turn the separate Yatton-Cheddar and Haybridge-Wells rail trails into a major off-road route of some 20 miles from Yatton to Wells. The local Cheddar Valley Railway Walks Society, founded back in 1978 (the same year as Railway Ramblers), has been campaigning for this for years, so its members must be delighted at the prospect of a major extension to their Yatton-Cheddar path. The Cheddar-Haybridge section will follow an alternative route to the railway between Cheddar and the west side of Rodney Stoke, but, after that, the rest of the trail right through to Wells will be on the trackbed. SCC’s plans have been published. In passing, this news is probably a little old, for which we apologise: we have re-registered with the Strawberry Line Project, since it seems that our previous registration has been lost or deleted. (Jeff Vinter)

January 2013. London. Further to our story at the bottom of this page, the Railway Magazine has produced a nice video short about Met150 and the return of steam to the London Underground. (Rob Davidson and Jeff Vinter)

Left: This grainy old photograph of Monksdale Road railway bridge in Bath prior to its demolition by the city council in 1973 makes it obvious why the local authority wanted to remove it – it must have been a traffic bottleneck even then. Compare this with the new structure below. For further details, see story below. (James Winstanley Collection)
Above: The new, ultra sleek Monksdale Road bridge on the soon-to-be-opened Two Tunnels Trail from Bath to Midford was constructed as two separate sections which were joined together on site before being lifted into place. This and the photograph above were taken from approximately the same location: they demonstrate clearly how road layouts have been modified over the last 40 years to provide optimum visibility for motorists, which unfortunately encourages speeding and makes the roads even more dangerous for other users. 7th April 2012. (Jeff Vinter)

Above: The new bridge over Millmead Road and Dartmouth Avenue is in the same style as that over Monksdale Avenue, seen above. Our photographer took this picture on the Friday before the west country had snow – and lots of it! The surrounds to the bridge were being finished at the time, and hopefully this work was completed before the snow arrived to cause problems. 14th January 2013. (Robin Benton)

January 2013. Bath to Midford, Somerset. The official opening of the Two Tunnels Project, which will re-use the Bath to Midford section of the former Somerset & Dorset Railway, has now been set for Saturday 6th April. In the meantime, the replacement bridge over Monksdale Road (opened in April last year) now has an excellent longer twin at the Millmead Road and Dartmouth Avenue crossing, following the re-location of an inconveniently sited gas main. Sustrans has produced a nice video showing the installation of both bridges: click here for Monskdale Road (a silent film using time lapse photography), and for Millmead Road and Dartmouth Avenue (a video ‘short’ of 1 minute 51 seconds). The empowering nature of this work, and the support for it, is revealed by one local resident who said that he had a dog and three small boys, and would use the trail a lot – ‘almost daily, I expect’. (Robin Benton)
Above: The latest phase of the Ossett to Dewsbury Greenway, passing through the 179-yard Earlsheaton Tunnel, was opened officially on Wednesday 16th January for foot and cycle traffic (see story below). Representatives from Kirklees Council, Sustrans and Yorkshire’s cycling fraternity were amongst those on hand to see Councillor David Ridgway, the Mayor of Kirklees, cut the ribbon, ably assisted by a party of local schoolchildren. The route, which is a little over half-a-mile long, connects the Sands Lane to Savile Town path – which crosses Headfield Viaduct (well worth a visit in its own right) – with Station Road at Earlsheaton. Work will soon start on the Greenway’s missing link, joining the new section with another that currently ends at the Wakefield Council border. 16th January 2013. (Graeme Bickerdike)

January 2013. Dewsbury to Savile Town, West Yorkshire. Earlsheaton Tunnel on the former Great Northern line from Headfield Junction to Dewsbury South Junction received its official opening as part of a new local greenway on Wednesday 16th January. Click here and here for the related publicity materials. Two members of Railway Ramblers’ Yorkshire Area group represented the club: they advised us that the club’s grant of £2,000 had not been spent on this phase of the project, but would be used on a later phase to extend the path along the GNR trackbed towards Dewsbury Central station. (Lynnette Evans and Peter Martin). Note: Peter Martin submitted a fine selection of pictures of the opening.

January 2012. Frome to Great Elm, Somerset. The campaign to create a safe off-road route between Frome and Great Elm, where NCN24 leaves the old Frome-Radstock trackbed for a less than ideal road-based route into Frome town centre, continues to make progress. The campaign group, Frome’s Missing Link, has just published the following report: ‘Mendip District Council has given conditional planning consent and landowner support for the path from Welshmill to Low Water. However there are still obstacles to be overcome. Local developers and some landowners have been very generous in providing enough land to get the path through but we are still awaiting formal agreement from Network Rail to allow us to use a strip of land they own. Natural England is encouraging the Missing Link group to apply for grant funding. This is subject to their own and European Union rules, and needs match funding which can be provided by the value of the work done by our Chain Gang volunteers. The grant is paid out after completion of the work. Here the Town Council has been brilliant agreeing to provide up-front funding. A grant would enable us to build a much better and longer path more quickly than the £10,000 participatory grant also generously provided by Frome Town Council.’ Despite this good news, difficulties still remain in relation to a diversion order required for a public footpath, where a single objection could trigger a costly public enquiry. (Frome’s Missing Link)

Above: The last freight train to Moorswater in Cornwall, in the charge of Freightliner locomotive 66618, waits north of Coombe Junction Halt to accept the single line token for the last run up the incline. Moorswater Viaduct on the main line through Liskeard is framed by the railway bridge in the foreground, which adjoins an earlier bridge over the old Liskeard & Looe Union Canal. This canal conveyed minerals from Caradon Hill (on Bodmin Moor) to Looe Harbour before the Liskeard & Caradon Railway was opened in 1846. For further details, see story below. 3rd January 2013. (Peter Murnaghan)

January 2013. Coombe Junction to Moorswater, Cornwall. The last freight train to Moorswater, near Liskeard in Cornwall, ran on 3rd January this year, and our correspondent was there to witness the occasion. The loss of this short freight line (effectively a spur off the Liskeard to Looe branch line) creates the opportunity for another short rail trail in Cornwall – but will the local authorities be able to act in these tough economic times? For further details, click here. (Peter Murnaghan)

Update. On 10th February, another correspondent advised us that freight trains are still running to Moorswater. A service ran on Monday 4th February, with the next arriving on Thursday 14th February under train code 6Z17. For the latest situation, click this link for our February update. (Richard Cook)

January 2013. Hockley to Winchester, Hampshire. An article published recently by Winchester City Council makes it clear that the project to restore Hockley Viaduct and convert the trackbed of the former Didcot, Newbury & Southampton Railway south of Winchester into a multi-use trail is progressing well. The viaduct now boasts a new signal, provided by the friends of Hockley Viaduct, while the entire project is expected to be complete some time in February. Earlier reports indicated that the official opening was to take place in April. (Peter Murnaghan)

January 2013. West Auckland to Barnard Castle, County Durham. The Teesdale Mercury reported recently that plans to create a walkway on the old railway line between West Auckland and Barnard Castle could be ‘back on track’. The Mercury’s report explained: ‘The scheme, called the South West Durham Heritage Corridor, was dropped in 2010 due to funding problems and the expected high cost of maintaining the public route. But now the team behind the project, which was co-ordinated by regeneration charity Groundworks and Durham County Council, is being put back together.’ Local councillors recognise that the route would be good for tourism, and the one section that was constructed before the axe fell – between Bishop Auckland and Spring Gardens – is being well used. Councillor Tony Cooke said that the £6,000 per kilometre cost of maintaining the trail was seen as extortionate. We think that the newspaper has got this wrong: £6,000 per kilometre is probably the construction cost rather than the annual maintenance cost, and that matches the £10,000 per mile which Sustrans spends on constructing a high quality, all weather route. When complete, the trail will link Bishop Auckland with Barnard Castle via Haggerleases, allowing people to discover relics of the railway such as bridges, abutments and Langleydale Viaduct. (David White)

January 2013. Loddiswell, Devon. The beautifully preserved Loddiswell station on the former GWR branch line from South Brent to Kingsbridge is currently on the market with an asking price of £850,000. The estate agents are Marchant Petit (tel. 01548 857588), and their blurb describes the property thus: ‘A railway conversion in landscaped gardens with a mile of salmon and trout fishing on the River Avon. It retains the original station canopy and the two-storey signal box houses an indoor pool and cinema. 5 beds, 3 baths, recep, 3 acres.’ (Richard Lewis)

January 2013. Wheal Maria to Morwelham Quay, Devon. The ever enterprising Devon County Council has recently opened most of the Devon Great Consols Mineral Railway system as a new network of multi-use trails. The network is accessible from a fee-paying car park at Bedford Sawmills, which is located on the A390 between Tavistock and Gunnislake. It looks as if the network covers about 5 miles of new route, with some sections opened as recently as June 2011. Unfortunately, the website which promotes all this ( has a corrupt version of the promotional PDF file on its server, but the same brochure is also accessible here. We have, of course, advised the Tamar Valley organisation of the problem. Bedford Sawmills are about 1½ miles north east of Gunnislake station at the north end of the Tamar valley branch, although care is needed on the busy A390. (Jeff Vinter)

January 2013. London. Continuing the steam theme introduced at the head of this page, 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the opening of London’s Metropolitan Railway, and a number of celebratory steam specials are planned to mark the occasion. This link to the Mail Online gives an account of a steam trial on Saturday 15th December 2012. Who’d have thought it? As the Mail’s reporter said: ‘This is no 1930s fantasy. It’s Baker Street station – and it’s all happening in the here and now.’ The steam specials are coming on Sundays 13th and 20th January. Unfortunately for would-be travellers, the ballot for tickets is now closed but, if you missed this event, steam is back on the Met on 25th to 27th May. (Rob Davidson)

Feature Articles

Above: It is obvious that the mines around North Molton in Devon have attracted a lot of interest, for other transport enthusiasts and industrial archaeologists have been there before us. This photograph shows a ‘horizontal duplex steam winch by Clarke, Chapman & Co Ltd of Gateshead. This is believed to have been installed ca. 1918 and is in situ but derelict. The slide valve cylinders are ca. ” x 8″ and the geared drum is ca. 14″ diameter.’ 1st January 1998. Photograph and caption by Chris Allen, and reproduced under the terms of this creative commons licence.

Since websites come and go, and specific web pages may be moved, we quote below – in full – the material that we have found on the New Florence Mine Tramway and the associated Crowbarn Mine Tramway. The sources are quoted at the foot of each entry.

The New Florence Mine Tramway

The New Florence Mine Tramway was constructed to connect the New Florence Iron Mine (see SS 73 SE 15) with South Molton. It conveyed iron ore from the mine to the main railway line. Its overall length was some 5.5kms (extending from SS 7460 3326 to SS 7300 2720).

The current investigation, as part of RCHME’s West Exmoor Project, only includes the extreme northern end of the tramway, from the New Florence Mine site to the Exmoor National Park boundary.

The tramway best survives at its junction with the Crowbarn Mine Tramway (see SS 73 SW 21), where it is a sharply defined, flat-topped embankment 0.9m high. North of Brinsworthy Bridge it has been disturbed and eroded in places by the erratic course of the un-named stream. At several places it crosses and re-crosses this stream, and here attempts have been made to confine the stream with short sections of roughly coursed walling. In addition, lengths of tram rails still in place have been used as the basis for a makeshift bridge to carry the tramway over the stream at SS 7493 3173. Further north-east up the valley the course of the tramway is impossible to follow in places.

At SS 7527 3205 are the remains of a loading bay fronting the tramway and adjacent to other structures associated with the New Florence Iron Mine. In addition the Ordnance Survey 1st edition 25″ mapping of 1888 depicts several sidings leading off the main tramway; there is no field evidence for these. The main line continued for some 200m north-east of the centre of the complex, and ended alongside a massive spoil heap issuing from one on the principal adits. (1)

Citation (1): Field Investigator’s Comments: Wilson-North, W.R., 20th April 1993, RCHME Field Investigation.

Source: (an English Heritage website – click on the link for ‘More Information and Sources’)

We have not been able to find any information specifically about the Crowbarn Mine Tramway, but the University of Exeter has published some brief details of Crowbarn Mine on its Mining History Information pages. It is interesting to see that the ores found here included gold, which is currently being mined in the Crediton area to the south east. Local resident Fred Harding has produced an interesting website about North Molton gold, past and present.

Crowbarn Mine

Site Identification Number – 117
North Molton Parish, Devon
National Grid Reference: SS 738318

Open workings and adits on west side of Mole Valley south of Heasley Mill. Early working for iron; opened up for gold in 1853 as South Poltimore but abandoned with collapse of Poltimore and Britannia mines. Reworked for iron and manganese from 1873 as part of enlarged Bampfylde sett until about 1884. Served by branch of the Florence Mine tramway. For brief details of iron and copper mining in this parish see Atkinson 1997, pp. 37-9 and 42-55 respectively.

Note – the author’s view of copper/gold mining development in this parish is not in agreement with that expressed by Dixon in Atkinson 1997. See Claughton Jan 1997 for areas of disagreement.

Atkinson, Michael. (ed.) Exmoor’s Industrial Archaeology, 1997.

Peter Claughton / Dept. of Economic and Social History
Last modified 13 May 1998

Source: (a University of Exeter website)

Report compiled by Jeff Vinter

Above: With its 33 spans, Hockley Viaduct south of Winchester is not an easy structure to photograph, but our correspondent did a good job by climbing up to the one vantage point in the area which provides a chance of capturing the whole thing, especially in late winter when the trees are still bare. The newly installed semaphore signal stands out particularly clearly. 3rd March 2013. (Graham Lambert)

Following Tim Chant’s report of the opening of Hockley Viaduct on 26th February, I visited it today (3rd March) and cycled along the extended NCN23 from the site of Winchester Chesil station on the former DNSR to the restored viaduct and back. The new tarmac cycle path takes over from the old footpath just past the industrial site near the former goods shed via a new ‘cycle friendly’ double slope, nicely finished with used sleepers, and continues between the former track bed and the canalised River Itchen towards the viaduct. It passes under the former trackbed and back again to pass the car park at the bottom of St Catherine’s Hill, access to the latter having benefitted from a recently upgraded path on wooden steps. The cycle path gains access to the former trackbed a couple of hundred yards before passing over Hockley Viaduct, which has been beautifully restored by cleaning and re-pointing the brickwork, fitting new blue capping stones along the full length on both sides of the structure, and lowering the brickwork in two places and inserting stainless steel bars to enable the River Itchen and the distant city of Winchester to be viewed, which was not previously possible unless travelling by train! The final touch is a home semaphore signal, permanently ‘off’.

Above: The view over the water meadows of the River Itchen from one of the newly lowered sections of parapet. The lighting on this bitterly cold and overcast day did not do the view any favours, but a couple of the club’s walk leaders have planned a return visit in early May when, hopefully, the weather will be more kind. 3rd March 2013. (Graham Lambert)

Above: Our intrepid reporter, seen here with his trusty folding bike, demonstrates why the restoration team decided to lower the parapets in two places to provide views from the restored viaduct. 3rd March 2013. (Graham Lambert)

Hockley Viaduct is a very lucky survivor. Back in the 1980s, army engineers offered to demolish it free of charge it for Winchester City Council as a training exercise; Railway Ramblers joined the opposition, thus making the preservation of this structure one of the club’s earliest campaigns. (Smardale Gill Viaduct in Cumbria was another early campaign.) Following the army’s threat to the viaduct, Dr. Edwin Course and a team of industrial archaeologists from the University of Southampton took core samples from the piers and found that, rather than being rubble-filled, they were made from concrete. This was a significant discovery, for it revealed Hockley as being one of the earliest concrete viaducts in the UK, predating those built by McAlpine’s on the West Highland line in Scotland by several years. Thirty years on, it is great to see this historic structure once again serving a useful purpose.

Report by Graham Lambert

Above: The last train to Moorswater, hauled by Freightliner locomotive 66618, about to pass the platform of the former Moorswater station, which was originally the nearest ‘railhead’ to Liskeard before the main line came through and later, in 1901, the incline was opened from Liskeard station to Coombe Junction. 3rd January 2013. (Peter Murnaghan)

Thursday 3rd January 2013 was a sad day in the life of Moorswater, a location with so much history. For on that day, the last freight train ran to Moorswater. The train arrived mid-morning with twenty wagons of cement from Derbyshire, which were unloaded and returned empty to Westbury in the afternoon. This followed the established pattern of an occasional train which has run up the branch line once every few weeks.

A change of ownership of the Hope cement works in Derbyshire has brought about the cessation of this flow of rail traffic to Moorswater. It is understood that cement traffic will now arrive at Moorswater by road instead. This location has been a hive of activity since long before the arrival of the railway, when packhorses brought down minerals and stone from Bodmin Moor. In 1846, the Liskeard & Caradon Railway opened for horse drawn (or gravity worked downhill) trains from the granite quarries and copper mines on Caradon Hill. The cargo was transferred from wagons at Moorswater to barges on the Liskeard & Looe Union Canal for onward shipment from Looe harbour. Moorswater at the time reverberated with much industry, with several lime kilns and a granite dressing plant, as well as the canal basin. In 1860, the Liskeard & Looe Railway opened alongside the canal to provide much needed extra capacity for the mineral traffic, during those busy days of mining at Caradon. This meant that through trains could run down to Looe and locomotives replaced the horses, being accompanied by more substantial permanent way on the original section, an example being the level crossing at Woodhill being replaced by the overbridge that remains to the present day.

The system remained isolated from the Great Western Railway that soared overhead on the 147ft high Moorswater Viaduct. It was only in 1901, when the two mile circular line was built from Coombe Junction up to Liskeard station at a gradient of 1 in 40, that the line became linked with the rest of the network. Just after the outbreak of the Great War, pumping and underground development ceased at Phoenix United Mine and the admittedly light coal and minerals traffic to the siding there was lost. With the war going badly for the Allies in 1916, and the home railways under Government control, a number of lightly-used stretches of line were lifted temporarily and the materials thus reclaimed were redeployed for a redoubled War Effort. The Caradon branch line, from a few chains north of Moorswater Engine Shed through to Cheesewring Quarry, Sharptor and Minions Goods depots, and Phoenix United Siding, was one such.

Recent research for the Heritage Lottery funded Caradon Hill Area Heritage Project has revealed that this was not the end of the story of the Caradon Branch line, however, with evidence beginning to emerge of a partial relaying of some track. Traffic to and from the China Clay dries, opened at Moorswater in the early 1900s, kept a fragment of the Caradon line from the site of the Moorswater Canal Basin to what became Coombe Junction occupied and, in recent years, this facility has changed its operation again to a receiving station for cement from Derbyshire. Sadly, this last rail link with Moorswater has now come to an end.

Left: A scene that will not be witnessed again – the cement wagons being shunted into the terminal siding at Moorswater. (Peter Murnaghan)

Above: The A4 sheet displayed in the locomotive’s left cab window was effectively the train’s headboard. (Peter Murnaghan)

Only one further train is scheduled to work this last half mile north of Coombe – a railtour special, named ‘The Hullabala-Looe’ on 10th February, organised by Pathfinder Tours.

The soon-to-be disused railway from Moorswater to Coombe Junction Halt runs parallel to the old canal, which has its own towpath. But this is narrow and the railway trackbed would make a good all-weather track, wide enough for cyclists as well as walkers.

A future project?

Report by Peter Murnaghan