News 2016

Above: This huge girder bridge – the ‘Black Path bridge’ – carries the Viaduct Cycleway, part of NCN53, over the West Coast Main Line just west of Rugby station. It leads on to a new cycle trail opened in July 2013 with connections to Newbold on Avon (via the Oxford Canal) and the Swift Valley Industrial Estate, along the way passing over the 11-arch Grade II listed Leicester Road Viaduct; hover over the image for a trackbed view across this structure. The project was financed by Sustrans, Rugby Borough Council, Warwickshire County Council and St. Modwen Properties. 16th May 2015. (Jeff Vinter)

The Churnet Valley Way, Staffordshire. Part of this popular railway path between Oakamoor and Alton (as in ‘Alton Towers’) will be closed for about six months from September until Easter 2017 to allow for a new gas main to be installed. A diversion for walkers has been arranged, and ‘The Ramblers Retreat’ tearoom in Alton will remain open for business. The old metal main is now life expired and must be replaced.

The Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy: Triumph or Disaster? The CWIS became law in March 2015 but, despite its grand name, funding for walking and cycling schemes in England was reduced in 2016 to little more than £1 per head, a reduction of about 85%. The corresponding figure in Scotland is £10 per head. Sustrans reported the problem in the spring edition of ‘The Hub’, its quarterly magazine for supporters: ‘Rather than calling for additional funding, MPs suggested a reallocation within the Department of Transport. They proposed directing a small portion of the funding allocated to the largest road building programme since the 1970s towards walking and cycling. The Minister of State for Transport, Robert Goodwill MP, responded but did not announce any new funding. Rather, he stated that trust needed to be placed at a local level – in local enterprise partnerships, local authorities and combined authorities – to understand the importance of cycling. Once again MPs and campaigners have been disappointed by the lack of government action to create a real cycle revolution as the Prime Minister promised back in 2014’. If you think, as we do, that this is not good enough, visit to support Sustrans’ campaigns, otherwise the CWIS will remain a grandly titled scheme that lacks the means to make any difference. (Webmaster) Footnote: As we approach the end of the year, nothing appears to have changed. (December 2016)

December 2016. Chichester to nr. Cocking, West Sussex. In 2015, the South Downs National Park Authority opened an extension to ‘Centurion Way’, based on the former Chichester-Midhurst railway line, from its long established end point at Lavant north to West Dean. This was Phase 1 of a much larger development plan, but what is surprising is the speed at which SDNPA is moving the project forward. On 27th July this year, details of Phase 2 were published, which will take the trail further north along the trackbed to join the South Downs Way long distance path just south of Cocking, where it crosses the former railway and parallel A286 road. The work was scheduled to start in November 2016 with completion expected in November 2018. Tunnel explorers will be delighted to hear that the extension will pass through West Dean Tunnel, although not Singleton or Cocking Tunnels which are SAC- and SSSI-designated. Phase 2 will add a further 3¼ miles to Centurion Way and, when the link with the South Downs Way is established, should increase its use hugely by providing a feeder route to and from Chichester. Similarly, those living in the Chichester area will be able to reach both Winchester and Eastbourne (and all points between) via an almost entirely traffic-free route. Phase 3 of the development will cover the section from the South Downs Way to Midhurst. (Jeff Vinter)

December 2016. Mangotsfield to Yate, Gloucestershire. The rail trail that heads north from Mangotsfield on the ever popular Bristol and Bath Railway Path has come to a stop for several years near Pucklechurch, but plans to complete the route through to Yate are to go on display to the public in the New Year. Aaron Sims of the Gloucestershire Gazette reports: ‘The proposals from South Gloucestershire Council aim to provide a continuous off carriageway route for commuting, leisure and recreation, linking Yate with the Ring Road cycle path and the Bristol and Bath Railway Path. The consultation will focus on the Nibley Lane crossing and Shire Way sections of the path. Subject to funding, the work on the Nibley Lane crossing and railway viaduct on Westerleigh Road near Shire Way is expected to start in summer next year, with the work on Shire Way, between Westerleigh Road and Rodford Way, expected to start in the autumn.’ (Tim Chant)

December 2016. Usk to Little Mill Junction (nr. Pontypool), Monmouthshire. Further to our report in June 2015, we have just learned that – on 3rd February this year – Monmouthshire County Council’s cabinet approved the funding application for this new rail trail and awarded the project £28,100. The local newspaper reported: ‘The funding will go towards establishing the section of the cycleway between the sawmill site at Little Mill and Rumble Street in Monkswood village. [The] works will be carried out by community group Usk Trail Access Group (UTAG) and its members.’ The money has been provided by the company re-developing the old sawmill site, presumably as a Section 106 grant (by them) to mitigate the effects of the new homes etc. which they will be constructing. (Tim Chant)

December 2016. Cirencester, Gloucestershire. The old Cirencester Town railway station, which is Grade II listed and owned by Cotswold District Council, may become a transport hub again, but for local buses. A group called ‘Cirencester Action on Buses’ (CAB) has pointed out, quite rightly, that the current facilities on South Way near the Forum Car Park are poor and do not even provide a basic shelter for waiting passengers to shelter from the rain. A CAB respresentative, speaking after the organisation’s plans had been submitted, explained: ‘We believe that this is the only solution which fully meets the needs and comfort of the travelling public.’ CAB has the support of Cirencester MP, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, who described himself as ‘appalled’ by the current facilities. Unfortunately, Cirencester is not the only town where bus users are provided with second rate facilities. (Tim Chant)

December 2016. Tetbury to Kemble, Gloucestershire. The length of the short railway path from Tetbury station site was doubled in late November, thanks to local farmer Mr. M. Tucker agreeing to divert a footpath across his fields on to the section of old railway which he owns. The path starts from the town station (grid reference ST 893932), as it has done for the last 16 years, but now it continues to Newnton Hill (the name of a road) at ST 909947 just before its junction with the A433, the Tetbury-Cirencester road. The extension increases the rail trail to 1½ miles, and it is open already. (Keith Holliday)

November 2016. Nr. Letham Bridge to Kilknockiebank, Tayside (Perth & Kinross). The locations in the title to this piece will be unfamiliar to railway people, so it will help to explain that this is part of the former NBR’s ‘Farg Line’ from Bridge of Earn (south of Perth) to Cowdenbeath via Glen Farg, where the summit and a station were located. Despite the line being double track, well engineered and the shortest route from Perth to Edinburgh, it was closed in 1970 to permit parts of the M90 to be built over it; Glen Farg station was one of the casualties and lies buried beneath the tarmac. Our correspondent takes up the story: ‘A recent RR Scotland walk uncovered a hidden gem in south eastern Perth & Kinross. It isn’t often in this safety-obsessed age that you can walk through significant tunnels (except on extensively restored cycleways) but a section of the former Bridge of Earn to Cowdenbeath line has not one but two walkable tunnels and two fine viaducts, all on a 4 kilometre (2½ miles) stretch of trackbed sandwiched between two sections lost to motorway construction. It appears to be in regular use as a vehicle track; the tunnels are dry and the surface gives easy walking. Access points are at grid references NO 148126 and NO 153149, though it is possible to proceed further at either end without a proper track, as far as the points where the trackbed has been obliterated by the M90. The main hazard may well be meeting vehicles in the tunnels; on our walk we had just left the northern access and were enjoying lunch nearby when a convoy comprising a tractor and trailer followed by no fewer than six 4x4s turned off the minor road and headed along the trackbed we had just left! Also, I’m not sure how the Scottish Access Code relates to tunnels, though there is no evidence that walkers are unwelcome here.’ (Keith Potter)

November 2016. Swanage, Dorset. One of the locations to take a beating during Storm Angus, which ravaged the west country overnight on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th November, was the promenade at Swanage. This includes the rails of the Swanage Pier Tramway, retained as a feature, but parts of the promenade have been washed away leaving the old rails exposed and at risk of further damage by the sea. (Jeff Vinter)

November 2016. Shildon Station to West Auckland and Etherley, County Durham. Much remains of the Stockton & Darlington Railway’s branch from Shildon to Etherley, where Witton Park Colliery near modern Phoenix Row (NZ 167292) generated plenty of freight traffic. The line has been on English Heritage’s ‘At Risk’ register for some time, but Durham Council and the Brusselton Incline Group are now working to get the route and its artefacts into good condition for the 200th anniversary of the S&D’s opening in 2025. Recent work has focussed on an underbridge, which has been stripped of vegetation and repaired so that it now looks almost new. A recent report on the project stated, ‘The rescue of this section of the innovative Stockton & Darlington Railway remains a long-term project but good progress has been made this year. Much remains to be done as vandalism and neglect continue to take their toll on this important piece of our industrial heritage.’ Most of the route has been absorbed into the local right of way network and is open to walkers. (Tim Chant)

November 2016. Plymouth, Devon. Further to our reports in June and August, we can now report that Plymouth City Council has already started work on extending the new cycle trail that comes off the recently refurbished Laira Bridge. Councillor Patrick Nicholson (Deputy Leader) remarked: ‘The Laira Rail Bridge link has been really popular and we’re pleased to be extending the route further – providing a safer, off-road option for walkers and cyclists, as well as people who use wheelchairs or mobility scooters.’ The work is expected to be complete by Easter 2017. (Tim Chant)

November 2016. Llanelli, Dyfed (Carmarthenshire). It is not part of any railway path, but readers may be pleased to learn that the old GWR goods shed at Llanelli is set for a new lease of life. The Llanelli Railway Goods Shed Trust has submitted an application to Carmarthenshire Council’s planning department for repairs and restoration that will see the building – along with the associated offices and former railway sidings – developed as a new community centre for the town. (Tim Chant)

November 2016. Lochearnhead to St. Fillans and Comrie, Central (Perth & Kinross). A recent report in the Perthshire Advertiser (click here) made it sound as if a 12½ mile trail from Lochearnhead to near Comrie is almost complete, but our local correspondent (click here) explains that this is not the case. The article is correct that a trail is being developed – in three phases – between Lochearnhead and Comrie with the support of St. Fillans Community Trust, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority and Sustrans Scotland; phases 1 and 2 are complete, while Phase 3 (Glentarken Woods to St. Fillans) is due for completion ‘later this year’. At the Comrie end, possible re-use of the railway is severely hampered by two missing bridges over the River Earn, while at the Lochearnhead end a property built on the trackbed blocks access to the viaduct over Glen Ogle which otherwise would provide a valuable link to NCN7, which runs up the glen just west of the village. We think the reality is that a route will be developed between Lochearnhead and Comrie (NCN775), but that only ‘convenient’ sections of the old railway will be re-used. One notable achievement so far is the replacement of the missing bridge at Glen Tarken over the Glentarken Burn, which will be found at NN 670248. (Keith Potter, Tim Chant and Jeff Vinter)

November 2016. Queensbury to Holmfield, West Yorkshire. Further to our story in August, Highways England have announced that they are ‘open to the idea of transferring Queensbury Tunnel to another public body to maintain it and give them the £3 million cost of closing it’. Therefore, if (say) the tunnel could be repaired and opened for £2.8 million, we could have an open tunnel and £200,000 in the bank for maintenance. As our correspondent says, ‘Good deal or what?’ (Keith Holliday)

November 2016. Preston to Bamber Bridge, Lancashire. Further to our April 2015 report on the impasse over extending the cycle trail from Bamber Bridge and Lower Penwortham into Preston station, things are now moving. The old bailey bridge which leads into the station (built by the Royal Engineers in the 1950s and the cause of the trouble) is to be replaced. The report here provides an artist’s impression of the new bridge, and a very fine piece of engineering it is set to be. When installed, it will enable a cycle path into Avenham and Miller Park to be unlocked for the first time, while simultaneously improving access to Preston station – which should please the local train operators. (Les Simpson)

Above: Phoenix United engine house and associated mine buildings, seen from the trackbed of the Liskeard & Caradon Railway’s branch line from Minions to Cheesewring Quarry. Minions was formerly known as ‘Cheesewring Railway’, which was an unusual name for a village, even by Cornish standards. 26th October 2016. (Jeff Vinter)

Above: The L&CR’s two branches to Cheesewring Quarry can be seen clearly in this photograph, where they appear as two curved cuttings with shadows falling over their empty trackbeds. The hill in the background is Caradon Hill, which contributed part of the railway’s name. For further details, see the story below. 26th October 2016. (Jeff Vinter)

November 2016. Caradon Hill, Cornwall. The Liskeard & Caradon Railway built a large network of lines in the south east corner of Bodmin Moor, with a connecting line coming up from Moorswater to Darite. The latter is largely lost bar an attractive mile long section through High Wood between grid references SX 242659 and SX 232648. However, on the open moor, the L&CR is a railway rambler’s paradise, as the map here illustrates. The network is centred on the moorland village of Minions, where the South Phoenix Engine House has been adapted to house a heritage centre. Copper and granite are what brought the railway up here, the copper having been discovered in large quantities in 1838. The entire network extends to ca. 12 miles, most of which is on open access land. This means that, when one encounters an enclosed and privately owned part of the old railway, it is usually easy to circumnavigate it. On a clear day, the views extend to Dartmoor, the Atlantic Ocean and the English Channel beyond Looe, but intending explorers should wear stout boots with good ankle support because the many surviving stone sleeper blocks make for uneven walking, especially on Gonamena Incline. (Jeff Vinter with map supplied by Brian Oldham)

Note: When time permits, the Webmaster will re-label the map to make the small print easier to read. It comes from page 112 of Michael Messenger’s book, Caradon & Looe – The Canal, Railways and Mines, published by The Twelvehead Press in 2001 (ISBN 978-0906294468). Our thanks to Bob Spalding for identifying the source.

Above: This subdued-looking photograph, which appears to illustrate nothing more than various types and conditions of mud, actually shows the start of the Steam Trailway at Dunster Beach, looking east towards Blue Anchor. The white fabric is a one-way membrane which allows water to drain down (but not back up), and is widely used in the construction of trails which will not be tarmacced, e.g. because their location requires a less urban-looking surface. For further details, see the story below. 29th October 2016. (Jeff Vinter)

November 2016. Dunster to Blue Anchor, Somerset. Somerset County Council and the soon-to-be-history West Somerset Council (which recently voted itself out of existence) have long harboured an ambition to build a trailway from Minehead to Williton, broadly following the course of the preserved West Somerset Railway. The section from Dunster Beach to Blue Anchor is now under construction, although at the Dunster end it is about a quarter of a mile north of the railway. From Dunster heading west, country lanes will be used to connect with a pre-existing cycle trail that runs alongside the A39 and Minehead’s Seaward Way to reach the town’s beach and station. Although not a railway path in the conventional sense, this new trailway will provide a level walking and cycling route between Minehead, Dunster and Blue Anchor, and improve the range of walks and rides accessible from the local steam trains. Given the lie of the land around Blue Anchor, every way out is uphill, so it should not take long for the trailway to prove popular. (Jeff Vinter)

November 2016. Stubbins Junction, nr. Ramsbottom, to Accrington, Lancashire. This route, which we reported in March 2014, includes the beautifully repaired Lumb Viaduct (grid reference SD 790198), which had its missing parapets rebuilt with new stone from the very same quarry that the original railway builders used in the 19th century. The club’s Chairman asked recently whether this viaduct was now open and, if not, why not. The answer is that Lumb Viaduct definitely is open to walkers and cyclists, but unfortunately there is a fence at the north end of the deck because Lancashire County Council has not yet built the intended railway path beyond. No doubt this is due to government cutbacks, which also feature in the story below. (Jeff Vinter)

November 2016. Rugby to Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. Further to our report in July, Railway Paths Limited has spent £70,000 on repairs to the structures along this line, covering tree removal, repairs and re-pointing of brickwork, and repairs to culverts, metalwork and fencing. An additional £30,000 package has now been approved for the next phase of this work, which is being undertaken to keep the old railway structures in good repair, and safe. Despite all this, there is still no trail along the line due to government cutbacks. (Paul Thomas and Jeff Vinter)

Above: Two overbridges on the soon-to-be-converted disused railway line from Bilston Glen Colliery to Millerhill in Midlothian (see story below). The bridge in the upper photograph (at grid reference NT 295679) was built by the railway company and, despite being rather chunky, exudes some quality in the stonework, if nothing else. The bridge in the lower photograph (at NT 298681) was not built by the railway and can make no aesthetic claims whatsoever! Gilmerton Station Road runs above the cutting on the left hand side and, as can be seen in the first picture, its proximity has created a problem with fly-tipping. (The litter comprised hundreds of dumped charity packages which, presumably, someone had been paid to deliver to people’s homes.) The contractors building the new cycle trail will remove all this mess, but whether this problem will abate remains to be seen. 20th October 2016. (Jeff Vinter)

November 2016. Gilmerton to Shawfair, Midlothian. The NBR’s Glencorse branch, known locally as the Bilston Glen Colliery Railway, currently accommodates a 3 mile cycle trail from Roslin to Loanhead and Gilmerton (Lasswade Road). Now Sustrans Scotland is extending this 1¾ miles to the north east along the trackbed to grid reference NT 314691 in the new town of Shawfair. There isn’t much to Shawfair at the moment except a new station on the re-opened Borders Railway, a new hospital and various new roads, but eventually some 9,000 homes will be built together with associated services and business facilities. The intention is to get the cycling infrastructure in place now so that future residents have a good choice of transport modes. Our October 2014 report on the previous phase of this project suggested that the route might go through to Millerhill, but this will not now happen. In passing, during a visit to the offices of Sustrans Scotland in October, its Director reported that, with match-funding, the organisation had access to £51 million of funding for walking and cycling routes, which equated to ca. £10 per head of population. This puts into perspective the current ‘cash starvation’ which afflicts such projects in England and Wales. (Jeff Vinter)

October 2016. Cheddar to Yatton, Somerset. The Railway Inn at Sandford is the only tied house owned by well known Somerset cider maker Thatchers; it can now be reached via a new traffic-free path from the popular Strawberry Line cycle trail, which runs from Cheddar to Yatton. The link runs through Thatchers’ Myrtle Farm site and passes under a striking new glass bridge. With The Railway Inn being almost exactly half way between Cheddar and Yatton, it is now an even more perfect place to stop off for a pint! (Tim Chant)

October 2016. Sutton Scotney to Winchester Junction and Alresford, Hampshire. The group behind The Watercress Way, which seeks to create a railway path either side of Winchester Junction using parts of the old Didcot, Newbury & Southampton Railway and the Mid Hants Railway, is now a charity and can thus claim gift aid on donations (see the website here). At the moment, the group is tracing who owns each section of land along these old lines so that they can contact them and explain the role of the charity and its aims. The next big event will be a Celebration Day on Sunday 30th April 2017, which is also International Dawn Chorus Day. Events will start with a Dawn Chorus Walk at 4:30 a.m. followed by a range of other activities which will continue until 4:30 p.m. The latest newsletter explains: ‘We hope to use as many forms of transport as possible to circumnavigate The Watercress Way by an open designated route (which will be on or near the original lines as necessary). This will include cycles, running, buggies, wheelchairs, horses and walking of course!’ (The Watercress Way)

October 2016. Totton to Fawley, Hampshire. Further to our report in September, we have just learned that the Hythe Ferry is in difficulty. The ferry runs from Hythe Pier to the Royal Pier at Southampton, and is the quickest and most convenient way of getting from the Waterside area to the city. However, both Hythe Pier and the ferry require investment at a time when the operating company simply does not have the resources; regular ferry users are in no doubt about the scale of the problem due to the regular breakdowns. There have been reports locally that the service may have to close, which could have an impact on the future of the Totton-Fawley railway line. With no ferry, a restored rail link from Hythe to Totton would be the next best public transport option. (Gill Johnston)

October 2016. Chorlton-cum-Hardy to Gorton, Greater Manchester. This six mile section of the Fallowfield Loop Line, built in the 1990s, included many barriers to prevent motorcyclists accessing the trail, as required by government guidelines at the time. Now, in response, to public demand, Sustrans and the Friends of the Fallowfield Loop have removed the barriers so that cyclists do not have to stop frequently to negotiate what essentially were obstructions to them as well as motorcyclists. The move was intended to improve the lot for cyclists, tandem users, family riders and those who use wheelchairs or mobility scooters. Of the 300 people surveyed subsequently, a local newspaper reported that 279 were in favour of the changes, 41 opposed it, and 19 were undecided. We presume that readers have already noticed the wonky arithmetic. Notwithstanding that, it does seem that the change has been well received overall. (Tim Chant)

September 2016. Radstock to Frome, Somerset. Voluntary organisation ‘Frome’s Missing Links’ continues to work on extending Colliers Way (NCN24) from Great Elm to Frome town centre. The latest news is that, at Great Elm, volunteers have cleared land owned by Railway Paths Ltd (RPL) of head-high brambles and are now up to Buckland bridge (grid reference ST 752498) where the railway crosses the lane from Great Elm to Buckland Dinham. Beyond that, the trail will use Network Rail land, which required a licence that took two years to negotiate. Also, NR’s stringent health and safety requirements may add very significantly to the construction cost, which was estimated originally at £200,000. Earlier in the project, Sustrans had set the Frome community a target of raising £20,000, which it exceeded, but the government’s relentless austerity agenda means that the funds from which Sustrans would have paid the match-funding are no more. Note that the disused railway land is owned not by Sustrans but its sister charity, RPL. (Frome’s Missing Links)

September 2016. Tetbury, Gloucestershire. Plans to convert the old goods shed at Tetbury into a community arts centre are progressing well, with a new roof, wooden flooring, underfloor heating, kitchen and toilets now installed. The project has just received funding worth £26,750 and has obtained sponsorship for 73 of 184 modern state-of-the-art retractable seats. Meanwhile, Tetbury Town Council (TTC) has applied to Tesco’s ‘Bags of Help’ fund for a grant in the range £8,000 to £12,000 to rejuvenate and improve the old railway line picnic area, which it says is ‘dull and unused due to the aged picnic furniture and poor signage’. The fund is financed by sales of 5p carrier bags in the chain’s stores, and the picnic area has been shortlisted as one of three in the region which will go to a public vote. TTC is quite clear which scheme it wants to win, and is encouraging local shoppers to visit Tesco stores and vote to secure the grant. (Tim Chant)

September 2016. Radstock, Somerset. After a wait of 20 years, approval has been granted to re-develop the site of the ex-GWR Radstock West station between Frome Road and Fortescue Road in the centre of Radstock. The scheme will see 49 flats and 5 shops built on the site, together with 39 dedicated car parking spaces, but, predictably, there is debate as to whether this number of parking spaces will be sufficient. It has long been hoped that this scheme would allow Colliers Way (built alongside the overgrown Frome-Radstock railway line) to be extended right into the town centre rather than being diverted into the backstreets, as now, but there is no mention of this on the ‘Somerset Live’ website which published this story. (Tim Chant)

September 2016. Bute Road Station, Cardiff. Having made it on to the Victorian Society’s list of 10 most endangered buildings, it looks as if Cardiff’s Bute Road station (Grade II listed and with a rare overall roof) has been thrown a lifeline. The Army Medical Services Museum has revealed plans to move from its current base at Keogh Barracks to Bute Road, where the station building would become the frontage with a substantial extension constructed to the rear. An artist’s impression shows the railway’s overall roof being removed in favour of a glass-roofed area linking the original railway building with the new extension. Since last autumn, the Museum’s board has been working with Cardiff Council to expedite the move and purchase adjacent Welsh Government land in Cardiff Bay on which to build thenew facility. (Tim Chant)

September 2016. Blaenau Ffestiniog to Trawsfynydd, Gwynedd. Volunteers started clearance work on a 275 metre trial section of the above line on Saturday 24th September under the auspices of the Trawsfynydd & Blaenau Ffestiniog Railway Community Interest Company. According to the BBC (see, the clearance work is expected to take between 6 and 8 months. That it is happening at all owes much to Colchester resident Colin Dale, who described the project as ‘part passion and part business’. He explained: ‘I just thought it was a rescue that should happen. It was just sitting there, rotting away. There’s been so much interest. People really, really want to see it open. The line has arguably got the best scenery in the world.’ (Chris Parker)

September 2016. Havant to Hayling Island, Hampshire. The ferry which links the west end of Hayling Island with Eastney on the eastern edge of Portsmouth resumed on 5th August under new owners, having closed down in 2015. The Hayling Ferry Trust raised £20,000 (including a donation of £5,000 from media tycoon Sir Richard Branson) to bring the service back, which for island residents eliminates a 16 mile round trip to Portsmouth via Havant, and accomplishes in 3-4 minutes what can take ten times that when road traffic is heavy. Most significantly for club members, the ferry’s restoration means that walkers and cyclists can now get from Havant to Portsmouth via the Hayling Billy trail, which is part of NCN2 – a move which should bring back the through traffic which has been missing during the last year. The new service runs from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. daily, but with earlier services on Mondays to Fridays. At £5.50, the adult return is more expensive than before, but the new operators intend to make the service self-financing. (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)

September 2016. Bennerley Viaduct, Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire. Bennerley Railway Bridge, which leads from the Erewash Canal on to Bennerley Viaduct, is to be closed temporarily – although, in this case, ‘temporarily’ does not mean ‘briefly’. The old bridge is life expired and is being closed for safety reasons prior to the installation of a new one. However, given that the bridge provided access to the viaduct, its closure has implications if you are planning a visit. (Kieran Lee)

Update: We have just learned of some stunning photographs of Bennerley Viaduct, which can be accessed via the link here. Have a look – you won’t be disappointed! (Webmaster)

September 2016. Totton to Fawley, Hampshire. Over the weekend of 10th-11th September, it was announced on local television that Network Rail intends to close the Fawley branch between Marchwood Military Port and Fawley, a distance of 6½ miles; the decision follows Fawley Refinery’s decision to bring in crude oil not by rail, but by ship. Network Rail will have to go through a formal closure process, but there is no evidence yet that this has been started. It is not known what NR intends to do with the physical structure of the line after closure, so Hampshire County Council is not in a position where it can even think about planning for possible reuse, such as a trail. It is only two years ago that an investigation was carried out to determine whether the branch might be re-opened to passengers as far as intermediate Hythe, but NR did not support the project and HCC found the business case to be unviable due to a ‘low level of demand’. This investigation followed a suggestion in 2009 by the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) that the branch should be re-opened to ease congestion on the A326 and other roads between Southampton and the Waterside area. (Roger Healey and Jeff Vinter)

Above: The rails in the centre of this picture used to continue towards the photographer and under the road viaduct on which he was standing to reach the LSWR’s Plymouth Friary station. The large grassy area to the right of the permanent way may be one of the plots which Network Rail is planning to sell for re-development. NR reckons that 12,000 new homes can be accommodated on 200 ‘surplus -to-requirement’ sites which it holds in its portfolio, and has confirmed that its list includes property in Devon. For further details, see the story below. 1st June 2016. (Jeff Vinter)

Above: For comparison, this is Plymouth Friary station, looking east, as seen from the air in 1937; the Tothill Road Viaduct stands out very clearly. The three sets of rails in the photograph above would have continued under the first and second arches on the left. (© Historic England)

September 2016. Nationwide. Network Rail has recently announced that it intends to sell off parcels of former railway land for re-development, but will not say which sites are involved – presumably to reduce adverse publicity. We suspect that one such site is in Plymouth, just east of the road viaduct which carried Tothill Road over the ‘throat’ of Plymouth Friary station. There is still a large parcel of land there which once accommodated sidings, but is now securely fenced off from the adjacent run-round loop which remain in situ for occasional trains on the Cattewater branch. (Tim Chant)

August 2016. Cheddar to Yatton, Somerset. Between now and June 2017, parts of the popular Strawberry Line between Cheddar and Winscombe will be closed so that Bristol Water can lay a new water main beneath sections of the former trackbed. The scheme, known as ‘Southern Resilience’, will connect Cheddar pumping station with Bristol’s Barrow Gurney Tanks pumping station so that, in a drought or other emergency, water can be released to run down by gravity from Bristol to Cheddar. Curiously, Cheddar will not be able to help out Bristol should the problem be there. The water company will provide diversions while the work is in progress, but anyone wanting to walk or cycle the entire route would be well advised to wait until the 2017 school summer holidays are under way. (Strawberry Line Society)

Above: The Duke of Beaufort Bridge was situated about 400 yards east of Monmouth Troy station and carried the GWR’s branch line from Monmouth to Ross-on-Wye over the River Wye. It now forms part of NCN423 (see story below) and, hopefully, has received a bit of TLC since this photograph was taken. 12th March 2011. (Jeff Vinter)

Above: It is not often that one can photograph one railway viaduct from another, but the opportunity still exists at Monmouth where, from the Duke of Beaufort Bridge on the line to Ross, one can photograph the arches of the neighbouring viaduct which once carried the branch line from Monmouth to Redbrook, Tintern and Chepstow. In 2011, these arches were reputed to be in poor condition with their continued existence under threat. 12th March 2011. (Jeff Vinter)

August 2016. Monmouth Troy to May Hill, Gwent (Monmouthshire). A new section of railway path has appeared on the OS Explorer map for Monmouth. It runs from grid reference SO 508119 on Beech Road (near the site of the former Monmouth Troy station) to SO 513127 on the A466 (near the site of May Hill station). Although the distance is only ¾ mile, it includes the impressive Duke of Beaufort Bridge over the River Wye, and adds another railway path to an area which is already well endowed with such facilities. The new route is part of NCN423 and is signed through to Hadnock Halt, where the trackbed is regained for the scenic Wye Valley section through to Symonds Yat. Hadnock to Symonds Yat is known as the Peregrine Way, and in May this year Railway Ramblers donated to Sustrans of £2,500 from its Footpath Fund to help re-surface it. (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)
Above: Pedestrians no more. This viaduct near Lydbrook (but actually closer to Welsh Bicknor) has for many years been used as a footbridge over the River Wye, but, earlier this year, Gloucestershire County Council closed it. For further details, see the story below. The decking for walkers was on the side of the bridge nearest the camera. 12th March 2011. (Jeff Vinter)

August 2016. Ross-on-Wye to Monmouth, Gloucestershire. Lydbrook Viaduct (at grid reference SO 587177) on the former GWR line from Ross-on-Wye to Monmouth has served for many years as an important crossing of the River Wye on the popular Wye Valley Walk. Unfortunately, earlier this year, engineers working for Gloucestershire County Council condemned it as unsafe, since when it has been closed. Initially, GCC erected plywood barricades to keep walkers off but they broke them down, so now large steel barricades are being erected. It is little wonder that people damaged the original barriers because closure of the bridge necessitates a 5 mile diversion. GCC has stated that the bridge will cost £700,000 to make safe. The problem is that parts of the timber decking have rotted away and fallen into the river, while a report on the GloucesterLive website makes a curious remark about underlying wrought iron sections having been ‘lost’. (Were they there in the first place?) GCC urges walkers to keep off because they are literally risking their lives by walking over. Any repair scheme will be problematical because the bridge links Gloucestershire with Herefordshire, so two local authorities are involved. There have been predictable complaints about the adverse effect of the closure on the local tourist trade at the height of the holiday season. (Graeme Bickerdike and Jeff Vinter)

August 2016. Queensbury to Holmfield, West Yorkshire. According to Yorkshire’s Telegraph & Argus newspaper, plans to re-use Queensbury Tunnel as part of a cycle trail are in serious trouble because Highways England (HE) claims the project could cost up to £35 million. Instead, HE has told the group leading the project that it will ‘close the tunnel up’ at a cost of ca. £3 million unless another public body comes forward. (It does not cost £3 million to close any disused railway tunnel, so we believe that HE’s intention is to infill it.) An HE spokesman said: ‘A recent survey revealed the condition of the tunnel continues to deteriorate and our investigations found it would cost an estimated £35 million to make it safe for future use. We intend to begin work on closing the tunnel in the summer of 2017 if a transfer cannot be agreed by that time.’ Perhaps there are shades of Ribblehead Viaduct here. In the 1980s, British Rail claimed that this structure would cost £6 million to repair, but in 1992 repairs were completed for half that sum. Official bodies have been known to trot out exaggerated repair costs as a means of strengthening their arguments. (Graeme Bickerdike and Jeff Vinter)

August 2016. Durham to Pelaw (near Newcastle) via Leamside, County Durham/Tyne & Wear. The North East’s long-closed Leamside line could be due for a revival. According to The Sunderland Echo, there are ambitious plans for an extension of the Newcastle Metro. Passenger transport executive Nexus declared that it could deliver significantly lower railway construction costs by bringing the region’s disused railways – including the mothballed Leamside line – back into use. This route was part of the East Coast Main Line until 1872, but its passenger service was withdrawn in May 1964, by which time it can only be described as ‘skeletal’. The gradual closure of the Durham coalfield in the 1970s and 1980s led to a gradual reduction of freight traffic, with the line being mothballed in 1991. (Graeme Bickerdike and Keith Holliday)

August 2016. Bennerley Viaduct, Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire. The Sustrans team working on the restoration of the impressive Bennerley Viaduct over the Erewash Valley has just published its summer newsletter, which can be read by clicking the link here. The file is 2Mb in size so – depending on the speed of your Internet connection – might take a few moments to load, but it contains lots of encouraging news. (Kieran Lee)

August 2016. Treherbert to Port Talbot, Mid Glamorgan/West Glamorgan. Rhondda Cynon Taf Council has just granted a licence to the Rhondda Tunnel Society, which hopes to re-open the 3,443 yard long Rhondda Tunnel to walkers and cyclists. Work will start with an assessment of exactly how many cubic metres of spoil need to be removed at the Blaencwm end to reveal the buried western portal. In these cash-strapped times, the society has conducted a consultation and found that tunnel users would be prepared to pay a toll of £1 for adults and 50p for children in order to help finance the tunnel’s long term maintenance. If and when opened, the tunnel would provide an invaluable link from Treherbert in the Rhondda Valley to the extensive network of railway paths in the neighbouring Afan Valley. (Graeme Bickerdike)

August 2016. Kidwelly to Pembrey and Burry Port, Dyfed (Carmarthenshire). The former Burry Port & Gwendraeth Valley Railway’s line between Kidwelly Junction and Burry Port has had an extra mile of trackbed opened as a multi use trail at a cost of £300,000, according to local paper The South Wales Evening Post. At the moment, the latest online maps from both the Ordnance Survey and Sustrans show the line as part of NCN4 between SN 418029 and SN 443006, a distance of just under 2½ miles, but it is not clear if this is before or after the extra mile was added. It is also worth mentioning that, at Kidwelly, the Gwendraeth Valley Railway’s freight-only line from Kidwelly to Mynyddygarreg is a bridleway along most of its length, from SN 408062 (Banc Pen-Dre in Kidwelly) to SN 424077 (Meinciau Road in Llangadog), a distance of just under 1½ miles. (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)

August 2016. Plymouth, Devon. Further to our report in June, we have now learned that Plymouth City Council granted planning approval on 2nd August for an extension of the railway path over the recently restored Laira Bridge. The trail will now continue along the former railway line between Sugar Mill Retail Park and Rock Gardens, to the north of Billacombe Road (the A379); along the way, a new bridge will be installed to carry the trail over the entrance to the car park of ‘The Range’. In railway terms, the extension will run from the eastern end of Laira Bridge to the site of the former Plymstock station, or, in Ordnance Survey terms, from SX 503542 to SX 507540, a distance of a quarter of a mile. Plymstock station was where separate branches diverged to Yealmpton (GWR) and Turnchapel (LSWR). The planning consent requires development to start within 3 years. The voluminous planning documents include an encouraging aspiration to extend the trail eventually to Sherford and the South Hams. When it reaches Rock Gardens, it will be just over a mile away from a section of NCN2 to the east of Elburton built on the trackbed of the former Yealmpton line; it would be good if, in time, the two sections could be connected. (Mike Knight, Jeff Vinter and Tim Chant)

Above: The northern half of the huge footbridge at Ystrad Rhondda in Mid Glamorgan, which is due for a complete re-build; Ystrad station is out of shot on the left. Curiously, online sources do not reveal the bridge’s length, height, number of piers etc., which is de rigeur for railway viaducts, both used and disused. For further details, see the story below. (Street view from Google Earth, accessed on 1st August 2016)

July 2016. Ystrad Rhondda, Mid Glamorgan. It serves a station on the still operational Treherbert branch rather than being on a disused railway, but the Brook Street footbridge that links Gelli and Ystrad on opposite sides of the Afon Rhondda – and crosses that river – is a substantial piece of work. Reported by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council as supporting over 600 pedestrian journeys per day, the bridge is to be replaced at a cost of over £1 million. Contractors are currently being commissioned to submit designs and plans for the re-building work. It’s great that the footbridge will be retained, but we doubt that its Victorian looks will survive the makeover. (Tim Chant)
Above: The view along Martholme Viaduct, photographed during a visit by the board and engineers of Railway Paths Ltd. Despite the structure last being used by a train decades ago, it remains in very good condition. 24th June 2014. (Jeff Vinter)

Above: The view from the west parapet of Martholme Viaduct, which walkers should be able to enjoy within the next couple of years; the river beneath is the Calder. For further details, see the story below. 24th June 2014. (Jeff Vinter)

July 2016. Martholme Viaduct, near Great Harwood, Lancashire. There has been some doubt in recent years regarding public access to this viaduct, but at the moment it is definitely closed. However, Railway Paths Ltd is discussing with the local authorities (Hyndburn and Ribble Valley Borough Councils) a proposal to open it, although access will be from the south end only; a secure fence will be installed at the north end because the landowner beyond is unwilling to grant access. The proposal is at a very early stage, but implementation in 2017-18 may be achievable. (Paul Thomas)

July 2016. Cutsyke to Methley Junction, Castleford, West Yorkshire. This 1¾ mile route to the south west of Castleford is being developed as the Castleford Greenway, and the eastern half from Cutsyke is already open; access is off the B6421 at grid reference SE 420247. Wakefield Council has earmarked £1 million to replace the missing bridge which crossed the Normanton-York railway line at SE 410252, while, further west, the Railway Heritage Trust has provided a grant of £125,000 to Railway Paths Ltd to help finance restoration of the viaduct over the River Calder at SE 404255. When complete, this line will form a valuable traffic-free route from the edge of Castleford’s urban area into the Calder Valley. (Jeff Vinter)

July 2016. Torksey, Lincolnshire/Nottinghamshire. Following the opening of this very large viaduct in April, the Midlands and East team from Sustrans is now working with the local authorities, landowners and local communities to upgrade the network of walking and cycling routes on either side of the viaduct. Plans include a new bridge on the Torksey (east) side, which will cross the busy A156 and provide easily graded access for cyclists. Unfortunately, there is some concern as to how quickly this can be realised given the current constrained funding environment. (Huw Davies)

July 2016. Rugby to Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. Following a visit in February this year by the board and staff of Railway Paths Ltd, the charity has now carried out repairs and de-vegetation work to no fewer than 28 structures along the line. Due to government cutbacks and a plenitude of quiet lanes in the area, public funding for this rural route is non-existent, so the charity is hoping to mobilise local community support to develop it for amenity use. Recent expenditure on the structures will keep them in good order, but RPL feels that its money should be delivering more than mere preservation. (Paul Thomas and Jeff Vinter)

July 2016. Douglas, Isle of Man. Further to our report in January, which covered the possible demise of the popular Douglas Horse Tramway, we are pleased to report that it has been given a two year extension. The Tynwald (the Isle of Man’s Parliament) has recently voted to support operation of the tramway until at least the end of the 2018 season. This approval includes an amendment to lay a new single line track from Derby Castle to the Sea Terminal as part of a ‘Douglas Promenade Highway Scheme’, which the Friends of Douglas Bay Horse Tramway have campaigned for in recent months. (Rob Davidson)

Above: Railway? What railway? At first glance, this photograph appears to portray nothing more than the luxuriant growth of summer, but this is actually the site of Sutton Scotney on the former cross-country line from Southampton Terminus to Didcot via Winchester Chesil and Newbury. It looks as if a bit of platform survives in the left foreground. July 2016. (Brian Loughlin)

Above: Two months after Brian Loughlin visited Sutton Scotney, another member visited the old station site and discovered that Metis Homes have put in a Planning Application for 28 homes there. This is the view from the overbridge just south of the station, showing in the background a number of the new homes built recently on the former Taylor’s Coaches depot, which our correspondent believes was based on the former extensive goods yard. 18th September 2016. (Graham Lambert)

July 2016. Sutton Scotney, Hampshire. The site of Sutton Scotney station on the former Didcot, Newbury & Southampton Railway has been sold to a property developer. It is remarkable that it survived unused for so long, but now we must wonder how many new homes the developer will manage to shoe-horn into the plot! (Brian Loughlin)

Update: The answer to the question about the number of new homes is ’28’ – see the caption to the second of the two photographs above. (Webmaster)

July 2016. Porth Penrhyn, Bangor, to Bethesda and Llyn Ogwen, Gwynedd. Further to our report in March 2013, Gwynedd County Council has now secured funds to restore and open up the 275 metre Tregarth Tunnel, which will enable the popular Lôn Las Ogwen cycle route (from Porth Penrhyn to Tregarth) to be extended along the old railway to Bethesda, thus eliminating the current diversion. Work will include stabilising a rock face on the side of a ravine, illuminating the tunnel, and installing steps to safeguard users of the viaduct over the Ogwen River. GCC set aside £200,000 for the project in 2015-16, but has now secured a further £230,000 from the Welsh Government. Council managers estimate that maintaining the route will cost £17,000 a year, which will be spent on cutting back vegetation, repairing damage caused by bad weather, collecting litter and dealing with the effects of vandalism. (Graeme Bickerdike and Keith Holliday)

July 2016. Stalbridge to Poole, Dorset. It has been a while since the North Dorset Trailway published a newsletter, but click here for the edition published this month. The story is predominantly about patient negotiations behind the scenes, with work focussed on the sections from Stalbridge to Sturminster Newton and Spetisbury to Sturminster Marshall. Such work is inevitably slow – it involves patient negotiations with many landowners and other agencies – but the Trailway project has a good record, and we look forward hopefully. (Jeff Vinter)

June 2016. Plymouth, Devon. Further to our report earlier this month (click here), the Plymouth Herald has just reported that more of the former railway line east of the recently opened Laira Bridge over the River Plym will be converted into a railway path. As part of Plymouth City Council’s east-west cycling route, the trail (a dead end in May) will now be extended further along the old railway to Saltram Meadow, where a new housing estate is to be built on the site of a former Blue Circle quarry. The extension comes about as a result of Plymouth recently winning £3.42 million from a regional group channelling government money into local transport schemes, which has been augmented by £1.49 million from local developers, presumably as Section 106 grants to ameliorate the effects of development. The Herald summarised the project thus: ‘The new route will extend the cycle path from the recently renovated Laira Bridge and The Ride, taking commuters parallel with Billacombe Road on the old track’. (Tim Chant)

June 2016. Caerphilly, Gwent. A novel way to inspect railway infrastructure was revealed on 15th June when Gwent Police attempted to stop a car driven by a 27 year old male. The driver attempted to give officers the slip by driving off at speed – he was recorded at speeds of up to 78 mph – but events took an unexpected turn when he entered The Crescent, Caerphilly, and continued along a footpath which burrows beneath the still operation Rhymney-Cardiff railway to reach Churchill Park. He sped into the pedestrian underpass, actually a low-roofed tunnel, where his car soon became wedged tight … thus providing the first example known to us of a self-arresting fugitive. The local press did not report how his vehicle was recovered; if the fire brigade was involved, it might have suffered somewhat. (Tim Chant)

Above: When walkers and cyclists heading east across the newly restored Laira Railway Bridge reach The Ride (the road leading to Saltram House and the Plym Valley Railway Path beyond), they can now continue in safety across this busy road. The new bridge re-connects two separate parts of the former embankment that once carried the railway into Plymstock station, where separate branches diverged to Yealmpton and Turnchapel respectively. 1st June 2016. (Jeff Vinter)

Above: Currently, the empty trackbed towards Plymstock station is fenced off, but that may change. A large quarry, out of sight in this photograph but on the left (i.e. north) of the old line, is being re-developed for housing, and Plymouth City Council is interested in using more of the trackbed as a multi-use trail to provide traffic-free access. A Section 106 arrangement could be imposed on the developers in order to finance this important work. These days, the existence of such a trail – which would lead into the city centre and have connections to other trails – will do no harm at all to property prices. From this point westwards, the infrastructure is in place already; all that is required is a short onwards link. 1st June 2016. (Jeff Vinter)

June 2016. Plymouth, Devon. We have reported elsewhere Plymouth City Council’s excellent work in restoring the long disused Laira Railway Bridge, which spans the River Plym to the south west of Laira Motive Power Depot. We have also reported PCC’s plans to reinstate the missing rail-over-road to the east of it, but had no idea that the authority would move so quickly. A visit on 1st June found that the new bridge was in place already, as shown in the above pictures, and being used – despite the visit being made at 3:00 p.m. on a Wednesday, hardly a time when lots of leisure users are about. (Jeff Vinter)

June 2016. Rugby, Warwickshire. It’s not part of a railway walk, but few with any interest in the UK’s railways will fail to be moved by news that the preserved Great Central Railway is to reinstate the long-removed bridge over the Midland main line at Loughborough, thus joining together the two separate sections over which it operates, i.e. Leicester to Loughborough, and Loughborough to Ruddington, near Nottingham. For further details, see the BBC report here. (Jeff Vinter from the RR Facebook page)

May 2016. Dockyard Junction (nr. Gillingham) to Chatham Dockyard, Kent. The disused, half mile long branch line into Chatham Historic Dockyard has not seen a train for many years, and it won’t be seeing one any time soon thanks to the construction and opening of a new Asda supermarket, whose access road cuts through the line’s embankment. However, Medway Council is interested in the greenway potential of the route, not only because that would prevent it from becoming a derelict eyesore, but also because it would give access to two local schools and a university. Our correspondent has suggested that the council contacts Sustrans to see what help might be available through its ‘Safe Routes to Schools’ project. (Keith Holliday)

May 2016. Bennerley Viaduct, Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire. Work to restore Bennerley Viaduct in the Erewash Valley has commenced, thanks to funding from the Railway Heritage Trust. Preparatory works, including the removal of the unserviceable maintenance gantry, will commence over the summer. There is also an exhibition about the viaduct in the Lally Gallery of the Erewash Museum until 30 August. Admission is free, and the opening hours are as follows:

  • Schooldays: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • School Holidays: Monday to Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The museum is situated in the High Street, Ilkeston, Derbyshire, DE7 5JA. Further details and some useful links will be found here. (Cassie Humphries-Massey and Jeff Vinter)

Above: The former railway tunnel beneath Lincoln’s busy Canwick Road intersection, looking less like a railway structure than ever. The former line approached from the left of the picture where the grass is patchy. For further details, see story below. 21st May 2016. (Tim Chant)

May 2016. Lincoln, Lincolnshire. Further to our report in November 2014, the former railway ‘tunnel’ at grid reference SK 980701 beneath Lincoln’s busy Canwick Road has now been re-opened as an underpass for walkers and cyclists, although no casual visitor would realise that it was ever a railway, as the photograph above illustrates. Having said that, it is at least serving a useful purpose again; in its previous life, it was part of the GNR line from Lincoln Central to Grantham via Honington. The structure was almost certainly just a bridge in railway days, but Lincolnshire CC referred to it as a tunnel in its re-development plans, and that describes accurately what the interior now looks like. To the west, there is deep mud on the trackbed which explains why it is not a railway path. To the east, there is an unofficial-looking path across a field, which our correspondent did not have time to explore. (Tim Chant)

May 2016. Rippingale, Lincolnshire. Rippingale station, on the Great Northern Railway’s former line from Sleaford to Stamford, is up for sale with estate agent Hurfords at an asking price of £600,000. The property includes a length of track and a 1924 steam locomotive ‘Elizabeth’, currently on site, which can be included in the sale. The property details, illustrated by 12 photographs, will be found here. (Tim Grose)

May 2016. Treherbert to Port Talbot, Mid Glamorgan/West Glamorgan. There’s an interesting video at the link here which uses CGI techniques to illustrate what the Rhondda Tunnel would look like if opened up for walkers and cyclists as a through route from Treherbert to the Afan Valley. The video was produced by Ben Salter, a supporter of the Rhondda Tunnel project, who studied documentary film making at Newport Film School. (Tim Chant)

May 2016. Keswick to Threlkeld, Cumbria. Further to our report in December 2015, we have learned from the Lake District National Park that the damage to this popular and heavily engineered railway path is worse than previously reported, for LDNP is reporting damage to not one but two bridges, and the washing away of 200 metres of path near Wescoe. Half the route remains closed, but the re-opened half attracted good numbers over Easter, while diversions are now in place to permit users (many of whom are following the coast-to-coast C2C route) to get from Keswick to Threlkeld, and vice versa. LDNP aims to reinstate the route fully, but there are many difficulties including the high cost, and the need to stabilise the banks of the River Greta before heavy machinery can be brought in to carry out major engineering repairs. (Richard Bain)

Update: We learned on 16th May that a new fund value £3.5 million has been set up (presumably by central government) to help repair and improve public rights of way in Cumbria damaged by Storm Desmond last December; named the ‘Cumbria Countryside Access Fund’, landowners or public bodies can apply for grants starting at £100,000. We understand also that engineers from Sustrans have some good ideas as to how major engineering repairs can be achieved effectively but economically, (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)

April 2016. Holt, Norfolk. The proposed Norfolk Orbital Railway, which aims to create (or rather reinstate) a circular route around Norfolk with Wymondham, Fakenham, Sheringham, North Walsham and Norwich as its main points, has moved a step closer to its objectives. The Melton Constable Trust, one of several organisations behind the scheme, has just purchased a piece of land at High Kelling, near Holt, which will provide a new route for the railway given that the modern Holt bypass has taken over part of the original trackbed. The Eastern Daily News remarked: ‘Securing the land means that nothing can physically block the building of the railway.’ (Tim Chant)

April 2016. Plymouth, Devon. The Plymouth Herald of 28th April reported that Laira Railway Bridge, re-opened to walkers and cyclists in May 2015 after 28 years of dereliction and ‘blighting Plymouth’s natural marine environment’, has been shortlisted for this year’s Civil Engineering Awards. It is up against some tough competition in the area, including the £10 million refurbishment of Brunel’s iconic Royal Albert Bridge at Saltash, which had its steelwork strengthened to ensure another 50 years’ service. Even the new paint on that is impressive, being expected to last for a full 25 years. (Tim Chant)

April 2016. Down Street and Clapham South, London. Members with an interest in the lost stations of the London underground system will be pleased to hear that two of them are not to remain quite so little known. Down Street station on the Piccadilly Line was used in World War 2 war as a secret bunker by Winston Churchill and his staff, but is now due to be added as a destination on the ‘Hidden London’ tours run by the London Transport Museum. The deep-level wartime shelter at Clapham South on the Northern Line will also be opened on the same basis. Built as part of a projected deep-level second route for the Northern Line which would have omitted some intermediate station, it is 180 steps below ground and was used during the Blitz as an air raid shelter. In was also used in 1948 as accommodation for Caribbean immigrants, and again in 1951 as accommodation for visitors to the Festival of Britain. (Tim Chant)

Above: The so-called ‘Catholic Bridge’ in Witham (see story below) was once used by the Great Eastern Railway’s branch from Witham to Maldon. Most of this old line now accommodates the Blackwater Trail, but this is where it stops at the Witham end. The club’s ‘construction specialist’ on the day of the visit advised that this combination of timber mats and sleepers at the base supporting the orange beams and jacks and scaffold bracing are common in the ‘temporary works’ field, i.e. typical for shoring up or providing temporary support during construction. The new installations on the far left and right are seen alongside the pre-existing supports in the form of steel columns and concrete bases, which must no longer be sufficient to support the deck structure. Just north of the bridge, a wall stands across the line, although there is a way around it into the industrial estate beyond. It seems a lost opportunity that the trail does not make a proper connection with this traffic-generating location. What’s wrong with giving people the opportunity to cycle to and from their place of work, or pop out for a walk or ride at lunchtime? 7th May 2016. (Neil Hebborn)

April 2016. Witham to Maldon, Essex. Further to our report in January, the club has now written to Essex County Council about its proposal to infill the ‘Catholic Bridge’ in Witham, thus blocking the old trackbed which passes underneath and is used as a traffic-free route across the town. The council’s reply advises that the Catholic Bridge is made of cast iron, which its Highways Department has identified as being in deteriorating condition. The abandoned railway line underneath is an unofficial path and not a public right of way. An ‘Option Study’ is currently being undertaken to determine what work is required to bring the bridge back to a safe and suitable condition before its future can be decided. The club’s letter has been forwarded to ECC’s Structures Team so that the club’s views can be considered during the review. (Nick Hartshorne)

Note: If the trackbed beneath the Catholic Bridge is a permissive trail with access granted by (say) Essex CC, then its survival as a bridge depends wholly on the findings of the ECC’s Option Study and financial reserves: permissive access protects an owner’s right to close a route and prevents application of the 20 year rule, whereby members of the public can apply to have it added to the Ordnance Survey’s definitive map (of rights of way) provided they can prove 20 years of unimpeded use. On the other hand, if the trackbed is an unofficial route which members of the public have been using on an unimpeded basis for 20 years or more, then the rule offers an opportunity to register it as a right of way.

On the same general subject, 2020 will be the last year in which members of the public can apply to have long-established footpaths and bridleways added to the definitive map. The process of mapping rights of way in this way started in 1947 but was not carried out consistently. It is alleged (in the Daily Telegraph of 26th April) that some landowners at the time discouraged the surveyors because they didn’t want footpaths over their land documented officially, resulting in some curious cases where a footpath stops in the middle of a field, or does not reach the road it is heading for. (Many members will have seen this sort of thing on OS Landranger and Explorer maps.) Come 2020, no one will be able to get a pre-1947 footpath or bridleway added to the definitive map as a right of way; only new routes with 20 years’ demonstrable unimpeded use will then be eligible. (Webmaster)

April 2016. Torksey, Lincolnshire/Nottinghamshire. As advised in March, Torksey Viaduct received its official opening as a pedestrian route across the River Trent on Friday 22nd April; a short film about the event can be viewed at thanks to the indefatigable Graeme Bickerdike, the man behind Forgotten Relics of an Enterprising Age. Now that pedestrians can use the viaduct, the next step is to open it for cyclists and horse riders, although raising the funds for that will be difficult. (Huw Davies)

April 2016. Portishead, Somerset. This is definitely not a route that can be walked or cycled, but those who have been wondering if the proposed re-opening of the Portishead branch would ever happen will be pleased to hear that North Somerset Council has endorsed a decision to spend £880,000 to purchase two parcels of land to build new stations in Portishead and Pill. Although NSC and Network Rail already owned most of the land required for the project, two additional plots had to be purchased from a developer and a private individual. Re-opening of the line was planned initially for 2019, but it looks as if this will slip back to 2020. (Tim Chant)

April 2016. Australia. The club has just recruited a new member from Australia, who is the Queensland Representative for Rail Trails Australia (RTA). We have received an electronic copy of RTA’s latest magazine, with permission to forward it to any interested members. If you would like a copy, please get in touch via our Contact page. (Mark Linnett)

April 2016. Bideford, Devon. On Wednesday 23rd March, a new visitor centre was opened at the former Bideford railway station on the modern Tarka Trail. According to the North Devon Journal, the Tarka Trail attracts 6,000 to 8,000 users per year who generate ca. £4 million a year for the local economy. The objective of the new facility is to persuade some of those who currently walk or cycle past the town to stop and explore it. Like the adjoining Railway Café, the visitor centre is housed in a restored Mark I railway carriage, turned out in BR’s Southern Region green. (Tim Chant)

Note: The Journal’s usage figures are very low and may be incorrect; 8,000 users per year works out at only 22 users per day. That seems extraordinarily low for a 180 mile long, figure-of-eight route that is largely traffic-free. (Webmaster)

April 2016. Feniton to Sidmouth. In the first three months of this year, the Otter Trail Group (which is working on plans to create a multi use trail from Feniton to Sidmouth) has spent over £1,000 of the money it has raised on a detailed technical survey of one of the Trail’s sections to ‘provide a better estimate of construction costs’. The email we received does not identify the location of this section, but remarks that ‘Additional funds will enable us to take this work forward’. (James Kirby)

April 2016. Northampton to Market Harborough, Northamptonshire/Leicestershire. We have just received, belatedly, news that the Northampton & Lamport Railway wishes to extend its current operation based at Pitsford & Brampton station to Spratton. In October last year, Northamptonshire County Council agreed to hold a public consultation on offering a 50-year lease to the railway, which would use one half of the former double-track formation which now accommodates the Brampton Valley Way. The council confirmed that walkers and cyclists would still be able to use the route, but with a safety fence separating it from the railway line. Councillor Bill Parker elaborated: ‘Before any final decision is made, we want to make sure that the views of visitors to the park [i.e. the railway path] are taken into account and will be holding a public consultation to give people the opportunity to provide their feedback on the proposal.’ (Tim Chant)

April 2016. Alresford to Winchester Junction and Sutton Scotney, Hampshire. The group formed to develop a railway path along the west end of the former Mid Hants line from Alresford to Winchester Junction, and thence via the Didcot, Newbury & Southampton Railway to Sutton Scotney, has just launched its website: (Jeff Vinter)

April 2016. Bath, Somerset. Most readers will be familiar with the famous short film, ‘London to Brighton in Four Minutes’. Another Youtube video – – adds a new ‘short’ to the genre, which might be called ‘Viaduct to Chasm in 80 Seconds’. It uses time lapse photography to show the removal of the central span of the Somerset & Dorset Railway’s three-arched viaduct over the London-Bristol main line just west of Oldfield Park station, in Bath’s suburbs. A new but higher central span will be installed in due course so that the viaduct can once again form part of Bath’s Two Tunnels Trail – and accommodate the new catenary equipment on the railway below. (Matt Skidmore)

March 2016. Holmsley, Hampshire. In 2012, Hampshire County Council assumed responsibility for the railway overbridge at Holmsley in the New Forest, which carried the A35 over the former LSWR line from Southampton to Dorchester via Ringwood and Wimborne Minster. HCC now says that the bridge is in a deteriorating condition (it certainly looks like a bucketful of rust), and they have come up with four options to deal with it: (1) do nothing, which on closer investigation amounts to propping up the bridge and closing the road beneath it; (2) turn the bridge into an embankment and close the road beneath it; (3) renew the bridge where it stands; and (4) replace the bridge with a new one 3 metres to the side. Option (4) appears to be the least troublesome for road traffic, but the council claims that all options will be expensive. The bridge’s previous owner (the Highways Agency?) seems to have been remiss about maintenance. The upshot is that another piece of Hampshire’s railway history may soon disappear. (Tim Chant)

March 2016. Torksey, Lincolnshire/Nottinghamshire. The official opening of Torksey Viaduct as a pedestrian route across the River Trent will take place at 2:00 p.m. on Friday 22nd April. If the weather is good, there will be a marquee and stalls on the viaduct. Further details and some photographs of the finished work will be found here in a recently published leaflet from Sustrans and Railway Paths. The opening is perfectly timed for the club’s pre-AGM visit four weeks later on Saturday 21st May. (Bill Tomson)

March 2016. Barnstaple to Blackmoor Gate, Devon. ‘Perchance it is not dead, but sleepeth’. Exmoor Associates is the name of the company which is working in association with the modern Lynton & Barnstaple Railway to bring back this famous narrow gauge line to the rolling countryside of north Devon; it has already purchased and cleared a significant proportion of the L&BR’s permanent way as parts of the old trackbed have come on to the market. EA has now released a delightful film which provides an aerial view of the trackbed and surrounding countryside between Barnstaple and Blackmoor Gate, which can be viewed at The programme is a commentary-free film and runs for under just 12 minutes; it is time well spent. Don’t forget to set your monitor to ‘full screen’ mode. (Dave Hurley)

March 2016. Bristol Temple Meads. Network Rail are planning to sell the historic station at Bristol Temple Meads, allegedly to help reduce its debts. Local campaigners opposed to the move say that Temple Meads is an asset for the whole of the Bristol community and should not be sold off for profit. According to 5th March edition of The Western Daily Press, it is ‘understood’ that National Rail has brought in Citigroup to identify up to 18 major stations which might be sold; Citigroup Inc., or ‘Citi’, is an American multi-national investment banking company based in Manhattan, New York. (Tim Chant)

March 2016. Derbyshire. The ‘Pedal Peak II’ project, which has been reported before in these pages, is making good progress; broadly, it aims to extend various existing railway paths in the county so that they connect with each other to form an off-road circuit of ca. 60 miles, although there is more to it than that. The newsletter accessible here gives a summary of the current position in the Peak. According to our correspondent, ‘[Derbyshire County] Council must have nearly finished running up beside Peak Rail from Matlock to Rowsley and they are at least looking at completing through Haddon Tunnel to Bakewell. The Monsal Trail link to Buxton seems to be agreed as necessary but no work [has] started yet … On the other side of Buxton they have done the Harpur Hill link which includes 1.6 kms (1 mile) on the line of the former High Peak Railway. Hopefully the Health and Safety Executive who own the remaining 2.9kms (1¾ miles) through to Ladmanlow will agree to the extension in due course.’ The Harpur Hill and Ladmanlow sections, when open throughout, will form a continuation of the High Peak Trail. (John Grimshaw)

March 2016. Bodmin to Wadebridge, Cornwall. Readers may be aware that the Bodmin & Wenford Railway, which operates the preserved line between Bodmin Parkway, Bodmin Road and Boscarne Junction, aspires to return passenger services to Wadebridge. Shortly before Christmas, the Bodmin & Wadebridge Railway Company received the first draft of an Outline Business Case for this extension. The OBC identified two options, one being for a heritage railway, as at present, and the other for a heritage and community railway, with respective benefit to cost ratios of 1.9 (medium value for money) and 2.8 (high value for money). The OBC reported that both options are viable, and recommended that they be taken forward to the feasibility study stage, when engineering designs will be drawn up and timetabling studies carried out. Previous reports on rail reinstatement to Wadebridge recognised the value of retaining the existing Camel Trail, which attracts very high levels of use, even if it has to be diverted in places. (Jeff Vinter)

March 2016. Braintree to Rayne, Essex. Local residents and users of the eastern end of the Flitch Way are alarmed at plans to build housing alongside the former railway line between Braintree and Rayne. If built, the new Brook Green development will see 1,600 new homes constructed both north and south of the old railway, occupying a 140 acre site overall. Protesters claim that Brook Green will make one town out of the two communities, and have dubbed it ‘Raynetree’. Stan Davies, Chairman of Friends of the Flitch Way and Associated Woodlands, commented: ‘We fully accept that housing has to go somewhere but there’s [sic] lots of sites available. It doesn’t have to be on lovely countryside’. The planning submission, proposed by Acorn Property Group and validated recently by Braintree District Council, acknowledges that biodiversity and geological conservation will be ‘affected’ (presumably adversely affected) if the development goes ahead. (Tim Chant)

March 2016. Dungarvan to Waterford, County Waterford. The old railway line from Dungarvan to Waterford, once part of a longer route from Mallow to Waterford, has been given to Waterford County Council under licence to be developed as a multi-use trail called the Deise Greenway. Already, 14 miles are open (2½ at the Dungarvan end and 11½ at the Waterford end), and these two sections are due to be connected during the course of this year to create a new route of ca. 27 miles. For further details, see the greenway’s website at (Jeff Vinter)

Above: The Derbyshire County Council sign for the extension of the Monsal Trail south towards Matlock makes a very bold heading for the story below. February 2016. (Mike Hodgson)

Above: Part of the new trail under construction in the Darley Dale-Rowsley area. We do not know whether this is the finished surface or if a top layer is yet to be added. February 2016. (Mike Hodgson)

March 2016. Bakewell to Matlock, Derbyshire. A southward extension to the Monsal Trail, which links Blackwell Mill (south of Buxton) with Bakewell, is now being constructed. It has taken a long time for this project to come to fruition, but it is being worked on by Derbyshire County Council with help from John Grimshaw Associates, who specialise in delivering routes which previously have proved intractable. We have written to JGA for further details, but in the meantime our correspondent reports that he has seen the new path under construction from Church Lane Crossing, just north of Darley Dale, to Rowsley, just short of the original station. (Mike Hodgson)

February 2016. Brynmenyn to Pontycymmer, Mid Glamorgan. Enthuasiasts plan to get the old Garw Valley line running again between Bryngarw Park on the edge of Brynmenyn and Pontycymmer, stating that at 4½ miles it will be the longest heritage line in South Wales. A cycle trail runs alongside the trackbed from Bryngarw Park to Blaengarw, former terminus of the line; the grid references are SS 907857 to SS 900934, a distance of just over 5½ miles. The cycle trail is NCN884 and is the new route promised some years ago from Brynmenyn to Blaengarw. The preservationists are based at Pontycymmer Locomotive Works, where they have already made a start on building a passenger platform. They intend to lease increasing lengths of the line from Network Rail as they proceed southwards, and hope to have reached Bryngarw Park by 2018. (Tim Chant and Jeff Vinter)

Update: On 29th March, the preservationists were reported in the local press as wishing to retain the cycle route alongside their line as an ‘added attraction’; they emphasised that they have no intention of closing it. (Tim Chant)

Above: The magnificent Monkwearmouth station in Sunderland has been used as a museum since 1974, but its future now looks uncertain due to government spending cuts and declining visitor numbers. For further details, see story below. 12th December 2010. (Andrew Curtis, used under the terms of this Creative Commons Licence)

February 2016. Monkwearmouth, Tyne and Wear. 42 years after Monkwearmouth Station Museum first opened, Sunderland City Council is considering closing it temporarily due to declining visitor numbers and government spending cuts – £207 million since 2010 in Sunderland City Council’s case. Councillor John Kelly explained that ‘we need to look at how we can continue to preserve and maintain the Grade II listed building [actually Grade II*] at the same time as protecting the museum’s collection and historical past. At the forefront of our thinking will be looking at new and innovative ways to protect the future of Monkwearmouth Station Museum in the longer term. This isn’t a decision to be taken lightly but it is one of the really difficult choices we are having to look at because of government cuts to our budget.’ The photograph above illustrates that Monkwearmouth is no ordinary station; it is one of the jewels of north eastern railway architecture and deserves a secure future. (Tim Chant)

February 2016. Rushden to Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire. Northamptonshire County Council has now completed phases 1 to 3 of the East Northamptonshire Way, which has seen the Midland Railway’s short branch from Wellingborough to Higham Ferrers converted into a multi-use trail between SP 946673 and SP 962682, a distance of ca. 1¼ miles. The preserved Rushden station at SP 957672 is a notable feature: it is now the home of the outstanding Rushden Historical Transport Society (see which, since 1978, has organised a massive three-day transport festival every spring. (Jeff Vinter)

February 2016. Chesterfield, Derbyshire. Our correspondent reports: ‘The Brampton branch is to be re-opened (possibly in May) as a cycle/walking route to give access to Chesterfield’s Midland station. The section involved includes three bridges: one over the Chesterfield by-pass (A61), one over the old Derby Road alignment, and the third over the realigned Derby Road. West of that point the trackbed is already walkable to Park Road and thence alongside the Queen’s Park to Boythorpe Road. There’s also a footpath/cycleway branching off the Brampton branch alignment and following the course of the Lancashire, Derbyshire & East Coast Railway’s line to Horns Bridge.’ When complete, this will create a trail of ca. ¾ mile from Boythorpe Road, at SK 377710, to Chesterfield station, at SK 388714. (Tony from Bygone Lines)

February 2016. Glenbeigh to Caherciveen, County Kerry. In February 2015, a scheme to convert part of the abandoned Great Southern & Western Railway’s branch from Farranfore to Valentia Island into a greenway finally got the go-ahead when Kerry County Council voted to proceed with compulsory purchase orders to acquire the trackbed. The Dublin government has committed €3.4m to the project, which it is claimed has the potential to be one of the world’s ‘most iconic’ walking and cycling routes, being on the scenic Ring of Kerry. We apologise that this news is a year late – it came to light during research for the 2017 edition of Vinter’s Railway Gazetteer. Better late than never! (Jeff Vinter)

January 2016. Douglas, Isle of Man. Earlier this month, it was announced that the Douglas Horse Tramway will not run in 2016, or ever again. The timing of the announcement was particularly unfortunate given that it was made just a few months short of the Tramway’s 140th anniversary. Douglas Borough Council said that the decision had been made ‘with regret’, but the losses were too heavy for the service to continue. Its announcement may be an attempt to encourage the Manx Government to take over the tramway or seek voluntary involvement, and a Manx Radio report on 26th January suggested that it might succeed. There has been a reaction from tram enthusiasts from around the world, who wish to see the council reverse its decision, and readers can sign an online petition created by the Friends of Douglas Bay Horse Tramway by using the link here. (Chris Parker)

January 2016. Hadlow Road, Cheshire. The Grade II listed Hadlow Road station is situated on the Wirral Way, which uses the former branch line from Hooton to West Kirby. It is approaching its 150th anniversary and, with the distinctive rock cutting at Neston, is one of the two very striking railway features on this trail. The building has been kept in good order for many years, presumably starting with Cheshire County Council which purchased it along with the trackbed in 1968; the most recent refurbishment was completed in 2011. The building, complete with the track at the platform, re-creates the ambience of a 1950s country station, which makes it a place where many trail users break their journeys. Cheshire West and Chester Council own the station and, until recently, used it as offices; but now they are deciding what to do with it, one possible option being sale for commercial use. This has concerned the Friends of Hadlow Road Station, who have offered to take a long lease, or to purchase the building as a community asset at a token value of £1. The public toilets, signal box, platform, railway path and car park at the station remain in the ownership of the council’s ‘Place Operations’ team and are therefore unaffected. (Tim Chant)

January 2016. Whitby to Scarborough, North Yorkshire. On 21st January, the ‘Scarboroughuk’ website reported that ‘Sustrans has been awarded funding from the Coastal Revival Fund to consult on and complete a detailed plan for the restoration of the Cinder Track that runs along the North Yorkshire coast between Scarborough and Whitby’. The Cinder Track, part of NCN1, is so-called because of the material used in its trackbed. Mike Babbitt, Sustrans Regional Infrastructure Manager, described this as a very exciting project which would allow the charity to ‘carefully consider and plan major improvements for what should really be some of the best coastal cycling and walking in Britain’. Anyone who has walked or cycled this trail could not argue with those sentiments. (Tim Grose)

January 2016. Polegate to Heathfield, East Sussex. A new Waitrose store has appeared opposite the car park in Heathfield at the north end of this trail. Apart from the obvious convenience before or after a walk, run or cycle ride, this makes the site feel safer than when a garage was opposite. Some path improvements have taken place, but the overall effect is a bit of a patchwork. Most of the newer surface is near Horam where the station has enjoyed a makeover, with the vegetation cut back, the platforms cleared and an enamel sign and seating installed. The East Sussex County Council website states that Heathfield Tunnel is now open only during the summer, although it doesn’t mention when the authority considers summer to begin and end. (Tim Grose)

January 2016. Bristol (Parson Street Junction) to Portishead. The branch line to Portishead is one of the few closed railways which stands a good chance of complete revival. It lost its passenger and freight services in 1964 and 1981 respectively, but in 2002 the section from Parson Street Junction to Pill was re-opened with spurs beyond to the coal and car terminals at Royal Portbury Dock. Re-opening of the final length from Pill to Portishead as part of the ‘MetroWest’ project had been planned for 2019, but could now slip back to 2020 due to various technical, construction and access issues, including the need for Network Rail to re-signal the Bristol area to accommodate the extra trains. (Could NR not have predicted that?) A report by Sir Peter Hendy, scrutinizing Network Rail’s future projects across the UK, has also been blamed. (Tim Chant)

January 2016. Oswestry to Weston and Llynclys,Shropshire. The Cambrian Heritage Railway, which has separate bases in Oswestry and Llynclys, is extending south from Oswestry station to Weston Wharf, near Stonehouse Brewery and Weston Pools, and hopes to have services running by the start of the 2018 season. A report in the Shropshire Star stated that ‘part of the track will run alongside the new greenway that Shropshire Council is planning to build as a new footpath and cycle way’. If anyone can provide further details of the latter, please get in touch; the results of Internet searches have not been very fruitful. (Tim Chant)

Update: We have now found from Shropshire Council’s website that the ‘new greenway’ was given planning permission on 9th October 2015. Its location south of Oswestry station was available with a detailed plan of the trail (Tim Chant and Jeff Vinter)

January 2016. Tadcaster, North Yorkshire. Access to the disused railway viaduct over the River Wharfe at Tadcaster in North Yorkshire has for some time been blocked by landowner Sam Smiths Brewery; since the flood-induced collapse of the nearby A569 road bridge in the Christmas 2015 floods, the town has been cut in two, but the BBC news website has reported: ‘Councillor McKay said great steps had now been taken to improve access to an old viaduct which provided a way across the River Wharfe for pedestrians, albeit with a long diversion away from the town centre. He said lighting was being provided so the viaduct could be used after dark as well.’ (Jane Ellis from the RR Message Board)

Update: A correspondent has since visited Tadcaster and reports that use of the viaduct had not been obstructed by the brewery. ‘An impressive 11 arch structure, it has for many years carried a public right of way, with links to riverbank public footpaths on both banks of the River Wharfe as well as a trackbed route into the west part of the town. On the east bank, however, steps down to the waterside path were the only pedestrian option. What has been provided additionally, only on a temporary permissive basis on Samuel Smith’s land, is a higher level path to give a fairly direct access to the Wighill road and eastern residential part of the town. On a recent visit, this was found to be fenced and with a gravel surface, but no lighting was apparent.’ Near the site of the A569 road bridge, which has a ‘provenance back to medieval times’, a temporary bridge is now in place and serves as the main pedestrian link between the two halves of the town centre. (Mr NJ Hill)

Above: It is not often that one sees an old viaduct sliced through like a cake, yet that is what has happened to the Somerset & Dorset Railway’s three-arched viaduct alongside Bellotts Road in western Bath. Having cleared the surrounding vegetation last year, Network Rail has now infilled the first and third arches with concrete, and removed the middle arch because it did not provide enough headroom for the new overhead electric wires which will arrive here as part of the project to electrify the Great Western main line. But when? According to the 11th November 2015 edition of ‘Rail’ magazine, ‘Electrification … could be two years late, cost three times as much as original estimates, and entail suburban electric multiple units standing idle for a year’. All this has given Network Rail’s Chief Executive, Mark Carne, some uncomfortable moments before Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee. January 2016. (Jem Spurrier)

January 2016. Bath to Radstock, Somerset. On the west side of Bath, the central arch of the Somerset & Dorset Railway’s viaduct over the Great Western main line to Bristol has been removed pending installation of a new (and presumably pre-cast concrete) span; the two ledges on which this will stand can be seen clearly in the photograph above. Network Rail has installed a fully-signed diversion to the Two Tunnels Trail while these works are in progress, and has promised to return the trail to its rightful course over the viaduct in due course. (Brian Loughlin)

January 2016. Radstock to Frome, Somerset. Bath & North East Somerset Council is about to start work on removing young trees (mainly alder, sycamore and willow) between Radstock and Kilmersdon because they have reduced the bio-diversity along this old line, which now accommodates Colliers Way and NCN24 – as well as the in situ but derelict track which the North Somerset Railway aspires to use. The council aims to restore a habitat which will support a greater variety of wildlife. According to The Western Daily Press, ‘Slow-worms and common lizards, colonies of rare flowering plants, mining bees, butterflies and damselflies will be among the wildlife to benefit’. (Tim Chant)

January 2016. Witham to Maldon, Essex. Essex County Council has proposed to ‘upgrade’ Catholic Bridge in Colchester Road, Witham, by infilling it with concrete and blocking permanently the Blackwater Trail which passes underneath on its way from Witham to Maldon. The proposal has met a well-deserved backlash from local residents, including Paul Ryland who is the Chairman of Witham Town Council’s Planning Committee. He remarked, ‘I don’t think it sounds like a very good idea at all, it’s probably just been thought up by some clerk in an office who is trying to save a few quid. If these are the proposals on the cards, I think it is very stupid. It’s all very short-sighted.’ Given that Sustrans has just finished spending £50 million to put back missing bridges all around the UK, this club echoes Mr Ryland’s sentiments, especially considering that the Blackwater Trail is one of the few traffic-free routes that links one end of Witham with the other. The whole point and value of bridges is that they offer ‘grade separation’ so that flows of walkers and cyclists can be separated from flows of cars and lorries. If the bridge is blocked and trail users forced to cross the B1389 on the level, it will take only one serious accident to make the infilling of this bridge look considerably worse than stupid. (Tim Chant and Jeff Vinter)

January 2016. Botolphs (nr. Bramber) to Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex. It is good to start the New Year with a report that this section of the Downs Link is closed until the start of February for resurfacing work, although readers should expect an overrun due to this winter’s exceedingly wet weather. Bramber to Shoreham is a very popular section of the trail, and the old surface had taken a hammering. Further good news comes from West Sussex County Council’s website which states that, ‘All of the Downs Link is surfaced’. This used not to be the case and our correspondent can remember some very muddy adventures on the trail in years gone by! (Jeff Vinter)

January 2016. Cranleigh to Guildford, Surrey. The idea of converting the this part of the former Horsham to Guildford line into a guided busway has been ruled out as ‘too expensive’, but Cranleigh’s draft neighbourhood plan still includes a proposal that it be used as a ‘transport link’ to Guildford at peak times when the neighbouring A281 is ‘too busy’. This means reinstating the railway, although whether this proves to be more manageable financially than the guided busway remains to be seen. (Jeff Vinter)

Above: Donyatt Halt in better times (see story below). The site is owned by Somerset County Council but the restoration was carried out by the local community between 2005 and 2009. Unfortunately, the halt has been the target of several attacks, which have angered local residents; some are now suggesting that a more substantial structure be installed. 10th July 2015. (Jenny Vinter)

January 2016. Donyatt, Somerset. On the afternoon of Wednesday 25th November, the restored halt at Donyatt on the former GWR branch line from Taunton to Chard Junction burned to the ground. The police suspect arson and are investigating. Click here for a report on the ‘westcountry’ website. (Graeme Bickerdike)

Feature Articles


The Perthshire Advertiser newspaper article cited (see here) seems to be a lot of hype about very little in mileage terms. What is correct is that the railway path project is being delivered in three stages, as described below.

Phase 1 has provided about 1 mile (1.5 km) of surfaced cycleway on the east side of St.. Fillans along the formation from the A85 bridge at Tynreoch (grid reference NN 715234) to the Fank Burn (NN 703244), beyond which a farmyard has taken over the trackbed, and the cycleway then deviates to the north, zigzagging up the hillside (it is believed that the photo in the newspaper article was taken on the deviation, not on the former railway). The A85 overbridge has been re-opened, but with a much reduced arch. Users, especially cyclists, are not helped by the fact that a local farmer has taken to storing a piece of machinery in this narrow space, severely restricting passage. The section between this bridge and Dalchonzie remains a good forestry track with two fine bowstring girder bridges and a concrete viaduct along the way. However, it is not suitable for cyclists with road bikes, which will clearly reduce usage of the new section, so it may be that Phase 3 will involve putting tarmac on this stretch. Path users are directed between Dalchonzie and Comrie over a rather indirect route via minor roads (NCN775). East of Dalchonzie, the trackbed is adjacent to the road for a distance and this could potentially be used as a path in the future, if it was thought desirable to provide a shorter and entirely traffic free cycle route. The final section into Comrie has the two missing bridges mentioned in the previous post and it seems unlikely that this part would ever be reconstructed, particularly the eastern bridge which now abuts directly onto property on the eastern bank. The Dalchonzie to St Fillans stretch is the only part of the A85 east of Lochearnhead that does not have a minor road alternative, so a cycleway has presumably been prioritised here for that reason.

Phase 2 seems to consist of nothing but a substantial new bridge across Glen Tarken. The trackbed between St Fillans and Lochearnhead is mostly in use as farm or forestry tracks of varying standard, with informal footpaths (provided with basic step stiles) across the gaps or around the occasional obstruction. One such deviation, around the fenced-off short tunnel west of St. Fillans, involves a precarious scramble through crags on the hillside to the south! The new bridge with its aluminium girders and non-slip surfacing is therefore overkill in the context of what exists at present, so presumably further phases are imminent to build a proper cycleway either side, eventually reaching Lochearnhead. The South Loch Earn road, however, already provides a reasonably traffic free route between St Fillans and Lochearnhead and is arguably more attractive to ordinary users (i.e. not promarily interested in the old railway) with its lochside location, whilst the railway passes mainly through forest with restricted views.

Unfortunately, linkage with NCN7 at Lochearnhead would need to be through the village and the A85/A84 and not directly across the fine curved concrete viaduct over Ogle Burn. Although the structure is in apparently good condition and accessible from the west, there is property immediately to the east that cannot easily be bypassed.

Report by Dr Keith Potter
20th November 2016