News 2019

Above: A typical Great Central Railway girder bridge carries the old GCR main line over the Midland Railway just south of Beighton Junction in South Yorkshire (east of Sheffield). This bridge has been sealed off, which is not surprising given that it has no deck, and an operational freight line passes below; the photograph was taken by holding the camera through security railings. However, much of the GCR in the vicinity now forms part of the Trans Pennine Trail, NCN67. 29th September 2018. (Jeff Vinter)

December 2019. Bovey Tracy to Moretonhampstead, Devon. On Monday 23rd December, Andrew Watson (Head of Recreation, Access and Estates at Dartmoor National Park Authority) contacted our South Western Area Organiser with the excellent news that the Wray Valley Trail, which re-uses the northern end of the Moretonhampstead branch, had been opened three days previously. It’s a shame we couldn’t be there, but – given this autumn’s weather in the West Country – it was probably raining cats and dogs. An official opening will follow in the spring, when we plan to take some photographs for publication. For the background to this project, click the link here and follow the onward links. (Jeff Vinter)

December 2019. Wick St. Lawrence to Ham Lane, Somerset. Further to our report in January, progress has been made on plans to convert part of the former Weston, Clevedon & Portishead Light Railway into a trail. It is now clear that North Somerset’s intention is to incorporate the above length of old railway in a new pier-to-pier recreational trail (Weston to Clevedon), which will avoid the busy A370 and reduce the current distance from 17 to 13 miles. The council has already secured a grant of £645,000 from the Rural Payments Agency, and has now applied for £1.4m from Highways England to cover the cost of constructing an ‘agricultural crossing’, whatever that is (hopefully a bridge over Tutshill Sluice). If this application is successful, construction work is expected to start in July 2020. The plan is now backed by a support group with 1,300 members. (Ivor Sutton)

December 2019. Bradford to Keighley, West Yorkshire. On 17th December, the Bradford Telegraph & Argus reported that the West Yorkshire Combined Authority has requested £23 million from government in order to convert Queensbury Tunnel into a high quality cycle route linking Calderdale and Bradford. WYCA justified the bid as follows: ‘A re-purposed Queensbury Tunnel would form a new cycling and walking route, which would preserve this historic asset for future generations. The opportunity to deliver the scheme is finely balanced; without certainty over funding … measures to ensure public safety may progress to the point where the opportunity is lost. If funded, [the tunnel] would form a key link and a major opportunity to create a new route for walking and cycling linking west Bradford with north Halifax, providing a travel option for some of the 14,000 people that commute between the two districts …’ Further details are available on the BT&A’s website. We assume that the £23 million covers the funding required to upgrade and convert other disused railway structures along the intended route to Keighley, although Railway Paths and Sustrans have already made inroads into this work, e.g. with the restoration of Hewenden and Cullingworth Viaducts and the construction of associated cycle trails. (Mark Jones)

December 2019. Honing, Norfolk. Honing station was situated on the Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway between North Walsham and Great Yarmouth, and much of this section now accommodates The Weavers’ Way. After closure, Norfolk County Council dismantled the station’s buildings and used the site for the storage of road materials, but then nature gradually took over. However, in 2014, the ‘Friends of Norwich City Station’ were given permission to rehabilitate the site, and they have made a fine job of it, as can be seen in our correspondent’s video record of a recent visit. Further details are available from the Honing village website. (Tim Grose)

December 2019. Peasmarsh, nr. Guildford, to Shoreham-by-Sea (Surrey/West Sussex). We are delighted to report that West Sussex County Council is carrying out improvement work on its popular Downs Link trail, which re-uses the former Guildford-Horsham and Horsham-Shoreham railway lines to link the North and South Downs, and provide a further link to the coast. The work, financed by a £558,000 grant from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, will see major surface improvements to sections of the trail between Rudgwick and Slinfold, and West Grinstead and Partridge Green, with a further two sections to follow in 2020. Further details are available at the link here, including dates and grid references for the necessary closures. (Tim Grose)

December 2019. Privett, Hampshire. It is not often that one sees an old station up for rent, but that is what happened to Privett station on the former Meon Valley line between Knowle Junction, west of Fareham, and Butts Junction, west of Alton. However, it seemed that the rental of over £3,000 per month (!) was a more than even the south eastern property market could stand, so the station is now up for sale at £1.1 million, and can be viewed here. If you are looking for a cheaper ex-railway home, there are a few on this page, with one priced at a manageable £180,000. (Tim Grose)

December 2019. Bennerley Viaduct, Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire. Good news has just arrived from the Bennerley Viaduct team: contractors have started work on grading back the western approach embankment to create easier access – which they will require to get all their equipment aloft for repairs to the deck and parapet. (Kieran Lee)

November 2019. Aylsham to North Walsham, Norfolk. Norfolk County Council is carrying out improvements to the railway-based section of the Weaver’s Way between Aylsham and Stalham. The work will involve constructing a stable and level surface, widening the path where necessary, and generally creating an all-weather facility, especially by reducing water retention. New replica railway gates will be installed at some Weaver’s Way road crossings, where surface improvements will also be made. Work is expected to run from 6th January to 27th March 2020, and sections will be closed (with diversions signed) during this period. Further details are available at the link here. (Tim Grose)

November 2019. Aylsham to Norwich, Norfolk. Continuing the East Anglian theme, Norfolk County Council has recently launched a new free app called ‘Go Jauntily’, which provides 24 interactive walks along Marriott’s Way. This railway-based trail uses a mixture of old M&GNR and GER trackbeds, plus BR’s Themelthorpe Curve, to provide an off-road trail between Aylsham and Norwich. The project to develop the app took 2½ years and cost £455,000, which was provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The app provides users with a bird’s eye view on the map page, and features tap-on points that display pictures and descriptions. Routes can be downloaded for offline viewing, or exported to a GPS device. (Tim Chant)

November 2019. Cutsyke to Methley Junction, Castleford, West Yorkshire. Further to our earlier reports in May and July, Sustrans is now working on Phase 3 of the new Castleford Greenway, which will see another 0.6km of disused trackbed owned by Railway Paths Ltd brought into use as part of this new multi-use trail. (Will Haynes)

November 2019. Stubbins Junction, nr. Ramsbottom, to Accrington, Lancashire. Progress on Lumb Viaduct on this route has certainly been slow (see August 2018 and November 2016), but at last the work is done: a railway path now runs across the viaduct and extends for 500-600 metres on the north side before connecting with half a mile of trackbed belonging to Railway Paths Ltd, which has permissive access, although a recent visit found it heavily overgrown. The total distance of putative new path is thus about 1.4km (just under a mile) and – if the RPL land could be improved would take the trail, part of NCN6, almost into Helmshore, the next community along the line. At this stage, we do not know what arrangements are in place at Helmshore, so will appreciate a short report to our Contact page if you are in the area and able to visit. (Will Haynes and Mark Jones)

November 2019. Northallerton to Garsdale, North Yorkshire/Cumbria. The railway through Wensleydale survives between Northallerton and Redmire thanks to the good offices of the Wensleydale Railway, which leaves the section from Redmire to Garsdale – including the intermediate honeypot tourist attraction of Hawes – as the only part which has been lost. However the Upper Wensleydale Railway announced plans in June this year to reinstate the lost mileage, starting with the western link from Garsdale (on the Settle-Carlisle line) back to Hawes; full details can be read at the website here. This will be a large and very expensive project including work to two viaducts, a tunnel and Hawes station (with the Dales Countryside Museum next door), so must be viewed as a very long term aspiration. (Jane Ellis)

November 2019. Sturminster Newton, Dorset. The North Dorset Trailway Network, which is working to convert the former Somerset & Dorset Railway within Dorset into a long-distance multi-use trail, has received a grant of £70,000 from the new Dorset Council, which it has used to purchase land in Sturminster Newton to the north of the old station site; it intends this to be used to gain access to the old trackbed for development of a northward extension to Stalbridge. This land also offers the potential for a crossing of the River Stour, which will be an essential part of this extension. Funds remaining from the land purchase will be used for the primary purpose of supporting the extension through further land acquisition. (North Dorset Trailway Network)

November 2019. Blandford Forum, Dorset. Bellway Homes are about to build 200 new houses near the junction of the A350 and A354 at Blandford St Mary, just south of Blandford Forum. The Trustees of the North Dorset Trailway Network have argued for a new route for the Trailway to be developed away from the busy main road, roughly on the line of the old railway, and this has been accepted in the latest plans. Trustees have also argued for an equestrian ‘Pegasus’ crossing over the A354, but as yet this has not been accepted. However, following the abolition of North Dorset District Council in April this year, planning decisions are now the responsibility of the new unitary Dorset Council, and Trustees continue to argue for a safe and traffic-free route for all Trailway users. Recent evidence indicates that the Trailway is attracting more users than ever, especially cyclists using the trail to access schools or workplaces. This is precisely what the route was designed to encourage. (North Dorset Trailway Network)

November 2019. Keswick to Threlkeld, Cumbria. The Lake District National Park Authority, based in Kendal, is facing an unprecedented vote of no confidence after publishing plans to tarmac the Keswick Railway Path as part of its repair programme following the damage wrought by Storm Desmond in December 2015. Protesters object on the grounds that tarmac will urbanise the route, which is situated throughout in the National Park. It is likely that economic forces are behind the Park Authority’s decision. The original path surface was very similar to early Sustrans cycle trails, and looked like (and probably was) finished in rolled limestone dust. In the 1970s, quarry companies used to give this material away, but they started charging for it when they realised that they had created a market for it. The problem with rolled limestone dust is that it is susceptible to wind and rain (scour) and has a much shorter life expectancy than tarmac, which has a sealed surface; over the long term, a tarmac surface is cheaper, and probably better for wheelchair users and families with buggies, etc. Objectors have also expressed fears about cyclists racing along the restored trail at speed. Meanwhile, objectors claim that the National Park has rode roughshod over local views and ‘eroded trust’ in the organisation. (Tim Chant and Jeff Vinter)

October 2019. Bennerley Viaduct, Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire. We have just received the following excellent news from the team behind the restoration of Bennerley Viaduct: ‘Bennerley Viaduct, the grade II* listed Victorian wrought iron structure straddling the Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire boundary, has gained international recognition by its inclusion in the 2020 World Monuments Watch list. The railway viaduct, still on Historic England’s at-risk register, is one of just 25 projects selected from a competitive pool of 250 nominations worldwide, and the only site to be chosen in Britain this year. All the sites included in the 2020 World Monuments Watch List were selected to support communities who are striving to save sites of outstanding cultural importance.’ The World Monuments Watch is run by the World Monuments Fund, a private non-profit organisation based in New York, which sponsors a programme for the conservation of cultural heritage across the world. The fund identifies endangered sites and works with local communities to conserve them under viable, long-term stewardship schemes. If you wish to see what august company Bennerley now keeps, click the link here. (Kieran Lee)

October 2019. Hastigrow to Sinclair’s Bay, Highland (Caithness). Further to our report in April, our correspondent has sent us a short report published in the November 2017 edition of the Industrial Railway Society’s Bulletin: ‘John [Yellowlees of the IRS] visited this little-reported site as part of an Institution of Civil Engineers study tour of Caithness and Orkney in July 2016. Previously Rockwater Ltd, the site is used mainly for the assembly of oil pipelines, bundles of pipes being delivered to Georgemas by mainline rail. The pipeline is welded in a fabrication shop and fed inland on bogies running on a double track 976mm gauge railway, each track taking a pipeline section and extending 7.8km (almost 5 miles) inland. When completed, the pipeline section is then moved on the bogies to the sea where it is picked up by a ship and taken for laying on the seabed.’ The IRS editor added a note that there are around 400 bogies. Friends of the Far North Line give the gauge as 1 metre, so, if it really is 976mm, is this a new gauge and a world first? (John Yellowlees, forwarded by N.J. Hill)

Comment: Could this railway close and be re-used as a trail? It seems less likely now than 6 months ago. A recent report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers stated: ‘The North Sea is an exciting prospect play (sic) with potentially 20-30bn boe [barrels of oil equivalent] of undiscovered resources – particularly West of Shetland, the Atlantic Margin and on the UKCS/NCS border’. The report mentioned that lack of investment capital was an issue, and that the oilfield needed to turn around its performance within 24 months if it was to have a long-term future. (Webmaster)

October 2019. Hincaster to Arnside, Cumbria. The Hincaster Trailway Group, which has converted part of the eastern end of the former Furness Railway’s disused branch line from Hincaster to Arnside into a multi-use trail, has just obtained a grant of £5,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The money will be used to support an oral history project which will collect memories of the old line while still in use. The group will then work with a local film maker to produce three short films to use as promotion and publicity on its website, which can be found at (Bridget Pickthall, Secretary, Hincaster Trailway Group)

Above: ‘Farewell, Sutton Scotney station.’ The modern view looking north up the Didcot, Newbury & Southampton Railway’s former cross-country line at Sutton Scotney, over what – until 1960 – was the village’s station. A succession of larch lap fences can be made out, separating the gardens, so only railway ramblers with at least an Olympic bronze medal in the high jump need attempt this section of lost trackbed. 16th October 2019. (Graham Lambert)

Above: A view of the repaired bridge parapet, also looking north up the line. The dreary looking buildings do not fill us with enthusiasm, but presumably they have the benefit of being extremely energy-efficient. 16th October 2019. (Graham Lambert)

Above: The arch beneath the bridge has been cleared with a view to being re-used for access, subject to the group behind the Watercress Way securing agreement with the landowner. 27th October 2019. (Graham Lambert)

October 2019. Sutton Scotney, Hampshire. Further to our report in March, the Old Station Park housing development has now been completed, turning the site of Sutton Scotney’s station into yet another housing estate in the south east. As can be seen in the upper photograph above, the developers have arranged for the houses’ gardens to occupy the trackbed, which gardeners amongst the purchasers may not appreciate when they tap a rich vein of ballast and clinker. (Graham Lambert)

October 2019. Bradford to Keighley, West Yorkshire. The latest news from this old line, where Queensbury Tunnel is the key feature in a proposed Bradford/Halifax to Keighley railway path, is that AMCO-Giffen, Highways England’s contractor, has withdrawn from the tunnel following a significant inundation of floodwater. This underlines the engineering difficulties inherent in the tunnel, and the problems caused by the infilling of the southern approach cutting, which makes the old railway formation act like a reservoir. (Graeme Bickerdike)

Above: A view of the LNWR’s Dudley–Walsall line from near the site of the former LNWR station, looking south towards Dudley Tunnel – which was actually on the GWR’s connecting Wolverhampton–Dudley–Stourbridge Junction line. There are plans to re-open both of these routes, as explained in the article below. 7th October 2019. (Tim Chant)

October 2019. Stourbridge Junction to Lichfield, West Midlands/Staffordshire. Further to our report in February 2017, our correspondent visited the Dudley area recently and noted trackbed clearance work being undertaken prior to re-opening part of the old line from Stourbridge Junction to Lichfield via Brierley Hill, Dudley Castle Hill, Sandwell, Walsall and Brownhills. A local remarked that, at Dudley, a metro station and college were to be built on the redundant railway land after it had been cleared. This prompted further investigation, which revealed that, in March 2019, the West Midlands Combined Authority had approved funding for the 7 mile section of trackbed from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill to be developed as an extension to the West Midlands tram system, with 17 new stops. At this stage, we do not know what will become of this rail link southwards to Stourbridge Junction, or north to Walsall and Lichfield City. If you can provide details, please get in touch via our Contact page. (Tim Chant)

Above: A new section of railway path on the Port Road west of Glenluce (see story below), which extends an existing forestry track to 1 mile to provide a largely traffic-free route between Glenluce and Dunragit. The trail was funded by Scottish Power Renewables (i.e. wind farms) through the Old Luce Community Fund. October 2019. (Alan Williams)

October 2019. Glenluce to Dunragit, Dumfries & Galloway. A further section of the former ‘Port Road’, the now-disused direct railway between Dumfries and Stranraer, has been opened up to walkers and cyclists. Our correspondent reports as follows: ‘You may be interested to learn that the dog and I have stumbled upon another very short section of the ‘Port Road’ which has been reclaimed as a path by the Old Luce Development Trust in the last few weeks. From just beyond the western end of Luce Viaduct (grid reference NX 191573 on OS Explorer 310), there has been an existing forestry track of about half a mile to the western end of ‘Wood of Park’. It is from there that the Trust has developed a new path, with the help of wind farm money, of about another half-a-mile, to the minor road (at NX 174571) which then passes under the existing Glasgow to Stranraer line. The path is easily walkable with fine gravel and brand new stock gates and fencing. According to some dog-walkers whom we met, the path is very well used by the local community to walk between Glenluce and Dunragit, even though it doesn’t actually reach the latter; but it does link with a minor road and avoids the A75. This is borne out by the half-dozen people whom we met in just the half-hour we were there on a damp and breezy afternoon. The dog-walkers mentioned that the Development Trust would ideally like to bring the Luce Viaduct itself into use, though this may be a project which is beyond their resources. At present it is, of course, completely fenced-off.’ (Alan Williams)

October 2019. Bennerley Viaduct, Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire. In August, we reported that the local authorities had given planning consent for Bennerley Viaduct to be restored, so that it can be re-opened as a walkway. Tenders for the necessary work have been put out and currently contractors are being appointed with a view to a November start date. One unusual feature of the work arises from the fact that great crested newts, a rare species, have colonised crevices in the crumbling brickwork at the feet of the piers. The project team has a newt licence, valid until 31st October but non-extendable, which requires ‘hibernaculae’ (bespoke newt shelters) to be installed so that the newts have suitable alternative homes prior to the brickwork being repaired. Volunteers will install these on the remaining October work days under the supervision of a licensed ecologist. (Kieran Lee)

Above: Highams Park signal box in London, N4, is one of the few such structures in the UK which has a secure future. For further details, see the story below. 12th March 2016. (Spudgun67, used under the terms of this Creative Commons Licence)

October 2019. Highams Park, London. The club’s editor is a great fan of the old-fashioned British signal box, so he will be pleased to learn that the lofty box at Highams Park station, London N4, will not be going into a skip any time soon; indeed, not ever, if the family owners of La Boite Crêperie which trades there have anything to do with it. The fascinating history of the box can be read here. At the time of writing, the business is closed temporarily, but the good news is that the family has reached agreement with Network Rail over repairs to the drainage system which, when complete, will be followed by a kitchen refit and re-decoration … then re-opening to the public. (Richard Lewis and Jeff Vinter)

October 2019. Armagh to Newry, County Armagh/County Down. Details of a proposed Lissummon Greenway linking Armagh with Newry were published on the Northern Ireland Greenways website in February this year, but missed by us until now. The story makes for fascinating reading. The caption to the first picture encapsulates the project: ‘A forgotten engineering treasure hidden in the countryside between Armagh and Newry could be the centrepiece of an amazing new greenway. Exploring the Lissummon Tunnel above the Newry Canal with the Mourne Mountains as a backdrop offers a wonderful selling point on a 33km [21 mile] traffic-free pathway – re-purposing an abandoned railway route steeped in a rich history, both tragic and inspirational.’ (Jeff Vinter)

Above: When it was completed in November 2008, the Comber Greenway, a 7 mile cycle trail built between Belfast and Comber on the course of an abandoned railway line, was Northern Ireland’s only rail trail of any quality and length. How the situation has changed. Not every one of the putative routes shown on the map above (click for a larger version) will re-use an old railway, but many will. What lies behind this remarkable change of policy? Quite simply, the success of traffic-free trails across the Irish Sea and, more locally, in the Republic of Ireland. (Map produced and published by Northern Ireland Greenways,

October 2019. Northern Ireland. Discovering the story about the proposed Lisummon Greenway linking Armagh and Newry (see above) unlocked an Aladdin’s Cave of wonderful news about disused railways in Northern Ireland. Readers of a certain age will recall the infamous Ulster Transport Authority, which, in the 1950s, was so fiercely anti-rail that the Westminster government had to shut it down before it could destroy the whole of Northern Ireland’s rail system. With that in mind, have a look at the astonishing list of projects at (the source of the map above), and then (1) scroll down the list of photographs, noting how many feature viaducts and other disused railway infrastructure, and (2) search the text for the word ‘rail’. Of course, turning these ideas into physical trails will be a different matter, but the Northern Ireland Government Greenway Strategy provides grounds for optimism; it was launched in November 2016 by then Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard, and commits to a 25 year strategy intended to create 1,000 kilometres [621 miles] of routes at an estimated cost of £150 million. We have not seen railway re-use proposed on this scale since the publication, in the 1980s, of the Grimshaw Report into disused railways in England, Scotland and Wales. Following this news, railway ramblers may like to keep an eye on Northern Ireland as a future holiday destination; but how did we manage to miss this story in 2016? Finally, does any reader know how suspension of the Stormont Assembly has affected this project? If you can tell us, please get in touch via our Contact page. (Jeff Vinter)

October 2019. Douglas, Isle of Man. One of the problems with multi-use trails based on old railways is that, frequently, they start well away from the centres of the communities they serve because, after the railway was closed, the trackbed nearest the centre was rapidly sold and re-developed. To combat this effect, the Isle of Man Government, in partnership with Sustrans, has developed a £3.8 million project in which the ‘Heritage Trail’ (the former railway line from Peel) will feed into an extensive network of safe walking and cycling routes radiating out 2½ miles from Douglas town centre, taking in one-third of the island’s population. This new network will utilise the most level routes, such as the ‘river valley’ (presumably that of the Baldwin River), and the promenade. The Manx government’s objective is to increase the number of people walking and cycling from 14%, the level in 2011, to over 20% by 2021. (Sustrans, ‘The Hub’, Autumn 2019, page 8)

October 2019. Southport to Hornsea, Merseyside/Lancashire/Yorkshire. Believe it or not, the Trans Pennine Trail is now 30 years old. The 370 mile trail, which contains an astonishing number of old railways, was opened in its completed form in 2001, but sections had been opening since 1989 thanks to the pioneering efforts of Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, without whose initiative the trail would not exist – or carry its current 1.7 million users annually. Sustrans is planning a year-long programme of special events across the network, including walks, rides and other activities. (Sustrans, ‘The Hub’, Autumn 2019, page 9)

October 2019. Belfast to Comber, County Down. A new 60-metre bridge has been opened to link the popular Comber Greenway with Dundonald Leisure Park. The development is another welcome step in the Comber Greenway Improvement Scheme, which seeks to encourage more active, sustainable transport. It is instructive to recall that, just a few years ago, the Northern Ireland authorities were proposing to replace this popular 7 mile rail trail with a guided busway. It turns out that it had another, earlier lucky escape. This part of the Belfast & County Down Railway, closed in the 1950s, was retained by government for use as part of the M7! (Sustrans, ‘The Hub’, Autumn 2019, page 10)

October 2019. Roslin to Loanhead and Shawfair, Midlothian. Further to our reports in February this year and March 2018, this new railway-based cycle trail now features a number of sculptures by artists Susheila Jamieson, James Gordon and Andrea Geile. The works have been installed by Sustrans in partnership with City of Edinburgh Council and Midlothian Council, with the cost being met from an arts budget that is separate to that used to fund path-building. For further details, click here. (Sustrans, ‘The Hub’, Autumn 2019, page 11)

October 2019. Beddgelert to Nantmor, Gwynedd. When the Welsh Highland Railway re-opened throughout in 2010, ramblers lost a delightful 3½ mile railway path through the Aberglaslyn Pass. All is not lost, however, because a mile of the footpath along the east bank of the River Glaslyn is now effectively a ‘trackside path’ – between grid references SH 592474 near Beddgelert and SH 596465 near Pont Aberglaslyn – with the railway on one side and the river on the other. This permits a railway ride from Beddgelert to Nantmor, or vice versa, with a walk back the other way; Ordnance Survey OL17 Explorer map provides details of the almost entirely off-road connections at either end. (Keith Holliday)

October 2019. Caernarfon to Afon Wen, Gwynedd. The long distance cycle trail Lôn Eifion uses the old LNWR trackbed between Caernarfon and Bryncir, a distance of 14 miles, but at Bryncir it stops – which has long been an irritation for anyone intending to cross the Lleyn Peninsula and reach Afon Wen. There is an alternative. About 1½ miles west of Bryncir lies the hamlet of Hendre Cennin, where at grid reference SH 458440 will be found the start of Lôn Goed, a 5 mile trail which leads directly to Afon Wen (SH 439376), crossing the LNWR line en route at SH 459410 near Rhosgyll Bach. On OS maps, this route looks for all the world like a disused tramway, but turns out to be a cart road which was built between 1819 and 1828 from the coast inland in order to transport limestone and peat to/from farms on the Mostyn Estate. The Internet offers little in the way of historical information, but, at a guess, the limestone went in (for making lime to improve the soil) and the peat went out (for heating). It’s a shame the Georgians didn’t make Lôn Goed a tramroad, but it’s a godsend for anyone seeking an almost entirely traffic-free route across the peninsula. (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)

September 2019. Shillingstone, Dorset. A diversion has now been created at Shillingstone station on the former Somerset & Dorset line which moves the North Dorset Trailway off the trackbed to a route behind the down platform. This is a safer arrangement for walkers, cyclists and horse riders to pass by without getting near the platform edge. There will still be access to the Shillingstone Station Project for visitors to see the many interesting items there, and use the station café. The Trailway is a popular local authority scheme which seeks to convert the old S&D into a long distance multi-use trail, eventually, from the county border with Somerset down to Poole. (Tim Chant)

September 2019. Midford, Avon. It is very early days yet, but there is a plan to rebuild the former Somerset & Dorset Railway’s station at Midford. The intention is to make it a destination in its own right at the southern end of the Two Tunnels Trail from Bath, with community facilities, a café, toilets (including for the disabled) and a small exhibition on the old railway. We will report further developments when known, but at this stage can say that the idea has local support and appears to be feasible. (Matt Skidmore)

Above: Weston station in suburban Bath, seen in the days when it was the home of Bath FM, a radio local station which operated between 1999 and 2010. The last passenger trains called here on 21st September 1953, but passenger trains continued to pass until 7th March 1966 (when the lines from Bath Green Park to Bournemouth and Mangotsfield closed), although freight services continued until 1971. For further details, see the story below. September 2007. (Johnlp used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licence)

September 2019. Bath, Avon. Most railway path users know that, a little way to the west of Bath, two such paths commence: one (in Brassmill Lane) to Bristol, and the other (just off the Lower Bristol Road) to Midsomer Norton via Midford, Wellow and Radstock. Recently, the demolition of an old factory west of Bath Green Park – built over the trackbed – created a unique opportunity to re-use the Midland Railway’s Locksbrook Bridge (at grid reference ST 734650) as the key feature of a link between the two routes. A full survey of the bridge is under way, and all that remains is for the central pier, in the middle of the River Avon, to be examined for signs of underwater scour. Also, the local authority purchased the trackbed west of this point (i.e. back towards Brassmill Lane) for a projected guided busway, which was never proceeded with, so it is just possible that this too could be incorporated into the railway path. Weston railway station (ST 732650), once a mouldering ruin, is still there, but now used by a veterinary surgery, having formerly been the home of Bath FM radio, which (as Wikipedia remarked) permitted a punning use of the word ‘station’. (Matt Skidmore and Jeff Vinter)

September 2019. Bovey Tracy to Moretonhampstead, Devon. Further to our report in June, we have now learned that completion and opening of the Wray Valley Way is planned for the end of this year (see here). The route will use the old railway from Bovey Tracey to just south of Knowle, which is itself south of Lustleigh, and then from north of Lustleigh to Moretonhampstead. The section through Lustleigh (which generated many objections in the past, significantly delaying the project) will now be on minor roads. A past visit by members of the club’s South Western Area suggested that the Lustleigh section of the route would follow the lane on the east side of the valley, but the lane on the west side offers views of the remaining viaducts. A schematic map from can be viewed here; the resolution could be better, but the map is sufficient to show the overall plan. Dartmoor National Park Authority expects the work to be completed by Christmas this year, with an official opening in March 2020. (Jeff Vinter)

September 2019. Penarth to Cadoxton, South Glamorganshire. Vale Council in South Wales is consulting on a proposed 576 house development at Cosmeston Lakes. Included would be an extension to NCN88 using the Taff Vale Railway’s former line from Cadoxton to Penarth. This cycle trail, known locally as Railway Walk Park, already uses the trackbed between grid reference ST 185713, near Penarth station, and ST 183694 on Cosmeston Drive, a distance of just under 1¼ miles. The extension would take the trail some way towards Sully, enabling it to serve not only the proposed new housing development, but also Cosmeston Lakes Country Park and Lavernock Point Holiday Estate. (Tim Chant and Jeff Vinter)

September 2019. Rugby to Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. After years of neglect, the abandoned LNWR line between Rugby and Leamington Spa (the so-called Lias Line) is set to receive a very significant amount of funding to convert it into a high quality traffic-free route. Details are scarce at the moment, but the article from the Rugby Advertiser sets out the basics, including what is wrong with the current facility, e.g. inconsistent quality, poor surface finishes, steep grades, etc. We understand that the improved Lias Line will be based on the old railway, and not (as at present) a mixture of the old railway and local lanes. (Jeff Vinter)

Above: The south portal of Queensbury Tunnel. Railways were built with their own drainage systems, so this type of problem usually occurs when, after closure, something is done to disrupt the old railway system. Infilling an approach cutting, as seen here, effectively creates a dam and is usually enough to create a flood. The lady in the photograph is standing close to what would have been the level of a train roof. For further details, see the story below. Late summer 2019. (Graeme Bickerdike © Forgotten Relics)

September 2019. Bradford to Keighley, West Yorkshire. The future of Queensbury Tunnel, the crucial engineering structure on this route, has reached a critical juncture. The cost of abandoning the tunnel, which campaigners and local councils want to re-open as part of the Great Northern Railway Trail, linking Bradford, Halifax and Keighley, has risen from £3.6 million to around £6 million due to a pumping station being switched off. It was intended that the pumping equipment, installed in 2016, would keep the tunnel de-watered during the abandonment works. However, Highways England, which manages the tunnel for the Department for Transport, never paid the £50 annual rent on a key piece of land, resulting in the forfeiture of a lease which had been secured following lengthy legal action. Instead of negotiating a new agreement with the landowner, Highways England chose to implement an alternative system whereby 8.2 million gallons of floodwater is being pumped up the 1.4-mile long tunnel and discharged into a nearby watercourse. About two-thirds of the water has been removed in nine months. Doing so has involved the creation of a safe access route through a 300-metre section of the tunnel that was previously designated as an exclusion zone due to its poor condition. A planning application for the main phase of abandonment works is currently being considered by Bradford Council. So far, more than 3,700 people have lodged objections and campaigners urge anyone who recognises the need for more walking and cycling infrastructure to make their views known via the Council’s planning portal. A council study has found that its intended network of routes linking Bradford and Keighley to Halifax via Queensbury Tunnel would deliver a social, economic and tourism boost of £37.6 million over 30 years at a Benefit:Cost Ratio of 2.31:1. (Graeme Bickerdike)
Above: The official opening of Newchurch No. 1 Tunnel on the former Rawtenstall to Bacup line on 7th September this year. Standing at the ribbon are Councillor Barbara Ashworth, Mayor of Rossendale, and Jake Berry, the local MP. For further details, see the story below. 7th September 2019. (Graeme Bickerdike © Forgotten Relics)

September 2019. Rawtenstall to Bacup, Lancashire. Further to our report in April, more of this former disused L&YR line is now open. On 7th September, more than 400 walkers and cyclists passed through two former railway tunnels at Waterfoot to celebrate the opening of a new section of the East Lancashire Cycleway. The ribbon was cut by Councillor Barbara Ashworth, Mayor of Rossendale, and Jake Berry, the local MP. The honeypot attractions are Newchurch No.1 and No.2 tunnels, respectively 162 and 290 yards in length, and originally brought into use in 1852. The route was doubled in 1880, resulting in the driving of a longer adjacent bore which is still sealed up. The construction works have been pragmatically undertaken by an in-house team from Lancashire County Council, except the injection grouting along a 3m-wide band at the crown of No.2 tunnel, which is notoriously wet. This approach has significantly reduced the amount of water falling on to the path, escaping instead at the haunch and running down the sidewalls. The route forms part of the ‘Valley of Stone’, one of four which make up the East Lancashire Strategic Cycleway project, for which £5.85 million has been allocated from a £250 million Growth Deal secured from government by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP), together with local contributions from Lancashire County Council and Blackburn with Darwen Council. (Graeme Bickerdike)

September 2019. Bradford to Keighley, West Yorkshire. We have just learned that the Victorian Society is supporting the campaign to do something useful with Queensbury Tunnel, and has placed the structure on its ‘Heritage at Risk’ register. In case any reader is still unaware, the options are to either restore it and make it part of the partially-built Great Northern Railway Trail, which will link Bradford and Halifax with Keighley (favoured by the campaigners), or fill it with concrete so that it can never be used again (the intention of the Historical Railways Estate of Highways England). Queensbury Tunnel does have serious structural problems, but this dispute is the tip of an iceberg: around the country, the HRE – and other agencies – have developed an annoying habit of spending public money on restoring historic railway infrastructure, and then putting it out of public use. Other examples (not all HRE-owned) include Heathfield Tunnel in East Sussex; Goonbell Viaduct near Mithian, Cornwall; Bath Road Viaduct in Shepton Mallet, Somerset; and Leaderfoot Viaduct near Melrose in the Scottish Borders. The only case we know of which is likely to break this pattern is the Grade II listed Waverley Viaduct in Carlisle, Cumbria, where a vigorous local campaign seeks to re-open the structure as a footpath and, eventually, cycle trail over the River Eden, thus permitting the removal of the high security barriers which British Rail Board Residuary Ltd erected in ca. 2010. All of these viaducts have consumed a lot of public money, so where is the public benefit in the current policy? (Keith Holliday)

Action you can take: If you wish to make your views about Queensbury Tunnel known to Bradford Council, which will soon be considering an application to abandon and seal it, please do so via their Planning Portal . The planning application, made by the Historical Railways Estate of the Highways Agency, is to infill the tunnel, so, if you wish it to be repaired and re-used as part of a trail, you must set your ‘Stance’ to ‘Object’.

September 2019. Kershopefoot to Stobs, Cumbria/Scottish Borders (The Waverley Line). This is some of the most exciting and important news we have reported for several years. South of Hawick, a number of significant new footpaths have been opened on the former Waverley line; they are signposted and include diversions, where necessary, around the few obstacles. From south to north, the new paths are as follows:

  1. South of Kersfoothope to Mangerton, grid references NY 471810 to NY 480856 (3 miles on trackbed). The key point on this route is where the railway crossed the lane through Kersfoothope at NY 475829:
    • South of this point, the walk traverses ‘access land’ in England which is used for forestry. The southernmost point on the trackbed (from where one must walk north) can be accessed via a track which starts from NY 478814 at Longcleughside.
    • North of this point, and all the way to Mangerton, the trackbed now accommodates a signposted footpath.
  2. North of Steele Road to Whitrope Summit, grid references NY 532943 to NT 525001 (5 miles on trackbed). This is all a signposted path, which passes Riccarton Junction at NY 539977 and ends on the B6399 by Whitrope Heritage Centre. Access at the south end is from the forest track that heads north off the lane at NY 532938, and at the north end from the WHC (but take care as this is an operational railway). There is a 1½ mile footpath over Whitrope Tunnel, including a viewpoint, which allows a connection to be made with route 3 below.
  3. North of Whitrope Tunnel to Stobs Castle, grid references NT 523020 to NT 507093 (6½ miles on trackbed). This path starts at the north end of the cutting on the north side of Whitrope Tunnel and continues to Shankend, where Shankend Viaduct, unfortunately, is not dedicated to the public. Immediately before the viaduct, the path joins a lane that passes under the viaduct, and then climbs back to the trackbed on the other side before continuing to just past Stobs Castle at NT 507093. Here, one must turn left and then quickly right (west and then north), climbing the hill which has the disused Stobs Camp higher up on its slopes. The track comes out on a lane at NT 504096, which leads down to Woodfoot Bridge on the B6399, passing under Barns or Stobs Viaduct at NT 505098.

Further sections of the Waverley route can be walked in the Hawick area, and these will be reported in 2020. Given the Scottish government’s interest in re-opening more of the Waverley route – which, when it closed in 1969, was as controversial as any railway closure in the UK – it might be an idea to visit this area to enjoy these wild and lonely landscapes sooner rather than later. (Phillip Earnshaw)

Above: Heathfield Tunnel in East Sussex, in happier days when it did actually lead to the town’s Millennium Green. This is the view looking north towards both the Green and the permissive trail along the trackbed which, sadly, does not go very far due to landowner opposition. For further details, see the story below. 27th May 2007. (Patrick Gueulle, used under the terms of this Creative Commons Licence)

September 2019. Heathfield, East Sussex. The 265 yard Heathfield Tunnel, on the former LBSCR line from Eridge to Polegate, has become another disused railway structure which was restored and brought back into use (in 1997) … only to be sealed up permanently. When our correspondent visited recently, he noticed that the tunnel was shut at the south portal (that is, from the skatepark by the old station, now Pilio Bistro on Station Approach), with no evidence that the gates had been opened for some time. Research suggested it was last open in 2012, but, with no indication of the current status, an email to Heathfield and Waldron Parish Council produced the following reply: ‘The tunnel has now been closed for a number of years. There are currently no plans with Wealden District Council for them to re-open it.’ To divert around the tunnel, one must walk up into the High Street and then take a path next to the Coop, which leads down to Millennium Green, an area of over 5 hectares of woodland and wetland, supposedly connected to the Cuckoo Trail via the tunnel. From the Green, there is a permissive path along the old line for about a mile towards Mayfield, but when the club’s Southern Group last visited there was no way out, obliging members to retrace their steps.

Gates were fitted to the tunnel in 1999, with the intention that they were kept open during daylight hours. This restriction was lifted in 2002, but then the tunnel was closed completely after an alleged rape incident on 12th March 2005. A trial re-opening began on 26th March 2007, but did not last – in the words of Wealden District Council – due to ‘constant vandalism and anti-social behaviour’. In theory, there is nothing to stop the tunnel being re-opened in future, but lighting and a proper destination on the north side will be important. The current problem is that the trackbed to Mayfield and beyond was sold off piecemeal, and the 12 different landowners are opposed to the Cuckoo Trail continuing along the old railway formation. As a result, it continues north from Heathfield along local lanes and bridleways, and that is that way that the trail users go; not through the tunnel, where their numbers would make vandalism etc. much less likely. (Tim Grose and Jeff Vinter),

September 2019. Perranporth, Cornwall. We have learned from the Cornwall Railway Society (CRS) that a short railway walk exists on the trackbed of the old Newquay-Perranporth-Chacewater line. It starts near the site of the former Perranporth Beach Halt at grid reference SW 756539 (at the junction of St Michael’s Road and Boscawen Road) and utilises a short section of trackbed towards Mithian; access is via a flight of steps which lead up to the trackbed from the abutment of a demolished underbridge. Remarkably, Perranporth Beach Halt survives to this day … as Falmouth Town station on the Truro-Falmouth branch.

Also from the CRS, we have learned that Goonbell Viaduct a.k.a. Wheal Liberty Viaduct at SW 738499 (on the south side of Mithian) was restored in summer 2015, at considerable expense, but high security fencing of the Network Rail type has been erected at both ends so that the structure can serve no useful purpose, even though it could be used to connect two public footpaths which cross the trackbed just a few yards away, either side of the Jericho Valley. (Jeff Vinter)

September 2019. Hardham Junction to Fittleworth, West Sussex. Our correspondent has brought to our attention a permissive footpath which follows the eastern end of the former Pulborough-Midhurst branch between grid references TQ 033175 and TQ 019176, a distance of about one mile. Apparently, the agreement for the path was not renewed in 2014, but the landowner has not stopped the permissive use. The eastern end of the trail is very close to Hardham Junction, while the western end makes connection with a public footpath which connects with what we understand is part of the towpath of the former Rother Navigation, thus providing a link from Hardham to Fittleworth. (Tim Grose)

September 2019. Singleton, West Sussex. A planning application to divide the generously proportioned station house at Singleton into two smaller dwellings is currently before the South Downs National Park Authority. We understand that the building is owned by one of the local estates, probably West Dean. The subdivision makes sense given south eastern property prices and the overall size of the property, which used to be visited by King Edward VII on his way to and from the race meetings at nearby Goodwood. (Tim Grose)

September 2019. Fulwell & Westbury, Northamptonshire. The former station house at Fulwell & Westbury, on the LNWR’s cross-country line from Verney Junction to Banbury, is up for sale at £900,000 on the rightmove website, which provides a rare opportunity to view the building online; at least, while it remains on the market. The station house was first restored in 1968, the adjoining station having closed to passengers in 1961, and completely in 1963. Only a mound remains today: the building was a timber affair so soon perished, while in August 2009 volunteers from the Chinnor Railway recovered the bricks from the platform edge. It is a fairly safe bet that these were re-used in the new Chinnor station. (Tim Grose)

September 2019. Harrogate to Northallerton via Ripon, North Yorkshire. According to the 28th August-10th September edition of RAIL magazine, ‘The English Regional Transport Association is calling for the former Harrogate-Ripon-Northallerton line to be re-opened, to reduce road traffic on the A61, boost local economies, and link the East Coast and Midland main lines’. Whether this will happen remains to be seen; many calls have been made for lines to be re-opened, but few have been realised. Re-opening this particular rail link would be as expensive as any: although much of the old railway formation survives, it is virtually all in private ownership, parts have been eradicated, and a new crossing of the A1(M) would have to be built near Baldersby. At the Harrogate end, the Ripley-Harrogate rail trail would also be affected. (RAIL magazine)

August 2019. Winchester, Hampshire. A developer’s plans to demolish the former station master’s house near Winchester Chesil station, in order to re-develop the site, have been rejected unanimously by Winchester city councillors. Planning officers said the plan would lead to ‘substantial harm of the Conservation Area as a Heritage Asset and the total loss of significance of a building, which has been determined to be an undesignated heritage asset, contributing significantly to the character and appearance of the street scene’. The building, Prospect House, is situated slap bang over the south portal of Winchester Chesil Tunnel – there’s just a short garden area between it and the drop down! Despite the utilitarian multi-storey car park which now occupies the site of Winchester Chesil station, there are a number of medieval buildings in this part of the city, so this is not a location that is crying out for new housing. (Chris Witt)

August 2019. Thornton Junction to Leven, Fife (Perth & Kinross). One old railway that never made it into the world of rail trails is the North British Railway’s former line between Thornton Junction and Leven, which survived as a freight-only branch serving variously Methil Power Station, Cameron Bridge Distillery and Earlseat opencast mine. Earlier this month, the Scottish government announced that it is to spend £70 million bringing back passenger trains to the branch, which will serve new stations at Cameron Bridge and Leven, on the coast. The Herald Scotland described the move as yet another reversal of the Beeching cuts. (Jeff Vinter)

August 2019. Preston, Lancashire. Further to our report in July, BBC News (Lancashire) has now reported that the 1802-built viaduct at grid reference SD 542286, which used to carry a tramway over the River Ribble, is in such bad condition that owner Preston City Council will concentrate on raising the money to construct a new bridge in its place. It transpires that the original was completely rebuilt in the 20th century, with the current reinforced concrete piers dating from the 1930s, and the concrete deck from the 1960s. Lancashire County Councillor Keith Iddon commented that ‘the main deck beams are beyond repair and repairing the bridge piers would be uneconomic’. It sounds as if, by the ‘swinging sixties’, there wasn’t much of this bridge that still dated from 1802! (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)

Above: A lost station – Henbury, north of Bristol – on what, for once, is not a lost line. The platform edge can be made out above the yellow railings in the foreground to the right of the running lines. This station was on the GWR’s Henbury Loop Line, which opened on 9th May 1910 and closed on 23rd November 1964. Henbury is due to get a new station in the next few years when the Bristol Metro system is rolled out (see story below), but we do not know yet whether or not it will occupy this site. 8th June 2019. (Geof Sheppard, used under the terms of this Creative Commons Licence)

August 2019. Bristol to Portishead, Somerset/Bristol. Further to our report in April, the August edition of ‘Today’s Railways’ reported that the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) has ‘endorsed a £350 million programme for investment in public transport which includes re-opening the Portishead and Henbury lines, bringing 50,000 people within reach of the rail network, and new stations at Ashley Down and Charfield’. The Portishead re-opening will involve upgrading 6 miles of track between Parson Street Junction (in suburban Bristol) and Royal Portbury Junction, and bringing back into use a further 3¼ miles of track between Royal Portbury Junction and Portishead. The planned frequency on the branch will be one train per hour, which might prove inadequate given that the trains should take ca. 25 minutes for a journey which can take three times that on the congested roads between Portishead and Bristol city centre. Portishead trains will call intermediately at Bedminster, Parson Street and a new station at Pill. The branch re-opening forms part of the long-awaited Bristol Metro system, which will see a range of local rail improvements, including a half-hourly service on the Severn Beach branch (extended through to Bath and Westbury), a new station at Ashley Wood (between Stapleton Road and Filton Abbey Wood), local trains running up to Yate and Charfield (a new station north of Yate), and an hourly service on the freight-only Henbury line, which links Avonmouth with Filton Abbey Wood. On this last route, new stations will be opened at Henbury and North Filton. We appreciate that this story does not concern railway paths, but it is certainly noteworthy: the Bristol Metro scheme has the potential to revolutionise rail services and massively increase passenger numbers in and around the West Country’s largest city. (Jeff Vinter)

August 2019. Bennerley Viaduct, Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire. We are delighted to report that the two local authorities involved with Bennerley Viaduct – one each in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire – have now given planning consent to Railway Paths Ltd for the viaduct to be restored as a public walkway. Work is expected to start soon, with completion planned for next year. (Jeff Vinter)

July 2019. Preston to Longridge, Lancashire. In January 2018, we reported on plans to develop a tram system in Preston, using the former Lancashire & Yorkshire and LNWR Joint Preston-Longridge branch line. Much has happened in the last 18 months, and work could start as early as 1st September. In a report in the Lancashire Post, Lincoln Shields (director of Preston Trampower) confirmed that the company was close to starting work. He described the ‘railway easement’ as being completely overgrown, with an infestation of Japanese knotweed, which is a notifiable invasive species. He continued: ‘Because it’s so overgrown and easy to access, residents who live near there get a lot of younger people doing things they are not supposed to do. When we have been at the site, there’s always lots of needles for drugs. Some people we spoke to just can’t wait for work on the Tramway to start and the dereliction to be cleaned up. We are going to clear the vegetation, tidy everything up and use the tracks that are there for our trams. There will also be a footpath and cycle way alongside. We’re hoping to extend that down through to the city centre. It will be an easily accessible route through town.’ Further good news was that, when the tram trials begin, Preston Trampower plans to offer sample rides for free before the full commercial service starts, which should be some time in 2020. (Tim Chant)

July 2019. Craven Arms to Horderley, Shropshire. We have deleted the story which we published in February about the extension of the Onny Trail from Stretford Bridge Junction through to Horderley because the trail does not continue to this village, despite a map on the Bishop’s Castle Railway Society’s website indicating otherwise. The problem came to light when a member attempted to follow the route on the BCRS map, and was unable to do so. We wrote to Shropshire Council in order to check the official situation, and this was their response:

‘The Onny Trail is not maintained by Shropshire Council. I am fairly sure it does not extend as far as Horderley but terminates at Glenburrel (sic) where it links to a public footpath, and the A489. The landowner has provided this path for many years and we have not received, or know of, any difficulties that have been encountered by walkers. I think your contact must have been trying to follow part of the railway which is not part of the Trail. I have copied a link to a leaflet on our website which includes the Onny Trail in a circular walk from the Discovery Centre in Craven Arms.’

The leaflet referred to above can be accessed via the links here (on the Shropshire Council website) and here (on this website, in case the original link is taken down). The directions in the leaflet are very clear, with the railway part of the trail lying between points 19 and 20 in the route description, although, beyond point 20, walkers can continue along the old railway to the Onny Trail car park near Stretford Bridge Junction. To summarise, the Onny Trail uses as much of the old railway as possible between grid reference SO 412862 on the A489 at Glenburrell (where the railway crossed the River Onny) and Stretford Bridge Junction at SO 430844, but no more. The club has made the BCRS aware of the mistake on their website. In passing, the A489 is not a good place to walk, because it is a high-sided and busy road. (Jeff Vinter)

July 2019. Symington Mill to Wolfclyde, Borders (South Lanarkshire). Part of the former Caledonian Railway’s line from Symington to Peebles is now a ‘wider network path’ shown on Core Paths Plans 34 and 35 maintained by South Lanarkshire Council. The start point at the Symington end is grid reference NS 999358, on the north side of the A73, and the trail then runs to NT 017362, where the old railway viaduct over the River Clyde has been demolished; but a short connecting path to the south provides a link back to the main road. The section of trackbed here is only 1¼ miles long, but the fact it is shown as a ‘wider network path’ hints at the plans of Upper Tweed Railway Paths, a group which aims to re-use many of the abandoned railways around Peebles as multi-use trails. (Jeff Vinter)

July 2019. Bere Alston to Tavistock, Devon. Plans to re-open this section of the LSWR’s main line to Plymouth are beginning to look fragile. According to Devon County Council, the cost has now escalated (as it seems always to do in such cases; cf. the Portishead branch) to £70 million. By 12th September, barely two months later, the DevonLive website reported that this figure had increased further to £93 million. Both Devon CC and West Devon Borough Council remain committed to the project, largely because traffic congestion on the A386 between Tavistock and Plymouth has reached an unacceptable level. Possibilities to keep the project alive include some kind of light rail system, maybe with an accompanying cycle trail, as a prelude to ‘heavy rail’ in the long term. The worst case scenario for those who favour the railway would be for the Community Infrastructure Levy that has been earmarked for it to be diverted into road improvements and bus subsidies – which is not only possible, but also perfectly legal if the rail option fails. (Graeme Bickerdike)

July 2019. Bradford to Keighley, West Yorkshire. This ex-railway route, supported by the Great Northern Railway Trail Development Group which wants to link the fragmentary open sections to form a substantial new rail trail, includes the sealed-off Queensbury Tunnel, which the Historical Railways Estate of Highways England plans to infill with concrete. On 13th July, the Bradford Telegraph & Argus reported that local landowner and farmer David Sunderland has his own take on these plans. He explained, ‘I own the land and former railway cutting at the south end of Queensbury Tunnel, right up to the tunnel portal. The applicant (HRE) has indicated its intention to use my land as an access route into the tunnel and to reach the first vent shaft, as well as establishing a works compound on it. I will not co-operate with any works to abandon Queensbury Tunnel. It is an important and valuable public asset and should be listed and preserved so that future generations can benefit from its many attributes.’ He added that converting the tunnel for use as a cycle path supports national and local planning policies, whilst abandonment conflicts with those policies. (Pete Walker)

July 2019. Lochearnhead, Central (Stirling). The online and published gazetteers were a little confusing in the Lochearnhead area regarding the 4½ mile trail from Balquhidder to Glenoglehead. The confusion, now corrected in the online gazetteer, arose from a lack of consistency in published sources about the names of two nearby viaducts over the Kendrum Burn. Edinchip Viaduct (named after a local farm) is situated on NCN7 at grid reference NN 583224, on the former branch line from Balquhidder to Crieff, while Kendrum Burn Viaduct is situated on a permissive trail at NN 575224, on the former Callander & Oban Railway. Edinchip Viaduct is a 12-arch concrete viaduct, with a new central bowstring span installed in 1997 by Sustrans to replace the original steel span, which was removed for scrap after the railway closed. As examples of the difficulties we faced, Sustrans’ 1997 press release transposed the viaduct names, and the British Listed Buildings website does the same.

This proved a difficult problem to resolve because local Ordnance Survey maps dating back to the 1870s, even at 25″ to the mile, give neither viaduct a name. The answer finally arrived when member Phillip Earnshaw found an official railway photograph of Edinchip Viaduct when new in Locomotion Paper 225 (The Railways of Upper Strathearn: Crieff–Balquhidder by Bernard Byrom, 2004, ISBN-13: 978-0-853616-22-1) published by the Oakwood Press. This agreed with the following contribution from member Gas Hill: ‘What I do clearly recall is that in the writings of railway performance/timing experts, e.g. C.J. Allen, O.S. Nock, etc., noteworthy steam loco performances on Glasgow-Oban journeys via the C&O refer to pyrotechnics as heavy trains hammered up the steep grade over Kendrum Burn – so I presume that name was carried by the viaduct on that main line’.

For good measure, there is yet a third viaduct in this area, on the Crieff line, at NN 589241. This crosses the Ogle Burn but is known as Lochearnhead Viaduct because it is situated just off the north west corner of Loch Earn. However, unlike the other two viaducts, there is no public access to this structure. (Robert Greenall, Jeff Vinter, N.J. Hill and Phillip Earnshaw)

Above: Cairngorms narrow gauge. The above bridge at Aviemore, which crosses the River Spey, now accommodates the start of a 5½ mile cycle trail that leads south east to Loch Morlich; it has a very interesting (but little known) history. For further details, see the article below. July 2019. (Robert Greenall)

July 2019. Aviemore to Loch Morlich, Highland. There is a bridge on the south east side of Aviemore at grid reference NH 895117 (see above) which, although somewhat narrow, has a distinctly ‘railway’ look about it. This structure turns out to be part of a 3 ft. narrow gauge railway network that was built during World War 1, at the behest of the War Office, by the then newly-formed Canadian Forestry Corps. The Germans’ U-boat campaign was disrupting the UK’s imports, and home-grown timber was needed urgently for the war effort, so these Canadian lumberjacks built a network of light railways through the woods to bring logs to sawmills and sawn timber to the station at Aviemore, which then was just a small Highland village. According to an online discussion on the RMweb website, the locomotives may have been Hunslet 4-6-0Ts. Historian David Rose has researched the history of this little known railway network, and, in 1997, The Herald (Scotland) published an account of a walk over the line which he accompanied; the text can be found at the links here and here, the latter being our transcription of the article in case, in future, The Herald takes down its version. The Visit Aviemore website describes the modern route thus: ‘You can also take the “Old Logging Way” all the way from Aviemore up to Glenmore which is a purpose built off-road trail for walkers and mountain bikers. This trail is a bit of a gradual climb up to Glenmore but great fun on the way back down and a reward for the effort on the way up!’ (For ‘Old Logging Way’, read ‘Old Logging Railway’.) The route starts in Dalfaber Road, south of Aviemore station, at NH 895117, at the narrow gauge River Spey bridge, and then broadly follows the Rivers Druie and Luineag to reach Loch Morlich and Cairngorm Lodge Youth Hostel (NH 976098) near the loch’s north-east corner. The route is waymarked throughout. Further research is needed to determine how accurately the modern trail follows the old railway (for example, it looks as if there is an off-trackbed diversion on the west side of Loch Morlich), and it does not help that the Ordnance Survey published different versions of the local map only in 1907 and 1928, i.e. before the railway was built, and after it had closed. However, there is an interesting project here for any railway rambler who wants to investigate further, and hopefully the resources provided here will assist. Do let us know via the online form on our Contact page if you find out more! (Robert Greenall and Jeff Vinter)

July 2019. Cutsyke to Methley Junction, Castleford, West Yorkshire. Further to our report in May, the new cycling and walking bridge at Whitwood Junction (grid reference SE 410252) was lowered into place on Sunday 7th July, thus re-connecting separated sections of the disused line from Cutsyke Junction to Methley Junction, which is to become the new Castleford to Wakefield Greenway. According to the Pontefract and Castleford Express in November, the cost of the new bridge was £500,000. (Kevin Bartlett)

July 2019. Alderbury Junction to West Moors, Wiltshire/Hampshire/Dorset. A two mile section of this line, built by the Salisbury & Dorset Junction Railway to provide a cross-country route from Salisbury to Bournemouth via Fordingbridge and Wimborne, is already a trail, but there are plans to double its length. The current route, owned and managed by Hampshire County Council, runs from South Charford Crossing (grid reference SU 166192) to Burgate Cross (SU 154163). However, with Fordingbridge set to receive 1,000 new homes in the near future, the local Rotary Club is campaigning for the trail to be extended southwards through Fordingbridge to the old station site on the edge of the town at Ashford (SU 136144). En route, the trail would pass three schools (infants, junior and secondary), so would facilitate safe, traffic-free travel for a large number of children. The extension would be funded by a Community Infrastructure Levy (the replacement for Section 106 grants) charged to the developers; given the high number of houses planned for this small town, the levy is expected to raise £10 million, although not all of it would be spent on the railway path, which the Rotarians have named ‘The Fordingbridge T’Rail Way’. A zoomable photograph of their route map, taken at a local exhibition, can be viewed by clicking the link here. (Jeff Vinter)

July 2019. Preston, Lancashire. BBC News (Lancashire) has just published a report that the 1802-built viaduct which carries the tramway-based NCN55 over the River Ribble at grid reference SD 542286 was closed indefinitely in February following an engineering inspection which discovered 200 structural defects in its beams; these are considered to put the structure at risk of collapse. A further problem is that no one seems to know who owns the structure. More than 5,000 people have signed a petition to save the viaduct, while there is – thankfully – a diversion ca. 1,000 ft. to the west, which uses the river viaduct on the closed line from Preston to Bamber Bridge. The tramway and railway viaducts both carry cycle trails, and, with the bridleways along the north and south banks of the river, form a rectangle. If something like this had to happen, it was lucky that it happened in such a location. (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)

July 2019. Clarborough Junction to Cottam, Nottinghamshire. The 4 mile long freight line between Clarborough Junction (just east of Retford) and Cottam Power Station is due to close on 30th September this year. Given Nottinghamshire County Council’s enthusiasm for rail trails, it is conceivable that the authority might acquire the trackbed and convert it. Beyond Cottam, the old line – which continued on to Sykes Junction and Saxilby – traverses the recently restored and re-opened Torksey Viaduct, which crosses the River Trent to reach Lincolnshire. Given how few river crossings there are in this area, a Retford-Torksey trail might appeal to local politicians and council planners. UK Railtours has arranged a trip over the Cottam branch for 28th September, including a run over the internal EDF-owned power station network, but tickets were snapped up quickly by rare track fans. (Jeff Vinter)

June 2019. Nuneaton, Warwickshire. An underbridge on the disused Nuneaton-avoiding line, which runs between grid references SP 362925 and SP 376917, is to be demolished later this year due to the high number of bridge strikes it has suffered. Lorries continue to hit the steel span, which is located on Hinckley Road (the A47) at SP 369923. A report on the ‘CoventryLive’ website gives the impression that the bridge is to blame, and talks of Warwickshire County Council having difficulty in tracing the owner, and then having to force them to ‘give it up’; but it says nothing about the lorry drivers who ignored local height restriction signs. At least in this location, their vehicles became wedged under the bridge so that they could not simply drive off, as happens in many bridge strike incidents. If this line is ever to be re-used, e.g. as an extension to the adjacent Weddington Country Walk – which uses the southern end of the Nuneaton-Burton line – a modern, lightweight, high-arched bridge will have to be installed. (Tim Chant and Jeff Vinter)

Above: This ex-GWR carriage, undergoing restoration, provides extra seating for the bar and restaurant that now operates in the former West Bay terminus of the Bridport Railway. 5th June 2019. (Jeff Vinter)

Above: Did ever the interior of West Bay station look so luxurious? Even though the Victorians had a penchant for opulence, we doubt that the place looked as good as this when the station opened for business on 31st March 1884. 5th June 2019. (Jeff Vinter)

June 2019. Bradpole to West Bay, Dorset. Following a recent walk along much of the Bridport branch, members of the club’s South Western area found that Dorset Council is well on the way to completing a cycle trail along the trackbed from Bradpole to West Bay (3 miles). After the railway closed in May 1975, new roads (Sea Road North and Sea Road South) were built over part of the line, but the cycle trail alongside these roads has been widened, while, during the group’s visit, it was noted that toucan crossings were being installed at all the road crossings. Given the advanced state of the works, it seemed likely that the council was aiming for completion before the start of the school summer holidays. The trail can be accessed in Bradpole either from Wellfields Drive (grid reference SY 479939) or from the public footpath that starts at SY 480939 on nearby Lee Lane; the old railway in Bradpole cannot be missed thanks to the replica level crossing gate at Bradpole crossing. At the western end of the line, the former West Bay station has now changed hands: it is no longer the Tea Station but the Station Kitchen, a classy bar and restaurant. The new owners have installed a railway carriage alongside the platform, and restored the interior of the historic building to a sumptuous standard. (Jeff Vinter)

June 2019. Nottingham to Edwalton, Nottinghamshire. A previously unreported railway path called ‘The Green Line’ has been noted on the east side of West Bridgford; it runs from Melton Road (grid reference SK 585371) to Machins Lane (SK 592355), a distance of just over a mile, and terminates to the north of the former Edwalton station (SK 593353), which has been replaced by an up-market housing estate. The trail is part of the old MR line from Nottingham (London Road Junction) to Melton Mowbray, but, south of Edwalton, the rest of it remains open and in use as the Old Dalby Test Track, where new trains for London Underground have recently been tested. It is a safe bet that the Green Line was created partly to provide traffic-free access to Rushcliffe School in Boundary Road, West Bridgford, which is situated en route. (Jeff Vinter)

June 2019. Radcliffe-on-Trent to Cotgrave, Nottinghamshire. A new 2 mile greenway was opened on 9th April linking Radcliffe-on-Trent, Cotgrave, Cotgrave Country Park and the Grantham Canal path in Nottinghamshire. The route, which links into the existing path network, was created from a disused colliery line. Unfortunately, the press release did not provide grid references for the start and end points, but SK 638393 and SK 639373 at Radcliffe and Cotgrave respectively seem likely, given the extent of the recently-closed railway. The link made by the new trail with the Grantham Canal will be useful to cyclists, for the canal’s towpath accommodates a cycle trail which runs from the east side of West Bridgford (SK 607367) to Harby (SK 743315), a distance of ca. 15 miles – albeit via a serpentine route, as one would expect of a contour canal. The canal closed in 1929 but is currently undergoing restoration. (Tim Chant and Jeff Vinter)

June 2019. Bulwell (nr. Hucknall) to Calverton, Nottinghamshire. In connection with the story above, Nottinghamshire County Council leader Kay Cutts remarked that a similar rail-to-trail conversion is planned for the 5½ mile long disused colliery line between Bulwell and Calverton. (Tim Chant and Jeff Vinter)

June 2019. Droylsden, Great Manchester. A ¾ mile permissive footpath has been noted between grid references SJ 913990 and SJ 915979 on the former LNWR line from Denton to Droylsden. The trail connects Moorside Street in north east Droylsden with Manchester Road, at the junction of the A662 and A635, just a stone’s throw from the Audenshaw tram stop. (Keith Holliday)

Above: The start of a short permissive trail along part of the former Somerset & Dorset Railway, seen at the site of the former level crossing on Marsh Lane, near Horsington (grid reference ST 709251), looking south towards Templecombe. For further details, see the story below. 9th June 2019 (Tim Grose)

June 2019. Templecombe to Wincanton, Somerset. A previously unreported permissive path exists along ¾ mile of the former Somerset & Dorset Railway north of Templecombe. The path starts at grid reference ST 709239 in Horsington (on Broadmoor Lane, east of the parish church) and continues to ST 709251, where Marsh Lane crosses the old trackbed. Our correspondent reports: ‘I spoke to some local dog walkers who assured me you are allowed to open the pedestrian gate in the middle of the fence south from Marsh Lane (see picture above). I ran it and [found] all clear and no ‘get off my land signs’, even if no actual invitation signs either. You pass under a nice two-span road bridge at Batchpool Lane [ST 709243] … Otherwise all [is] too fragmented round here which is frustrating as getting to Wincanton from Sturminster Newton would no doubt be useful to many but sounds like … a huge amount of work … to even make some of it properly accessible.’ (Tim Grose)

June 2019. Bovey Tracy to Moretonhampstead, Devon. After years of patient negotiation, Devon County Council expects to open the Wray Valley Trail to the public at the end of summer this year. When complete, the trail will provide a substantially traffic-free route of 6¼ miles from Bovey Tracey to Moretonhampstead, using much of the former GWR branch line between the two towns. Further details can be found at the link here. (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)

June 2019. Sowerby Bridge to Ripponden, North Yorkshire. Ordnance Survey mapping now shows a permissive bridleway on the ex-L&YR Rishworth branch from grid reference SE 053227 (off Long Lane, south of Sowerby Bridge) to SE 037191 (near Height Green, between Ripponden and Rishworth). Where the permissive bridleway does not actually occupy the trackbed, a public footpath runs parallel to the old line – a ‘trackside path’, in effect – to provide a route of just over 2½ miles. (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)

May 2019. Wigton to Aspatria via Mealsgate, Cumbria. Just over a mile of the former Maryport & Carlisle Railway branch now accommodates a public footpath between Baggrow and Harriston. The grid references of the end points are NY 179419 and NY 162415 respectively. (Reported at 2019 AGM)

Above: A view looking north under New Town Aqueduct on the Wyrley and Essington Canal, where the waterway crosses the end of the former LNWR line from Walsall to Lichfield City. The aqueduct (at grid reference SK 053064) is a listed structure and, if our correspondent remembers rightly, is one of a couple on the canal made of wrought iron. There are well-developed plans to convert almost the whole of this old railway into a new long distance rail trail; for further details, see the story below. (Photograph supplied by Tim Kitchen of Back the Track)

May 2019. Ryecroft (nr. Walsall) to Lichfield via Brownhills, West Midlands/Staffordshire. Work continues on the conversion of the former LNWR line from Walsall to Lichfield City, which is destined to become the ‘McClean Way’. Current OS mapping confirms that a trail is open from grid reference SP 016998, near Lichfield Line Junction, to SK 025031, south of Pelsall. (This section is recorded in the 2017 edition of Vinter’s Railway Gazetteer.) The long term aim is to reach Lichfield, although track remains in place from City Junction, Lichfield, to an aqueduct at SK 053064 on the Wyrley & Essington Canal; this location is just west of New Town on the A5. The surviving track is used once in a blue moon for testing rolling stock by Quattro, who are fully behind the trail development group, Back the Track, and let them use their premises for parking, access, etc. The ironic bit is that a very small section of track is missing, which means that Quattro cannot actually access the line by rail, but need instead to load their rolling stock on to and off of low loaders. (Tim Kitchen on behalf of BTT)

May 2019. Alnwick to Alnmouth, Northumberland. According to a report in ChronicleLive, the Aln Valley Railway has now extended its line from its Lionheart terminus near Alnwick’s Lionheart Enterprise Park to just east of Cawledge Viaduct (at grid reference NU 213115), with a test train comprising 0-6-0 locomotive ‘Richboro’ and a single BR Mark 1 carriage traversing the line on 19th March. An intermediate station is planned at Greenrigg, and the AVR confirmed again that it intends to develop the railway corridor not only as a recreational facility, but also as a sustainable transport link (i.e. multi-use trail) for the benefit of the local community and visitors alike. (Tim Chant)

May 2019. Cutsyke to Methley Junction, Castleford, West Yorkshire. Development of the Castleford to Wakefield Greenway continues to make good progress, with planning permission now granted for a new walking and cycling bridge to be installed at Whitwood Junction (grid reference SE 410252), where the disused line from Cutsyke Junction to Methley Junction – the ‘backbone’ of the new greenway – used to pass above the still operational lines from Castleford to Normanton and Woodlesford. When the new / replacement bridge is installed, the linear integrity of previously isolated trackbed sections will be restored, thus opening up new path development opportunities which will benefit local walkers and cyclists. A map of this area, copied from West Yorkshire’s ‘City Connect’ website and annotated, will be found here. (Sustrans, ‘The Hub’, Spring 2019, page 12)

May 2019. Godley, Manchester. Sustrans volunteers are working with local schools in East Manchester to transform an abandoned railway turntable (believed to be at grid reference SJ 965947) in Godley. In 2018, the Heritage Lottery Fund donated £45,300 to the Friends of the Trans Pennine Trail to restore the 70 ft. diameter turntable, which is the perfect shape for an outdoor events area, surrounded by woodland and wetland. The site has been cleared, and the next steps are to provide drains, repair the wall, and install benches and information boards. The adjoining railway path, part of NCN62, runs from Godley to Apethorn between grid references SJ 966947 and SJ 944936, a distance of 1½ miles. (Sustrans, ‘The Hub’, Spring 2019, page 12)

April 2019. Glenfield, Leicester. The mile long, 1829-built Glenfield Tunnel on the former Leicester & Swannington Railway is owned by Leicester City Council and opened occasionally for tours, but Labour council candidate Lindsay Broadwell has proposed that it be opened as a new cycle route to give walkers and cyclists a safe alternative to the steep and busy roads overhead. Given that Tyler Hill Tunnel on the closed Canterbury & Whitstable Railway has collapsed in the middle, Ms. Broadwell states that ‘Glenfield Tunnel is now the oldest surviving mainline railway tunnel in Britain, if not the whole world’. The tunnel is in good repair thanks to Leicester CC having spent £500,000 on it more than a decade ago to prevent the risk of collapse. (Tim Chant)

April 2019. Jackfield, Shropshire. Anyone walking the railway path which follows the disused Severn Valley Railway between Bridgnorth and Ironbridge will have seen the outsize gates at Jackfield level crossing. A year-long project by Coalbrookdale-based Small Woods Association to restore them to their former glory has now been completed, and they will be returned to their rightful place on the trail before the end of the month. The final steps will be to give them three coats of paint and then put all the metalwork back in place. Local councillor Gareth Rushton reported that the restoration took craftsmen at SWA over 1,000 hours. (Tim Chant)

April 2019. Folkestone, Kent. The disused, 1915-built signal box on the Folkestone Harbour branch, restored during recent work on the adjacent station, is set to become a café. The KentLive news website (see here) has reported that, ‘Complete with the original levers, there will also be space for 12 covers inside and outdoor seating for 20 to 30 diners. It will also be kitted out with a small kitchen, where light bites will be made.’ (Tim Chant)

April 2019. Hastigrow to Sinclair’s Bay, Highland (Caithness). Unexpected discoveries are a delight of idly poring over Ordnance Survey maps; perhaps an activity which indicates that the sufferer needs to ‘get out more’ – but you, the reader, can decide. OS mapping shows a 4¾ mile long dead straight mineral railway running from grid reference ND 266608 near Hastigrow to ND 340583 on the beach at Keiss Links, in Sinclair’s Bay; the eastern terminus is 6 miles north of Wick. En route, the line traverses a level crossing at ND 277604 and an overbridge (actually a bascule bridge) carrying the A99 at ND 331586. This turns out to be the 1978-built railway of Subsea 7’s Wick Fabrication Site, which makes ‘pipeline bundles’ for the North Sea oil industry. The total length of the track, parts of which are quadruple, is 27.2km (just under 17 miles). There is a fascinating and well-illustrated account of the railway on the Friends of the Far North Line’s website, which explains that this isn’t an ordinary railway, for motive power is provided by offshore tugs which haul the payload (massive lengths of pipe) out to sea. The longest pipe length to date has been 7.7km (4¾ miles), and, whilst in transit, these loads are the largest moving objects in the world. Who knows? Perhaps when the North Sea oil industry is fully de-commissioned, we’ll have another old line to walk. (Jeff Vinter)

April 2019. Bristol to Portishead, Somerset/Bristol. Finally, we have some good news to report about the proposed re-opening of the Portishead branch: the scheme is to receive more than £31 million in government funding, as confirmed by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, and passenger services are due to re-start in 2021. The authorities leading the scheme are North Somerset Council and the West of England Combined Authority, and Tim Bowles (West of England Mayor) remarked: ‘This is excellent news for the region as we continue to work on our ambitious Metrowest rail plan which will help build a transport network that works for everyone.’ As we pointed out in 2017, the River Avon Trail runs parallel to the railway between Ashton Gate and Sea Mills, so the restored branch will offer some new ‘ride and stride’ opportunities for railway ramblers. (Ivor Sutton)

April 2019. West Bay to Bridport, Dorset. The former GWR branch line from West Bay has accommodated a cycle trail on the trackbed for many years between West Bay station and Wanderwell Cutting near The Crown Inn (grid reference SY 467918), which overlooks a busy roundabout on the A35. From Wanderwell up to the site of Bridport’s East Street station, the old railway has disappeared beneath the A35. However, at the beginning of the month, the newly-created Dorset Council announced that work had started on an improved cycle trail alongside the A35 between Wanderwell and East Street, with the footway widened to accommodate both cyclists and pedestrians, and toucan crossings installed at both ends to connect different sections of the trail. North of East Street, the trail already continues as far as the Coop supermarket on Sea Road North, which occupies the former site of Bridport’s main station. The council saved the best news for last: ‘It [the new cycle trail] will also become part of a wider walking and cycling network that will eventually connect these areas to Maiden Newton as part of the West Dorset Trailway.’ (Tim Chant and Jeff Vinter)

Above Left: The west portals of Newchurch No. 1 (left) and Thrutch (right) Tunnels on the former Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway’s line from Rawtenstall to Bacup. Above Right: The west portal of Newchurch No. 2 Tunnel on the same line. For further details, see the story below. Both photographs 2nd April 2019. (Mark Jones)

April 2019. Rawtenstall to Bacup, Lancashire. This ex-L&YR line has suffered some depredations at the hands of road builders, but the local authorities have worked hard to re-use much of what remains as a linear path; and rather a lot remains because the line ran mostly at the bottom of a steep-sided valley, in which the previously bricked-up Newchurch No. 1 Tunnel has just been re-opened. It can be viewed from the west portal, although the east portal is temporarily blocked by fences which can be removed easily, when the time comes. Currently, access is not possible because, immediately to the west of the tunnel, a bridge over the River Irwell is missing. Our correspondent presumes that the intention is to erect a replacement bridge for foot/cycle access, otherwise there was no point in opening the tunnel; but it appears that work has not yet started on this. Newchurch No. 2 Tunnel remains open, but scaffolding at the west portal indicates that some remedial work is in progress. The longer and later-built Thrutch Tunnel (parallel to the Newchurch Tunnels for westbound traffic) remains bricked-up at both ends and is reported to be in poor condition, which makes it unlikely that there are any plans to re-use it. All three tunnels will be found between Waterfoot and Slacksteads, between grid references SD 837217 and SD 842216. (Mark Jones)

March 2019. Bolton to Bury, Greater Manchester. The two large viaducts at the western end of this route, namely Burnden and Darcy Lever, are now open; our correspondent walked over them recently and found that access had been established at grid references SD 725083 (near Bolton) and SD 734084 (at Darcy Lever). Further investigation turned up a June 2015 article in the Bolton News, which revealed that the whole route had been opened throughout at that time, thanks to a grant of £1.4 million from the government’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund. The new 5 mile trail runs from Scholey Street in Bolton (SD 725083) to Knowsley Street in Bury (SD 802103), and local walkers, cyclists and horse riders are said to be ‘delighted’. We apologise that our article in December last year reported progress on this project as glacially slow; obviously, it has been anything but, unlike our intelligence from this part of the north! Also, it did not help that the Ordnance Survey’s online mapping does not yet show the route. (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)

March 2019. Shoreditch, London. Plans have been published for the Bishopsgate Goods Yard in Shoreditch, which has been disused since the 1960s. The idea is to deliver a rather densely-packed development of new residential and business properties, with a disused railway viaduct converted into a miniature version of New York’s well known ‘High Line’, which is now a linear park formed from an abandoned elevated railway. The Shoreditch viaduct adjoins Shoreditch station on London’s Overground network. Further details will be found in this article from The Londonist: the pictures and story are interesting, but some of the language (especially the hip phrases, such as ‘runty’ for ‘small’) is likely to make grammarians writhe. (Tim Chant and Jeff Vinter)

Above: How can anyone capture on camera the size and majesty of a quarter-mile long railway viaduct when even the operator of a drone struggles to capture it all in a single photograph (see here)? The above is our Webmaster’s best effort with Bennerley Viaduct, taken from the towpath of the Nottingham Canal, which lies on the viaduct’s east side. 15th February 2018. (Jeff Vinter)

Above: A close-up of two of Bennerley’s piers, taken from across the Erewash Valley, which it spans at a height of 60 feet. When this structure was built, between 1876 and 1877, brick was the standard material for railway viaducts, but brick could not be used here due to the risk of subsidence into coal mines underground. This led to the Great Northern Railway’s engineer choosing this elegant and light wrought-iron design, standing atop lattice piers. 15th February 2018. (Jeff Vinter)

Above: A view across the deck of Bennerley Viaduct. It does not take much thought to conclude that, currently, this is no place for a comfortable walk! – but all that will change if the restoration and access scheme outlined below comes to fruition. 15th February 2018. (Jeff Vinter)

March 2019. Various. We have brief updates on the following schemes, all of which are being developed on disused railways:

  • Chepstow to Tintern, Gwent (Monmouthshire). John Grimshaw’s ‘Greenways and Cycle Routes’ organisation is now involved with this route in the lower Wye Valley. John was the founder of Sustrans and has developed a reputation for developing rail trails which previously had faced seemingly intractable problems.
  • Cutsyke to Methley Junction, Castleford, West Yorkshire. The Castleford Greenway (on which the viaduct over the River Calder has now been restored) is to be extended by 1.2 kilometres / ¾ mile on former railway land thanks to a grant from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.
  • Bennerley Viaduct, Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire. Railway Paths, assisted by The Friends of Bennerley Viaduct, is working on a new financial package to restore this iconic wrought-iron monster and open it to the public. Update: They’ve done it! On Saturday 16th March, The Nottingham Evening Post reported, under the headline ‘Full steam ahead for viaduct restoration’, that funding has been agreed to both install a walkway over Bennerley Viaduct, and carry out essential repairs. Planning permission will now be applied for, and work could commence as early as late summer.
  • Levenshulme, Greater Manchester. Steady progress is being made on the restoration of Levenshulme South station, which, if all goes well, could open during the summer as a café, cycling centre and community hub.

We will publish further details of these projects when known, but in the meantime wish them well – especially the Bennerley scheme, which has the potential to put this quarter-mile long aerial structure on the map; there really is nothing like it, anywhere in the country. A couple of other large, disused viaducts have interesting projects forming around them, but currently these are not sufficiently developed to warrant announcements. However, keep an eye on this website! (Jeff Vinter)

March 2019. South West. On 9th March, the Western Daily Press published an article entitled ‘Glimmer of light at end of tunnel for old station’, which appeared to be about reinstating the former line from Cirencester Town to Kemble, but was actually based on a wider-ranging report by the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) which called for 13 closed West Country railway lines to be re-opened. While we applaud the CBT’s efforts to keep rail re-opening in the public eye, this article raised questions about the quality of the underlying research. For example, it called for both Barnstaple-Braunton and Barnstaple-Ilfracombe to be re-opened, when the former is part of the latter, Then, Andrew Allen, CBT’s group research manager, remarked, ‘These are schemes we think could work where the route might still be clear’; but why doesn’t the CBT actually know if the routes are clear? Proposals to reinstate railways which require the demolition of countless homes and work places will unleash a storm of protest, as the HS2 project has demonstrated, albeit for the construction of a new railway. Members of this club could tell Mr. Allen that virtually every disused railway in the UK has had development built over it; the exceptions will be found in places like Dartmoor where the trackbeds of remote mineral lines remain, but where no developer is likely to build anything, ever. Marlborough Town Councillor Bryan Castle summed up the situation for more than just his local Bedwyn-Marlborough re-opening proposal when he said, ‘It is a good idea, but where will the money come from?’ Yes, we need more railways; but can we please have a better standard of research and argument? And perhaps after that we might have a national rail authority which can build something at a price with a few less noughts on the end. (Ivor Sutton and Jeff Vinter)

March 2019. Craven Arms to Llanelli (Shropshire/Powys/Dyfed). Further to earlier reports in June 2018 and January 2017, the final section of the ‘Heart of Wales Line Trail’ (from Bucknell to Cynghordy in Powys) was launched officially by a ceremony at Llandrindod Wells railway station on 28th March at 12:00. As we have explained before, this is not a railway path in the conventional sense in that it does not re-use the trackbed of an abandoned railway, but links the 30+ stations on the still-operational and highly scenic Heart of Wales Line. (Chris Parker)

March 2019. Endon, Staffordshire. Developer J. Redfern has submitted plans to Staffordshire Moorlands District Council to build 4 new bungalows in the former yard of Endon station, on the former North Staffordshire Railway’s line from Stoke-on-Trent to Leekbrook Junction. Nearby NCN595 uses the towpath of the nearby Caldon Canal, a branch off the Trent & Mersey Canal, rather than the former railway trackbed. (Tim Chant and Jeff Vinter)

Above: The overbridge at the southern entrance to the site of Sutton Scotney station, now cleared by members of the Watercress Way group (see story below). In December 2018, the bridge was blocked by a fence, beyond which the arch had been packed full of old refrigerators. May 2019. (Tim Grose)

March 2019. Sutton Scotney, Hampshire (updated report). The Watercress Way group, which aims to create a railway path between Alresford and Sutton Scotney using the disused western section of the Mid Hants line and part of the Didcot, Newbury & Southampton Railway, is to ‘open up the old railway bridge on Wonston Road’ at Sutton Scotney. The work was completed in April, and involved clearing a cutting of old refrigerators and vegetation, and creating graded access. Press reports did not provide a grid reference, but our correspondent Tim Grose visited and found it to be SU 466395, or, more precisely, SU 46577 39456. This is the entrance to the old station (now the Old Station Park housing development) from the south. At the moment, the way through the cleared bridge is barred by a gate, and, even if the gate was open, trackbed walkers could not get very far . Tim believes that the idea is for the railway path to follow the trackbed to SU 467391, where the trackbed beyond has been removed and absorbed into fields. A detour around the vanished section can be provided by following the footpath (Beggars Drove) from SU 467391 to Wonston Lane, and then following the lane to SU 469386 where the trackbed can be rejoined. (Tim Chant, Tim Grose, Keith Holliday and Brian Loughlin)

March 2019. Ironbridge to Shrewsbury, Shropshire. On 31st January, The Shropshire Star published a report about the imminent demolition of the cooling towers at Buildwas Power Station, which was decommissioned in 2015 with demolition due to start later this year. The report continued: ‘ Up to 1,000 homes could be built on both brownfield and greenfield sites, with the full project taking up to 15 years to complete’ – which means that Section 106 money could be obtained from the developers for infrastructure improvements to reduce the impact of the development. Shropshire Council’s Great Outdoors Strategy Board has pointed out to the developers that currently there is no east-west route along the River Severn between Ironbridge and Buildwas, although two NCN routes meet at the Iron Bridge. The Board’s proposed letter to the developers continued as follows: ‘Interestingly, the old railway line continued on to Shrewsbury, the other side of Buildwas bridge, opposite Buildwas Abbey. Not to continue this route [which starts in Bridgnorth] through the power station site would be a missed opportunity should funding become available via a charity such as Sustrans or via funding from other sources to continue these long distance routes “off road” to Shrewsbury.’ Unfortunately, unless government policy changes, Sustrans does not have the funds to undertake such a project, so Shropshire Council’s best approach would be to seek Section 106 funding from the developers for a trail linking at least Ironbridge and Buildwas. (Tim Chant and Jeff Vinter)

Addendum #1: There is already a ¾ mile bridleway along the former Severn Valley Railway within Shrewsbury between grid references SJ 511104 (Weeping Cross on the B4380) and SJ 501113 (Pritchard Way, the A5112). Between Buildwas and Weeping Cross, several sections of the railway formation have been removed, mostly significantly where the A5 crosses the line south of Shrewsbury. (Webmaster)

Addendum #2: The club wrote recently to Shropshire Council in support of an Ironbridge-Buildwas trail. Although we have received no reply, we have obtained, via the local press, a brief update following the Great Outdoors Strategy Board meeting held on 7th February: ‘The Board will now write to the developers Harworth calling for a pathway between the [power station] site and Buildwas … Telford & Wrekin Local Access Forum felt it was an ideal opportunity to include the pathway’. (Nick Hartshorne)

March 2019. Banchory (Burnett Park) to West Brathens, Grampian (Aberdeenshire). The official Deeside Way, which uses much of the GNoSR’s Ballater branch, extends for some 17¼ miles from Duthie Park in Aberdeen to Banchory, but our correspondent has discovered that a further 2½ miles of trackbed on the north west side of Banchory can be walked as well. This section starts in Banchory’s Burnett Park at grid reference NO 686964 and continues to West Brathens at NO 664986. Access is provided via various paths on the formation, but the route is not totally continuous due to a housing estate at East Mains (NO 680971) and some encroaching vegetation. Nonetheless, it is a ‘great walk’ worth adding to Vinter’s Railway Gazetteer [the publisher willing that there is a new edition one day! Webmaster] . (Phillip Earnshaw)

March 2019. South west of Dess to Aboyne, Grampian (Aberdeenshire). Our correspondent reports that a further section of the Deeside Way now occupies the old GNoSR trackbed between grid references NJ 561003 (near Dess station) and NO 535988 (on the east side of Aboyne), thus providing another 2 miles of trackbed walking. Given that there is no law of trespass in Scotland, those wanting to walk an extra ½ mile of trackbed can start on the old access road to Dess station at NJ 565005, but should not approach the privately-owned (and beautifully restored) Dess station. (Phillip Earnshaw)

Above: Horderley station on the Bishop’s Castle Railway (1866-1935) has been ‘rebuilt to deceive’. The original building, a small bungalow which accommodated the station master, started to the left of the green door and stopped beyond the bay window; to the left of that stood a canopied shelter for passengers. It is a credit to successive owners that they have extended the building in matching style, although, seeing this, an uninformed passer-by might think that the BCR actually had money to spend! 13th November 2007. John Poyser (used under the terms of this Creative Commons licence)

February 2019. Bishop’s Castle, Shropshire. Following on from the story above, we have received news that the Bishops Castle Railway Society has set up a ‘Weighbridge Project’, which has been chosen to benefit from the Co-op’s Local Community Fund. The weighbridge building at Bishop’s Castle is the last railway building in the town, and after years of neglect is now in danger of collapse. However, the area where it stands is to be re-generated, and the Society hopes that this survivor from the Bishop’s Castle Railway can be saved, both as a tangible link to the town’s railway history, and because many small railway buildings in vernacular styles of architecture have been lost. (Tim Chant)

Left: Winsor Hill Tunnels are situated north of Shepton Mallet on the former Somerset & Dorset Railway as it approached the line’s summit at Masbury. Although left open for years, the twin bores have now been sealed at both ends. The fencing used is similar to that installed by Network Rail at either end of Bath Road Viaduct, which lies to the south on the edge of Shepton Mallet. Years ago, Sustrans published plans for a trail along this section of the S&D, which would have led from the village of Thrupe to near the A37 in Shepton, just short of the town’s former Charlton Road station. There was a flurry of renewed interest in this scheme a couple of years ago, so it is disappointing to see the old permanent way being sealed up and put out of use. February 2019. (Caroline Stock)

February 2019. Shepton Mallet, Somerset. News has just reached us that Winsor Hill Tunnels, north of Shepton Mallet on the former Somerset & Dorset Railway, have been sealed at both ends. At the moment, we have no idea what has prompted this, but ‘health and safety concerns’ are a likely suspect. Prior to this, the tunnels had been open to the public, albeit unofficially, for years, although Rolls Royce used the southbound bore from 1968 for testing Concorde engines, and installed large steel doors at each end. In 1981, planning permission was granted for the tunnels to be used as nuclear bunkers, but this lapsed without ever being followed up. (Bob Spalding)

Above: The new railway path from Keynsham to the old Fry’s chocolate factory at Somerdale, which moved there from Broadmead, Bristol, after World War 1. The factory, now a retirement village, can be seen in the distance. 23rd February 2019. (Matt Skidmore)

Above: The old Fry’s factory, now restored to its former glory after years of disuse. In its heyday, 2½ miles of railway track served this plant, which retained its branch until July 1980. For further details, see the story below. 23rd February 2019. (Matt Skidmore)

February 2019. Keynsham to Somerdale, Avon (North East Somerset). The ¼ mile branch line that used to run from the GWR main line at Keynsham station to Cadbury’s chocolate factory near Somerdale in North East Somerset has just been re-opened as a high quality cycleway and footpath; access is from opposite the entrance to Keynsham station car park at grid reference ST 657689. The branch had been derelict for years since it was lifted in the 1980s (the Avon Valley Railway used it to store locomotives in the early days of the society), but now it has a useful purpose again thanks to the multi-million pound re-development of the former chocolate factory buildings as an exclusive retirement village for senior citizens, with facilities which include a pool, cinema, gym and restaurants. Click here to view the branch on Ordnance Survey’s 1932-published 6″ map of Keynsham (accessed via the National Library of Scotland); note also the branches of the Avon & Gloucestershire Railway, running down to wharves on the River Avon.

By a coincidence, over the April bank holiday weekend, the nearby AVR is holding an event to celebrate the launch and restoration, after many years’ hard work, of their Cadbury/Fry’s Sentinel vertical-boilered steam loco No. 7492, which used to work on the branch line shunting stock. The AVR website says that any child who attends the event with their parents will get free chocolate! (Matt Skidmore)

February 2019. Shepton Mallet to Witham Friary, Somerset. Mendip District Council has voted £320,000 to fund technical studies to develop a business case for restoring rail services to Shepton Mallet, a town which local councillors feel is often overlooked. The location of the proposed ‘Shepton Mallet Parkway’ station has not been revealed, but the eastern edge of the town, just off the A361, is possible. Another option (which would not disturb the preserved East Somerset Railway, which operates between Cranmore West and its new Mendip Vale station) is near the village of Leighton, where the existing freight line from Witham Friary to Merehead Quarry comes within half a mile of the A361. As worthy as this proposal is in terms of providing better access to/from Shepton and supporting the town’s economic development, there are two major issues: Network Rail’s eye-watering charges for rail infrastructure projects, and the fact that Shepton’s main traffic flows are towards Bristol and Bath rather than Witham Friary, Westbury and London. West of Shepton, the old trackbed remains the subject of the Strawberry Line Society’s proposal for a multi-use trail to Wells, Cheddar, Yatton and Clevedon. (Ivor Sutton and Jeff Vinter)

February 2019. Caldicot to Caerwent, Monmouthshire. Monmouthshire Council has planned a 2.9 kilometre (2 mile) walking and cycle route from Caldicot to Caerwent, having commissioned Sustrans to assess the line’s suitability for the project, which runs just west of Crick Road (grid references ST 498882 to ST 487902). The cost to acquire the railway land will be funded from the sale of the Crick Road site to developers Merlin Homes. This abandoned line once transported supplies to the Royal Navy Propellant Factory during and after World War 2; the factory is now used by the MOD as a training base and as a filming location. (Tim Chant)

February 2019. Great Elm to Frome, Somerset. It is 15 months since we reported progress on ‘Frome’s Missing Links’, the community-based group which is seeking to extend the Radstock-Great Elm leg of NCN24, Colliers’ Way, from Great Elm into Frome town centre. At the town end, a traffic-free route is already open from near Frome station to a point on the River Mells opposite the town’s sewage works (not an obvious walking or cycling destination!), but this is where the next extension will spring from. It will start at grid reference ST 771488 and continue to ST 772496, by Jack’s Lane in Spring Gardens. Landowners have agreed to let the trail cross their land, some fencing has already been installed, and the group is preparing Heads of Terms and detailed drawings for Planning Permission, as well as for a footpath diversion. The ‘Missing Links’ website concludes: ‘It will take time (as these things do) but we really are expecting to start construction work early in 2019. ‘ (Jeff Vinter)

February 2019. Whitby to Scarborough, North Yorkshire. This story provides the conclusion to a report from March 2011, when Sirius Minerals plc announced plans to open a new potash (actually polyhalite) mine between Whitby and Scarborough. At the time, this prompted talk about possibly re-opening part of the old railway between the two towns, which would have threatened the popular ‘Cinder Trail’ path which now uses the trackbed. However, it wasn’t long before the talk changed from rail re-opening to a 23-mile tunnel (to protect the North York Moors National Park), although this doubled the project development phase from 5 to 10 years, with the mine then expected to commence production in 2021 rather than 2016. On 18th February, the BBC announced that the first tunnel boring machine had arrived (click here), although anyone hoping that the resultant tunnel would accommodate a railway will be disappointed to learn that it will accommodate instead a conveyor belt. Polyhalite is a naturally occurring fertiliser: Sirius aims to extract 10 million tonnes of it per annum, rising to 20 million tonnes subject to council approval. (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)

February 2019. Bradford to Keighley, West Yorkshire. A new partnership, the Great Northern Railway Trail Development Group, has been formed to extend the popular but fragmentary walking and cycling route which aspires to connect Bradford and Keighley. Several sections have been opened already, including two substantial viaducts, but now local MPs and councils want to get the project moving again, and fill in the missing links; first up are proposed extensions from Cullingworth to Keighley, and from Harecroft to Denholme. Local MPs from both major parties support the move, which is also backed by Keighley and Denholme town councils, and Wilsden, Cullingworth & Haworth, Cross Roads and Stanbury parish councils. (Graeme Bickerdike)

February 2019. Barnard Castle, County Durham. On 5th February, the Teesdale Mercury reported that a new 3-metre wide bridleway of 1¼ miles will be established on the disused railway north-east of Barnard Castle, i.e. coming in from the Darlington direction. The route will start at Dent Gate Lane (grid reference NZ 057188) and continue to a public footpath (NZ 058177) near Glaxo Sports and Social Club and Teesdale Leisure Centre. (Graeme Bickerdike and Keith Holliday)

February 2019. Chepstow to Tintern, Gwent (Monmouthshire). The day after the above report appeared, the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley Review published an article headed ‘Full steam ahead for tunnel path’, in which plans were outlined to effectively extend the Forestry Commission’s current railway path from Tintern to Black Morgan’s Wood Viaduct down to the National Diving & Activity Centre (NDAC) near Tidenham. The south end of this extension would connect with a trackside footpath, which leads on to Wye Valley Junction, whence country lanes would provide access to the eastern edge of Chepstow. The principal mover behind this development is Darren Bryce, the proprietor of NDAC, who is keen to provide traffic-free access to his facilities. Significantly, the trail would pass through the 1,190 yard Tidenham Tunnel. Mr Bryce explained: ‘The proposed path will create a significant extension to the visitor experience based on NDAC and provide a local resource for walking and cycling. The works proposed will be low key in nature with a view to making a stone dust path similar to the existing trails in the Forest of Dean. The works will be carefully carried out under the supervision of the project’s ecologist and bat specialist so that the Wye Valley Greenway can become a valued component of the outstanding landscape and woodlands in this area.’ (Graeme Bickerdike and Keith Holliday)

Update: Network Rail has said that it will recover the track from Wye Valley Junction to Tidenham and donate it to the Dean Forest Railway for use on their extension from Parkend to Cinderford. This track has had a very long lying in state, for the last freight train from Tidenham ran in 1981. (Matt Skidmore)

February 2019. Roslin to Loanhead and Shawfair, Midlothian. Further to our report in March 2018, our correspondent reports that this newly extended trail now runs to 5 miles, with a hard surface and lighting. The grid references of the end points are NT 279640 (Roslin) and NT 316690 (Shawfair), although one can walk unofficially up to Millerhill Road, the A6106, at NT 320690. (Phillip Earnshaw)

January 2019. Folkestone Harbour, Kent. In April last year, we reported on the restoration of the formerly derelict station at Folkestone Harbour. Further to that development, the BBC has reported recently that the trackbed to the north of the station and its approach viaduct is to receive attention, having become overgrown and unsightly. Mark Ellerby of Network Rail South East commented: ‘While the station section of the line is now a vibrant hub with shops, cafés, homes and cycle paths, the northern section has become overgrown and blighted by fly-tipping. We have deliberately opted to leave some of the old track in place to allow this to be a feature of any future scheme.’ NR will remove old equipment and clear the site, but – most unusually – wants people to email them with suggestions as to how this part of the old railway might be re-used. Curiously, the BBC did not provide an email link. (Tim Chant)

January 2019. Holmsley, Hampshire. Further to our report in August last year, Hampshire County Council has now finalised plans for replacing the old rail overbridge near Holmsley station, which carries the A35 across the former railway from Brockenhurst to Hamworthy via Ringwood and Wimborne. The new bridge is to be a single concrete span, and the local authority will straighten out a 380 metre section of the A35 at the same time. During construction, the old and new bridges will stand side by side until the latter is completed, when the road will be re-aligned and the old bridge demolished. The cost remains at £5.5 million, unlike comparable Network Rail projects which frequently suffer alarming price escalation. (Tim Chant)

January 2019. Wetherby to Newton Kyme, West Yorkshire. There has been a 2¾ mile railway path from a point just south of Wetherby Race Course (grid reference SE 413485) to Thorp Arch (SE 441462) for some time, but the old trackbed can now be walked or cycled for a further 1¼ miles to SE 454447, opposite Station House (formerly Newton Kyme station) on the A659. Our Yorkshire Area coordinator provided the following report, which we should point out describes the route in the reverse direction:

‘The Yorkshire branch has now walked the full length of the York & North Midland line from the GT Andrews-designed Newton Kyme station on the A659 (grid reference SE 454447) through to Wetherby. The newly-opened section is a walkway and cycleway, part of Sustrans’ route NCN665. This has been made possible by the renovation and re-opening of the grade II listed and long-derelict viaduct which crosses the River Wharfe at SE 447454. The work was funded by Redrow Homes who have completed a new housing development nearby, on the site of the old Papyrus paper mill.’

An illustrated history of Newton Kyme station and its railway can be read here. (Keith Holliday and Jane Ellis)

Above: No one can deny that President Trump is a controversial figure, but what can he have done to upset the residents of the Isle of Wight? This Trump graffito adorns the portal of St. Lawrence Tunnel on the Isle of Wight Central Railway’s former branch line from Ventnor West to Merstone. 23rd January 2019. (Richard Lewis)

January 2019. Bratton to Wellington, Shropshire. We have recently learned that a 1½ mile section of trackbed at the south end of the GWR’s former Nantwich-Wellington line has been converted into a cycle trail called the Silkin Way. It starts at grid reference SJ 633140 (Bratton Road, Bratton) and ends at SJ 641120 (Wrockwardine Road, Wellington), just east of the former Market Drayton Junction. John Silkin (1923-1978) was a Labour politician who held office in the Labour governments of the 1960s and 1970s; the Silkin Way here is a continuation of the same one which starts at Coalport Bridge on the River Severn and re-uses much of the LNWR’s Coalport branch. As such, this trail is almost certainly not a new construction but rather a long-established trail which we had missed. (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)

Update: Further north up the same line, east of Hodnet, a public footpath of just under a mile occupies the trackbed between grid references SJ 621281 (on Station Road) and SJ 621295. Aerial photographs suggest that only the goods shed survives from Hodnet station, which was situated immediately south of the rail overbridge on Station Road. (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)

January 2019. Whitland to Cardigan, Dyfed. BBC Wales has reported that an application has been submitted to Carmarthenshire County Council to create a public right of way on the trackbed of the Cardi Bach branch from Login to Llanglydwen. Llanglydwen resident Eurfyl Lewis said sites like the ancient Neolithic cromlech, Gwâl y Filiast, which is near the old track’s route, would be a draw for visitors. A public consultation period runs until 4th February but, almost inevitably, a recent report by the local authority indicated that a local landowner was objecting to the plan; therefore, it is likely that the final decision will have to be made by a planning inspector. Local councillor Dorian Phillips has said the long-term aspiration is to re-open the whole line as a footpath from Cardigan to Whitland. A section at the Cardigan end, passing through the Teifi Marshes nature reserve, is already a footpath and cycle route. (Chris Parker)

January 2019. Lubenham to Market Harborough, Leicestershire/Northamptonshire. In September 2006, 13-year old Adam Mugridge was killed by a lorry on the busy A4304 while cycling from his home in Lubenham to school in Market Harborough. Ever since, his family has been campaigning to have the old railway line from Lubenham to Market Harborough (once part of the LNWR’s Rugby-Market Harborough line) converted into a traffic-free cycle trail. Predictably, they were beset by reluctant landowners and – because the line crosses the county boundary not once but twice – bureaucratic difficulties, so they turned eventually to the Secretary of State for the Environment. Now, at last, Leicestershire County Council has recognised the mile-long route, from Old Hall Lane, Lubenham, to Farndale View, Market Harborough, as a public right of way; the grid references for the trackbed section are SP 708869 to SP 721868, with access at the Lubenham end from the public footpath which starts on Old Hall Lane at SP 708870. The fundraisers of the AdamSmile group have worked tirelessly to raise £140,000, which will pay for upgrading the route to a cycle trail. (David Thompson and Jeff Vinter)

January 2019. Disused Tunnels in Wales. Further to our report in August 2018, we are pleased to relate that plans to re-open a number of disused railway tunnels across Wales have encountered no insurmountable problems and are still progressing. This report from the Western News provides further details and covers the front-runners for re-opening: Rhondda, Abernant, Tregarth (open already), Pennar and Usk. (Tim Chant)

January 2019. Greenodd to Bardsea, Cumbria. On 13th January, the Westmorland Gazette announced that there is official interest in re-opening a scenic path near Ulverston which uses parts of the former Furness Railway’s network. The paper writes as though the route was once a single line, but actually it was two; the branch lines from Plumpton West Junction, east of Ulverston, respectively to Windermere Lakeside and Conishead Priory, near Bardsea. The proposed trail would have to cross the still operational Cumbrian Coast line near Plumpton Hall, but fortunately there are two existing grade-separated crossings of the railway, the eastern one of which accommodates a public footpath. The paper reported, ‘Parts of the route from Greenodd [southwards] to Bardsea have been used by cyclists, horse riders and walkers for some time, but a section of the route close to the Ulverston Canal, which is owned by Network Rail, was fenced off a few years ago. However, campaigners are now pressing to re-open [this] section, a move which if successful would not only allow access along the entire route, but would also provide users with a safer alternative … to the busy A590.’ Local councillors and Barrow MP John Woodcock support the idea, and staff from Network Rail were due to attend the next meeting of the local council’s ‘Cumbria Better Connected’ campaign group, although local councillor Mark Wilson admitted that Network Rail ‘have not been on board as much’. North of Greenodd, a section of the Windermere branch is already part of NCN70 between grid references SD 318825 and SD 326829, a distance of just over half a mile. After that, NCN70 continues (off the trackbed) into Haverthwaite, where the rest of the branch to Windermere Lakeside is now the preserved Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway. (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)

Above: One of the portals of Usk Tunnel, seen in the jungle-like conditions of high summer. There are proposals to convert the tunnel into part of a new cycle trail, as reported in the story below. 21st August 2008. (Andrew Lewis, used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0)

January 2019. Usk to Little Mill Junction (nr. Pontypool), Monmouthshire. We reported in June 2018, December 2016 and June 2015 plans to convert the disused railway line between Little Mill and Usk into an off-road cycle route of about 4 miles. Recently, we have learned from articles published in ‘Wales Online’ and the BBC’s website that this proposal includes the 256 yard Usk Tunnel east of Usk station site. Usk Tunnel now features in Monmouthshire County Council’s Integrated Network Map (INM) to improve cycling and walking routes, but a council spokesman stressed that ‘nothing has been decided yet on priorities for scheme development in 2019-20’. (Don Kennedy, Tim Stannard and Chris Parker)

January 2019. Stalbridge to Poole, Dorset. Just when we thought that the North Dorset Trailway might have ‘run out of steam’ due to government funding cuts, the Bournemouth Echo published a story (on 7th January) revealing that North Dorset District Council is to be asked to approve a £70,000 grant to cover the ‘very significant’ cost of purchasing former railway land to extend the route. (The charity behind the NDT, the North Dorset Trailway Network, seeks to re-use the trackbed of the former Somerset & Dorset Railway as a long-distance, multi-use trail.) The funds being sought would enable the Trailway to be extended north from Sturminster Newton – which is the current northern terminus – to Stalbridge, and, according to the newspaper, the council is actually proposing to make the grant. Hugh de Iongh, a council development officer, remarked that the Trailway ‘delivers long-term economic and community benefits’, and explained that the funding represents ‘a continuation of work that the council is already involved in’. He added: ‘The North Dorset Trailway has great potential as an element of the north Dorset economy and also has considerable health and wellbeing benefits’. (Tim Chant)

Update: On Monday 14th January, the Cabinet of North Dorset District Council voted to make the above grant. Dorset’s local government will be re-structured in April, with most of the county then coming under the auspices of a new unitary authority, Dorset Council; it is believed that NDDC voted to spend this money on its own area while it still existed and had the power to do so. (Tim Chant)

Above: Stephen Ash’s model of the former bridge near modern Tutshill Sluice, which carried the Weston, Clevedon & Portishead Light Railway over the River Yeo, was exhibited recently at the Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust’s 2019 Model Railway Exhibition at Edington, Somerset. The viaduct in the bottom right of the picture is from a separate model, which (in terms of historical accuracy at Tutshill) was rather unfortunately placed! The story below tells how this bridge is to be replaced. January 2019. (Ivor Sutton)

January 2019. Wick St. Lawrence to Ham Lane, Somerset. Most readers can be forgiven for never having heard of Wick St. Lawrence and Ham Lane (near Kingston Seymour) because they are the names of former halts on the Weston, Clevedon & Portishead Light Railway, a very minor railway which closed on 18th May 1940 and is now largely unacknowledged on modern Ordnance Survey maps. However, on 18th December 2018, the ‘BristolLive’ website reported that a new walking and cycling route from Weston-Super-Mare to Clevedon was to go ahead, incorporating the Wick to Ham Lane section of the former trackbed. This railway part of the trail will start at grid reference ST 377653, east of Wick St. Lawrence, and continue for just over a mile to Ham Lane at ST 384668. The WC&PLR had halts at both locations and, so that users will not miss the southern one, a replica of Wick St. Lawrence Halt will be built. Even more remarkable is the fact that the railway’s bridge over the River Yeo near Tutshill Sluice (ST 380658) is to be replaced and will form part of the English Coastal Path. Currently, the ECP in this area does not trouble the coast very much! South of Wick St. Lawrence Halt, public footpaths can be followed near the old railway to Ebdon Lane Farm (ST 370643), where a further footpath follows the old trackbed to the bank of the River Banwell at ST 368641. (Ivor Sutton and Jeff Vinter)

January 2019. Bourne End to High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. Julian Holland’s 2013 book, Dr Beeching’s Axe 50 Years On: Memories of Britain’s Lost Railways (David & Charles, ISBN 978-1-4463-0267-5) states on page 61 that ‘the majority of the trackbed between High Wycombe and Bourne End is now a footpath and cycleway’. We believe that this statement is incorrect, although public footpaths run parallel to a couple of sections, and Buckinghamshire County Council had plans to create such a trail. However, with the imminent opening of the Crossrail project, it seems that attention has now turned towards reinstating the line, initially as a light rail project, but now for heavy rail. In March 2017, the Bucks Free Press reported that (High Wycombe) councillors had agreed to a £100,000 feasibility study to examine re-opening, and this 2016 report provides the background. An update from local members will be appreciated, so, if you can help, please get in touch using the Online Form on our Contact page. (Jeff Vinter)

January 2019. Meldon Junction to Halwill Junction, Devon. Devon County Council’s ambition to re-open as much as possible of the former Bude branch as a multi-use trail is moving closer. Partial obliteration of the trackbed by the new A30 west of Meldon Junction requires walkers to follow minor roads to East Bowerland (grid reference SX 544930), but from there it is now possible to walk or cycle 4 miles along the trackbed to Broadbury Cottages, alongside the A3079 at SX 489950. We should mention that, during the winter months, the unsealed surface requires cyclists to be hardy and impervious to mud. A further extension, to Ashbury & North Lew station by minor road, was being worked on last year. In September, the trackbed west of Broadbury Cottages was a dead end. Further down the line, access to the trackbed had been created from Ashbury, by minor road, but – according to the owner of Ashbury and North Lew station – no work had been done on the old railway formation. The trail will avoid the station, which is now privately owned, but the next leg of the route, to Halwill Junction, appears to be moving forward. (Phillip Earnshaw)