Recent News


Oct 2021 – Cornwall’s four new Saints Trails

Cornwall’s four new Saints Trails have been dealt a blow: two have been scrapped and the others scaled back.  The only one based on an old railway (Newquay to Perranporth) will go ahead, albeit without some new bridges to cross roads, because the work has already started.  Further details are available at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-58875054, but it does not make for happy reading.  Cornwall has been over-ambitious, and could learn a lot from its next door neighbour.  Barring a bit of work in the vicinity of Ashbury & North Lew station, Devon now has a rail trail from there to Meldon; the surface is rough and ready, but at least the council got the trail in, and can upgrade the surface in years to come. (Jeff Vinter)

Aug 2021 – Bassenthwaite Lake, Cumbria.

Bassenthwaite Lake Station reopened for business on July 30th, not offering tickets to Keswick or Cockermouth, but at least with a train standing at the platform. After two years of restoration work, café facilities are now provided in both the rebuilt station building and the static restaurant carriage. The café offers wildlife viewing and an accessible woodland walk with a focus on showcasing all things Cumbrian, especially local suppliers and producers of the finest food. Co-owner Simon Parums says: "The idea was to provide some facilities to visitors of the nearby Dubwath Silver Meadows nature reserve, but once we decided to create a café it very quickly became apparent that the station building would not be large enough. Rather than extend it, we stumbled upon the replica train to use as our extension; two years later it has become a reality and we are incredibly proud of everything that we, and our fabulous team of contractors and volunteers, have done." This new venture was featured in an article in RR 169 (pp. 26-28), a photo of the station building pre-restoration having appeared on the inside cover of RR 168. (Cumberland News; Richard Bain)

A spokesperson for the SDNPA added: “We find it very frustrating that such works lie beyond our control. We did advise initially that the works were development and would need the submission of a planning application. The agents came back and have, unfortunately, shown that the works do lie outside planning control under emergency powers. The SDNPA will be questioning the use of emergency powers and strongly resisting this vandalism.

The Stoke Road bridge spans the disused Mid-Hants Railway a mile or so beyond the western terminus of the heritage line and is earmarked for reuse as part of a walking and cycling route. The route is safeguarded against adverse development under a policy adopted in the SDNPA’s Local Plan. Matt Skidmore, a member of the HRE Group, said that by infilling the structure Highways England is “putting Stoke Road bridge beyond use […] obstructing the development of a 27-mile circular path connecting the communities of Alresford, Kings Worthy, South Wonston and Sutton Scotney”. (Forgotten Relics)

Aug 2021 – South Downs, Hampshire.

Highways England has found itself embroiled in yet another row over a planned bridge infilling project. Engineers, transport planners and the local authority have all hit out at Highways England’s proposal to infill a 156-year-old disused rail bridge in the South Downs National Park. The chief executive of the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) labelled the plans to infill Stoke Road bridge as “vandalism”, while a spokesperson for the HRE Group accused Highways England of acting like “cowboys and bullies”. In April 2020, the SDNPA ordered Highways England to apply for planning permission for the work. However, the roads body subsequently decided that it would carry out the infilling under permitted NATIONAL NEWS development rights which allow temporary works to be carried out without planning permission in emergency situations presenting a serious threat of death or injury. This was confirmed in a letter to MPs on July 19 this year. However, Highways England director of the Historic Railway Estate Richard Marshall confirmed that the planned works have now been "put on hold" after the government intervened. The SDNPA and HRE group alike object to the assumption that the Stoke Road bridge is a serious risk to the public.

Aug 2021 – Penygroes, Caernarfonshire.

RR 158 (Summer 2018) carried a note about this disused station. Originally a pub, it acted as both ticket office and waiting room for the horsedrawn Nantlle - Caernarfon services. The Nantlle Railway operated between 1828 and 1865. Officially, the passenger service did not officially begin till 11th August 1856 but from a local property advert of the time, it is known to have operated unofficially "several times a day" prior to that. The station became a hardware shop in 1925, taking its name Siop Griffiths from the proprietor's surname yet its claim to be the world's first passenger station is not entirely accurate as the Stockton & Darlington Railway's 1825 ticket office at South Stockton is also extant. It has now reopened as Yr Orsaf (The Station), a community hub with café and accommodation. Further information can be found at https://www.yrorsaf.cymru/en/. (Chris Parker / Rhys ab Elis)

Aug 2021 – Harlow, Essex.

How far can the London Underground extend? Harlow Town Council has said it is willing to lobby for the London Transport network to be extended from its current terminus at Epping, which lies about 8 miles away. Of course, if such a project ever came to fruition, it would hardly qualify as either ‘London’ or ‘Underground’ and is also surely too far out from the capital, given the slow travel times – due to frequent stops – which were the main reason for the demise of the Epping – Ongar section. The Council would be better advised to follow up other initiatives it has on the table such as connectivity to CrossRail 2, or the four-tracking of the line to Stansted, although Harlow is still about 20 minutes by train from Stansted Airport. (New Civil Engineer, Forgotten Relics, RR)

Aug 2021 – Pulham Market, Norfolk.

William Brown A fabulous disused station is up for sale in Norfolk and the current owner is hoping to sell to a fellow enthusiast. 'I'm looking for a railway enthusiast to take it over. Hopefully it will become a holiday destination for railway enthusiasts to come and stay in. That would be brilliant if it became something like that.' A guide price of £400,000 probably sounds like a snip to those of our readers who live in the leafy southern shires, but whether or not you have the readies, it is well worth searching for on the Internet to enjoy views of the beautifully restored building, complete with canopy, spandrels and platform (albeit the latter is fenced). www.edp24.co.uk offers a short video tour of the property, but the estate agent marketing the house has very cleverly managed to take a whole series of pictures without showing even the slightest hint of the industrial buildings that dominate the location on its western side. (RR)

Pulham Market Station
Pulham Market Station, Norfolk Photo: William Brown

Aug 2021 – Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire.

A station that has long been on the Editor’s bucket-list to see but is hidden away behind high hedges and down a private drive also came on the market recently, meaning some pictures could be viewed on the estate agent’s website. Despite being a sumptuous property ‘with its own tennis court, paddock and gardens’ however, there is little hint in the presentation of its previous railway use apart from a section of trackbed which comes with the house. (Barry Bubb)

Aug 2021 – Powerstock, Dorset.

It is with great sadness that we report the death earlier this year of Mrs Diana Read, who lived at Powerstock station on the former Bridport branch with her husband Brian. Both were very good friends to this Club, and many members over the years enjoyed their generous hospitality when we called at the old station on a walk up or down the old branch. Brian and Diana purchased the station from the BR Property Board in 1969, which was no easy task in those days because it was still an operational station, and – although reduced to an unstaffed halt – BRPB staff seemed unable to accept that a family could live there while the trains still ran. Converting the property into a family home was another major undertaking! Our correspondent first met Diana unknowingly on his journeys up and down the branch in the early 1970s, when sometimes she was the only passenger to board at Powerstock, often with a wicker basket for shopping at Bridport’s Saturday market. He did not realise then that she and Brian actually owned the station, having been trailblazers with BRPB. Diana was in her eighties when she died, and the cause of death was old age rather than Covid-19. (Jeff Vinter)

Aug 2021 – Pontarddulais, Glamorgan.

The online magazine, Railway Herald, reports that Swansea Council is to undertake a design and feasibility study into creating a foot and cycle path along a currently overgrown and/or inaccessible mile-long section of the former Central Wales line trackbed between Pontarddulais and Grovesend. Further funding would need to be found to bring it to fruition and in 2019 Rhys ab Elis reported that the north end of this route is a dead-end industrial estate road and the trackbed is then cut by the M4. However, the section immediately north of Grovesend is already part of the Gower Way mid-distance path. (Railway Herald; Chris Parker)

July 2021 – Forest Row (The Forest Way), East Sussex.

The last remaining building at Forest Row station site, the Coal Office, has permanently closed as a café due to a lack of custom accentuated by enforced lockdowns. The building is in a sorry state - though the former café use is evident with coffee beans still in the machine and furniture stacked. (Chris Witt)

July 2021 – Three Bridges to East Grinstead (The Worth Way), West Sussex.

The official NCN21 in Worth comes off at Church Road but the footpath further along the railway cutting is clearly signed to the wooden steps at the Salehurst Road & Saxon Road point. The trouble is that this last section has been allowed to deteriorate with fallen trees (which the nimble and able can just about get under) and now has dense undergrowth. The cynical would say that it is all rather convenient so that West Sussex County Council can close off this last section and direct all walkers via NCN21. However, in a subsequent contact, the Council has confirmed that the footpath will be restored to enable access as soon as possible.

Rowfant station is now in a sorry state of repair - neglected and covered in vegetation. How convenient for Colas Ltd (owners of the road making depot site) if it were considered 'dangerous' and had to be demolished. Whilst an attractive and somewhat unique building (opened in 1855 for exclusive use of the owner of Rowfant Estate, on request) it is, surprisingly, not listed. Representations have now been made to Historic England to see if they are prepared to list the structure, before it falls into irremediable disrepair. Our correspondent has completed an application to have the station building listed and awaits a response. (Chris Witt)

June 2021 – Stow, Midlothian.

The station building at Stow has been saved from demolition and is being turned into a café/bar. The village, which has a population of around 700, has lost all three of its hotels and bars over the years and only has a part-time café. The station building is 173 years old and was originally earmarked for demolition during reconstruction of the Borders Railway but now the waiting room, ticket office and stationmaster’s house will also feature a cycle hub and meeting rooms. After the closure of the Waverley line, the station was converted into two houses. Stow Station was originally not due to be re-opened as part of the Borders Railway project but local campaigners fought successfully for its reinstatement. The station building is one of only two surviving original structures on the route, the other being Gorebridge, and had long been derelict when the line reopened in 2015.

Stow Community Trust (SCT) hopes the £844,000 development will attract visitors by train from Edinburgh mirroring the success of the re-opened railway in generating capital-bound passengers from the Borders. The Trust is now seeking a tenant to run the bar and eatery. Campaign for Borders Rail Secretary Nick Bethune said: "Around 2009-10, before the railway had been given the go[1]ahead, preliminary engineering drawings showed the buildings were to be demolished and the site used for car parking. Detailed design hadn't started, so there was a narrow window of opportunity to make the case for keeping the buildings. I felt the station house had enormous charm and character and that it would be a tragedy to lose. Drawing on my experience as an architect, I was able to produce an alternative site layout that showed it was possible to retain the building and fit in the required number of parking spaces around it. It has taken a huge amount of further work by many people to turn that initial opportunity into the fantastic community asset that we see today.” SCT Chair Helen Corcoran says: “We want to encourage more people back onto the railway for leisure. It has been strongly used for commuting into Edinburgh, but not leisure traffic out from the city.” Funding for the project has included money from the Borders Railway Blueprint Programme and the Railway Heritage Trust. (The Scotsman, Forgotten Relics)

June 2021 – Manchester, Lancashire.

Castlefield Viaduct in Manchester is to be turned into an urban park and meeting-place under plans drawn up by Highways England and The National Trust. The viaduct was built in 1892 and designed by Heenan and Froude, the engineers who worked on the Blackpool Tower. It formed part of the approach to Manchester Central Station (now the Manchester Central Convention Complex) until 1969 when the station closed. Since then the viaduct has stood unused with Highways England undertaking essential repairs and maintenance to keep it safe as part of its Historical Railways Estate portfolio. The initial plan is to open the viaduct next summer as a temporary park to test ideas and use the space to gather feedback for the viaduct’s longer-term future. To this end, the National Trust will be applying for planning permission in Autumn 2021. National Trust Head of Urban Places Duncan Laird said: “We’re delighted to be starting this project to bring new life to the viaduct. Our ambition is to give more people the opportunity to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits of green, nature-rich havens on this remarkable heritage structure in the city.” (New Civil Engineer, Forgotten Relics)

Jun 2021 – Contract for new decking on Bennerley Viaduct signed

The contract for the new decking to go on Bennerley Viaduct has been signed, which will be the finishing touch.  The ramps are now ready for the tarmac to go on, which will happen in the next fortnight, subject to fair weather.

The restoration of Bennerley Viaduct should be complete before the end of this year. The official opening will take place not long afterwards, but of course that will depend on the weather being kind. (Jeff Vinter)

May 2021 – Usk, Monmouthshire.

Usk Tunnel, built originally by the Coleford, Monmouth, Usk & Pontypool Railway and now part of an official footpath, has been temporarily closed due to reports of falling bricks and debris, according to the South Wales Argus. A metal fence has been erected to prevent access and a spokesman for the Council said they had adopted this measure even though they are not the legal owners, adding: ‘This is a temporary solution until the ownership issues are resolved and permanent repairs can be made.’ The spokesman also said that Highways England ‘have secured the portions of the tunnel in their legal ownership.’ The 256-yard tunnel saw its last regular train in 1955, though a railtour passed through a couple of years after that. One railway forum claims there is a dispute over who owns the centre of the tunnel, which sounds rather unusual. (RR)

May 2021 – Disused railway infrastructure.

The ‘burdensome estate’ has reached the national press. The ongoing saga over the demolition or infilling of bridges and tunnels by Highways England (HE) was reported on in The Times newspaper of May 4th, with both an article and editorial comment. It described the recent decision by Herefordshire Council to refuse planning permission to HE to block two bridges on the route to Hay-on-Wye, which a local campaign group is working to open as a trail. Other councils have said HE would need to apply for planning permission before carrying out any infilling work. HE has been trying to use ‘permitted development orders’ to circumvent the need for permission, on the grounds that the structures are unsafe. The Times comments that ‘their reasoning is as spurious as their motives’ and calls on HE to ‘let councils, walking and cycling federations and others’ come together to protect our rural heritage. (The Times)

May 2021 – Butternab Tunnel, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.

The secret is out. In 2016, the owner of a house whose garden includes the southern portal and a section of Butternab Tunnel on the ex-Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway’s Meltham branch (closed 1969) allowed the Yorkshire Area group in to see what remained. However, he did not wish this to be widely publicised so we refrained from commenting on it in the magazine. The property has since changed hands and the new owner is taking a rather different approach – turning the tunnel studio into an Airbnb. He says this of the previous occupant: ‘An eccentric NATIONAL NEWS 9 millionaire decided to make the blocked southern end of the tunnel into an art studio for his wife and a home cinema was put there in the 90s. Fast forward to December 2020, we bought the property and decided to make it more sympathetic to its history, so we got rid of the rainbow arch and tacky art pictures. We are surrounded by ancient woodland. There’s a 30-foot waterfall cascading into a pond. It’s so private and peaceful.’ If any Club members decide to book a stay there, please tell us about your experience. (YorkshireLive)

Butternab

Butternab Tunnel, Netherton, West Yorkshire (in 2016 with the rainbow arch – since removed) Photo: Jane Ellis

May 2021 – Kingham, Oxfordshire, Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire.

It has been reported that a group is commissioning Sustrans to investigate using the former Kingham to Bourton line as a recreational trail. First though, they have to raise funding for a Sustrans feasibility study. They claim the disused rail line ‘is flat, relatively undeveloped, usefully sited and travels through beautiful countryside’, which could be said of many such trackbeds. The thinking is to join Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow on the Wold, with Kingham Railway Station and 10 from there on to Oxford, London, Worcester and Birmingham. Whilst the potential environmental and employment gains are immense, the full project would need the backing and agreement of numerous stakeholders, including landowners, and parish, district and county councils. The first stage then, is to identify the costs, benefits, hurdles and opportunities – hence the feasibility study. (spacehive.com; Paul Stewart; Chris Parker)

May 2021 – Lichfield, Brownhills, Staffordshire.

Lichfield District Council is starting work on a project that could transform the mothballed railway track between Brownhills and Lichfield into a new cycle and footpath. Working with Network Rail and Sustrans, the council will assess a section of the old South Staffordshire Railway line for its potential to reopen as a greenway. This would link into the National Cycle Network which runs between Walsall and Brownhills. A feasibility study will be carried out this summer to gauge the scale of the project, likely issues, opportunities, costs and how best to develop it. The findings will be used to draw up a project plan and engage with the local community and partners. Councillor Doug Pullen, Leader of Lichfield Council, said: ‘Having seen, back in 2018, the excellent work carried out by the community group Back the Track, who are working to open up part of the disused South Staffordshire Railway between Walsall and the A5 as a leisure greenway, I'm tremendously excited that we are now in a position to explore the development of a greenway from Brownhills to Lichfield. This project presents real opportunities for our health, mental wellbeing, local connectivity and our visitor economy. I'd like to thank Network Rail and Sustrans for their willingness to bring it to life.’ Councillor Richard Cox, Cabinet Member responsible for Leisure, added: ‘We’re excited to get this project started, as creating a high-quality offroad cycle and footpath will be a great asset for the district. It will connect the National Cycle Network and encourage more of our residents to exercise and commute to work safely.’ Local RR member Phil Mullarkey says though: ‘I have mixed feelings about it myself as it could ‘snooker’ the reopening of Lichfield to Walsall. I’m a member of Lichfield Rail Promotion Group as well as RR!!’ (Lichfield District Council; Bob Prigg; Phil Mullarkey)

Apr 2021 – Cardiff, Glamorgan.

Network Rail is claiming a world first in using electric resistant paint to avoid demolishing a Victorian-age railway bridge in Cardiff, which would have cost £40m. Intersection Bridge, a rail-over-rail structure in the city centre and on the main line from Paddington, is too low to fit all the kit required for electrification – as indeed is the case with most older bridges. NR’s usual procedure is to demolish the structure and replace it with a higher bridge, but this time – by applying a coat to the underside of the bridge 11 – engineers were able to put the overhead line equipment to within 20mm and allow trains to run within 70mm of the brickwork without the risk of electric current being transferred. This is a new technology developed by the University of Southampton and NR says this will shape the future of their electrification projects and save the taxpayer millions. It also means much railway heritage can be saved. (NR Media Centre)

Apr 2021 – Tidenham, Gloucestershire.

A planning application has been made by Greenways and Cycleroutes Ltd, in conjunction with Wyedean School and the National Diving & Activity Centre, to extend the Wye Valley Greenway from Bishton Lane, Tidenham, to Wyedean School, Sedbury, just across the River Wye (and Anglo-Welsh border) from Chepstow. Importantly, this would include the old railway bridge on the Wye Valley branch that crosses the busy A48. Wyedean School is cut off from the Wye Valley by the A48 and is actively participating in the development of the path, even providing the land to complete the route. At its northern end, the path connects with the section to Tintern, making a 5-mile trail in total. The pièce de résistance is the 1188-yard Tidenham Tunnel, now open in hours of daylight from April to September to walkers and cyclists(closed the rest of the year due to a resident bat colony). This makes it the second longest tunnel open for leisure use in the country. (Greenways and Cycleroutes Ltd.)

Apr 2021 – Somerset.

John Grimshaw’s new charity, Greenways and Cycleroutes (GCR), is now working on the ‘Somerset Circle’, a circular network of lines around the county which will build on the existing Strawberry Line (Yatton - Cheddar) to create a county-wide route based largely on old railways. A map of the project and its ‘vision statement’ can be viewed on the Strawberry Line website. GCR has appointed a former senior manager from Sustrans to work on the negotiations and other issues, and good progress is being made in the Shepton Mallet area. We understand that the local authority’s intended trail along the old GWR line, connecting new housing on the eastern edge of town with the site of Shepton Mallet High Street station (now replaced by a local supermarket), can go ahead, while the old Somerset & Dorset route is intended as the Circle’s link to Wellow, Midford and the Two Tunnels Trail into Bath. We understand that, on the S&D, an early step will be to open up Bath Road Viaduct for public access. (Jeff Vinter)

Apr 2021 – Sandsend and Kettleness Tunnels to reopen?

Following on from Phillip Earnshaw’s description of these North Yorkshire coast tunnels in Ramblings 169, I was surprised to read in the Whitby Gazette (18.3.21) that Sustrans and the North York Moors National Park are looking at the feasibility of opening them up to walkers and cyclists. There would be several problems to overcome – the north-west end of Sandsend (a.k.a. Overdale) Tunnel collapsed in 2008; the “offshoot” tunnels from it to the cliff face, which were opened up for dumping spoil during construction, are shored up with timbers and look quite dangerous. These would need to be sealed up to avoid the temptation of an adventurous traverse through them by curious walkers – and who could blame them! (I must admit to having foolishly explored them myself, many years ago).

Whilst the trackbed approaching the tunnels from the south is part of the Cleveland Way long distance footpath, the access to it is by a flight of wooden steps cut into a steep hillside, which would be a barrier to cyclists and the disabled. The only way to avoid this would be to go through Sandsend Station, which is privately owned, and since Autumn 2020 has camping coaches on the platform. Also the tunnels and their approaches are owned by Lord Normanby’s Mulgrave Estate, who blocked the south-east entrance to Sandsend Tunnel long ago, complete with a warning notice to potential trespassers. However the Bidstats website states: “An initial structural report into the condition of the tunnels has been undertaken. Most of the land in the proposed area between Staithes and Sandsend is owned by Mulgrave Estate who are partners in the project and very supportive of its aspirations”. The Cleveland Way currently avoids the tunnels, but to the north of them is unsuitable for cycling as it passes between farmland and a crumbling cliff edge, with stiles and steps to negotiate.

Having said all this though, official and safe access to these tunnels would provide a marvellous extension to the Scarborough-Whitby railway path.

Jane Ellis

Tunnel Collapse
▲ Sandsend Tunnel collapse
Magazine Article
▲Article in Whitby Gazette

Apr 2021 – Rock Fall, Elan Valley Railway (EVR) (Powys)

The Elan Valley Trail, a foot and cycle path which is part of National Cycle Network route 81, uses the “main line” trackbed of this former standard gauge reservoir construction railway from Craig Goch reservoir dam to Elan Valley Jn. It then parallels the Mid Wales Railway route to Rhayader station, climbing above the nature reserve which occupies the 270 yd tunnel and its approach cuttings. Four rare bat species hibernate in the tunnel. The station is a highways depot.

The principal EVR civil engineering feature is Devil’s Gulch, a deep rock cutting about a mile south of Craig Goch. On 4 November 2018 this was been blocked by a rock fall. Further falls have occurred since, the entire cutting is deemed unstable and remains closed indefinitely. Powys County Council renews the closure order every 6 months. Welsh Water Authority is the owner but lacks funds to carry out repairs. In February 2021 it held online consultation sessions as to possible remedies/alternatives but any outcomes have not been publicised. This is hardly satisfactory as existing official and unofficial diversionary routes are hazardous and dangerous in differing ways. https://bit.ly/3volaLl is an excellent local press report of 4 February 2021 with further details.

One EVR artefact which, surprisingly, survives in a better state is the former Cambrian Railways Elan Valley Jn signal box. Always greatly oversized for that location, it was replaced by a ground frame in 1908 and moved to Pwllheli West in connection with the extension of the Cambrian Coast line in 1909. Ironically itself downgraded to a ground frame in the 1970s, when seen in October 2020 it appeared well cared for.

(Report and Pictures from Chris Parker)

Rock Fall
▲ Devil's Gulch looking S with path closed since 4-11-18 because of rock falls
Tunnel Portal
▲S portal of Rhayader Tunnel 2
Rock Fall
▲ Rock fall in Devil's Gulch looking N
Tunnel Portal
▲N portal of Rhayader Tunnel where 4 bat species now hibernate

Apr 2021 – Darlington & Hetton-le-Hole (Co. Durham).

The former rail trail from Darlington (New Road) to Dinsdale, which was cut to about half its size when a new link road – the B6279 – from town to the A66 was constructed, has now been reinstated to not far off its original start point, while the former colliery lines in Hetton Lyons Country Park near Hetton-le-Hole now form a network of cycle routes, with a 2½ mile linear trail providing off-road access from outlying areas. (Jeff Vinter)

Mar 2021 – Devon.

Information from DevonLive sets out summary details of all the proposed new (and to be extended or linked up) cycle trails in Devon. A search revealed the definite or likely-looking railway components as these:
1. The Pegasus Way. This will complete conversion of a long section of the Bude Branch – which has been a work in progress for many years – between Meldon Junction and Cookworthy Forest, which is around 3½ miles beyond Halwill Junction on the Bude side.
2. The Ruby Way. This will link Hatherleigh with Holsworthy, and it is possible that old railway trackbeds will be used. Devon has already converted parts of the Torrington - Halwill Junction line west of Hatherleigh between Runnon Moor and Pulworthy Moor, and between Highampton and Black Torrington, plus parts of the Halwill Junction - Bude branch between Halwill Junction and Cookworthy Forest, and West Combe and the eastern side of Holsworthy, just before Coles Mill Viaduct, which carried the line into the town’s station. Contacts within the ‘railway re-use community’ indicate that, after many years, Devon is close to securing access over Coles Mill Viaduct, which – amongst other things – will require new parapets.
3. The Tarka Trail. ‘Land assembly’ is proposed to fill the gaps between Knowle and Willingcott (which will complete re-use of the whole of the Barnstaple - Ilfracombe branch) and between Meeth and Hatherleigh, although here only a short section of the old railway will be used west of Hele Bridge on the A386.
4. Feniton to Sidmouth. Parts of this branch are open officially already, and the highly regarded Kings School at Ottery St. Mary has been campaigning14 for its conversion into The Otter Trail for several years.
5. Tavistock to Bere Alston. At first glance, this looked like another prospective rail trail, but it is not to be because Devon still aspires to re-open the line and thus put Tavistock back on the national rail network. Sorry!
6. Tiverton to Exeter. The inclusion of this route in Devon’s list is tantalising. The Exe Valley Way already links Tiverton with Exeter, but the old railway could not be used because, about 30 years ago, the county riled all the landowners by publishing plans for a rail trail before consulting them. As a result, the current Exe Valley Way eschews the railway: it is a demanding walk and, in places, not open to – and wholly unsuitable for – cyclists. Possibly a new route is in prospect, but at this stage the published sources do not give much away.
7. The Primrose Trail: South Brent to Kingsbridge. The county’s website is silent on this trail. The obvious route would be along the old railway, but that would require the agreement of a lot of landowners. However, Greenways and Cycleroutes are very keen to develop a trail here, and there is a keen local campaign group with an informative website: https://primrosetrail.org (Jeff Vinter; Steven Hills)

Mar 2021 – Hovingham, North Yorkshire.

Hovingham Estate has decided to move the path from the old Hovingham to Gilling East railway line at Cawton to the side of the field so they can plough the whole field rather than have to do a little strip at the edge separately (the red line indicates the trackbed). Hovingham
(Item and photo: Peter Billington)

Mar 2021 – Carlisle, Cumberland.

The long-awaited re-opening of Waverley Viaduct in the city could be on the horizon, according to the leader of Carlisle City Council, John Mallinson. The bridge over the River Eden was used as an unofficial footpath for many years before being closed on safety grounds. Campaigners, led by the Carlisle Waverley Viaduct Trust, have been trying to have it re-opened as a footpath for more than a decade. Cllr. Mallinson reported on a meeting with Railway Paths Ltd., saying that this charity ‘is in a position to 15 hold the title of the bridge, in support of the Trust, and to provide them with advice and assistance with fundraising activities.’ He added that he was now going to speak to the Trust to see if ownership issues can be resolved. (Cumberland News; Richard Bain)

Mar 2021 – Hesketh Bank, Lancashire.

Enabling works are continuing on the ‘Henry Alty Way’, a planned footpath and cycleway along the westerly bank of the River Douglas between Hesketh Bank and Bank Bridge, in Tarleton. The path< will be on the former trackbed of the West Lancashire Railway’s Tarleton Lock branch, which operated in the early years of the 20th century, mainly for goods, though it did offer a passenger service that connected with the Liverpool line at Crossens in Southport. The Love Hesketh Bank newsletter reports that ‘existing gates, stiles and fences on the route will disappear meaning that the facility will be fully accessible to all on a level surface.’ (Love Hesketh Bank; Stephen Ebbs)

Mar 2021 – Camden, London.

The planned ‘Camden Highline’, which aspires to transform about ¾ mile of disused elevated track in north London, has announced that the winner of its design competition is James Corner Field Operations, the team that created the High Line in New York. (The Times; Graham Harrison-Watts)

News from 2000 to 2019 ported from RR Website archives...