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Above: This sylvan scene depicts the crossing of two railways near Port Penrhyn, Bangor: one remains in use while the other is now a multi-use trail. The viaduct carries the LNWR's still operational Chester-Holyhead line, while the trackbed below – once part of the Penrhyn Railway – now serves walkers, cyclists, etc. The Penrhyn Railway was constructed to carry slate from Lord Penrhyn's quarries at Bethesda to Port Penrhyn at Bangor, and the modern trail links the same two places, albeit by using part of the Penrhyn Railway and part of the later LNWR Bethesda branch. 13th July 2017. (Jeff Vinter)

September 2018. 'Walking Britain's Lost Railways', Channel 5. Many members are aware that Rob Bell will be presenting a new Channel 5 series this autumn, with episodes as follows:

  1. Friday 21st September: Scotland (featuring the Moray Railway)
  2. Friday 28th September: Sheffield
  3. Friday 5th October: Dartmoor
  4. Friday 12th October: Lake District
  5. Friday 19th October: The Somerset & Dorset Railway
  6. Friday 26th October: Wales

All episodes will be broadcast at 9:00 p.m. Don't miss this series because the Club has had quite a bit of input and it should, as our Membership Secretary observed at this year's AGM, 'create another Julia Bradbury effect on our membership'. (Graham Lambert)

September 2018. Kirkby Stephen to Warcop, Cumbria. A planning application has been submitted which threatens the linear integrity of this route, which has a preserved railway at each end. The Cumbrian Railways Association reports as follows: 'It has been brought to the attention of both the Eden Valley Railway Trust, based at Warcop, and Stainmore Railway Company, based at Kirkby Stephen East, that a planning application has been submitted to the Yorkshire Dales National Park for outline permission for a dwelling to be erected on the trackbed between the two locations. If this application were to be approved it could scupper any chance the two groups would have of joining up in the future.

'Because the timescale to object is very short, 25th September, we are using this route to bring it to the attention of as many interested people as possible in the hope that those of you who have an interest in seeing the line restored may not have heard about it and would like to object as well. If you do, please ensure you enter the planning application number in your e-mail subject line. E/16/8/PIP.' Full details are available here.

Any objection should mention that the proposed development would reduce significantly the chances of the railway being reinstated; the potential of a restored railway to act as a feeder to/from the immensely popular and successful Settle-Carlisle line; the potential of the line to help transport tourists, e.g. visiting the Appleby Horse Fair; the desirability of a sustainable alternative to locals roads; and the financial health of the two railway preservation groups. If this planning application succeeds, it will be almost impossible for the line to be reinstated due to the additional costs in purchasing the site, whose value would go up at least fourfold with outline planning permission, and even more if a dwelling were erected on it. (Paul Stewart, Branch Line Society)

September 2018. Wrexham, Clwyd. In the Autumn edition of the club magazine ('Railway Ramblings' No. 159), member Keith Holliday enquired about a 'tramway' on the west side of Wrexham. Our correspondent believes that this was the former GWR standard gauge Moss Valley branch, which is now a footpath/cycleway from the Maelor Hospital car park (formerly Croes Newydd marshalling yard) to beyond Gatewen, where it passes over the GCR Brymbo branch, also a 'greenway' at that point which gives access to Moss Valley Country Park. The grid references for these routes are as follows:

  • The GWR Moss Valley line: SJ 320503 to SJ 311521 (1¼ miles); and
  • The GCR Brymbo branch: SJ 311516 to SJ 313521 (¼ mile), crossed by the GWR line at SJ 312519.

Our correspondent is not aware of any tramways in the immediate vicinity, and can find no record of any in the usual reference books. Also, Wrexham County Borough Council's guide to Moss Valley Country Park talks only of 'railways' in the area. We have been lucky enough to find the Railway Clearing House's 1905 map of Oswestry, Gwersyllt, Plas Power and Wrexham (click here), which we have annotated to show the routes in question; the dots in flourescent green identify the walkable sections of track. The author died over 70 years ago, so this material is in the public domain. (Chris Parker with map annotated by Jeff Vinter)

September 2018. 'Underneath the Arches', Nationwide. On 11th September, the media was full of the news that Network Rail had agreed to sell all of its railway arches to private equity companies Telereal Trillium and Blackstone for £1.46 billion. NR heralded the sale as an opportunity to raise money for essential improvements to the rail network which would not impose an extra burden on the public purse, while Telereal and Blackstone claimed that they would be long-term owners of the estate who would respect the character of the arches and their surrounding communities. The pair claimed to have adopted a 'tenants first' approach, which would be guaranteed by a 'tenants' charter'. However, private equity firms are not charities and exist to make money, so tenants such as bars, bakeries, breweries, garages and hairdressers are steeling themselves for rapid rent increases. (Tim Chant)

Above: Breamore station, on the western edge of the New Forest, was the first stop north of Fordingbridge on the former LSWR line from West Moors to Salisbury. In recent years, the station – which now adjoins a short railway path maintained by Hampshire County Council – has been used as a holiday let. As can be seen, the roof and canopy are now being repaired. August 2018. (Richard Lewis)
Above: Breamore has also acquired a replica running-in board, although it is not authentic, being both too small and of GWR inspiration. The original board can be seen in one of the photographs on this page from the excellent 'Disused Stations' website. August 2018. (Richard Lewis)
August 2018. Rhondda and Merthyr Tunnels, Mid Glamorgan. A recent report on the website of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council brings good news about these two long tunnels (see also here), although it calls the latter 'Abernant' Tunnel, presumably because it is near Abernant on the former GWR line from Merthyr Tydfil to Hirwaun and beyond. Essentially, the Welsh Government has allocated £250,000 to RCTC to develop plans to re-open both tunnels in partnership with the other organisations involved, the funding coming out of Active Travel grants totalling £10.36m which are spread across Wales. Andrew Morgan, Leader of the Council, said: 'This package will be split to support the progression of both of these projects in undertaking a more detailed inspection and analysis of the work necessary to make the re-opening of both tunnels a reality. "It will allow us to carry out further reviews on the viability of both schemes and, providing the reports find that there are no major issues, will inform bids for more significant funding from a range of potential funders to be taken forward in the next financial year. Both projects are still in their infancy, of course, and there is still a considerable amount of work left to do before we are in sight of the finishing line.' Rhondda Tunnel is 3,443 yards long, and Merthyr (Abernant) Tunnel 2,497 yards long. Re-opening of the latter would provide a traffic-free connection between the rail trails around Hirwaun, and the Taff Trail north and south of Merthyr. (Chris Parker)
Above: The former rail overbridge near Holmsley station (now The Old Station Tea Rooms) in the New Forest. The road in the foreground, the C10 from Sway to Burley, occupies the old railway trackbed, with the A35 Southampton-Dorchester road passing above. As can be seen, the C10 is closed, with men working on the south abutment who would not let our correspondent any nearer. On talking to them, they said that one side of the bridge had subsided and they were making temporary repairs. They added that the new bridge will be built alongside the old one, and only when the new one can be used will the old one be demolished. For further details, see the story below. 15th August 2018. (Tim Chant)
August 2018. Holmsley, Hampshire. When we last reported on the fate of the old railway overbridge which carries the A35 over the former Brockenhurst-Ringwood railway line, now part of the C10 road from Sway to Burley, Hampshire County Council was considering four different options of varying expense and engineering complexity. Now, a decision has been made … and it is to replace the bridge in a £5.5 million scheme, funded by some other agency which we take to be Highways England. (The report in the 9th August edition of Bournemouth's Daily Echo failed to mention this rather significant detail!) It will be a pity to see another piece of old railway infrastructure vanish, but the distressed appearance of this structure suggests that it is overdue for replacement, and has received little maintenance since the last train passed beneath its span in 1964. Detailed plans for the replacement bridge have not yet been released, possibly because they have not yet been drawn up. (Tim Chant)
Above: A wintry scene at the GCR's former station at Chapeltown Central, also known as Chapeltown & Thorncliffe, which has just been sold by auction (see story below). The station was on the Blackburn Valley line from Tinsley to Wombwell. Date of photograph unknown, but possibly spring 2018. (Jane Ellis)

August 2018. Chapeltown Central, South Yorkshire. Further to last month's report on the Chapeltown Greenway and the surviving Meadowhall & Wincobank station, the next station on the line to the north – Chapeltown Central (ex GCR) – is now up for sale by auction with Rightmove, with offers invited in the region of £250,000. The agent's web page included a selection of interesting pictures; several original features survive, including the booking office window, a large fireplace and the canopy on the platform side. (Richard Lewis)

Update: The auction produced a very good result for the station's owners, with a price of £390,000 being achieved. (Richard Lewis)

August 2018. Stubbins Junction, nr. Ramsbottom, to Accrington, Lancashire. It is not since November 2016 that we had anything to report on Lumb Viaduct, but Lancashire County Council has now proposed a new path on Railway Paths' land north of the viaduct. Railway Paths has agreed that LCC can adopt the viaduct on completion, because this was the only way in which an extension to the existing trail (which leads on to the viaduct from the south) could obtain funding. Both Railway Paths and the council have been keen to develop this route, but the stumbling block has been funding – or the lack of it. (Paul Thomas)

August 2018. Chepstow to Tintern, Gwent (Monmouthshire). Another project, last reported in October 2017, which is moving forward is that to re-use the scenic former railway up the Wye Valley. Extra impetus has come from the National Diving & Activity Centre (NDAC) taking over the south end of the line, where Sustrans used to hold a licence from Network Rail. The centre wants to extend the route northwards as well, over land owned by Railway Paths, to link up with the existing footpath which extends from Tintern down to just south of Black Morgan's Wood Viaduct (believed to be at grid reference ST 538987), near the disused Tintern Quarry. The proprietor of NDAC is a former soldier, who is extremely keen for the centre to have traffic-free access from north and south. (Howard Jones)

August 2018. Bennerley Viaduct, Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire. Sustrans and Railway Paths are now trying to put together a £½ million package which will open this historic Grade II* listed viaduct to walkers, with ramped access at the west end, off the towpath of the Erewash Canal. Some of the funding is in place already, so everything depends on the two charities, supported by local communities and other agencies, being able to make up the shortfall. (Jeff Vinter)

July 2018. Stockton on Tees, Cleveland. NCN1 in Stockton on Tees has been extended by half a mile from grid reference NZ 426187 (Oxbridge) to NZ 431180 (Hartburn), thereby increasing the length of accessible NER trackbed running south from Redmarshall Junction towards Thornaby to 3 miles. If one starts out in Stockton along this route travelling north, it is now possible to walk or cycle almost entirely on disused railways as far as Seaham in County Durham, a distance of about 25 miles; places along the way include Thorpe Thewles (see report below), Station Town, Shotton Colliery and South Hetton. (Phillip Earnshaw)

July 2018. Thorpe Thewles to Redmarshall Junction, Cleveland. The 20 arch Thorpe Thewles Viaduct was demolished in 1979, since when users of NCN1 heading south from County Durham towards Stockton-on-Tees have had to take an off-trackbed diversion around the viaduct's site. However, a visit by our correspondent in November 2017 revealed that an official path has been established which uses the viaduct's approach embankments before descending/ascending to cross the Thorpe Beck. It's a steep climb down the north embankment, which makes it unsuitable for cyclists, but the southern embankment has a path on the eastern side which climbs up gradually. (Phillip Earnshaw)

Above: Meadowhall & Wincobank station on the Chapeltown Greenway, seen on a rather uninspiring day in late winter. Since this photograph was taken, vegetation has sprung up to obscure this view. 9th March 2005. (Gregory Deryckère used under the terms of the Wikimedia Commons Licence)

July 2018. Meadowhall Station (Sheffield) to Chapeltown, South Yorkshire. A visit by our correspondent in December last year established that the 4 mile long Chapeltown Greenway can now be walked throughout. However, the trail featured a mixture of different surfaces, which presumably reflected the fact that money was required – but not available – to finish it off. The 2 mile section from SK 391913 to SK 370939 has a tarmac surface and is easy going for bicycles and wheelchairs, but the following two miles to SK 358968 are a mixture. The trouble spot for cyclists is the approach to the industrial estate at SK 365952, where their machines would carve up the fragile surface. (Phillip Earnshaw)

June 2018. Carmarthen to Aberystwyth, Wales. Further to our December 2017 news item regarding the proposed re-opening of this line, the Cambrian News newspaper understands that a draft report resulting from the feasibility study is shortly to be considered by the Welsh Government. The project is supported by local members of both the Welsh and Westminster Parliaments, but some opponents argue that re-opening would be unrealistic due to projected costs, while others believe the money could be better spent on improving trunk roads. (Chris Parker)

June 2018. Havant to Hayling Island, Hampshire. Following our gloomy report in January this year about the financial difficulties affecting the Hayling Island ferry – intended as an integral part of the Havant-Portsmouth cycle trail, which uses the old Hayling Island branch line – we are pleased to report that the skipper has said there is a 'glimmer of light on the horizon' as discussions continue to make the service viable. Interested parties are working together to develop a business plan which will secure the ferry's future. (N.J. Hill from the June 2018 edition of 'Cruising Monthly')

Update: One of the problems besetting the ferry in recent years has been the absence of a connecting bus service to either the Eastney (Portsmouth) or Hayling Island ferry terminals. However, on Thursday 12th July, Portsmouth's local paper, The News, reported that Havant councillors had voted in favour of a community bus trial worth up to £20,000, which would provide a bus service to the west end of Hayling Island at Ferry Point. During the council meeting, Councillor Pike also revealed that First Bus in Portsmouth had agreed to extend their service 15 to serve the ferry's Eastney landing stage. Subsequently, in early September, the BBC reported that the Langstone Harbour Board had agreed to halve its per-passenger fee for a year in order to help a revived ferry service to get established. (Webmaster)

June 2018. Craven Arms to Llanelli (Shropshire/Powys/Dyfed). Much progress has been made since we reported plans to develop a long distance path broadly following the Heart of Wales railway line in January last year; now, it even has its own website at www.heart-of-wales.co.uk/trail.htm. To summarise progress, the path's official name is now the 'Heart of Wales Line Trail', and the following sections have been opened officially:

  • Shropshire: Craven Arms to Bucknell, October 2017 (although Craven Arms to Broome had already opened on 4th July 2017).
  • Carmarthenshire: Cynghordy to Ammanford, 26th June 2018.
  • Southern Section: Ammanford to Llanelli, 27th March 2018.

At the risk of stating the obvious, please remember that this is not a trackside walk, but a long distance path linking stations on the Heart of Wales line; therefore, the only legitimate physical access to the still operational railway is at the numerous stations and halts. (Chris Parker)

June 2018. Usk to Little Mill Junction (nr. Pontypool), Monmouthshire. Further to our reports in December 2016 and June 2015, plans have been submitted to Monmouthshire County Council to convert the disused railway line between Little Mill and Usk into an off-road cycle route. If successful, this would create a new multi-use trail of about 4 miles, which could be linked to the towpath of the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, plus existing cycle trails to Blaenavon, Pontypool, Cwmbran, Newport and the Brecon Beacons. However, the project has a few hurdles to jump yet, including opposition from The Woodland Trust, which objects to damage to the 'edge habitat' of local ancient woodland, and a local farmer who believes that the proposed trail does not adequately meet the needs of his farm, which has used the old trackbed for years for the movement of livestock, tractors and machinery. (Tim Chant)

June 2018. Foryd Harbour, Clwyd. There are plans to restore a disused railway bridge at Foryd Harbour in order to improve cycling routes between Rhyl and Kinmel Bay. Vale of Clwyd MP Chris Ruane said: 'To build a new bridge would cost tens of millions of pounds – yet we have the perfect bridge already sitting there waiting to be used. Network Rail are very excited about the potential of breathing new life into the bridge as well as deprived parts of both towns. It could provide an excellent new route not just for walkers and cyclists, but also for residents in Rhyl looking to access employment opportunities across the river in Tir Llwyd industrial estate or in Kinmel Bay, seeking employment training at Rhyl College.' The bridge in question is that which crosses the River Clwyd at grid reference SH 997802. To be precise, this is two parallel bridges which used to carry quadruple track for the Chester-Holyhead Railway, prior to being reduced to triple track in 1970 and double track from 14th January 1973. Each bridge then carried one of the remaining tracks until 5th October 1986, when they were re-aligned so that only the northern span was used – leaving the southern one redundant and decaying until now. (Chris Parker and BLS members Kevin Driscoll, Paul Jeffries, Dave Plimmer and Mike Addison).

June 2018. Princes Risborough to Chinnor, Buckinghamshire/Oxfordshire. On Wednesday 15th August, an additional platform at Princes Risborough station came into use for trains on the preserved Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway, thus making it the closest preserved line to London with a mainline connection. In the station's heyday, it was the hub of lines which radiated out in five directions, and the arrival of the C&PR will bring that number back up to four. The 'lost' line is that to Oxford, which now accommodates The Phoenix Trail, part of NCN57, from east of Bledlow to Thame; the acquisition of this old railway by Sustrans was financed by this club. (Roger Rowe)

June 2018. Blackburn to Rose Grove via Padiham, Lancashire. Not far from the recently re-opened Martholme Viaduct (reported previously), a new railway path of just over half a mile has been opened near Simonstone on the former East Lancashire Railway's trackbed between Simonstone Lane (grid reference SD 774336) and Gooseleach Wood (SD 767339), where it meets a north-south public footpath. The work involved providing access from Simonstone Lane, removing two skipfuls of rubbish (including two sheds), and replacing two missing underbridges, which were constructed by students from University Centre at Blackburn College, with help from Martholme Greenway, the British Horse Society, Sustrans and the Friends of Padiham Greenway. Much of this line is now open to the public, including sections either side of Great Harwood, and from east of Simonstone to Rose Grove. It looks as if the long term objective is to create a continuous route, although not all landowners are in favour. Nonetheless, it is good to see something new being done on the ground in these times of continuing austerity, when so little is being invested in new railway paths. (Tim Chant)

June 2018. Bradford to Keighley, West Yorkshire. At the moment, the Great Northern Trail has re-used old viaducts at Hewenden, Thornton and Cullingworth on this former Great Northern route, but now there is a move to develop it further. Jeff McQuillan, a volunteer who chairs the group responsible for the trail, acknowledges that it is no longer a priority with Bradford Council due to spending cuts, but recently asked councillors in the Worth Valley to support ambitious proposals to extend the trail to connect Keighley, Halifax and Bradford. He said, 'We now want to link Bradford up with Keighley and Halifax, as well as the smaller communities in between, using as much of the former Great Northern Railway as possible. We’ve worked with Bradford Council and the national sustainable transport charity Sustrans on building sections of the trail at Cullingworth and between Thornton and Queensbury. We have a lot of experience and expertise and what’s appealing about this trail is that it’s off-road and makes it easy and safe for people to get into the open countryside.' He added that the route would not only attract leisure journeys, but also had the potential to be used for off-road commuting journeys into local centres. His current objective is to encourage parish and town councils to work together in support of a section of the planned route between Keighley and Denholme, and he hopes that a partnership can be 'up and running' by the end of the summer in order to maintain the project's momentum. The further development of the trail should have a positive effect on plans to restore Queensbury Tunnel (currently threatened with infilling) because, if restored, it would become the trail's principal engineering feature and an attraction in its own right. (Graeme Bickerdike)

Above: Warmley signal box is passed now only by walkers and cyclists on the Bath to Bristol Railway Path, but in former days saw all manner of trains rumble past, including the famous Pines Express plying between the Midlands and Bournemouth West. This year, it celebrates its 100th birthday; for further details, see the story below. 25th August 2017. (Jeff Vinter)

June 2018. Bath to Bristol, Avon. Further to our report last month about planned improvements to this trail-blazing railway path, it was in the news again – this time for the 100th anniversary of the Grade II-listed signal box at Warmley. This old box on the Midland Railway's former 'Bath branch' from Mangotsfield to Bath Green Park is now looked after by the Warmley Signal Box and Community Garden Group, which arranged an afternoon of special events from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday 10th June. These included talks and demonstrations by Graham Darby, the last signalman to work the box (who also refurbished the signalling equipment), plus a fly-past by an ex-RAF Spitfire. As our correspondent remarked, 'Not many signal boxes get a Spitfire fly-past to celebrate their 100th birthday!' (Robin Benton)

May 2018. Blaenau Ffestiniog to Trawsfynydd, Gwynedd. Further to our report in January, when the scheme to re-open this line appeared to have failed, the Blaenau Ffestiniog & Trawsfynydd Railway Society (which supported the Trawsfynydd Railway Company) has 're-grouped' and hopes to revive the project. Recently, Society officials held preliminary discussions with Network Rail about a new contract, which will be an essential first step given that NR still owns the line. Secretary Rob Bradley was reported in the local Daily Post as saying, 'With a new steering committee established, the society expects soon to be able to ask its members to approve a new management committee. Then we can start the huge task of getting all the legal agreements and safety and environmental systems in place to start again on the task of refurbishing the line, eventually to offer local residents and visitors a heritage visitor centre and train services … We plan to ask residents and councils affected by the line for their input at every stage. Things will be quiet whilst this consultation and the setting up of systems and agreements takes place.' Meanwhile, Companies House has issued a 'First Gazette' notice to to the Trawsfynydd Railway Company, which sets out its intention to strike it off the Register of Companies for failing to file its Annual Confirmation, the updated form which recently replaced the old Annual Return, AR01. (Jeff Vinter).

May 2018. Treherbert to Port Talbot, Mid Glamorgan/West Glamorgan. The re-opening of the Rhondda Tunnel to walkers and cyclists has moved a step closer. Tunnel examination experts from Balfour Beatty’s rail business, working on behalf of the Rhondda Tunnel Society, have started to examine the tunnel prior to preparing a repair specification and report into its condition and safety. Commenting on this work, Balfour Beatty’s rail business Examining Engineer, Richard Storey, said: 'The examination is particularly challenging for the Balfour Beatty team as the tunnel has been sealed since 1980; and, aside from some flooded areas and historic defects, which led to its original closure, its condition was largely unknown. Heavy water ingress in certain areas also proved particularly challenging. However, it is a privilege to work alongside the committed and enthusiastic volunteers from the Rhondda Tunnel Society'. Rhondda Tunnel Society's Project Secretary, Tony Moon, remarked, 'Balfour Beatty has been working in harmony with volunteers from the Rhondda Tunnel Society and we are thrilled as the examination work marks a significant step in the tunnel’s re-opening. We are looking forward to the completed report that will help convince the Welsh Government that this Victorian masterpiece can be restored to become a major attraction to cyclists and walkers.' If this part of the project goes well, the next major step will be to transfer ownership from the Historical Railways Estate, part of the Highways Agency, to a Welsh Government body, which must understand what it is taking on beforehand. (Neil Hebborn)

May 2018. Prestatyn, Clwyd (Denbighshire). The club's editor, who is a fan of signal boxes, will be delighted to learn that the disused signal box at Prestatyn has been saved from demolition following a petition. With the cooperation of Network Rail, it will now be converted into a community centre, possibly with a link to the nearby railway path to Dyserth. (Jeff Vinter)

May 2018. Clare, Suffolk. Further to our report in May last year, we have learned that the southbound platform buildings and old goods shed at Clare station (now part of Clare Castle Country Park) are to be restored with the aid of a £1½ million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Track is to be re-laid in the station 'for visual impact'. (Jeff Vinter)

May 2018. North Queensferry, Fife. We readily admit that this is not a report about a railway path, but hope it will be of interest to readers nonetheless. North Queensferry, on the north side of the Forth Bridge, acquired quite a tangle of railways, with the North British, Caledonian and Forth Bridge companies all in evidence. Most of the lines are still operational today, but the south end of the NBR's short branch to North Queensferry Goods was closed in 1954. This included a 459 yard tunnel which extends beneath both the A9000 (the highway which uses the Forth Road Bridge) and the B981. A recent survey by engineers found that this structure had 'degraded' in places, but – rather than infilling it with concrete – the contractor used … expanded polystyrene! A report from the New Civil Engineer gives further details: 'To minimise future maintenance and support the arch, the 420m long, 4.3m wide, 5.1m high structure was lined with a hydrocarbon resistant membrane and filled in with 21,342 expanded polystyrene (EPS) blocks. The blocks were manufactured to a specific compressive strength capable of resisting the weight of the rock and tunnel lining in the event of a localised failure. Contractor Amey said unlike concrete or aggregate material, the EPS blocks could be removed if the tunnel needed to be re-opened.' What an inventive and constructive solution! (Jeff Vinter)

Above: The overbridge carrying The Lynch (a road) over the former railway line from Yatton to Cheddar, now part of the 'Strawberry Line'. Bristol Water has installed a new water main – to support planned development in the area – beneath the old trackbed, and has made good with a brand new surface for the trail. It will not take long for the lineside verges to recover. 23rd May 2018. (Irene Threasher/Mandy Brading)

Above: The interior of the unlined Shute Shelve Tunnel, where the trail now has a sealed surface and reflectors fitted. Lighting will be installed when a suitable specification has been agreed with Bristol Water. For further details, see the story below. 23rd May 2018. (Irene Threasher/Mandy Brading)

May 2018. Yatton to Cheddar, Somerset. Over the last couple of years, Bristol Water has been installing a new water main beneath part of the popular Strawberry line, which links Yatton with Cheddar. The work didn't quite go to plan (see here for an example) and has taken much longer than expected, but the route was finally re-opened throughout just in time for the second May Bank Holiday this year. Bristol Water's reinstatement work is not fully complete, but the company has given a commitment to continue with this over the coming months. (Irene Threasher and Mandy Brading, Strawberry Line Society)

Update: On 31st May, heavy rain caused an embankment to 'collapse' between Winscombe (grid reference ST 419576) and Ilex Lane Bridge (ST 418585), as a result of which North Somerset Council has closed the Strawberry Line between these two points. We do not know yet when it will be re-opened, or at what cost. (Keith Holliday)

May 2018. Bristol to Portishead, Somerset/Bristol. Plans to re-open the Bristol to Portishead railway as part of a new metro system for Bristol were published in 2008, but there is currently a funding shortfall of £47 million which prompted North Somerset Council to apply to the Department of Transport for a grant. Unfortunately, on 17th May, the council learned that the Minister of Transport, Chris Grayling, rejected its bid and will instead devote £173 million to three new road schemes. A petition has been launched to challenge this decision, prefaced by the following remarks: 'Grayling failed to deliver on his promise to open the project "sooner rather than later" and the 2017 Conservative Manifesto's promise to "launch new services to places which are poorly served or host major new housing projects". Portishead is the fastest growing town in Europe and 74.5% of its residents currently commute to work via car. This means that Portishead is becoming more and more congested, facing daily gridlock – no wonder its local MP, Dr Liam Fox once called it "the biggest cul-de-sac in Britain".' You can support the petition by clicking the link here. (Tim Chant)

May 2018. Bath to Bristol, Avon. It is now 40 years since the first section of the famous Bath to Bristol railway path was opened, and it has now developed into possibly the busiest traffic-free route in the UK. Over the next 12 months, Sustrans – in collaboration with local communities – will develop a range of designs for key improvements to the path. These will include widening where necessary, improvements to protect / enhance wildlife areas, new spaces for people to pause and rest, and measures to slow traffic. The charity will also develop a 'vision' for the path, which will address how future maintenance work will be financed. (Jeff Vinter)

May 2018. Bidford-on-Avon, Warwickshire. Bidford station was on the Stratford-on-Avon & Midland Junction Railway's line from Broom (just south of Alcester) to Stratford, but now Duchy Homes wants to develop the site for housing. According to the April-May edition of 'Rail' magazine, 'the main building is largely intact, and it is hoped that a preservation group might be persuaded to take it away'. The reference to a 'main building' is rather curious because Bidford was a single platform halt with an old coach body used as a waiting room, as you can see here on the website of the Warwickshire Railways group. (Jeff Vinter)

May 2018. Buxton to Bakewell and Matlock, Derbyshire. Peak Rail and local mineral companies including Tarmac and Breedon Aggregates are planning a feasibility study into re-opening the Peak line, now largely used as the Monsal Trail, to convey freight traffic from their quarries. The study will be privately funded and will assess the engineering requirements, administrative challenges and construction costs, but, at this stage, the plans are for a freight rather than passenger rail service. Paul Tomlinson, the Project Director for Peak Rail, said, 'Network Rail and Transport for the North are looking for ways to speed up passenger journeys on the Hope Valley line linking Sheffield with Manchester. By rerouting freight traffic, you could reduce congestion and the government would not need to pay for it.' (Jeff Vinter)

May 2018. Braunton to Barnstaple Junction, Devon. Anyone who has driven through Barnstaple will know that it can be a gluepot for traffic, and some local residents have reached the conclusion that building ever more roads in the area is not the answer. Thus, 'Taw Link' has been launched, a project designed to bring a light rail system using battery-powered trams to the southern end of the former Ilfracombe branch. Intermediate stops would be provided at Velator, Wrafton, Chivenor, Ashford, Pottington Business Park, Barnstaple Park and Ride, Barnstaple The Strand, and Barnstaple Mainline, i.e. the current Network Rail station. Of these, Wrafton and Chivenor are ex-BR stations, the rest being new. The promoters have already made a commitment to retain the Tarka Trail, which will be relatively easy because the light rail system will require only half of the original double track formation. For further details, see the links here and here. (Jeff Vinter)

April 2018. Folkestone Harbour, Kent. We don't often have much to report from Kent given that so few of the county's railways were closed in the carnage of the 1960s and 1970s, but members of our Southern Area might like to make their way to the Kent coast to behold the wonderful transformation that has overtaken the former derelict station at Folkestone Harbour. Where the rails once stood, there are now pathways – and the formerly ruinous station is in a gleaming state that would have filled Sir Herbert Walker of the original Southern Railway with pride. The work has included the installation of a path over the approach viaduct (grid reference TR 233360), and our only disappointment is that we cannot find a conventional map of the project to illustrate what is planned. However, the web pages here and here provide an excellent opportunity to compare the initial architects' drawings with the new reality. The project is being supported with a £5.1 million grant from the Regional Growth Fund. (Jeff Vinter)

April 2018. Middlebere, Dorset. An extra quarter mile of trackbed at the north end of the Middlebere Plateway can be walked thanks to the Poole Harbour Trail. RR walks have always started or ended at grid reference SY 963853 on the unnamed lane from Norden to Ridge, but the trackbed can now be walked officially for a further quarter of a mile up to the gate to Middlebere Farm at SY 966857, where a hairpin bend in the trail takes it abruptly south to South Middlebere. This extends the walkable section of trackbed to 2¼ miles, running from SY 966857 at Middlebere Farm to SY 951835 on Norden Heath. The one place to be careful when following the route is SY 954847 at the west end of Hartland Moor, where the Poole Harbour Trail goes straight ahead but the trackbed curves away to the left. (Keith Holliday)

April 2018. Yapton, West Sussex. Further to our report in February 2011, which described an arson attack on Yapton railway station on the Coastway West line between Ford and Barnham, scaffolding has now been erected around the remains of the historic building, but it is difficult yet to determine whether it will be repaired or dismantled. For a short history of the station and some historic photographs, click the link here. (Jeff Vinter)

Update: By May, a smart new slate roof had been installed on the main building, so we can safely say that this piece of Sussex railway history is being restored. (Jeff Vinter)

April 2018. Ross-on-Wye to Monmouth, Gloucestershire. Further to our report in August 2016 about the closure of Lydbrook Viaduct (at grid reference SO 587177) on the former GWR line from Ross-on-Wye to Monmouth, we are pleased to report that Gloucestershire and Herefordshire County Councils have applied for lottery funding of £1.77 million to repair it, and support some local community projects. The structure, known as Stowfield Viaduct or Black Bridge, is an important crossing on the Wye Valley Walk and was being used by 20,000 walkers per year before it was closed. The councils will be told if their bid was successful in July. Further details are available on the BBC Gloucestershire website. (Keith Holliday)

March 2018. Gilmerton to Shawfair, Midlothian. The official opening for this new route, established by Sustrans, Railway Paths and local authority partners including Edinburgh City Council, was planned provisionally for the morning of Sunday 27th March, but has now been postponed due to 'unforeseen difficulties'. The Gilmerton-Shawfair section extends by 1¾ miles the existing 3 mile trail from Roslin to Loanhead and Gilmerton, and is intended to provide residents of Shawfair new town with high quality, green travel options. (Jeff Vinter)

Update: We missed the date of the deferred official opening, but noticed in the Spring 2018 edition of 'the Hub', Sustrans' magazine for supporters, that the new trail is now open throughout. (Webmaster)

March 2018. Thoresby Colliery to Thoresby Colliery Junction, Nottinghamshire. Network Rail is to lift the 1¼ mile Thoresby Colliery branch (near Ollerton) following its closure in April 2014 after the owners, UK Coal, ran into financial difficulties. As a precursor to this, HHA coal hoppers stored at Thoresby Colliery Sidings were removed by rail on 8th February. The colliery site is to be developed by Harworth Estates, which claims its scheme – featuring a zip wire and sports pitches – will create at least 500 jobs. Could the branch be re-used as a trail? Possibly, because a bridleway passes beneath it near the junction, but much will depend on the developer's plans, and how much of a destination the re-generated colliery site becomes. (Jeff Vinter)

March 2018. Whitwell & Reepham, Norfolk. The Whitwell & Reepham Railway Preservation Society, which has now been running for over 10 years, plans to reinstate over 2 miles of track back to Lenwade, but needs to clarify whether a series of Victorian Railway Acts still require it to be available for national rail use. [We doubt it. Webmaster.] Richard Bailey, the society’s safety manager, has set up a public petition to the government which asks for the term 'railway land' within the Lynn & Fakenham Railway Acts 1876-81, the Eastern & Midlands Act 1883-85, and other railway amalgamations up to the arrival of Network Rail to be clarified. The society has emphasised that it will keep Marriotts Way, which uses the former trackbed, open for the benefit of walkers, cyclists and horse riders. (Tim Chant)

February 2018. Elstree & Borehamwood, Hertfordshire. It is 150 years since the railway arrived at Elstree & Borehamwood (whose station was then called plain 'Elstree'), and to commemorate the event Elstree & Borehamwood Museum is staging an exhibition entitled 'All Change!' until 21st July. What makes this unusual is that the museum – at 96 Shenley Road, near the station – has turned itself into a railway station for the purpose. Simultaneously, the town is running a 'First Impressions' project which is adding to the 18 plaques originally installed by The British Film Institute in 1996 to commemorate the town's long association with this country's film industry. The route of the trail linking these plaques can be viewed by clicking the link here. We realise that this report is not about a railway path (as it ought to be to appear in these pages), but thought this would be of interest to members in our Chilterns Area, not to mention our Yorkshire Area Organiser who is a keen film enthusiast. (Bob Redman)

February 2018. Radstock-Great Elm, nr. Frome, Somerset. This is the railway-based part of Colliers Way (NCN24) between Radstock and Frome. Railway Paths Ltd will start work 'shortly' on replacing the damaged and leaning parapet walls on Kilmersdon Bridge, which is believed to be the overbridge at grid reference ST 699525). The masonry will be replaced with new metallic parapet rails. (Paul Thomas)

February 2018. Chapeltown to Ecclesfield, South Yorkshire. We reported a northern planned extension to NCN67, the Chapeltown Greenway (from Meadowhall), as long ago as 2010, but progress has been glacially slow. Recently, Sheffield City Council completed work to secure and protect the underbridge on Loicher Lane (grid reference SK 365943), which must bring this project a little closer to fruition. (Paul Thomas and Jeff Vinter)

Above: Bennerley Viaduct is such a large structure that it is extremely difficult to photograph in its entirety, except from a drone. This photograph shows the western end, with the spans over the Erewash Valley railway line in the distance. Beyond that, the approach embankment has been removed, leading to a steep descent on to the towpath of the Erewash Canal. 15th February 2018. (Jeff Vinter)

February 2018. Bennerley Viaduct, Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire. Following the disappointing news in December that the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) had declined Sustrans' application for a grant to help restore Bennerley Viaduct, the charity is now hoping to develop a more modest scheme which will open the viaduct initially to walkers only. This was the approach adopted for Torksey Viaduct (Notts/Lincs), which has been a great success both for the communities on either side, and local ramblers who are now enjoying many new route opportunities. The long term plan for both viaducts is to extend public access to cyclists when levels of use and popularity are established, and – perhaps – a different government adopts a more generous approach towards walking and cycling schemes. (Jeff Vinter)

February 2018. Chepstow to Tintern, Gwent (Monmouthshire). Plans to build a multi-use trail along the former GWR branch line from Chepstow to Tintern moved a step forward in early January when, after scuppering the scheme by just one vote when funds were available from Sustrans' millennial Connect2 scheme, Monmouthshire County Council finally agreed to support them. Jennifer Goslin, co-ordinator at the A-B Connecting Communities group, commented: 'There was no discussion about whether it is going to happen, it was about how it is going to happen'. (Graeme Bickerdike)

Above: The running-in board on the up platform at Okehampton station, which has been restored as though the 1923 Southern Railway was still in charge. 6th April 2014. (Jeff Vinter)
Above: Okehampton may see the return of a daily train service within the next few years, although local reports have not made it clear whether these will run to/from the historic station pictured here, or a new Okehampton Parkway station proposed for the east side of the town, where most of the new development is taking place. A new station on a new site would allow more space for a car park (210 places are planned), plus the installation of modern access facilities such as ramps. For further details, see the story below. 6th April 2014. (Jeff Vinter)

February 2018. Yeoford to Okehampton, Devon. In late January, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling ordered the West of England franchise holder, Great Western Railway, to prepare for the reinstatement of a regular rail passenger service to Okehampton, which was withdrawn in June 1972. Mr Grayling told West Country MPs, by letter, of his department's instruction to GWR 'to prepare plans to introduce regular train services to Okehampton, with the objective of securing a credible and costed plan for delivering an all-week, all-year train service between Exeter and Okehampton as soon as reasonably practicable'. The re-opening of this route will make it easy for walkers and cyclists to access the popular Granite Way (Okehampton to Lydford) without having to rely on a car. In the letter, Mr Grayling added that developing an alternative route to the 'vulnerable' Dawlish main line remained his number one priority, so possibly in time we will see The Granite Way accompanied by a reinstated single track railway that continues from Okehampton to Bere Alston and Plymouth. (Graeme Bickerdike)

February 2018. Various locations, Norfolk. The county of Norfolk already contains a good number of railway paths, but members of the county council's Policy and Resources Committee have just agreed that several former railways in the county should be developed as multi-use trails for the environmental and public health benefits. Tom McCabe, who holds the council's development portfolio, said: 'It is recommended that officers investigate the feasibility of using disused railways and other underused parts of the transport system to improve cycling and walking links … Three disused railways will be investigated as a pilot, [the] Weaver’s Way [Cromer to Great Yarmouth], King’s Lynn to Fakenham and King’s Lynn to Hunstanton.' A £350,000 feasibility study will now run over the next 12 months, and will consider also the development of a county-wide network of such routes. (Graeme Bickerdike)

February 2018. Laughton Common to Thurcroft Colliery, South Yorkshire. A recent visit by our correspondent to the Thurcroft Colliery branch found that a little more can be walked than reported in Vinter's Railway Gazetteer, which states that the route runs for 2 miles between grid references SK 507864 (Laughton Common) and SK 503889 (Thurcroft Colliery). The second of these grid references was published incorrectly as 502889, although the error – fortunately – should be small enough for no one to get lost. That aside, allowing for the presumably permissive paths at either end, the branch can actually be walked between SK 507860, on Todwick Road in Laughton Common, to SK 499892, within the site of the now landscaped Thurcroft Colliery. These 'extras' add half a mile to the recent cycle trail, which runs between the points identified in the gazetteer. The colliery closed in 1991, so now only locals in their thirties have any recollection of the days when Thurcroft village was dominated by the pit. (Phillip Earnshaw)

February 2018. Yatton to Cheddar, Somerset. Parts of the Strawberry Line have been closed intermittently for a couple of years now, thanks to Bristol Water using the old tracked as the route of a new water main. (The old main was inadequate for the planned development in the area.) Running the main through Shute Shelve Tunnel has been a particular problem, due to engineering problems, the presence of a small population of bats, and the 'Law of Unintended Consequences'. BW's engineers found that they could not install a single large main through the tunnel so had to opt for two smaller mains instead. The bat roosting season coincided with this work, so, in an attempt to persuade the bats, humanely, to roost elsewhere, Bristol Water installed bright lights in the tunnel … which attracted moths, which attracted bats! As a result, Shute Shelve Tunnel has had a larger bat population this winter than for many years, but the good news is that all parties are cooperating to get the route re-opened throughout in time for Easter. With the Shute Shelve diversion taking trail users on to the busy A38, the old railway has been sorely missed. (Strawberry Line Society)

January 2018. Brent to Kingsbridge, Devon. A group has been formed with the aim of developing a railway path along the former Kingsbridge branch. They state that, so far, they will be able to re-use the old line for approximately a mile north from Kingsbridge, including passing through Sorley Tunnel. Given the antipathy of some local landowners to such schemes in the past, the group will need staying power and very good negotiating skills. They have made contact with the specialist officer at Devon County Council who has been responsible for many of Devon's recent railway paths, and have received a positive email from the Historic Railways Estate about Sorley Tunnel; it may have helped that one of their number is a planning consultant. (Barry Day and Jeff Vinter)

January 2018. Attlebridge, Norfolk. Attlebridge is situated on the popular Marriott's Way railway path, which links Aylsham with Norwich. Unfortunately, a girder bridge there, which takes the trail over the River Wensum, is in urgent need of repair, and the bill has been put at £150,000. If the bridge is not repaired, the popular 26 mile trail would have to be split in two, but cabinet members at Broadland District Council were told at the start of the month that it would be cheaper to fund the repairs than spoil the route and lose the economic benefits which it brings. Broadland DC is considering asking North Norfolk District Council and Norfolk County Council to share the costs, which – with other bridges on the route also requiring repair – are expected to come to £640,000 overall. (Tim Chant)

Above: Looe Harbour at dusk, with the East Looe River as still as a millpond. If the Looe Development Trust has its way, this historic fishing town could be served by a network of new trails; for further details, see the story below. 25th October 2016. (Jeff Vinter)

January 2018. Liskeard to Looe, Cornwall. About 25 years ago, the Cornwall Mineral Tramways project started to convert the Duchy's abandoned tramways into a substantial network of off-road walking and cycling routes. Now the Looe Valley Trails Project, led by Looe Development Trust, has been researching the cost of creating new cycle links to Lanhydrock, Liskeard, Looe and Plymouth via the Cremyll Ferry, which crosses the Hamoaze from Admirals Hard in Stonehouse, Plymouth, Devon to Cremyll in Cornwall. The intention is to do for east Cornwall what the Mineral Tramways have done for west Cornwall, and reduce the tendency of tourists to whizz past the area as they head for the far west. The project aims to create 70 kilometres (43½ miles) of new trails at a cost of £8.3 million, including one up the Looe Valley alongside the scenic Looe branch line. A report published in the Plymouth Herald on 9th January (click here) gives further details, and even name-checks the Liskeard & Caradon Railway, whose extensive remains – together with those of associated railways such as the Kilmar Railway and the Kilmar Junction Railway – sprawl across Bodmin Moor, mostly on open access land. (Tim Chant)

January 2018. Bristol to Bath and Midsomer Norton, Avon. A public exhibition of plans to build new office space and residential units in Bath was publicly announced early this month. The design of this development will allow access to the former Midland Railway bridge (situated directly behind a redundant warehouse, which will be demolished) for cyclists and pedestrians to cross the River Avon, thus connecting the Bath to Bristol Railway Path with the more recent Two Tunnels Trail, which – beyond Midford – continues along much of the old Somerset & Dorset line right through to Midsomer Norton. The developers have stated that they are very keen to make their plans cycling- and walking-friendly, and linking these two railway paths will meet that objective handsomely. The double-track girder bridge is currently owned by the Historic Railways Estate of Highways England, and would need an inspection by bridge engineers before its proposed restoration and conversion could hopefully be taken a stage further to accommodate bicycles. The developers, Merrion, organised a public exhibition which was held at Bath Green Park Station on Wednesday 24th January from 12 noon until 7 pm. (Matt Skidmore)

January 2018. Preston to Longridge, Lancashire. BBC Lancashire has reported that Preston Trampower Ltd has appointed Eric Wright Civil Engineering to build the Preston Tramway. It is early days yet, but this project will affect – between Deepdale and Grimsargh – the railway path which occupies part of the old Longridge branch. We hope that the project will provide a new facility for walkers and cyclists along the same corridor, as has happened elsewhere when old trackbeds have been re-used, e.g. between Bathgate and Drumgelloch in Scotland; but this railway path is in England, so will the same fairmindedness apply? (Keith Holliday)

January 2018. Havant to Hayling Island, Hampshire. BBC News for Hampshire has reported that the ferry linking the west end of Hayling Island with Eastney on the eastern edge of Portsmouth is in financial difficulty. The service closed down in 2015 but was reinstated on 5th August 2016 under new owners. The ferry is an integral part of NCN2, the South Coast Cycle Route, which accesses Portsmouth via the former Havant–Hayling Island branch line. As we observed in 2016, the loss of the ferry would require residents and visitors travelling from the island to Portsmouth to take a very long detour via Havant, travelling north initially when they really needed to go west. We suspect that the problem is the 'seasonality' of the service; personal visits suggest that it is well used in the summer months, but it must be a different story in the dead of winter. (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)

January 2018. Blaenau Ffestiniog to Trawsfynydd, Gwynedd. Further to previous reports, especially that from September 2016, an article in the Daily Post newspaper of 3rd January suggests that the scheme to restore the railway between Blaenau Ffestiniog and Trawsfynydd Lake Halt is now in severe jeopardy. Clearance work on that section has been suspended because a bridge near Trawsfynydd Lake was damaged during operations in August last year, resulting in a public footpath being closed on safety grounds. It was hoped that it could resume following completion of a Network Rail investigation; instead the licence to carry out clearance work issued to Trawsfynydd Railway Company has now been revoked. The newspaper understands that a 10 tonne digger may have been used whereas no machinery heavier than 5 tonnes had been authorised. Blaenau Ffestiniog & Trawsfynydd Railway Society, which provides the volunteers, feels that the company should step down and allow the society to take the lead in the project. If all this comes to nought, the route would make a superbly scenic trail. (Chris Parker)