It does not take a great leap of imagination to see how the disused railway line from Leominster to Worcester could be adapted to create a very valuable community asset. The route of the railway is to a large extent still very well defined. Even a cursory overview from Google earth will allow you to follow the exact route it took all those years ago. The condition of the embankments and cuttings, even the subbase is largely intact. Tree and bramble overgrowth is an issue for short lengths but is not in itself unsurmountable – if there is a will to succeed.
Old bridges and viaducts can be spanned with lightweight material as there is not the requirement to carry the same weight as its former use.
There are numerous examples of such projects throughout the UK – all of which succeeded because of overwhelming public support that found a way to overcome any obstacles and objections that came their way. If they could build the route way back in the 1860s then surely there is a way to revitalise the greenway on the 2020s, it just takes the same steely will and determination to make it happen. Once the obvious benefits become apparent, they will wonder why it took so long to adapt the old line into a forward-thinking and environmental benefit.
What we are trying to achieve is not a pioneering project – many such routes already exist – the commercial and health benefits are abundantly apparent, and I suggest would create a greater outpouring of disapproval if they were taken away – certainly far more than the objections they would have received in the early stages when the respective projects were first aired.
Below are descriptions of similar projects in England, described in their own words, it is apparent from the words they use that the reused railways hold a special place in the hearts of their own communities.
The Stratford Greenway follows the course of an old railway. This trail for walkers and cyclists links the attractive town of Stratford-upon-Avon with the village of Long Marston. As you travel the route you can spot wild plants such as walnut trees, cowslips, knapweed, wild carrot and tansy.
The High Peak Trail – Peak District
Follows the line of the former Cromford and High Peak Railway. This route takes in the stunning Derbyshire Dales countryside between Middleton Top and Parsley Hay. The trail is traffic-free and suitable for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.
From Middleton Top, the trail climbs the short, sharp Hopton incline. It then follows a long, stone-built causeway into White Peak Country. As you cycle, you’ll take in dramatic views and travel through some craggy cuttings on the way to Parsley Hay. The trail is rich in wildlife and there’s an abundance of wildflowers in spring and summer.
Following the route of the former Buxton to Ashbourne railway line, the Tissington Trail runs from Ashbourne to Parsley Hay. You’ll go through the picturesque village of Tissington and the beautiful countryside of the Derbyshire Dales. The trail also passes near to Dovedale, a dramatic limestone ravine with stunning scenery, famous for its much-loved stepping stones which cross the River Dove.
The Tissington Trail – Peak District
Built as part of the London and North Western Railway, the Buxton to Ashbourne railway line opened in 1899 and closed in 1967. Once the track was removed, the route was transformed into a recreational trail and opened to the public in 1971. The traffic-free trail is ideal for walkers, cyclists and horse riders and is mostly flat apart from a relatively steep incline at Mappleton.
Ashbourne, where the route starts, is a historic market town with more than 200 listed buildings. Fine coaching inns and mellow-bricked townhouses combine to create the town’s unique atmosphere.
The Tarka Trail is the perfect day ride. It’s one of the country’s longest continuous traffic-free walking and cycling paths and is ideal for families or less experienced cyclists. The Tarka Trail makes use of disused railway tracks to take you into the beautiful North Devon countryside.
The Tarka Trail is a wonderful route for nature lovers. While walking or cycling you will experience many wildlife habitats including estuary mudflats and salt marshes, oak woodland, hazel coppice, hedges, ponds, streams, ditches and meadows.
This route offers you superb views across the mouth of the Taw Estuary and features several wonderful sculptures and shelters created especially for the route. Along the route you will find beautifully designed benches and shelters by Katy Hallett, Ben May, John Butler, Geoff Stainthorp and Paul Anderson. These make the perfect place to rest and enjoy your surroundings.
Beginning in the pretty village of Braunton, the route is incredibly easy to follow. It’s also flat and traffic-free, making it perfect for families.
Your journey will continue along the banks of the River Taw, passing through Chivenor and crossing the tributary river Yeo on the new swing bridge at Barnstaple. A detour into Barnstaple town centre, where you can take in the Pannier Market and the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon, is worthwhile.
The route then takes you up the Torridge Estuary, passing Instow and Bideford. These are great places to stop off for refreshments as they have lots of cafes and restaurants.
Do not miss the Puffing Billy, a relaxed pub at the former Torrington railway station. It is right on the Tarka Trail and the restored waiting room serves as the restaurant. There is also a goods brake van, coal truck and buffet carriage on a restored stretch of track.
You can either leave the Tarka Trail on the line of the old tramway route and finish in the beautiful town of Great Torrington or continue on the route across the river on the railway to where the path currently ends at Meeth.
The ambition is to create safe and sustainable routes – current examples: