A thought occurred to me a few weeks ago, while waiting for a replacement bus to take me to Dundee to meet the sleeper , about how many ‘cut’ railway lines had been converted into mixed use paths and how, quite accidentally, they have formed an important part of my cycling life.
I’ve spent the last decade in the rail industry and more recently I’ve been reading a fair bit of Robert Mcfarlane and his ‘Old Ways’ and also Alistair Moffat’s ‘Hidden Ways’, both of which follow similar themes and they set me thinking on this course.
I planned to read Andrew Martins ‘Night Trains’ but only got past the dust cover in the bookshop before I was asked to put it down. I think I must be getting that for Christmas then... However in the foreword it mentions that Martins father was in the ‘Railwayman’s Touring Club’ which sounded interesting. I have found nothing online about it, apart from pin badges on eBay, that I couldn’t resist buying for 99p.
#csb , I realised that enjoying railways and cycling, weren’t mutually exclusive and that some of my favourite/regular rides have been on old track beds. So I thought I’d start a thread about it, because why not eh!
Whether it’s a national cycle route that is lovely tarmac now over the old ballast, an urban trackbed turned into a road, or a full on RSF style hike a bike up an overgrown embankment, just to see an old bridge, pop it down here and hopefully some useful, wonderful and adventurous routes will be revealed.
I have a few favourites I’ll probably write about in time.
The Ebury Way which featured in;
connecting West Watford with the formerly hectic boatbuilding heart of Rickmansworth.
You would love this:
Bristol Bath Railway Path
Glasgow Express ‘Beeching Cuts’
Glasgow Express is a route that a senior member of BCC (Gordon, from Glasgow) used to take us on, rather quickly.
Many a Sunday over a good five years was spent in pain just hearing “ ‘sake! C’mon! Jus’ keep tappin’ it oot” if the pace fractionally dropped below Gordon’s preferred pace.
Looking at the route, it’s clear why it was a bar chewer, it was long and only looked rolling on the profile, not on the eyes at the time, and certainly in the legs afterwards. When looking at the route I noticed that it went close to the old East Grinstead - Tunbridge Wells - Three Bridges line (now the Worth and Forest Ways) and with some tweaking it could be used in the ride.
Here is the route
The line was rumoured to be Dr Richard Beeching’s own commuting line, which he cut and it closed in 1967. It being ‘his’ own line maybe Railway legend, but he certainly lived and died in East Grinstead and part of the old line is called ‘Beeching Way’.
There’s nowt left of EG high level station, save the site of an old footbridge to the low level station, so the best place to pick the route up is on a big roundabout in the south eastern suburbs. You then swing onto an almost fashionable surface, almost unofficial 6th classic-esque....
There’s not a not a lot to see in Railway terms, it was all ripped up and demolished in the mid 70’s I think, but what makes this route great is that if it’s quiet (and it nearly always is) it’s an absolute smash fest.
I have fond memories of 6 of us, unspoken I might add, turning it into the Tour of Flanders, in our heads at least. As the surface is tightly packed you can use a road bike and use it quickly. There’s enough puddles, Ruts and the odd rock to keep it interesting. The bridges narrow to pinches as well, so some elbows come in handy at some points.
It’s over fairly quickly, a good 10miles out of 70, but it’s a great, fun part of an already excellent ride.
Definitely an Autumn/Spring Clubrun Classic, but also a pleasant ride out to the country with the family, a lot of the villages you pass through have pubs that look excellent.
I’ll dig some more photos out if I can find them
The Monsal Trail in the Peak District is rather pretty.
That line completed the Watford Triangle I think. I have a 1950 Greater London Railway map (framed on the kitchen wall 😂) that shows the whole route, never ridden it but looks like one for the list.
Shit the bed
Who knew Channel 5 still existed!
Certainly looks decent, will most definetly give it a whirl. The presenter has a ‘young Nick Knowles’ look about him, which is always encouraging.
I used to commute along that when I lived in Bath, around the height of the ‘Dog Walker Wars’
Decent track though, big fan of Green Park station and the Two Tunnels down that way though
Would like to go back there, from near those parts but not been back for a long time.
I distinctly remember my mum carrying me over Headstone Viaduct on her shoulders and being bloody terrified.
Quite a few gooduns in West Wales:
Llanelli - Cefneithin past Swiss Valley reservoir with views of the Gwendraeth Valley. Connects the flat Millenium Coast Path with an abundance of rural hilly options further North.
Gowerton - Blackpill connects a current railway station village with Swansea seafront & onto Mumbles. Difficult to ride past the Railway Inn at Killay.
Neyland Marina - Haverfordwest. Pretty trail at the Western end of Brunel's line to a Ferry/Liner terminal. Loads of wildlife and great onward options along quiet lanes from Haverfordwest.
Need to check the Welsh routes out, not a part of the word or railway system I know well.
The Gowerton one looks lovely from a quick look
Which one, or all?
I'd be up for one in the south east.
Could be an interesting challenge trying to work a route that took in the most old trackbed.....
I'll just leave this here...
You'd have to get up pretty early to get the Monsal Trail while it's quiet, though.
Oh go on.subbed.
Looks interesting, one to discuss tonight I think
Vennbahn is the Kraftwerk of this genre of cycle touring.
Seems you can even use ‘rail bikes’ on part of it.
Certainly one for the purists.
The bluebell line? Runs North south in Sussex. I'll have a dig around, but at 11 miles long it's a good distance.
I did part of it on Saturday.
My companion was on 23mm TT tyres. Good bike handling skills displayed.
The strawberry line, south of Bristol from Yatton to Cheddar
Is that a path that runs next to the Bluebell Railway?
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