Railway volunteers give extra help to Wye Valley Greenway
By Sarah Wood | 7th December 2020
Volunteer members of the Dean Forest Railway Society have completed their clearance of track and overgrown vegetation from part of the railway which used to link Chepstow and Monmouth along the Wye Valley, ready for a new tourist attraction for the Forest.
The work will help to create the new Wye Valley Greenway which is set to open next year, providing cyclists and walkers with a path without traffic along the bank of the Wye.
Alastair Clarke, DFRS chair of trustees, said: "It took us about 25 site visits for our volunteers to clear the south end of the route, between the junction with the main line northwards as far as the 1090m-long Tidenham tunnel. Apart from vegetation, we unclipped the continuously welded rail from the sleepers and cut it into 18m-odd lengths for lorry transport to Lydney along with the lifted concrete sleepers. The pandemic meant the whole process took far longer than we planned, as we had to stay away and couldn't work with each other. Our railway operation went into hiatus as well, losing us a huge proportion of our normal year's revenue."
John Grimshaw masterminded the Greenway project. His first project, the Bristol to Bath cycle route, set the pattern for traffic-free routes for walkers and cyclists all over the UK.
He said: "It has been a delight to work with the DFRS volunteers in the initial clearance of this route. The railway has also been extremely helpful in our design of the Dean Forest Greenway, which will run parallel and close to some of their route between Lydney and Whitecroft."
The Wye Valley Railway opened in 1876 as a proposed trunk route between Bristol and the Midlands, at a time when freight traffic was the main purpose of railways. It became popular with tourist during the 1920s and 30s, but the last passenger train ran in 1959, with a limited goods service running until 1964.
John Grimshaw said: "This is a particularly good example of a redundant railway track which will offer local people and visitors on bike and on foot a peaceful scenic route away from busy road traffic to explore the surrounding countryside. The Wye Valley Greenway will take its users through one of our most-loved landscape gems and should be open in April 2021."
Punchline said: "The opening of the Wye Valley Greenway next year is great news for tourism in the Forest of Dean, after a really tough year for tourism. It is more important than ever now to be able to walk and cycle outdoors and enjoy the countryside safely."
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