These five abandoned railways make the perfect springtime ramble

These five abandoned railways make the perfect springtime ramble


Escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life with this selection of epic walks along some of Britain’s ‘lost’ railway routes. Around 3,000 miles of railway were closed during the dark economic clouds of the post-war years before the ‘Beeching Report’ in 1963 axed a further 4,500 miles of run-down tracks. But there is still so much to discover for those keen to explore our fascinating rail history.

Overgrown platforms, platelayers’ huts, over and under road bridges, soaring viaducts, long and dank tunnels, old railway coaches masquerading as tea shops and B&B accommodation, restored signal boxes, goods sheds, and stations, all of which bring the lost railway journey back to life. Not forgetting the beautiful scenery too.

So, whether you’re a jogger, dog walker, buggy pusher, bike rider, hiker, marcher, or stroller, here are five epic walks along bygone railways to step into this spring.


Bristol & Bath Railway Path

Bristol to Bath

Original line: 15 miles / Length open to walkers & cyclists: 13 miles

Since closure, the former Midland Railway route between Bristol and Bath via Mangotsfield has seen a renaissance as a traffic-free footpath and cycleway. By the 1990s, almost the entire route was reopened by the cycling charity Sustrans as the first green traffic-free route for cyclists in Britain. Much of the railway infrastructure remains in place including Staple Hill Tunnel, several bridges over the River Avon, the old platforms at Staple Hill, Mangotsfield and Warmley stations (all featuring modern sculpture) and the 3-mile Avon Valley Railway, which shares the tarmacked route between Oldland Common and Avon Riverside via its headquarters at the restored station of Bitton. Last but not least is the beautifully restored terminus at Bath Green Park – with its grand frontage and graceful curving overall glass roof.


Ayot/Greenway / Lea Valley Walk

Dunstable to Welwyn Garden City

Original line: 16 ¾ miles / Length open to walkers & cyclists: 5 ½ miles

Post-closure, the section between Luton and Dunstable has been reopened as a concrete guided busway while two sections between Welwyn and Luton have been reopened as footpaths and cycleways. The 3 miles between Ayot and Wheathampstead is known as the Ayot Greenway while the 2 ½ miles between Harpenden East and Luton Hoo now forms part of the 50-mile Lea Valley Walk Long Distance Path which runs from Leagrave, north of Luton, to Limehouse Basin in East London. Not to miss is the secluded station site at Wheathampstead with its restored platform, name board and seats set in a wooded glade.


Stratford Greenway

Stratford-Upon-Avon to Honeybourne

Original line: 9 miles / Length open to walkers & cyclists: 5 miles

Following closure the 5-mile section of the line between the Seven Meadows Roundabout at Stratford and Long Marston has been reopened as a footpath and cycleway known as the Stratford Greenway. There is car parking at the Stratford end where several old BR coaches are now home to a café and cycle hire shop. About 1 mile southwest of here the Greenway passes Stratford racecourse and crosses the River Avon on Stannals Bridge, a substantial girder structure, before reaching the site of Milcote station where the platforms survive and an old BR coach is home to another café.


Wye Valley Walk

Chepstow to Monmouth

Original line: 15 ½ miles / Length open to walkers & cyclists: 8 miles

Since closure, several sections of the Wye Valley Railway and the Ross & Monmouth Railway have reopened as footpaths as part of the Wye Valley Walk Long Distance Path. At its southern end the mothballed track from Wye Valley Junction near Chepstow to Tidenham Tunnel has survived and is awaiting a Sustrans proposal to reopen it as a footpath and cycleway through Tidenham and Tintern tunnels. The trackbed between the boarded-up tunnels is now a woodland footpath which can be accessed via a bridge over the Wye from Tintern. From here a footpath leads to the restored Tintern station; the station building is now a café, the signal box sells arts and crafts and several old railway coaches house gift shops.


Haddington to Longniddry Railway Path

Longniddry to Haddington

Original line: 4 ¾ miles / Length open to walkers & cyclists: 4 ¾ miles

Ten years after closure, the trackbed was bought by East Lothian Council and reopened as a well-surfaced traffic-free footpath, cycleway and bridleway known as the Haddington to Longniddry Railway Path. It has become a wildlife corridor rich in wildflowers, small mammals and, at Coatyburn, even bats. For cyclists it is a useful commuter route to and from Edinburgh, either by taking the bike on the train to and from Longniddry or using the bike racks at the latter station.



 From best-selling railway expert, Julian Holland, explore Britain’s historical railways in All Aboard.