These five lost railway winter walks make the perfect weekend ramble in January 2024

These five lost railway winter walks make the perfect weekend ramble in January 2024


The last of the mince pies has been eaten; the final dregs of mulled wine slurped; and there’s a rogue Christmas chocolate nestled cosily into the corner of your cupboard, ready to hibernate much like many of us following another year of merry festivities. But wait – hang on for one minute… your walking boots have been yearning for a wintery stomp and we have five frosty rambles to get you into the spirit of a new year spent outdoors.

What’s special about these walks is that they all cover ground across the thousands of miles of ‘lost’ railways, which have found a new life since their closures many moons ago, giving enjoyment to hikers, cyclists, and even horse riders in a peaceful, traffic-free environment.

So here goes: five of our favourite ‘lost’ railway routes in Britain, far from the hustle and bustle of modern life and guaranteed to rejuvenate your wellies or walking shoes.


Southwest England

Bristol & Bath Railway Path

Original line – 15 miles

Length open to walkers and 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. 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 at Bitton. Last, but not least, is the beautifully restored terminus at Bath Green Park – with its grand frontage and graceful curving overall glass roof, it now provides cover for car parking for the adjacent Sainsbury’s store as well as for stall holders and events. Various shops have also taken up residence in the station building. It is well worth visiting Bath just to see it!


Southern England

Rye & Camber Tramway

Original line – 1 ¾ miles

Length open to walkers and cyclists – 1 ½ miles


Despite closure over 75 years ago, much of the route of this little tramway can still be followed on foot today. At Monkbretton Bridge in Rye, nothing now remains of the terminus buildings, but the trackbed south from here is now a well-trodden footpath as far as Broadwater Bridge. After a short deviation, it is rejoined along a concrete road that leads to the inshore rescue station and harbourmaster’s office. Amazingly, the 3ft-guage track remains embedded in the concrete, which was added by the Admiralty during the Second World War. Beyond here, and even more astonishing, is the well-preserved corrugated hut of Golf Links Halt – the original terminus of the tramway – that is still used as a storeroom by the golf club. The route of the tramway extension to Camber Sands continues through the golf links as a footpath to the site of the 1908 terminus although the platform and tearoom have long-since disappeared.


Eastern England

Blackwater Rail Trail (Witham to Maldon)

Original line – 5 ¾ miles

Length open to walkers and cyclists – 2 miles


Since closure a section of this branch line’s route has been reopened as a footpath known as the Blackwater Rail Trail. Designated a Local Wildlife Site, the Trail from near Wickham Bishops to the pretty village of Langford includes views of the River Blackwater. A highlight is the surviving platform at Langford & Ulting station, complete with nameboard, while the restored timber trestle bridge near Wickham Bishops, reached via a separate footpath from the B1018, is a Scheduled Monument and the last surviving example of a railway timber trestle bridge in England. However, its condition today, some 20 years after restoration, causes some concern, but is still well worth a visit.



Wye Valley Walk (Chepstow to Monmouth)

Original line – 15 ½ miles

Length open to walkers and cyclists – 8 miles


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.



Innocent Railway Path (St Leonards Branch)

Original line – 1 ¾ miles

Length open to walkers and cyclists – 1 ¾ miles


Accessed from St Leonards Lane in Edinburgh, the original 1830-built goods shed in St Leonards goods yard is a remarkable survivor and is now used as a vegetarian restaurant. From here, the railway path dives into the well-lit sandstone-lined tunnel (Scotland’s oldest rail tunnel) on a downhill gradient of 1-in-30 before emerging into a green corridor through the pleasant surroundings of Holyrood Park and the Bawsinch Nature Reserve. Immediately to the north looms the 823-ft peak of Arthurs Seat and its ancient fort. Nestling below is the natural freshwater Duddingston Loch, once used for ice skating and curling and now owned by the Scottish Wildlife Trust as an important breeding site for overwintering wildfowl.

Book cover of Lost Railway Walks



Explore more than 100 of Britain’s lost railways in Julian Holland’s book Lost Railway Walks, which is available to buy online and from all good bookshops.