Her­itage paths of rail­ways past

Macclesfield Express - - YOUR PICTURES - SARAH ROE

ONE good thing to come out of the dras­tic cuts to rail­way lines rec­om­mended by Dr Richard Beech­ing in 1963 was the recla­ma­tion of miles of lin­ear tracks and wood­land.

Across the coun­try many of th­ese paths have be­come well-loved com­mu­nity routes for walk­ing and cy­cling.

They act as a new type of trans­port cor­ri­dor for get­ting to work and school, as like their rail­way coun­ter­parts they were de­signed to get peo­ple from A to B.

In ur­ban ar­eas they also help con­nect wildlife like bad­gers or wa­ter voles to their feed­ing grounds and bur­rows.

The char­ity Sus­trans first started con­vert­ing old rail­ways into cy­cle routes back in the 1980s, in­clud­ing paths like South Manch­ester’s Fal­low­field Loop.

This six-mile traf­fic-free route is now a peace­ful tree-lined av­enue per­fect for a stress-free cy­cle from Chorl­ton to Fal­low­field, Leven­shulme or Gor­ton.

But at one time ex­press trains would have rat­tled through this track on their way to Sh­effield or Har­wich. The nearby Transpen­nine Trail, which runs 215 miles from South­port to Hornsea, also runs mainly on old rail­way lines in­clud­ing the God­ley to Apethorn section of the former Wood­head Line in East Manch­ester.

Lo­cal peo­ple now want to cel­e­brate the her­itage of th­ese open-air trans­port mu­se­ums. Af­ter all, bike rid­ers and trains have long had an affin­ity – you can travel to most places in Europe by cy­cling to a sta­tion and putting your bike on the train.

On the Ch­ester Green­way walk­ing and cy­cle route vol­un­teers re­stored the old signs, sig­nals and benches for the old Bla­con rail­way sta­tion. In Cum­bria, Sus­trans re­cently won £859,000 to re­store fea­tures along the old iron ore rail­way near Work­ing­ton and White­haven – now part of the pop­u­lar Sea to Sea long dis­tance trail.

Two years ago the Friends of the Fal­low­field Loop or­gan­ised a 50th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion of the Blues and Gospel steam train which called in at Wil­bra­ham Road sta­tion in Whal­ley Range for a con­cert on May 7, 1964. Mu­si­cians like Sis­ter Rosetta Tharpe, Muddy Wa­ters, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee ar­rived on a spe­cial char­tered steam train from Cen­tral Sta­tion to play to the crowd. For one evening in 2014 the path buzzed again with the ex­cite­ment of that elec­tric day back in the heights of the civil rights move­ment.

Vol­un­teers in Manch­ester also hope to re­store an im­pres­sive old rail­way turntable pit on the old God­ley to Apethorn rail­way track. It once held a 65-feet turntable which was ca­pa­ble of swiv­el­ling the largest freight lo­co­mo­tives. A good en­gine driver would be able to bal­ance a 100tonne steam en­gine on the turntable so that he and their fire­man could push the en­gine round with ease. The lo­cal team has cleared out the pit and wants to re­pair the brick and stonework so it can be­come a her­itage fea­ture on the path. Its size and shape mean it could even be re­ju­ve­nated as an out­door per­for­mance space.

Sus­trans is a na­tional char­ity which helps peo­ple to walk, cy­cle or use pub­lic trans­port for short jour­neys. Sus­trans has vol­un­teer op­por­tu­ni­ties through­out Greater Manch­ester. If you would like to get in­volved please con­tact Abi­gail.pound@ sus­trans.org.uk or look up www.sus­trans.org.uk

Sus­trans vol­un­teers

●» Sus­trans vol­un­teers work­ing on the turntable pit along the God­ley to Apethorn route

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