24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Britain's lost railways are getting plenty of attention from authors with an interest in railways, judging by the number of books published about them by Julian Holland, Paul Atterbury and others. There is clearly plenty of interest in the subject and no shortage of available material. This particular book focuses primarily on those railways that have been converted into footpaths and cycleway.
Julian has written two books devoted to Scotland's lost railways, but this book covers the whole of Britain, region by region beginning in the west country and finishing in Scotland. Yes, even though the author has written two books about them, he found six more lost Scottish railways to feature here, all with significant sections suitable for walkers and/or cyclists to explore, free of other road traffic.
Each route featured includes a potted history of the railway and the type of traffic it carried, supported by pictures. There is also a map highlighting the footpath/cycleway and the railway whose trackbed it uses. If there is a heritage line in the vicinity (or even along part of the route), this is highlighted too - actually those lines are more prominent than the footpath/cycleway, which seems a little strange. There is also practical information describing the line today (remember in years to come that "today" means some time in 2010 when the research was carried out; these things can change over time) as well as suggesting places to visit (useful if you need to tempt friends or family to join your walk or bike ride) and other practical information such as nearest railway station (refers to station that still has normal passenger services, but gives name only), cycle hire location, ordnance survey map (Landranger series number) and tourist information offices. Apart from the maps and railway stations, the information may be in the form of postal addresses, telephone numbers or website URLs, or a combination thereof. Clearly, those who want to plan a walk or bike ride properly should do some of their research in advance., using the information in this book as a starting point.
By the nature of the book, the featured lost railways are mostly rural in character; but walkers and cyclists would tend to prefer those routes anyway. Highlights include the three featured Derbyshire Peak District routes - the Monsal trail (Matlock to Buxton), the High Peak trail (Buxton to High Peak Junction via Parsley Hay) and the Tissington trail (Ashbourne to Parsley Hay, where it links up with the High Peak trail). If you are thinking of exploring the footpaths and cycleways in this book, a holiday based in Buxton (if you don't already live somewhere convenient for the area) seems like a good way to begin.
The featured lines include some that ought never to have closed (a more measured policy in the sixties might mean they'd still be providing a useful train service today) but also includes one or two that make you wonder why they were ever built at all. But mostly, these lost railways provided an important service in the latter part of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, until road transport took too much of their business away. At least people have the chance now to explore some of these routes on foot and (if they wish) to ponder on the trains that used to run there.
This is a great book for those with any sort of interest in lost railways, but will also be of interest to some walkers and cyclists. Whether those walkers and cyclists feel there is enough information specifically for them, I'm not sure; I'll leave them to judge. For those like me who are primarily interested in the old railways themselves, this is brilliant.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Thanks to Dr. Beeching Britain has a vast network of disused railways, which are largely open to the public and make for excellent walking and cycling. I find the disused rail network an invaluable part of long cycle journeys and excellent for walking trips with friends and some elderly relatives who prefer good even paths that take them to interesting and beautiful places.
I have found this book to be a good reference, allowing me to plan several such trips with ease. Broken down by region, it has written descriptions of all the railways open to the public, maps that puts each section in context, details of local transport links, and importantly for someone like me a potted history of each line, detailing the types of train and freight it was built to carry. It has allowed me to find a few interesting local routes I didn't know existed just from looking at my OS maps, and with the information about each line has allowed me to find new things of interest on routes that I travel regularly and know well. The book has been thoroughly researched and contains a real wealth of information, both practical and interesting. It should be noted though, that the information regarding access and the condition of the paths was researched in 2010, and might not be true in the future.
My only small criticism is that the book is quite big and heavy, so it is very inconvenient to take with you on a walk or bike ride. But it is very informative and well laid out, and is an invaluable tool for planning expeditions. Five stars.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 21 June 2011
I first noticed this book on a shelf when it first came out, and, flicking through it, I could immediately tell it was a superb example of the 'Now and Then' railway book genre which looks at disused railway lines, tells you a little of their history, shows you images of the line both in its heyday and in the present day and also, in this case, tells you exactly how to access them as a walker or cyclist and details all the nearby amenities and features which might interest you: - heritage railways, cycle hire places, places to eat, and so on. Despite my instantly positive reaction to the book, I had to put it back because I just couldn't afford it.
Then I forgot about it for a while.
However, a couple of weeks ago my partner (who knows the kind of thing I like) produced a copy she'd found in the library and I immediately fell in love with it all over again. In fact, I came here to Amazon today to order my own copy because the cost has now fallen to within my range.
If you're familiar with Paul Atterbury's high quality book 'Along Lost Lines', then this book by Julian Holland is of similarly excellent quality in terms of railway information / historic content, with additional information about how to journey along the lines featured since all of them are accessable as public footpaths or bridleways. The greater part of the content is in full colour, although of course most of the old images of scenes on the old lines are in the original black and white.
As an avid collector of ordnance survey maps I usually take great pleasure in spotting the courses of old railways which might potentially be walkable - nonetheless this book surprised me over and over again by unearthing new routes in several areas I thought I was very familiar with. It also features many of the well known railway trails, and has already inspired me to make sure I squeeze both the book and my bike into the back of my car when I go down to the southwest in a few weeks' time so I can tackle the Tarka Trail, the Camel Trail, or both.
Just to be clear though - this is a large coffee table book, not one you could comfortably take with you on a walk or a bike ride - any information you need for the actual ride or walk will have to be manually translated into map, notebook or even GPS route form, if you happen to lean that way.
Here's a full list of the accessable lines featured:-
(Note that in many cases the placenames in brackets below describe the full extent of the lines when they were open - the navigable section of the line is often a much smaller subsection, but this is also made clear in the chapters dealing with each line).
The West Country:
Camel Trail (Wenford Bridge-Padstow), Tarka Trail (Braunton--Barnstaple-Bideford-Meeth), Dartmoor (Yelverton-Princetown), Strawberry Line (Yatton-Witham via Cheddar), Somerset Levels (Evercreech-Burnham), Rodwell Trail (Weymouth-Portland)
Hampshire/Dorset (Brockenhurst-Broadstone), Rye & Camber Tramway (Rye-Camber), Cuckoo Trail (Eridge-Polegate),
Worth Way (Three Bridges-East Grinstead), Cole Green Way (Hertford-Welwyn Garden City), North London (Finsbury Park-Alexandra Palace)
Marriott's Way (Norwich-Melton Constable), Blyth Valley-Suffolk (Halesworth-Southwold), Water Railway (Lincoln-Boston), Spa Trail (Woodhall Junction-Horncastle)
Forest Of Dean (Lydney Junction-Coleford-Cinderford), Wye Valley (Chepstow-Monmouth), The Greenway (Stratford-Cheltenham), Monsal Trail (Matlock-Buxton), High Peak Trail (Buxton-High Peak Junction via Parsley Hay), Tissington Trail (Ashbourne-Parsley Hay), Churnet Valley (North Rode-Rocester)
Lon Las Ogwen (Port Penrhyn-Bethesda), Lon Eifion (Caernarfon-Afon Wen), Mawddach Trail (Dolgellau-Barmouth), South Wales (Briton Ferry-Glyncorrwg), Glyn Valley Tramway (Chirk-Glyn Ceiriog)
Keswick Railway Foothpath (Keswick-Threlkeld), Longendale Trail (Hadfield-Woodhead Tunnel-Penistone), Tees Valley (Middleton-Cotherstone), York-Selby, Scarborough-Whitby, Consett-Sunderland, Rosedale (Battersby-Rosedale), Border Railway Trail (Kielder)
Longniddry-Haddington, West Fife (Dunfermline-Alloa), Lochaber narrow gauge (Fort William-Loch Traig), Formartine & Buchanan (Dyce-Fraserburgh-Peterhead), Lochwinnoch (Johnstone-Dalry), Paisley & Clyde (Johnstone-Princes Pier).
A surprise omission (for me) from the list above was the Sussex 'Forest Way' which runs east from East Grinstead, through Forest Row to Hartfield, since that line is the logical continuation of the Worth Way and is actually a nicer section than the Worth Way, which is interrupted in the middle by a thoughtlessly placed housing estate. It is briefly mentioned in a tailpiece to the chapter on the Worth Way, but I felt it deserved better when Mr Holland was evidently already in the area, so to speak.
Other worthy trails which I personally know of, but are not featured in this book include the former Derwent Valley line running south west towards Consett from Gateshead in North East England, and the trail between Callander and Killin in the Trossachs (Scotland), which was the subject of one of Julia Bradbury's TV 'Railway Walks'. But obviously, there is only so much which can be squeezed into one book, and the author has done his best to include a well balanced selection.
The book also features additional articles about some other little oddball lines.
-A great book, equally good for railway enthusiasts and for trail walkers and trail riders.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 26 August 2011
I've always loved disued railways, have been exploring them since the sixties. I've purchased quite a few books on the subject but I think this one is the best I have ever seen. Others are good, but this one seems to have it all. Firstly, a really great selection if lines including some I have not seen covered elsewhere. Secondly, its very well written, with a good balance between the history of the line and describing it as a walk. There is some really intersting background information that will make any walk more interesting if you do visit. There are the excellent photos. And for me the icing on the cake is that you get a detailed map of each line. I always like to see a map but so many books do not seem to offer this. Yes its too big to take with you but its a great armchair read and I really recommend it highly. I do hope the author considers another volume!