A Trail in the Making
The Heart of Wales Line Community Rail Partnership have recently launched the Northernmost section of a brand-new walking trail. Rachel Francis, spokesperson for the project, tells us how it all came about...
A Trail in the Making - the development of a long distance walking trail along the Heart of Wales Line
By Rachel Francis
The Heart of Wales line is a vital public transport link for rural Wales. It is also much loved, passing through stunning scenery and great walking country. It is therefore an ideal location for a rail-based walking trail, an idea that came about at a meeting in a pub back in 2015.
At this meeting was Les Lumsdon. Les is a widely travelled professor, specialising in the relationship between transport and tourism, in particular sustainable transport. Les has a love of walking and has written books on a number of major walks in Britain. It was decided that Les and colleague Alison Caffyn, a consultant specialising in tourism development, would carry out the feasibility study for the walking trail, which would weave between stations along the line.
Les said: 'You can't just plan a 140-mile long-distance walking route in the comfort of your office - you have to go out there and walk it. You have to get out in the weather, meet the farmers, work with what you find. If there is no route across a stream, the question is – should we find a different route or build a new bridge?
If a path you thought existed has been diverted, you go back to the drawing board. We have based the route on existing rights of way but we also wanted to ensure there are links to those stations that are just off the main route. So that has been another challenge - there are 30 stations between Craven Arms and Llanelli. We have been fortunate to find support from experienced walkers along the route – they have been instrumental in helping design the trail."
In 2016, the study was completed, presenting a viable trail plan, beginning in the old railway town of Craven Arms. It passes through remote upland, woodland, and the salt marshes of the Loughor Valley, en route to the Millennium Coastal Park in Llanelli.
In January 2017, with a steering group established, we launched a crowd funding appeal. This got us onto local TV and radio, giving interviews in Welsh and English and enjoying some really good coverage in the local press. We have raised £5,000 from crowd funding and via the Heart of Wales Line Travellers Association. We also received support from Arriva, Network Rail Wales, REPTA (Railway Employees & Public Transport Association), and Councils/Right of Way teams in Shropshire, Powys, Carmarthenshire and Swansea City and County.
Tuesday 4 July saw the launch of the Northernmost section of the trail. The unfurling of a banner and lots of cake was followed by a guided walk led by Rail Ramblers. It was a very exciting day!
I'd encourage you to experience this new trail for yourself.
Begin your walking adventure at Craven Arms and pass through diverse landscapes that weave between railway stations along the Heart of Wales Line to Knighton.
The trail is suitable for people looking for a long distance challenge, but equally for those who wish to walk the trail in sections, using the train to access day or weekend walks and using local shops, cafes, pubs and overnight accommodation along the way. Find out more on the Heart of Wales Line website.
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