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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

Disused Northumberland railway line to reopen to walkers for first time in over 70 years

A section of the Alnwick to Cornhill Line could be ready to walk on as a greenway as early as this summer

The Alnwick to Cornhill Line has had no maintenance since it closed in 1953 (Image: Colin Davidson)

A section of a disused Northumberland railway line is set to reopen for public use later this year.

The last trains ran on the Alnwick to Cornhill Line in 1953, and though much of the track remains accessible, it has had no maintenance in that time. However, community interest group Borderline Greenway have signed a 25-year-lease with landowners Northumberland Estates to develop the section from Greensfield to beyond Rugley Road into a greenway.

The plan is to make a two-metre wide track which will allow users to pass each other safely. It is planned that the greenway will accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, horse-riders, and both wheelchair and mobility scooter users.

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The renovations will include the construction of a new bridge at Greensfield, the laying of a stone track, and improving drainage and clearing ditches. Groundworkers are currently being selected to remove vegetation and debris which have built up on the track bed, and dangerous trees which fell during Storm Arwen will be removed and made safe.

Colin Davidson, chair of Borderline Greenway CIC, is excited to get the project off the ground, hoping that the first walkers will be able to use the greenway in 2024. He said: "A bit of serious TLC will make a hell of a difference quite quickly.

"Those guys in the past sure knew how to make something that would last. For me personally its all about the fantastic engineering that was done for a railway which shouldn't have been built and never made a penny!

"This work will help save part of the neglected industrial heritage of north Northumberland. The track, bridges and tunnel are still mostly there and need to be protected for future generations, in 25 years it wont be possible to save this for future generations because nature is taking over.

"So I'm so glad that we've pulled the funding and permissions together to enable a start on this exciting heritage and health project."

The eventual objective of the group is to create a greater north Northumberland Greenway Trail, encompassing nearly 100 miles across former railway lines and current cycle routes. The group is set for talks with Northumberland County Council, their eventual hope being a network of greenways similar to the Tissington and Monsal trails in Derbyshire's Peak District.

They hope to connect the Pennine Cycleway (NCN68) and the Coast and Castles Cycle Route (NCN1), which currently only connect at Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Colin told ChronicleLive: "You've got [disused railway lines from] Scots Gap to Rothbury, and Hexham to Kielder. All of these are tremendously scenic and when you're walking up them, you get such a different aspect of what's there.

"We're really looking to sell the idea to get people up into the hills as well as the coast. Currently, there's no off-road link between the two cycle routes.

"If we can get to Whittingham in the short-term, which would be no mean feat, you can cycle all the way up there then onto Glanton and back onto the cycleway. That would be tremendous for getting people off the roads and onto the safety of the Greenway."

Grant Wilson, rural chartered surveyor at Northumberland Estates, said: "This new greenway initiative is something the Estate is proud to support, and we have worked hard to balance wider land interests, especially those surrounding existing tenancies, so that the lease could be signed. As well as revitalising the old railway line, the greenway will be an asset to Alnwick, providing a safe space away from traffic for the community to enjoy. We look forward to seeing the project progress."

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