Sunday, 10 February 2013

The Old Chippenham to Calne Railwayline.

On Friday, thankfully without rain, we took a 4.5 walk from Studley Crossroads, down a quiet road, to join the old railway line that ran from Calne to Chippenham.   Unfortunately, it was closed in September 1965, a victim of the "Beeching cuts."  The six mile stretch of single track line ran along the valley of the River Marden, and was operated by the Great Western Railway Company, and opened for passengers in November 1863.  Originally it had no stations, but in 1863 one was opened at "Black Dog Halt" for Lord Lansdowne, the local landowner who lived at Bowood House, and in 1905 another was built at "Stanley Bridge."    It is a easy, comfortable flat walk, which means it's possible to chat away to friends without particularly having to "watch your step."   To the right can be seen "Fossil Tree," one of the signposts marking the "National Cycle Route," this one being named the Chippenham/Calne Railway Path.  These signs were erected in the year 2000 to mark the millennium, and to encourage the good folk of England to "get on yer bike" and exercise more.  They've had no affect on my behaviour whatsoever,  as I don't like cycling uphill, and I much prefer to walk anyway.   "Fossil Tree" shows icons of geological interest, from trilobites, shells and fish skeletons and what looks like a steering wheel.  This sign shows Chippenham in one direction and the Avebury Stone Circle in the other.

The 1000 Millennium cast iron mileposts were funded by the Royal Bank of Scotland to mark the creation of the National Cycle Network, and can be found throughout UK cycle routes.  There are four different types of post, "Fossil Tree," "The Cockerel," "Tracks" and "Rowe Type" named after the designer.   Each designer came from one of the four countries that make up the UK.

Walking from the bus stop at Studley to a distant old railway line.

Passenger numbers decline in the late 1950/early 1960s, when the RAF stations at Yatesbury and Compton Basset closed.  Freight services were down to one each weekday, and were withdrawn in November 1964, and the Sunday passenger service was also withdrawn.  The line eventually closed completely on 2nd November 1964.   A section of track opened as the "Marden Nature Trail" in 1972, and most of the 6 mile route between Chippenham and Calne is now used  by walkers and cyclists.

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