This is the valley of the River Burn between North Brentor and Mary Tavy in west Devon. The Campaign to Protect Rural England wants to build a main line railway through it.
My blog The wrong kind of evidence on the line challenged the CPRE’s claim that its recent report made a case for reopening the dismantled railway line between the Devon towns of Okehampton and Tavistock. The trackbed runs along the north and west edges of Dartmoor. The scheme would form part of a larger project, supported by the Plymouth business lobby, for a second main line between Plymouth and Exeter. Further background in my other blog – please read it.
This new blog attempts to show pictorially the changes and damage that rebuilding the dismantled line would cause. It’s worth remembering that the line would need to be rebuilt to modern engineering and safety standards: it wouldn’t be a case of just chopping away some trees and bushes and then laying the track.
Click on the pictures for a bigger view!
Impact on cyclists and walkers
The stretch of trackbed between Okehampton and Lydford forms part of national cycle route 27, as well as a generally flat path for walkers.
Though some parts of the path have trees and bushes on either side (which form a useful windbreak), there are stunning views too.
The Tavistock viaduct is a very attractive footpath with fine views of the town. It seems unlikely there would be room for pedestrians and cyclists if the railway were put back in place.
Rail safety regulations would specify a minimum distance, as well as barriers, between the railway line and a cycle path or footpath, so not only would peace and quiet go out of the window but also the landtake would be significant.
Impact on homes and farms
Most, perhaps all, of the old trackbed south of Lydford is in private ownership. Some is now in farm use, and elsewhere stations buildlings have been converted into private homes with the trackbed itself forming part of the garden.
At Tavistock, offices and private houses surround the old North station and block the viaduct.
Impact on structures
Meldon Viaduct is a structure of historic interest. Whether it could be strengthened to take trains again seems doubtful since Network Rail have in the past said a new structure would be needed if the line were to reopen.
Elsewhere, stone overbridges have disappeared and would have to be replaced. Network Rail bridge architecture is not renowned for its sensitivity to the natural environment.
Impact on wildlife
I’m no wildlife expert but it’s reasonable to assume that those parts of the trackbed now covered in vegetation are home to all manner of beesties.
Impact on landscape and tranquillity
Although the rumble of the A30 traffic is audible around Meldon, the area around Brentor and Mary Tavy is silent save for the occasional bleating of sheep. It is unspoilt and nature has reabsorbed the dismantled railway back into the landscape.
As a lobbying group, the CPRE ought to take seriously the government’s stated policy that the natural environment can be valued as part of any investment appraisal process. Sadly, there’s no evidence that this figures in CPRE’s current thinking about reopening rural railways.
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