The first phase of a project to transform a former military railway into a shared use active travel route is underway. Working in partnership with Monmouthshire County Council, Sustrans Cymru is bringing this walking and cycling path to life. This will lead to connections between Caldicot town, Portskewett, Caldicot Castle Park, and the existing network of active travel connect the local routes.
The former Ministry of Defence railway will become an active travel route connecting local communities. Credit: Eni Hansen-Magnusson
Caldicot Links will see a former military railway repurposed to become a part of the National Cycle Network, born out of a desire to encourage more sustainable travel to Caldicot Castle and its park grounds.
The first phase of the route will run from the Cornfields Project – a community-led initiative which reclaimed local scrubland and produced a much-used green space – to the magnificent Caldicot Castle Park.
Connecting communities through active travel
Ultimately, the aim is to have a stretch of walking and cycling path that spans from Caldicot to Crick, connecting to Portskewett, and offering people an alternative route to the existing traffic-heavy route.
An example of collaborative working, plans were made with partners Monmouthshire County Council and Gwili Railway on how to reclaim the unused railway line.
Following award of funding via the Welsh Government's Active Travel Fund, site investigation and design work have progressed.
The scheme proposals seek to retain and enhance the existing green corridor while providing safe access for all users.
Network Development Manager, Gwyn Smith, said:
“The removal of the rail was a great team effort involving many partners.
“Local business owners, Wildwood Ecology, Monmouthshire County Council maintenance team, Gwili Railway and Rail Contactors Barretts all came together, leaving a great space for the new path to be constructed.
“Sustrans Cymru is incredibly pleased that the rail is going to be reused, and that a new active travel route will be created through this collaborative working.”
A delicate process
The first action on the ground has been to carefully clear vegetation, so that the railway line could be removed by Monmouthshire County Council.
Next was the delicate task of painstakingly disassembling and transporting the track to Carmarthen for reuse by Gwili Railway, a job that was far from easy given the vital consideration of its impact on the area’s ecology.
Speaking on behalf of Gwili Railway, Phil Sutton said:
“We are grateful to Sustrans Cymru and Monmouthshire CC to allow the railway track of the historic military branch to be preserved for heritage use at the Gwili Railway while at the same time assisting in the community project for the cycle path.”
The track bed is now completely cleared, including all the railway sleepers which had to be treated with great care because of their dangerous chemical content.
The past playing a role in the future
Some of the track will remain in place, as a nod to the heritage of the railway, and will feature as part of the final design – this will accompany boards describing the history of the site.
Construction of the new path will commence in autumn of this year, with plans being developed to continue the path through Castle Park and into Caldicot’s town centre, ensuring easier access to local amenities.
The first phase of this work to make Caldicot Links a reality is set to complete by early 2023, at which point the project will move onto its next phase for further expansion.