On Sunday 29 May the Lias Line, National Cycle Network Route 41, featured on BBC Countryfile, where presenters Matt Baker and Ellie Harrison explored the greenway in Warwickshire. No better time then to talk about making space for nature on the National Cycle Network, and to get the latest news from the ongoing project to extend and improve the Lias Line and its biodiversity.
Sustrans colleagues look over the development plans which are transforming the greenway into a safe and accessible route, connecting everyone with nature. Photo: Jon Bewley/photojb
The greenway connects Rugby, Long Itchington and Leamington Spa, with part of the route taking users along the Grand Union Canal.
The Lias Line passes pretty villages, wildlife reserves, reservoirs and canals.
The route is alive with wildlife, a haven for rare species of plants and animals.
It also connects humans with nature, offering local communities the space to invest in their physical and mental wellbeing during commuting, utility and leisure trips.
Our current project to extend the greenway is set to increase access to nature, with around 4km of on-road National Cycle Network between Offchurch Greenway and Long Itchington, being replaced by 5.46km of safe and accessible traffic-free path.
The new section of path will form part of Warwickshire’s longest traffic-free greenway.
Getting active and connecting with nature on the Lias Line is getting safer and more accessible thanks to improvement works. Photo: Jon Bewley/photojb
A visit from BBC Countryfile
During May, BBC Countryfile presenters Matt Baker and Ellie Harrison explored the Lias Line greenway.
They took particular interest in our extensive ecological and biodiversity enhancement work, along with a recently opened section of the line.
The Countryfile team met with Jim Whiteford our Senior Ecologist and Carmen Szeto, Senior Network Development Manager.
We’re delighted that the Lias Line is being celebrated and showcased in this way.
We hope that this coverage will inspire many more people to get active and explore the great outdoors via the National Cycle Network.
The BBC Countryfile episode featuring the Lias Line airs on Sunday 29 May at 6.45pm and should be available for catch-up on BBC iPlayer for a period of time afterwards.
BBC Countryfile came to explore the Lias Line and learn about our work to improve biodiversity along the paths. Photo: Jon Bewley/photojb
Making space for nature on the National Cycle Network
In the UK we are facing a climate and ecological emergency.
Principally due to habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, climate change and changes to agricultural practices.
The survival of many species is threatened by an ever-shrinking amount of space for plants and animals to live and thrive in.
There's also a perilous lack of safe routes connecting habitats, causing wildlife populations to become isolated.
In response to this, we’re developing greener, more biodiverse traffic-free paths on the National Cycle Network.
The linear geography of greenways like the Lias Line offer the potential to create exemplary habitats, with spaces and routes for wildlife to both live and travel.
Because just like us, animals need to travel to thrive.
We all have a great responsibility to protect the natural world for future generations. Photo: Jon Bewley/photojb
Wildlife on the Lias Line greenway in Warwickshire
Protecting and nurturing nature on the Lias Line has been an integral part of our work extending and improving the greenway.
Carmen Szeto, Sustrans Senior Network Development Manager in the Midlands and East of England tells us more:
“From the very beginning, we’ve worked closely with the local community and that’s reflecting in our outcomes.
“What we have is a path that’s truly for everyone, that means people walking, wheeling, cycling, horse-riding and importantly, a path for nature too.
“This scheme of works has not only improved connectivity, making it easier to walk, wheel and cycle in Warwickshire, but it’s also created a haven for wildlife.
“It enables both humans and wildlife to connect to the wider countryside and each other.
“We’ve built wetland areas to support and encourage great crested newts.
“We’ve installed roosting boxes to offer safe, protected spaces for bats.
“And we’re working closely with Warwickshire Butterfly Conservation group to increase habitat for the common blue butterfly.
“But the Lias Line is a living project, and our passionate commitment to the environment will continue long after the scheme of works is completed.
“We’re already planning future events to encourage the community to participate in activities like planting and wildlife counting.”
We’re working with Warwickshire Butterfly Conservation group to increase habitat for the Common Blue Butterfly. Photo: Laura White/Sustrans
Latest developments from the Lias Line improvement project
When Sustrans reviewed the National Cycle Network in 2018, the Lias Line was identified as very poor.
The Paths for everyone review found that many of the off-road sections were overgrown and had a poor surface.
The review also identified poor access points and the path had gradients below the current standards for ease of use.
The need to improve the path was also required in response to HS2 severing part of the route.
Work commenced in October 2021 and was separated into several phases.
Phase one cost around £5.1m and saw the creation of a completely new traffic-free path with a sealed surface, following the branch line of the old Lias Line railway.
Around 4km of on-road National Cycle Network between Offchurch Greenway and Long Itchington is replaced with 5.46km of safe and accessible traffic-free path.
This exciting work completes in July 2022.
Our next funded priority is to connect to the HS2 Fosseway overbridge.
This will close a gap of some 108 metres which has emerged between the HS2 works and the start of the Lias Line Greenway.
Our work to make these improvements has been made possible thanks to a funding package from the Department for Transport.
We’re also grateful to other partners who have contributed to the Lias Line scheme, including the British Horse Society, Warwickshire County Council, Warwick District Council and Rugby District Council.