Trail would be beneficial

I write in support of Richard Harrison’s letter regarding the planned demolition of old railway abutments adjacent to public roads (Berwick Advertiser, March 28).

By The Newsroom
Monday, 22 April, 2019, 09:00

The applications by Amco Rail on behalf of Highways England to demolish the abutments amounts, in my view, to historical and archaeological vandalism.

No reports from the Health and Safety Executive, Historic England or other statutory/non-statutory consultees appear on Northumberland County Council’s planning website for the removal of the abutments.

Further, as these abutments can be considered heritage assets, I wonder whether Northumberland County Council will take, or has taken, into account the National Planning Policy Framework.

This says, at Section 16, on conserving and enhancing the historic environment, paragraph 190, that authorities should identify and assess the particular significance of any heritage asset affected by a proposal.

Dismantling of the abutments will further remove the old Tweed Valley Railway line.

Destruction of its infrastructure began on April 1, 1968, when it finally closed.

The 23.5-mile line between Berwick and Kelso was opened to Sprouston in 1849, and to Kelson on June 1, 1851. It was built by the companies responsible for the Royal Border Bridge.

Since 1968 it has been broken up and sold off, as Mr Harrison states, and an opportunity to create footpaths and bike trails has been lost, or has it?

For further information about the line see Alan Young’s Railways In Northumberland.

What is now left are the cuttings, embankments, abutments and some of its buildings.

Several stations are private residences, for example Velvet Hall Station.

However, the cuttings, embankments and the remains of the old permanent way could be regenerated.

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By linking the historic infrastructure, such as the abutments with bridges, utilising existing footpaths and bridleways, and establishing new ones, a Tweed Valley Line Walking and Biking Trail, 23.5-miles long, could be created.

In some places it’s already there, for example, the footpath from the abutment on the eastern side of the Horncliffe road towards the A698; the footpath between Cornhill-on-Tweed and the old Wark Station; and the permissive path over the towering Twizell Viaduct spanning the River Till.

The creation, building and operation of such a trail would generate jobs, improve the economy of the area, encourage tourism and enable people to experience the beautiful and glorious landscape of the Tweed Valley.

Old railway lines have been successfully preserved as trails across the country and the local economies improved.

Activating such an idea needs commitment and drive, and a needs assessment by Northumberland County Council, Scottish Borders Council and Berwick and Kelso town councils.

It also requires the involvement of the various parish councils along the old line’s route to be in the vanguard.

Norham and Islandshires Parish Council has a large proportion of the old line running through its parish and is well placed to take the lead.

The public, a key stakeholder, should be invited to proactively contribute.

An additional bonus would be that the trail would compliment the under-used Ravenber Way (Ravenglass to Berwick, 210 miles) that follows the River Till east of Crookham and threads its way along the Till and Tweed Valleys to Berwick.

There is an opportunity which, if not addressed, could mean that in another 50 years the way of the Tweed Valley Line may not be there and vandalism has won.

Alan Jeffery

Name and address supplied