In the late 1960s, the UK engaged in a staggering act of self-harm, during a process that became known as the Beeching Cuts. Under the scheme, spearheaded by Dr Beeching, the UK’s very wide rail network was decimated, while roads building was massively ramped up. As has been repeatedly demonstrated, induced demand is a real thing, and the number of cars on the roads skyrocketed, laying the foundations for the daily gridlock experienced today all over the UK.
There seems to be new, very vocal, but tiny group of NIMBYs trying to create the impression that there’s wholesale opposition to the Primrose Trail. Using similar tactics to the LTN (Low Traffic Neighbourhood) opponents in London, their arguments hold no water. They seem to suddenly have acquired a deep concern for the environment, though oddly enough, that concern is notably absent when it comes to roads building, or indeed building their mansions in an otherwise pristine area. Please will you go add your support for the trail at their FB group?
It is utterly beyond doubt that the Beeching Cuts, overall, was a very bad thing, but it has brought with it some surprising and rather welcome benefits.
You see, trains don’t do steep hills, and as a result, railway lines are often heavily engineered, to have gentle gradients. Following the Beeching Cuts, that left many disused railway lines just sitting there, unused. Sustrans capitalised on this, by re-opening such a disused railway line as the Bristol – Bath Rail Path, a traffic-free walking and cycling route.
Other routes soon followed, and today almost three quarters of the Devon Coast To Coast route is traffic-free, built mainly on disused railway lines. The Camel Trail in Cornwall is another such example, while nationally, there are many more examples, including the Strawberry Line, which is part of the Somerset Circle.
It’s also true that there are many disused railways that are still just sat there, and the Primrose Trail in one of those. Now, the Primrose Trail is in the South Hams, Devon, and that’s an area renowned for its hills. In fact, the line passes by Garra Bridge, which is at the bottom of a valley with long and steep sides, often used by sports cyclists as training ground.
Through this very hilly landscape, the Primrose Line meanders, remaining surprisingly flat. Built originally as a branch line, linking Kingsbridge with the main line in South Brent, it snakes its way through an exquisitely beautiful landscape.
The Primrose Trail is a community group set up with the explicit and laudable view of re-opening the Primrose Line as a shared path, similar to the Camel Trail. Along with gathering moves to re-open the train station at South Brent (yes, they have a main train line through the village, but no train station!) it would open the area to walkers and cyclists, and would be a wonderful route.
Re-opening such a line costs a great deal of money, and that’s the biggest obstacle, but the people behind the Primrose Trail are optimistic, and I have to say I share their optimism. The sad thing is, a parcel-delivery empire billionaire, or a space-cadet billionaire can both fully fund it, and write the costs off against tax, but of course there’s more chance of me being the pope than that happening.
Please, do go look at the Primrose Trail site, and if you can, please support them, no matter how small your contribution?