The Primrose Trail

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.

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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?

8 thoughts on “The Primrose Trail”

  1. This is not a trail, nor will it be. The map is very misleading as are the claims in the feasibility study. This trail doesn't not have landowner support, does not have Devon County Council support, does not have Parish council support, does not have the support of many bodies with an interest in the environmental impact and flora and fauna of the valley, namely Woodlands Trust, DWP, AONB to name a few. The line itself hasn't been used for 60 years, all of it apart from the fabric (bridges and tunnel) are in private ownership and who have since this trial was publicised, had to put up with trespass from both wakers and cyclists who have assumed the trail exists, it does not, it never will.

    This valley is one of the few places left in the South Hams not overly affected by mass tourism and it will stay that way. This notwithstanding the proposed trial itself is largely marked using existing rights of way, many of these are in fact roads! The lanes through this valley are narrow, with high hedges and blind corners, they are used by farmers, locals, delivery vans, emergency vehicles etc going about their daily business, whilst anyone can walk or ride along these lanes and take personal responsibility for doing so, for a trail to be marked along one is pretty reckless.

    You seem oblivious to the environmental damage that would be inflicted on the valley in the form of humans for one and of course the rubbish, detritus and damage they do wherever they venture on mass, not to mention the 30+ tracts of land both working farms and private houses that the trial would run through, it is wholly unreasonable to expect both private landowners and the surrounding community to put up with another influx of tourists in an area already suffering badly from over tourism.

    Perhaps do a little more research before publishing such an ill though out project?

  2. We understand that you have probably never learned to share, hence your response, but you are factually wrong in several of your claims.
    There is support from Devon County Council for the Primrose Line. Landowner support is useful to have, but not essential. As the various selfish landowners along the Devon Coast To Coast route realised over the years, compulsory purchases remain an option, albeit it a last resort that nobody wants to use.

    As for your claim the trail will never exist, I beg to differ. It will – it's simply a matter of time.

    Like so many car-blind people, you seem quick to jump to claims about environmental damage, yet you don't see any issue with the many tarred roads everywhere. Besides, most rubbish and detritus by the roadside are from car occupants, again something you seem oblivious to.

    It is wholly unreasonable for a small handful of people to think they alone deserve access to, and safe passage, though a beautiful part of the country. Climate change is real, and the science behind it is irrefutable, so you can be a dinosaur, clinging to your car, or you can look to the future, and support projects like this. Like it or not, the Primrose Trail will happen.

    You rightly point out that the lanes are narrow, with high hedges and blind corners, so I hope you drive accordingly, at a speed that allows you to stop in the distance you can see to be clear? Remember, thousands of cyclists now ride with cameras, and when you give us close overtakes, we will submit the video to police, after which you can expect a fine and three points on your licence. In case you don't believe me, the charge is Driving Without Due Consideration, and yes, there are many drivers who were convicted of that offence following video I submitted.

    For once, try to do something that isn't driven by pure selfishness?

  3. Sounds like the OP wants to keep the valley for themself. All of those issues you've mentioned can, and have been overcome on countless other old railway routes.

  4. The primrose trail sounds like it would be a great addition and valuable asset to the region.

    I'm based in the northeast of England and we have lots of old railways which have been converted in to both local and long distance cycle routes. We also have signed routes on minor roads.

    All are very successful and very popular. Why? Because they are perceived to be safe. Any fear about them being conduits and magnets for rubbish and anti social behaviour is purely nimbyism and scaremongering and could not be further from the truth. In actuality it's drivers who are the ones chucking fast food wrappers and other rubbish right up to flytipping bags of waste.

    Walking and cycling is a healthy and non polluting form of transport and the world would be a better place if more travelled without relying on the wheeled bathchair that is a car.

  5. Fantastic idea. The more cycle routes the better, especially in holiday areas. People should be able to get around without having to drive all the time.

  6. It's a wonderful idea.
    There are plenty of country roads that are included in cycle routes.
    If people are genuinely concerned about Cyclists and Walkers using local roads (as they are at complete and legal liberty to do) then surely an off road path / route would benefit all.

  7. Fabulous idea. Camel trail being the finest example that I have had the pleasure of using. However, local NIMBY’s and farmers (the majority unfortunately making up the local Council panels!) will make every attempt to put a stop to this proposal. A beautiful area, that should be shared.


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