Southern Branch Lines
Devon County Council have invested large amounts of revenue converting redundant railway formations to cycle trails and the Moretonhampstead to Bovey Tracey Branch is a credit to the their forward thinking and obviously deep pockets.
Although the upper branch was lifted in 1965, almost 60 years ago, they have managed to purchase enough infrastructure to resemble the railways original broadgauge course with unfortunately a notable exception through Lustleigh.
Starting from Moretonhampstead central carpark, the trail is well marked to its starting point approx ¼ mile west of the original station. Having survived over half a century, progress has finally caught up and the last remaining buildings are being converted to blend in with another, in my opinion bland housing estate. (please see photograph 1)
Devon Council have invested in two new bow string bridges crossing the busy A382 allowing for approx 60% of the original railway trackbed to be converted for pedestrian and cycle use.
I was a bit confused on reaching the first road overbridge, which has been built to accommodate either a platform or double track formation. My investigations have unearthed a possible station called “Ticket platform”, but this might refer to the original terminus as it is in close proximity, perhaps a member can verify. (please see photograph 2)
A deviation is now required for the next section which broadly parallels the original formation.(please see photograph 3)
Approaching Lustleigh, now back on the original course, perhaps one of the most major feats of the line encountered is a deep cutting, which under normal conditions would probably have been tunnelled.
(please see photograph 4)
Once through the cutting you have to make a considerable deviation to the east of Lustleigh due to private ownership and some very expensive looking houses.
Lustleigh station is invisible with only part of the roof glimpsed through heavy woodland. (please see photograph 5)
The downside of all closed railways in this country is the lack of importance given to railway land disposal which generally restricts conversion to trails, the French safeguard closed rail routes for possible re use.(so there is something they can teach us!)
Now it was at this point, whilst climbing some very steep narrow lanes that a lady who could have been my granny, (not possible even with modern medical science!) flew past me at a considerable rate of knots commenting “Lad, you need to get an electric bike!” I have to say I was a bit taken a back, possibly because she had assumed I was a “Lad” but also at the power of these electric bikes.
I had to smile to myself that the Moretonhampstead Branch had actually been electrified as I began to notice that everyone was riding them.
A mile on and almost a hospital case, you regain the original formation (please see photograph 6) and continue on a low embankment, thankfully downhill through a beautiful wooded tunnel (please see photograph 7),passing the National Trust Parke Estate and into Bovey Tracey.
I really have to stop doing this according to Diane or perhaps I will take the advice and buy an electric bike. ( I already own a fully electric car!)
Now the technical bits! In my opinion, on no account try to cycle on Devons A roads. I have never seen so many grain lorries and milk tankers. (Which asks the question, how did the railways manage to lose this traffic in the first place. I suspect another article in the making!) Compared to Cornwall the traffic is fast and very busy.
Always wear High Viz and a cycle helmet and if possible a flashing LED light and most important fit a warning bell.
In hindsight I should have started my journey at Bovey Tracey as the trackbed is mostly uphill to Moretonhampstead and your energy levels are best at the start. The return trip is approx 14 miles and as mentioned the Lustleigh deviation is challenging.
I nearly forgot Devon County Council call this railway conversion “The Wray Valley Trail”
The late Sid Sponheimer
No one worried about us group of bashers getting off the Waterloo train at a station closed in 1966!
Note the milk tanks in the dairy sidings and telegraph poles! Today the dairy has closed and been razed to the ground, the station building disappeared sometime ago.
33029 is owned by West Coast railway is passed for mainline running
25048 was withdrawn on 24 February 1986 and presumably scrapped.