Shropshire walking group celebrates 30 years
A walking group that uses rural rail networks to access the scenic countryside of Shropshire and Mid Wales is this week marking its 30th anniversary.
It was in 1989 that Alan Howard, a member of the executive committee of the Ramblers' Association and a public transport user, set up the Rail Rambles group in his new home of Shrewsbury based around the town's rail links, having already pioneered the model in Lancashire in 1975.
His desire was to encourage walkers to make use of the network of rail lines radiating from Shrewsbury to gain access to the beautiful countryside which surrounds the county town.
At the time there was a renewed threat – sometimes called ‘Beeching 2’ – to those rural railway lines which had survived the 1960s cuts. In particular, the Heart of Wales line to Swansea was seen as ripe for closure.
With the support of the rail industry, the new Shrewsbury group began meeting monthly, then fortnightly, then weekly as its popularity grew. Today there are two groups – Mid Wales and Marches Rail Rambles, which organises shorter walks, and Rail Rambles Cymru, for the longer ones.
To mark the three-decade milestone, the Mid-Wales and Marches group devised a special programme of walks which culminates on Saturday, followed by an anniversary tea in Church Stretton.
Clare Gathercole, Chairperson of Mid Wales and Marches Rail Rambles said: "The anniversary represents a wonderful opportunity to bring together all those who have been associated with Rail Rambles over the years to mark this special occasion, as well as to thank our supporters in the rail industry.
"Perhaps in another 30 years we will be able to say that we have not only helped to support rural railway lines – and maybe even encouraged the provision of new services and stations – but also helped hundreds more people use them to access all the joys and benefits of walking in our beautiful countryside."
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