New rail walking route opens in Craven Arms
Eager walkers flocked to a Shropshire railway station for the launch of the first section of a major new long-distance route.
The Heart of Wales Line Trail will eventually weave between rural railway stations from on the line all the way from Shrewsbury to South Wales.
But the first completed section was launched this week, running from Craven Arms to Knighton, and to mark the event dozens of walkers got on the train to Broome and then walked the five and a half miles back to Craven Arms station, to get a taste of the route.
The walk followed a meet up at Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre and the unveiling of a banner at Craven Arms Station by Members of the Heart of Wales Line Development Company, the trail steering group, Arriva Trains Wales, Network Rail and Shropshire Council.
The eventual aim is to create a 140 mile walking route that weaves between railway stations along the beautiful Heart of Wales Line, expected to attract walkers near and far, boosting tourism across the region.
Rachel Francis, speaking for the trail project, said the line between Shropshire and south Wales had long been a favourite with walkers because of the stunning countryside it gave access to and having an accompanying walking route may give the picturesque rail line a boost and help keep it viable in the future.
She said: "It's the first section to open and lots of thanks need to go to Shropshire Council’s rights of way team for making it happen.
"Obviously we've still got a long way to go, we've got to get to Llanelli, and we decided to open this first section to inspire people.
"We had a fantastic turn out, it was better than we expected. We thought we'd get maybe 40 to 50 people but there was twice that.
"It's quite unique to be able to to jump on a train and then walk without worrying about where you left your car – because you can just get a train back further down the line – and I think that appeals to walkers."
She said the trail is designed to make use of existing public rights of way and intersect with established routes such as the Shropshire Way, Offa’s Dyke Path and Beacons Way, and because of the regular rail stop was suitable for everyone from long distance veterans to weekend walkers and tourists.
Jade Marriott-Lodge, marketing and development manager at the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre, which hosted the launch, said the walk would tie in with the what the centre does.
She said: “We are delighted to support this new long distance walking trail that takes in the Shropshire hills area, particularly Craven Arms.
"The Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre attracts a large number of walkers who use our café and gift shop," she said.