The Tetbury Trail
In the last chapter of The Tetbury Branch, his illustrated history of the branch line from Tetbury to Kemble, (Wild Swan Publications, 1985), Stephen Randolph wrote: “Memories of the railway line to Tetbury are fading into the past. The town has long since become accustomed to life without its rail link, and a new generation of Tetbury’s young people know of the railway only as part of the town’s history, while newcomers see its remains as an untidy, overgrown area, cared for by nobody.
It would be a fitting conclusion to the story if at least some of the former railway could be officially made a footpath for Tetbury people to enjoy on for what they once enjoyed from the railway carriage.”
Once the Tetbury to Kemble branch line closed in 1965 and the rails were taken up, the railbed was used informally by local people for walking, riding and cycling. Unlike the Nailsworth branch which became an official cycle path, the Tetbury branch railbed was sold off to individual landowners who have placed increasing restrictions on its use over the years.
When the Rail Lands were first developed in 2000 a cyclepath/footpath was built along the sections of the old railway line owned by the Town Council and the Feoffees. This ran from the Malmesbury road and Goods Shed to the far end of Preston Park where it came to a dead end.
The Tetbury Rail Lands Regeneration Trust has been working to extend the cyclepath ever since. In 2006 a Sustrans Connect2 grant was applied for to extend the cyclepath to Kemble but the bid was unsuccessful. A year later the Trust obtained a £14,000 grant which was used to commission a feasibility study from Sustrans for creating a cyclepath along the whole route.
More recently the Trust has had more success in extending the path mainly along the course of the old branch line. This has created a multi-user path known as the Tetbury Trail. Look out for the blue signs that will guide you along the Trail.
ALONG THE WESTERN SECTION OF THE TETBURY TRAIL
After leaving the Goods Shed and passing along the side of the long stay car park one comes to the recently refurbished picnic area. There are signs here with information about the old Tetbury to Kemble railway line.
An exercise trail has recently been constructed on the Town Council’s section of the Tetbury Trail. Ten stations for warm up exercises have been installed to the South of the Goods Shed alongside the Old Station Road. A further ten stations with exercise equipment have been installed further along the Trail beyond the picnic area.
A new bridleway has been dedicated along the railway line from Preston Park to the Newnton Hill road. The railway originally went under a bridge here but it was filled in during the 1980’s. A new ramp has thus had to be constructed up from the railway track to meet the road.
About a mile from the Goods Shed a set of curious concrete cylinders can be seen alongside the Trail. These were anti-tank bollards that were part of Britain’s last line of defence in World War 2. An explanatory sign is sited there.
At the Newnton Hill road a second ramp has been constructed on the other side of the road down to the railway track bed. This gives access to a second new bridleway that has been dedicated from the road along the railbed to a point level with the Trouble House. A short section of public footpath to the left has been upgraded to a bridleway to join the end of the second bridleway to the A433 and the Trouble House itself. To the right the footpath continues to Ashley.
This new right of way connects to the existing bridleway that runs along the left hand side of the Trouble House then diagonally right across the fields to meet the lane that runs between Culkerton and Cherington at the entrance to Grove Park. From this point footpaths can be followed towards Avening and to Culkerton.
Cyclists and horse riders can turn left along the Culkerton and Cherington lane and after half a mile they will reach NCN Route 45. Cyclists can then turn right to go to Kemble or go straight on to Minchinhampton. (The Tetbury Trail has been designated as part of NCN Route 48.) Horse riders can turn left and follow the existing byways to Avening.
In the West the Tetbury Trail now stretches for three miles from the Malmesbury road to the Culkerton to Cherington lane and can be used by walkers, riders, joggers and cyclists. The Trust intends to lay a crushed limestone surface similar to the original cycle/foot path section that will be suitable for all users, particularly people in wheelchairs and mobility scooters.
THE EASTERN END OF THE TETBURY TRAIL
There has also been some progress at the Kemble end of the old railway line. Network rail have fenced off the old branch line from the active main line at Kemble Station. They have also put gates in the fences across the branch line so there is now access along the railbed from the station car park.
This leads to a large section of the railbed and access along here is currently under discussion with the Bathurst Estate. Once this section has been opened it will link Kemble and Kemble Station to the Cotswold Airport access road and from there to the airport viewing area and AV8 restaurant.
Early in June each year a charity Community Bike Ride is held round Tetbury to raise money for the Tetbury Trail. The Bike Ride is registered as an official Bike Week event to promote cycling for everyone in the community. There are a number of routes, a short route for all the family and longer rides for the fitter. The Bike Ride starts at the Goods Shed and takes cyclists on the quiet lanes and through the pretty villages round Tetbury, returning along the Tetbury Trail.
One recent development is the staging of weekly Parkruns up and down the Tetbury Trail and sometimes looping through Preston Park. These runs are held early on Saturday mornings, are free to participants and often attract over a hundred runners.
Below is a map of the Western section of the Tetbury Trail which runs from the B4014 Tetbury to Malmesbury road to the Culkerton to Cherington Lane. The Trouble House is reached 2 miles after leaving Tetbury, it is a further mile to Grove Park.