What is the Somerset Rail to Trail project? The SR2T began in South Somerset as a local community project aiming to develop a multi-user path between Wincanton and Bruton. The path would use the pre-existing infrastructure of the disused Somerset and Dorset railway line, which was decommissioned in the Sixties.. Following a surge of public enthusiasm for the project, we realised the need to extend our ambition and join forces with other similar projects in Somerset who have already transformed sections of disused railway elsewhere in the county. Not only because having a dedicated Active Transport route with good disabled access across Somerset would be so beneficial to us all in this post covid era, but also forming a unified voice with local councils, environmental groups, and other trailway projects as well as YOU, the community of Somerset to push this forward is clearly what’s required.
Why do we need your help? To really get this going on the scale demanded by residents across Somerset, we need the backing of the County Council. Even better, we need the support of central government. To have these two bodies behind us would overcome many of the hurdles that are common in these types of projects, and would help us avoid unnecessary delays and extra costs. By showing your support, government bodies will really understand how important this project is to communities across Somerset, and what a difference it will make to our lives. DONATE NOW
Can dog walkers use the Trail? Yes, responsible dog owners are welcome to use the trailway! Owners should, of course, give way to wheeled traffic, keep dogs on leads around farm animals, and take all dog mess away with them.
What about horses? Absolutely! If you can walk along it on two feet, horses won’t have any trouble on four! Again we’d always appreciate it if you’d give way to wheeled traffic whether it’s a mobility scooter or bicycle.
Are the Trails wheelchair-accessible? We aim to make the Somerset Trailway wheelchair-accessible along its entire length. Unfortunately, some sections of the line have been built on since the railway was decommissioned, and at these junctions we will have to link up to other walking/cycling paths which will sometimes be along minor roads going through/around towns – some of which may not be wheelchair-accessible. However, we will aim to work with local authorities where possible to make sure that those links are improved for wheelchair and mobility-scooter users.
How are the Trails made? The Somerset Rail to Trail project is led by volunteers and most of the work is achieved by volunteers. We are always looking for more people to help so please get in touch if you’d like to join the team.
Who pays for it? So far the Somerset Rail to Trail project has been mostly funded with a small grant from Bruton Town Council (thank you, Bruton!) . We will apply for any grants for which we are eligible, and the government is showing increasing interest in funding new active travel networks across the country. But we’ll also be relying heavily on local donations, both of time and money.
One great advantage however, is that the route follows the disused railway line and for the most part a level track of hardstanding still remains. This means that the building costs are far lower than they would have been if we had to create an entirely new path from scratch. Being able to utilise the incredible infrastructure of cuttings, embankments and viaducts that the Victorian engineers put in place gives us a level route which would otherwise have been prohibitively expensive to create from scratch.. That said, the trailway will still be expensive to install, and we’ll need all the help we can get.
Which section will be built first? This depends on a whole heap of factors. The disused Somerset & Dorset Railway is now entirely in the hands of private landowners. Mostly, the old track runs through fields but in some cases it runs through land that is now in the middle of someone's working farm yard, for instance. It is up to the individual private land owner whether they are agreeable to working with the Somerset Rail to Trail Project and they are totally within their rights to tell us to go away! Our hope is that once we make a start that more and more landowners will see the benefits to the community at large and be on board.. As you can see from our map, the disused Somerset & Dorset Railway is quite extensive and has the potential to link to other already completed trailways on this and other disused railway lines. Imagine what a wonderful network of off road trailways that will be!
How does the Trail impact the unspoilt nature of the existing countryside? We will in the first instance conduct a full feasibility study which will necessarily include an environmental impact assessment survey. This must happen for each and every section of the project. The environment is of paramount importance to us – it is one of the main motivations for building the trailway in the first place – and we will at all times avoid unacceptable ecological damage, such as cutting down important hedgerows, or building during the nesting season.
Under consultation with Natural England, the Environment Agency as well as Heritage England, we will try very hard to keep all of our infrastructure as unobtrusive as possible. We’ll use local materials wherever we can. Where we do use tarmac, we will choose a variety that will fade in colour over time. Signage will be sympathetically coloured and kept to an absolute minimum.