Walking The Line!

England is dotted with disused railway lines, many of them victims of the much-criticised Beeching cuts over 50 years ago.

Today, they are a favourite of joggers and walkers across the country – traffic-free, safe for young children and dogs, and a chance to enjoy the countryside and savour the changing seasons throughout the year.

 

In Essex, the Flitch Way from Braintree to Bishops Stortford in neighbouring Hertfordshire is a classic example of what can be achieved by putting a long-disused railway line to good use. Managed by rangers all year round, this 15-mile track through farmland and woods in the heart of the countryside is bursting with local flora and fauna, and is a paradise for walkers, runners, cyclists and horse riders.

Beginning at Braintree Railway Station – still in use as the end-of-the-line stop for travellers heading in the opposite direction towards London – the Flitch Way passes through Rayne, Little Dunmow, Great Dunmow and Takeley, before running along the northern edge of Hatfield Forest on its journey into Hertfordshire, finishing up in Bishops Stortford.

At Rayne, enterprising locals man the old Victorian station as a visitor centre and tearoom, with a small, permanent exhibition and photographic display showing the station in its heyday.

Classic Example of a Traditional Victorian Railway Station

Built in 1866, the building at Rayne is a classic example of a traditional Victorian railway station – at one time it was one of the busiest on the line – and was renovated nearly 20 years ago to preserve its rural heritage for future generations.

Officially decommissioned in 1972  – two decades after the last passenger train had made its final journey – the old railway line runs for eight miles through Essex to Little Dunmow, about a three-and-a-half hour walk…another seven miles lie across the county border in Hertfordshire.

Two years ago, a group of volunteers known as the Friends of the Flitch Way rebuilt two of the line’s three original halts – former train request stops – to remind passers-by of their former glory, using old ordnance survey maps and faded black-and-white photographs.

The unstaffed stops at Stane Street and Bannister Green were originally opened in 1922, and used by passengers to jump on and off trains between the larger stations – those wishing to get off had to use a retractable ladder to assist them in disembarking.

The Bannister Green Halt can be found on the track beneath the bridge on the B1417 road leading to Felsted. Stane Street Halt is located on the south side of the track at Takeley Green.

Featured images:

Nicki Williams recently walked part of the Flitch Way in her native Essex – she writes for Gear-Zone, specialists in walking shoes, hiking boots and outdoor clothing and equipment

Picture source: Flickr

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