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Canal… Railway… and Footpath

A walk through the wood – but the trail is not
much wider than the path

Step out on the Ledbury Town Trail and you are walking along a route that’s more than 200 years old, and has seen the rise and fall of two major forms of transport. For this narrow strip of land that’s now used by walkers and cyclists was once a railway line, and before that it was a canal. It’s a long time since I’ve been along it – when my daughters were small we used to come here sometimes to do bark rubbings and collect leaves.

Anyway, whilst staying with my mother at the beginning of the month I thought it would be ideal for one of my daily walks, so I went off exploring, on a rather bleak day, and very pleasant it was. I was surprised at how many male blackbirds were about, singing non-stop, hopping, and preening, flying in and out of the hedges and trees, and generally showing off their glossy black plumage and beautiful bright yellowy orange beaks. They were, as my mother always says, fine fellows – and they knew it. I don’t know why, but the females were less evident. I did try taking some photos, but I need a camera with a better shutter speed and decent zoom lens.  However, I did take some pictures for this week’s Saturday Snapshot.
This is a bit blurry, but you can see the
wonderful patterns made by ivy stems.
There were lots of other birds (mainly sparrows I guess), and grey squirrels, which get everywhere nowadays, but these ones weren’t as tame as the those back home in Tamworth.  And, of course, plenty of trees. I’m not very good at identifying trees, but I can recognise holly when I see it, and there did seem to be a great many hollies, as well as masses and masses of ivy, which writhed and twisted around the trunks, with the old stems creating weird patterns.

The trail skirts the town centre, with part of it passing alongside the recreation ground, and for much of the way there are houses on either side, but it’s so well lined with trees, hedges and shrubby plants that you don’t notice them, and its very peaceful. Some of it is down lower than the surrounding land, in a cutting where the canal (and then the railway) once ran, but further along the track  is on a kind of ridge or embankment, slightly higher than the land on each side.
From a distance I thought this tree was covered in white
blossom, which would have been odd at this time of year,
but it turned out to be fluffy seedheads from Old Man’s
Beard twined around the branches.
I didn’t really know much about it, so I did a bit of research, and ended up feeling that the history is really rather sad. Back at the end of the 18th century people had high hopes that the Hereford and Gloucester Canal would boost trade in Ledbury but the project never lived up to expectations, and it was never a commercial success. Excavations were difficult, and the cost was far greater than estimated, so when the waterway opened in 1798 it only ran from Gloucester to Ledbury, and wasn’t linked to Hereford until 1845. But things still didn’t improve and eventually, in 1881, the first section of the route was closed, and replaced by the Ledbury and Gloucester Railway.   

It was known as the Daffodil Line, because of the wild daffodils which still grow in the area, and journeys must have been really pretty in spring when the flowers were in bloom, but I get the impression that the railway was no more successful than the canal. Originally double track, one set of rails was taken up in 1914 – it’s thought they were melted down and used for the war effort – so after that it would have been more difficult to run frequent services. Passenger trains ceased in 1959, and although freight transport was still in operation until the line closed in 1964, a victim of the Government cuts which shut thousands of stations and branch lines up and down the country. 
I love the way ivy has made patterns on trees.
The trains on this track stopped at Ledbury Town Halt, which has long since disappeared, but after I’d finished my walk I discovered where it used to be, so next time I visit Mum I can find the site – and I missed out the beginning and the end of the trail, so I need to go back and do the whole thing. That’s what comes of not checking your facts beforehand!

I gather some neighbouring towns and villages also have paths running along the line of the canal, while an ambitious scheme is under way to restore the waterway. So on future visits to Mum I’m hoping to see the work that’s already been completed, and maybe walk along other parts of this lost transport route.
Markings, knots and holes on tree trunks were very strange.
I think this looks like eyes and a nose.
Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce at http://athomewithbooks.net/ where you can see photos from other participants all over the world.

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Author:

I'm a former journalist and sub-editor who loves needlework, reading and writing, and is still searching for the Meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything. Until I find the answer I'm volunteering at an Oxfam Book Shop and learning about Creative Sketchbooks!

22 thoughts on “Canal… Railway… and Footpath

  1. Sad to see those rail lines falling into disuse … mass tranportation would be such a help in this gas-crunched world … the rail trails do give hikers, bikers, and walkers a lovely way to get out and travel safely away from cars though.

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  2. Canal and railway transport were once such popular and efficient forms of transport, so it is sad to see them dismantled but, as you say, it is good when routes are turned into trails which provide a safe haven for wildlife, and give people somewhere to unwind.

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  3. Yes, the canal was closed and drained to make way for the railway… and that was closed and dismantled to save money… some of the canal was filled in, some was left as a hollow, and became overgrown and full of rubbish… apparently many bridges and lock-keepers' cottages etc are still there in some places.

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  4. You came up with some very interesting shots for a dull time of the year. I'm jealous of the green leaves still on the trees. I hope you found my novel, The Summer of France, on Amazon.uk! Thanks for your support.

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  5. Thank you Frances. I've always been interested in nature, without knowing a lot about it, but I am learning! I have a pile of books my mother gave me, to identify flowers, trees, birds etc, plus The Natural Navigator, and some books on maps, and one or two others I bought. So when I get back from a walk I sit staring at photos, and poring over books to try and find out what I've see!!

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