Saturday, September 22, 2018

Melton Mowbray: How closed urban railways used to be

So there I was walking beside the River Wreake,* which saw commercial traffic between 1797 and 1877 as the Melton Mowbray Navigation.

On the edge of town I came across a railway embankment. The bridge that had taken it across the Wreake was gone, but it had been replaced by a footbridge.

I knew what I had found: this was the GNR & LNWR Joint Railway. It started just north of Market Harborough and, branching at its northern end, ran to Nottingham and Bottesford.

Passenger services (including Northampton to Nottingham via Market Harborough and Melton Mowbray) ceased in 1953, but it remained open for goods until 1964. Bits and pieces of it survived even after that.

I was interested to find that, either side of the bridge, the embankment was in use as an unofficial footpath.

This was what it was like in the 1970s, before old railway trackbeds through towns were redeveloped to provide space for housing, roundabouts and retail parks.

In those days they were the haunt of dog walkers and truant schoolchildren. If you came across a derelict railway hut, the odds were its floor would feature a scattering of torn up porn mags.

I guess that is why they now call them permissive footpaths.

* In fact it is still the River Eye here. The Eye becomes the Wreake a mile or two downstream of Melton.

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