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Saturday, 7 January 2017

Ledbury Town Trail

Looking for places to explore over the Christmas holiday, my friend Sam and I decided to take a look at the Ledbury Town Trail, a length of the old Ledbury-Gloucester railway which runs for a mile or so down through the town. The footpath (shown on this map) begins at Ledbury station and quickly turns south, passing behind the Homend before heading down to the River Leadon at the southern end of the town. We set out after lunch into a bright sunny afternoon but unfortunately the dull winter evening caught up with us prematurely. One to return to in better light!


The Ledbury and Gloucester Railway had a relatively short lifespan, opening in 1885 and closing in 1964. Built largely on the course of an ailing canal, the railway was amalgamated into the Great Western Railway in 1892. Taking a sharp southerly turn immediately upon leaving Ledbury station, the line also featured stops at Ledbury Town Halt, Greenway Halt, Dymock, Four Oaks Halt, Newent, Malswick Halt and Barbers Bridge.


While looking for historical photographs to complement my modern pictures, I came across the D.J. Norton Collection, a great set of shots taken around Ledbury in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Mark, the son of the original photographer, has been kind enough to let me use some of his collection here and so I encourage my readers to have a look at his fascinating site as soon as they have a chance.

Beginning the Ledbury Town Trail, perhaps the most interesting feature of the walk is the skew bridge which crosses Hereford Road at a shallow angle almost immediately outside Ledbury station. The bridge features dark blue ribs on the underside which give it a very contorted look, although the design is obviously sturdy enough to have lasted 135 years already!


'Rail Bridge Hereford Rd Ledbury - 28/1/64'
The eastern side of Hereford Road bridge. Not much has changed here!
The stonework here is very different to the brick used on the railways in Malvern, only a few miles away.
The south-western buttress.
The bridge from the western side.
'Underside of Bridge Hereford Rd - 29/4/64'
The blue brick ribbing inside the bridge.
The track onto the bridge itself starts outside Ledbury station - the skew bridge lies along the road on the left.
Although overgrown, the sharp curve left shows how quickly the Gloucester line split from the surviving Hereford route.
The view over the eastern side of the bridge, showing the extent of the skew.
The embankment here is quite high up and gives a lovely view of the town.
The eastern parapet.
The western parapet.
Looking west, again showing the skew.
The Embankment

The main part of the Ledbury Town Trail comprises an embankment which starts high above the town before gradually running downhill behind the Homend. This 1929 shot shows the embankment clearly on the right:

Sadly, we found the information board at the top of the trail vandalised, but here is another one from further along the route.
Having crossed the bridge, the line bows south through an avenue of trees.
The curve south.
There are quite a few staircases built into the embankment along its length.
Low winter sun proving a nightmare to shoot into!
Continuing south, 1/3.
Continuing south, 2/3.
Continuing south, 3/3. The metal footbridge over Orchard Lane comes into view.
'Orchard Lane, January 1964'. Note how the bridge itself has been removed, although the buttresses on either side have survived.
'West End of Orchard Lane - 25/2/65'
The buttress of what was once the short trestle bridge over Orchard Lane. The brickwork was removed as part of works designed to widen the road after the closure of the railway.
Ledbury Town Halt

As the railway line descends onto flatter ground, it runs behind the Memorial Recreation Ground. This is quite a built-up area now, with several houses surrounding the playground, but it was once the site of Ledbury's other station, Ledbury Town Halt. The station itself was miniscule, comprising a single corrugated iron shed on a very short platform facing the single track just before it ran under Bridge Street. Nothing remains of the halt now, but a small space has been cleared to indicate where it once stood, approximately in line with where the two benches are in the shots below.

The view looking north back towards the metal footbridge from the park.
Continuing south towards Bridge Street.
Plaque at the Memorial Recreation Ground.
'Ledbury Town Halt from North - 22/8/63'. Note the tiny platform common to small country halts.
Ledbury Town Halt from the north...
...and from the south.
Bridge Street to Woodleigh Road

Down the ramp back into the cutting.
'Ledbury Town Halt from South - 22/8/63'
A look back towards Ledbury Town Halt, showing where the bridge on Bridge Street was.
The Bridge Street-Woodleigh Road section is at the bottom of this 1921 aerial shot.
Getting on for a gloomy evening!
Some overgrown brickwork on the eastern side of the cutting.
A bench in the wilderness.
A frosty evening, too!
Another surviving original feature on the Ledbury Town Trail is the Woodleigh Road bridge, which follows the square stone style used by the builders of this route (a similar bridge survives at Rudford, among other places). We got there as the afternoon light was fading, but the structure was still quite impressive and looks to be in good condition. One of the good things about historical road bridges which crossed over railway lines (as opposed to vice-versa) is that the road usually held its purpose, meaning that the structure has to be maintained properly to this day. The LMS bridges at Warren Farm, Brotheridge Green and Upper Hook Road enjoy a similar fate.

Woodleigh Road bridge.
The bridge closer up.
The buttress on the southern side.
Here the line continues its quite hard turn to the right (west)...
...before emerging onto what is now a small common for yet another curve to the left (south).
End of the line - the remains of the bridge over Little Marcle Road, previously known as 'Gas Works Lane'.

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