January 2020, the start of the 50th Anniversary of the formation of the Dean Forest Railway Preservation Society, has actually seen DFRS members carrying out work away from the Forest at Sedbury, near Chepstow. It is here that the former Wye Valley line to Monmouth diverged from the mainline to Gloucester, and climbed sharply towards Tidenham Tunnel and Day House Quarry (the latter now hosts the National Diving and Activity Centre). The trackwork on this formation was recently donated to the Society by Network Rail, and our volunteers have been clearing the extensive undergrowth for two reasons; firstly, to allow us to retrieve the rails, sleepers and clips that will prove invaluable for future works (including an extension north of Parkend), and also to assist Greenways in their project to repurpose the trackbed into a cyclepath.
The task ahead was unenviable; the image above shows the extent of growth that needed to be dealt with. Believe it or not, the way forward lay directly in the centre of this image, through the mass of brambles and trees. Undeterred, our committed volunteers set out on January 4th to tackle this mission, hacking their way through with brushcutters, chainsaws and loppers. It was imperative that any tree felling was completed ahead of the bird nesting season, and pleasingly a major milestone was reached on the 25th January after 5 days of working parties, when sufficient access had been cleared to allow the next stage of work to be planned out. This next stage will consist primarily of forming a temporary access route from the cleared area onto the embankment itself. Simultaneously, the rail and sleepers will be prepared for removal, ready to be moved to the road for haulage back to the DFR.
A collection of images below show the extent of the work done so far, as well as a preview of the trackwork to be taken up and removed in due course.
If you are interested in helping us, either to benefit the DFR or indeed the upcoming cyclepath work, please get in touch with us via firstname.lastname@example.org! We would also welcome any donations towards plant hire and transport costs which will be key to the next stage of this project - find out how to donate here.