|Oakamoor Crossing and Tunnel|
As I had been able to get an early start on the
Manifold Way there was still time for another cycle trip and with the weather being so good I decided to take full advantage. At Waterhouses the Leek and Manifold Light Railway made an end to end connection with another line that was a branch from a line that once connected Leek and Uttoxeter through the . A glance at today’s map will show a network of lines in the area that are disused or dismantled, but which in theory will soon get a new lease of life if preservationists get their way. Churnet Valley
The Churnet Valley Line was originally part of a network of lines built for the North Staffordshire Railway, which eventually merged into the London Midland and Scottish. It was built with the intention of being a main route between
Most trains were therefore run as local services between Macclesfield and Uttoxeter, although some special journeys were laid on the promote
, a few miles north of Leek. The line eventually succumbed to closure during in 1960, just before the rash of closures elsewhere under Dr Beeching. Yet this wasn’t the end of the tale, for much of the local network survived well beyond this to service various facilities requiring freight services. It is due to the freight use lasting into the 1980s that the preservation opportunity exists and part of the line between Cheddleton and Kingsley and Froghall now sees regular steam services. For more details see their website at http://www.churnet-valley-railway.co.uk/main/index.php . Rudyard Lake
South of Kingsley and Froghall Station the preservation society has plans to re-connect to Oakamoor and potentially
|Heading to Alton|
This railway path proved to be extremely rewarding to explore, since it still has more than its fair share of railwayana still in place. As well as some well-preserved looking bridges, there are three stations still with intact platforms and the scenery is most beautiful. Unlike the
I started my journey at Oakamoor Station, where there is an ample (although popular) car park. Only the platforms remain of the station as the buildings burned down many years ago. However, to the north of the station the old level crossing keeper’s cottage remains intact as a wonderful reminder of what the buildings at the station may have looked like. Beyond that the portal of Oakamoor Tunnel sits at the end of a shady looking cutting. The trackbed is still in good condition here and it would be relatively easy to re-open this piece of railway.
After having a nose around at Oakamoor I headed south in the direction of Uttoxeter. The trackbed follows the river for most of the way to Denstone, although after leaving Oakamoor it is largely out of sight for most of the way. Unlike the
Just over a mile into the route and I came upon the first railway bridge. Lots of walkers seemed to be heading across it and so I thought I would be nosy and find out where they were going. I crossed the River Churnet and found a most attractive teashop that looked like an Italian Villa. I got the urge to have an ice cream but soon gave up on the idea when I saw how long the queue was. Slightly disappointed I pushed on although made a mental note to explore this area in more detail on another day since the surrounding forest looked most inviting.
Back at the railway I headed on towards
It is easy to see why the Churnet Valley Railway are anxious to incorporate
station in their network. The famous theme park is at the top of the hill and I would imagine that many visitors would love to arrive behind a steam engine. I lingered for awhile at the station looking carefully at the architecture of the place and trying to imagine what it must have been like in its heyday. Because of the completeness of the station this wasn’t anything like as hard as other locations! Alton Towers
At the far end of the station I trundled through the tunnel like overbridge carrying the main road into the village. Alongside the bridge was a large but derelict warehouse type building. As a piece of heritage it looked great but I would fear for its long term future. The
village of Alton is high up above the station and is dominated by , a Catholic Youth retreat (see http://www.altoncastle.co.uk/ ). It is certainly a building that you wouldn’t normally see in the Alton Castle ! I am guessing that the railway wasn’t especially convenient for either village or UK estate and therefore neither did much to help its case against closure. Alton Towers
|Heading to Denstone|
Pushing on from
and the line takes on a rather different character, with a more open feel as it emerges from the woods. I seemed to have lost the crowds on this section too, with only a small number of people walking this section of route and no other cyclists seen. It was rather different to the almost motorway-like Alton Towers Manifold Way earlier in the day! I felt a lot less self conscious as I inspected every facet of the railway infrastructure that was left behind, including the mile posts, which lurked in the undergrowth! I soon came upon a bridge across the River Churnet, quite a big one and metal too, which was unusual. I guess the distance to the nearest road put off the scrapmen. I was glad of it though as I doubt whether there would have been any other way to cross the river for some distance. Part of the deck was missing and the side that remained intact was a bit of a mudbath, making for a tricky crossing.
As it was now late afternoon, I entered a shadowy world on the other side of the bridge, as the sun was unable to penetrate the valley side. The effect on the trackbed was noticeable too, with a rather more difficult surface than I had had to encounter thus far. At the far end of this short section I caught sight of a house on my left hand side poking up just above the cutting. I took a closer look at the first opportunity, where a gateway existed a little further on. The sight of a derelict looking farm surprised me, especially as it had such a lovely setting, with the river in front and plenty of garden. I was puzzled as to why such a place could have become empty and unloved looking. I am guessing that it is probably a bit too far gone for anyone to fix it up now.
The onward trip to Denstone was rather less interesting but the end of the track at Denstone did serve up a couple of treats. Firstly the platforms of the old station are still intact and despite the loss of the buildings the site of the station seems to have been shown some love in recent years. It has a train related play area for small children at one end of the station and a picnic area for adults on the platforms at the other end. Sadly the trackbed beyond the station has been obliterated by the addition of a dreaded housing estate. Alongside the station was a rather fine, if modern, looking church. I took the opportunity to have a good look around at both and stopped for refreshments in the picnic area. I like to use these moments to consider what these places would have looked like when operational. I guessed this would have always been a rather sleepy station, with bursts of activity from school children arriving and departing at the nearby
, for which the station really came into its own. Denstone College
|Churnet Valley Countryside|
By now the time was getting on and I summoned the strength to head back to Oakamoor. It was a nice quiet ride back, but when I got to the old station at the far end of the track I was rather shocked to see that my car was the last one remaining in the car park, from the dozens that had been there when I left! I had the horrible thought that I might be locked in, but discovered to my relief that there is no lockable gate. I was just more patient for my tea than anyone else!
|Operational Part of the Railway|
This was a most rewarding ride. I wished that I had had the time to undertake the other section of line north of Leek, but there are several miles between the two sections and this will have to wait for another time. There is plenty of railway history to sustain the historian and most beautiful and gentle scenery to attract everyone else! The Rambler’s Retreat looks a most agreeable place to stop for refreshments half way along the track if you haven’t managed to bring any with you. Perhaps next time I come here it will be on board a train?