The gov has made contact with landowners as it seeks to create a heritage trail that stretches right along the island’s former railway lines.
Infrastructure Minister Tim Baker confirmed the gov has opened talks over usage of the land at the opening of a refurbished active travel path in Ramsey.
Since the closure of the railways, with the exception of the Port Erin line, the trackbed between Quarterbridge and Peel has been used for walkers and cyclists. Under plans unveiled last year, it will soon link the St Johns to Kirk Michael section of the former Ramsey line with new bridges being built on the site of former ones at Glen Wyllin, Glen Mooar and across the A1 St John’s.
Speaking at the opening of the path which runs for 800 metres including an 86-metre additional path leading to Bunscoill Rhumsaa, Mr Baker said the DoI was planning to reopen the entire length of the island’s closed railways for active travel routes.
However Mr Baker said there are 19 different landowners between Sulby Bridge and Ramsey which could prevent the heritage trail using the exact route of the railway. He said that DoI officers had reached out to all the landowners and that while some were receptive, others need some convincing.
He said: ‘We’ve written to each of those landowners and explained what we’d like to do and asked them for an initial response. We’ve had a mixed response, we’ve had some very positive responses, some we haven’t had a formal response from and a small number that need a bit of convincing about the merits of it. The next stage is to engage with them and to discuss how it might work, it could be either of the options [a usage agreement or compulsory purchase].
‘We would need a long thin strip and would effectively be buying back what was sold when the railway shut. It would be great to see everybody buy into that view and the key thing is for people to see where we’re trying to go and to understand what it would mean for them as it would affect their homes and gardens so they need to make sure they know what we’re offering, as well as acquiring the land, we’d need to make sure that it was suitably landscaped and that their privacy was protected. So there is quite a bit to be done and it is early stages but you have to lay the groundwork.’
The new footpath in Ramsey builds a network between the primary school and Ramsey Grammar School. Accessible from the rear of the Lezayre Estate, as well as Auldyn Meadow, it means that children walking or cycling to school now have an easy route to follow. Access is also available to the popular nearby Poyll Dooey nature walks and the Whitebridge ford, and links have been created between the western estates and the town centre. As part of the scheme, the path is due to be fitted with low-level, low-voltage lighting to encourage year-round use.
Mr Baker said: ‘‘It gives me great pleasure to open this path on the old railway line. The path that existed here was unmade and so was only suitable for the more hardy, who were prepared to get their shoes dirty and at times their feet wet. The new surface enables everyone to use it at any time. This path is highly accessible and absolutely fits the Active Travel aims. I look forward to it ultimately being connected to the rest of the Heritage Trail to provide the Island with a high quality long distance network of off-road routes.’
The Ramsey line broke away from the existing Peel trail at St John’s. It headed north to Poortown before darting across the countryside on route to Kirk Michael, crossing several bridges along the way. It passed by Bishop’s Court, which had its own halt stop, Ballaugh, Sulby, Lezayre before terminating at the site of what is now Ramsey Bakery on Station Road. Like the rest of the system, it closed in 1967 and unlike the Port Erin line, there was no reprieve, the track bed was lifted in 1974, the bridges were removed in 1975 and the station and crossing buildings were either demolished or sold into private ownership.