The first phase of a project to transform a former military railway into a shared use Active Travel route is underway in Monmouthshire.

Born out of a desire to encourage more sustainable travel to Caldicot Castle, its park grounds and around eastern Caldicot, Caldicot Links will see a former military railway repurposed to become a part of Monmouthshire’s Active Travel network. Monmouthshire County Council working in partnership with Sustrans Cymru, with support from Gwili Railway, are working to create a walking and cycling path which will connect the local community-driven Cornfields Project to Caldicot Castle Park and the wider communities of Caldicot, Portskewett and surrounds.

The first phase of the route will run from the Cornfields Project – a community-led initiative which reclaimed local scrubland and produced a much-used green space – to the magnificent Caldicot Castle Park. The long term aim is to have a stretch of walking and cycling path that spans from Caldicot to Crick, connecting to Portskewett, and offering people an alternative route to the existing traffic-heavy route.

Following a successful grant bid to Welsh Government’s Active Travel fund, those plans were bolstered and supporting work to ensure the protection of local trees and wildlife took place.

Cllr. Sara Burch, Cabinet Member for Inclusive and Active Communities, said: “It is wonderful that another Active Travel route is being developed in Monmouthshire. The proposed Active Travel route will benefit a large number of people and will provide a safer and better means of walking or cycling in and around the Caldicot area. This fantastic project will help cut down our carbon footprint as routes to Portskewett and Caldicot will be much more accessible via biking or walking.”

The first action on the ground has been to carefully clear vegetation by the Council’s Maintenance Team, so that the railway line could be removed.

Next was the delicate task of painstakingly disassembling and transporting the track to Carmarthen for reuse by Gwili Railway, a Welsh heritage railway, a job that was far from easy given the vital consideration of its impact on the area’s biodiversity. The track bed is now completely cleared, including all the railway sleepers.

Some of the track will remain in place, as a nod to the heritage of the railway, and will feature as part of the final design along with boards describing the history of the site.

Gwyn Smith, Network Development Manager for Sustrans Cymru, said:“The removal of the rail was a great team effort involving many partners. Local business owners, Wildwood Ecology, Monmouthshire County Council maintenance team, Gwili Railway and Rail Contactors Barretts all came together, leaving a great space for the new path to be constructed. Sustrans Cymru is incredibly pleased that the rail is going to be reused, and that a new Active Travel route will be created through this collaborative working.”

Construction of the new path is aiming to commence in winter of this year, with plans being developed to continue the path through Castle Park and into Caldicot’s town centre, ensuring easier access to local amenities. The first phase of the project is expected to be complete by 2023, at which point the project will move onto its next phase for further expansion.