Former Hawes branch line in the Yorkshire Dales could become cycling and walking route as railway re-opening plans abandoned

Plans are afoot to turn the former Upper Wensleydale Railway line into a 'multi-use' route for cyclists, walkers and horse riders.

The future of the six-mile stretch of disused railway between Hawes and Garsdale is to be discussed by members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority this week.

A report on a possible ‘Hawes-Garsdale Multi-User Route’ will recommend members support the principle of creating a bridleway - which would be suitable for horse riders, cyclists, walkers and those with limited mobility - along the scenic former railway line.

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The report, to be made public on Monday in advance of the National Park Authority meeting on Tuesday, also recommends carrying out a survey to determine the level of public support for the proposal.

The old trackbed near Hawes

The railway closed in 1959 and there is currently no public access along it between Hawes and Garsdale. The old Hawes Station is now the Dales Countryside Museum.

The current Yorkshire Dales National Park Local Plan supports the reinstatement of a railway along the route, as well as a parallel recreational path. However, a feasibility study carried out on behalf of the National Park Authority and Richmondshire Council has concluded there is room only for a railway or multi-user route, not both.

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The National Park Authority’s member champion for recreation management Nick Cotton said: “Through the National Park Management Plan we have a shared commitment with local councils and other local groups to create another family-friendly cycling route in the National Park. This has a number of advantages, but the main one for me is to allow children and their families to get off a busy road and cycle in a safe and secure environment.

The marooned Hawes Station is now the Dales Countryside Museum

“The former branch line between Garsdale Station and Hawes Station, which is now the Dales Countryside Museum, has been one of the suggestions where such a route might be developed. The next steps are for the Authority to discuss the matter and, if it is supportive of progressing it, to seek the views of the public.”

The Upper Wensleydale Railway Association, a group of campaigners who wished to re-open the branch line, which would have linked Hawes to the Settle to Carlisle route at Garsdale, have twice applied for government funding to reinstate it, but have not been successful. The trackbed is protected from development.

The National Park Authority concluded that reinstatement of the line was thus 'very unlikely'.

A campaign group has been active since 2018 to champion the reinstatement of the short stretch of railway that ran from Garsdale Station, on the Settle to Carlisle Line, to the market town of Hawes.

Appersett Viaduct

Until services were withdrawn in 1959, Hawes passengers could access Leeds, Skipton, Carlisle and Northallerton from their branch line, as both the Wensleydale Railway and the famous Settle to Carlisle route converged at Garsdale.

The decision also means that the Wensleydale Railway heritage line from Redmire to Northallerton's hopes of ever re-connecting Redmire to Garsdale and creating a through route have now ended.

Structures including Appersett Viaduct remain in place.