Friday, September 14, 2012

Watermead Connect2 Project News

The final 6 elements of over 20 constituting the Watermead Connect2 scheme have progressed significantly this year.  

Section 1a:  Syston Road Crossing (allowing riders from Cossington to cross this busy road in greater safety):
completed July 2012 (except for unmasking the signs)

Section 1:  New cyclepath from Syston Road to GU Canal towpath at Junction Lock
completed July 2012 (after safety barrier requested by Sustrans Rangers installed)

Section 1b:  Winterton Bridge (part of Section 1, bridging a culvert near Junction Lock)
completed March 2012

Section 2:  Adaptation of GU Canal towpath from Junction Lock to Wreake Bridge as cyclepath
in hand:   towpath collapses repaired, and hardcore being laid.  Tarmac laying starts 24 September.

Section 2a:  Replacement of Wreake Bridge with a cycle-friendly span
in hand:  site being prepared for  the crane lifts.  Completion planned by November.

Section 6:  Railway Triangle, Syston (conversion of footpath into shared use path, with widening wherever possible at reasonable cost, and new fencing, to provide a vital offroad link into Syston Village from the West.
Completed September 2012 (first traffic today, 14 Sept. 2012)

Progress of the Watermead Connect2 scheme as a whole will be reviewed at a meeting of the Project Steering Group on 27th September.  Area Manager and a Ranger from the Leicester Group will attend.

Section 9 of the Watermead Connect2 scheme, which leads NCN 48 out of Watermead Park North northwards towards the ramp up to the Wanlip Road crossing to the Hope & Anchor has suffered a partial towpath collapse.  This has worsened over the year, and was today fenced off by The Canal and Rivers Trust for the safety of cyclists and pedestrian.  The route is still passable, but single file only.

I have posted some pictures illustrating Sections 2, 2a, 6 and 9 on 14th. September on my Flickr page: see

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Leicester local Skyride - theme Leicester & Swannington Railway

Two of the Leicester Sustrans Rangers Group took part in a Local Skyride designed to show within an 11 mile range some of the remaining features of the famous Leicester and Swannington Railway.  In fact, the Ride was held twice, being over-subscribed for the 25th July, and repeated with another 20 or so riders on 27th August 2012.  Richard Himan was Ride Leader, and Keith Drury provided an illustrated commentary on the historical features which we saw at half a dozen sites along the route.

25 July 2012
25 July 2012

The Leicester and Swannington Railway was one of the UK's and world's first steam-hauled railways, founded with the primary objective of bringing coal from the NW Leicestershire coalfield cheaply and rapidly to the burgeoning industrial town of Leicester, and to a loading point on the canal system to the south.  It opened for service in 1832.  The track successively became part of the Midland Railway, the LMS and British Railways, until the branch we visited closed in 1966.  It has, however, an important new use as NCN 63 west from Leicester City Centre as far as Ratby.

Our route followed the Railway's depot at West Bridge, the track along Forest Way to the now buried East Portal of Glenfield Tunnel, over the Glenfield ridge, zigzagging through the housing to view ventilation shafts, and through Glenfield Village to rejoin the trackbed part-way along the 'Comet Trail' in W Glenfield.  NCN 63 follows this Trail between Ratby and Glenfield; its name commemorates the Railway's first locomotive.

Heading back into Glenfield, we paused at the former Glenfield Station while Richard went on ahead to open up the security area surrounding the West Portal of Glenfield Tunnel.  Leicester City Council owns the Tunnel, and had kindly given permission (and the key!) for our access to see inside the normally closed-off Tunnel, though without entering the bore.  Richard had brought an amazing LED-powered torch which gave us this view of the bore looking W - E.
Glenfield Tunnel bore seen from West
27 August 2012

You can see the original Robert Stephenson brickwork, on the left some curved shuttering left from the 2007-8 Reinforcement Project, and - as white rings 100 and 200m away inside the Tunnel shell - two of the 39 concrete reinforcements cast inside the Tunnel brickwork as part of this Project, to support it against any future deformation.  The old bicycle wheel on the right was left there by the reinforcement contractor in desperation:  it has dozens of punctures caused by spilt steel reinforcing fibres for the concrete used in the Project.  The contractor's workers rapidly learned that it was no use trying to cycle to the work-sites in the bore; they'd have to walk the length - up to 1600m!

Stephensons Lifting Bridge at Soar Lane, Leicester
Courtesy Leicestershire Industrial History Society
Last stop on the Ride was back at West Bridge, where the remarkable Robert Stephenson Lifting Bridge was used to cross the Grand Union Canal.  Only horse-drawn traffic was allowed across it, but it lasted for over a century, allowing traffic to cross the Canal from West Bridge Depot to two satellite depots serving local coal trade.  The lift was only a metre - just enough to let the barges pass by underneath.
Stephensons Lifting Bridge at Soar Lane, Leicester, now at Snibston Discovery Museum, Coalville
Courtesy Leicestershire Industrial History Society

This bridge can now be viewed at Snibston Discovery Museum, Coalville.