An ambitious plan to re-open Stratford’s long-forgotten Tramway line as a cycling and walking route is being explored, almost 200 years after the line was first granted permission.
The Tramway ran around 16 miles from Stratford to Moreton, with a branch also serving Shipston, but has been disused for almost 100 years after failing as a commercial route.
Now Newbold cyclist Andy Fincham has made it his mission to reopen the route to Shipston for cyclists and walkers, having established a community interest company called Old Tramway Revived, to make it happen.
The idea is supported by Shipston Town Council and Andy is hoping that with enough public support, the project can win the backing of cycling minister Chris Heaton-Harris and benefit from part of the significant government funding put aside to develop new cycling routes in its cycling walking and investment strategy.
Andy said: “I’m a keen cyclist but also an 18th Century historian, I’ve just completed a PHD in 18th Century commerce and industry so this area really interests me. Also during lockdown like many people, I’ve taken the opportunity to get out and explore.
“The Tramway runs from the river in Stratford, up to Severn Meadows Road, but when you get to Waitrose it appears to disappear. However when you look on Google you can see the route is still there, there are still embankments, there are just brambles and thickets over parts of it now.
“Of course there will be challenges along the way in re-opening this route, there will be difficult hotspots and it may inconvenience some people, but we’re going to work hard and co-operate with private landowners.
“The Tramway was originally an absolute disaster as a commercial enterprise, it was essentially designed to transport coal from the canal basin in Stratford towards the South West, but there just wasn’t the business. It’s very interesting historically though, it was one of the first railway lines in the country (pulled by horses) and a line of that length at that time was quite unusual.
“It would make a beautiful safe cycle route, it’s almost entirely flat, it would encourage people to be active and it would keep people off the A34. I expect a project like this would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, but the funding is there to be had from the Government if there is enough interest. I’d hope we could get this done quicker than the original ten years it took to build the Tramway.”
Andy added that he would also look to work with cycling groups to explore the possibility of re-opening the section of the route to Moreton.
Shipston mayor Cllr Shelagh Saunders said: “We’re not directly involved in the project but we’re certainly supportive of the idea. We’ve provided some funding to help complete land searches and if it progresses we could potentially offer further support along the way. Our Neighbourhood Plan talks about promoting health and active lifestyles and this definitely fits into that vision.
“Funnily enough my husband Baggy was involved in a project in around 1984 during another recession to try and open up the route, but unfortunately the government funding for it fell apart. Now the idea has come around again during another recession, hopefully it’ll have legs.”