Off the Wall

A train departs from Wetheral station towards Carlisle

A week ago, I spent a fine weekend with Mark Richards, exploring the idea of promoting (and at times devising) walking routes with a public-transport focus. Our walking connected Carlisle, Wetheral and Brampton stations on the Tyne Valley Line, as well as the spur into the centre of Brampton.

The Tyne Valley Line is one of the more walker-friendly lines to walk: though the sections to and from Brampton might be a little challenging for some (there is a limited bus option to break these sections, and taxi options are always available), the entire line between Carlisle and Newcastle may be walked using only the trains. The route gives a local alternative to the Hadrian’s Wall Path, the use of which is discouraged in the GMT months to avoid damage to the monument and its environs.

Of course, public transport accessibility has always been a focus on my walks, from the Ring around the Underground to the Nord-Ostsee Wanderweg: we just need to keep pushing the concept, and bringing operators on board. Seventy years ago, British Railways offered Ramblers’ Returns for what the airline industry now terms “open-jaw” business. The BR formula was simple: add the return fares to each end and divide by two. Time, perhaps, to revive the idea, and to offer innovations such as a carnet system (this would work on the Tyne Valley Line) or an Offa’s Dyke return, valid for one journey to any of the stations serving the path, and one returning from any of those stations. This latter idea, which could be used for other routes (the North Downs Way and the John Muir Way come immediately to mind), gives the security of being able to break off at pre-arranged points or in an emergency without losing “the return half”.

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