A former Norfolk railway line could become a new walking and cycling route between two of the county's towns, according to newly-published documents.

The 15km trail would create a new link between Watton and Swaffham, whose railway line closed in 1965.

The idea has been suggested as part of Breckland Council’s ‘Future Breckland’ project, for which a plan covering each of the district’s five market towns has been produced.

The plans - produced by a cohort of consultants - outline how a select number of investments in the towns could boost economic growth across the district. 

Opened in 1875, the Watton and Swaffham Railway - also known as the Crab and Winkle line - connected the towns with Thetford in one direction and King's Lynn in the other.

The new route running along its length would start at Loch Neaton, in the centre of Watton, and finish at the site of Swaffham’s old station.

The Watton water feature is so named because it was created by Scottish railway workers who were digging earth to be used for an embankment on the line.

Eastern Daily Press: Under the proposal, the former Watton-Swaffham railway line would be repurposed to become a walking and cycling link.Under the proposal, the former Watton-Swaffham railway line would be repurposed to become a walking and cycling link. (Image: Ian Burt)

The Watton town plan includes a separate proposal to regenerate the area around the loch, potentially including the provision of new car parking, toilet facilities and a cafe. 

The new walk and cycle path would include a connection to the Peddars Way, which would enable walkers to branch off towards the north Norfolk coast.

It would cost somewhere between £3.3 and £4.75m to be built and it would take between five and eight years to finish the project.

The authors of the Watton and Swaffham town plans say however that the new link could generate some 300,000 trips per year, increasing footfall into local businesses and boosting the area's economy.

They point out that similar links have been created along other disused railway lines across the country, such as the 13-mile Bristol and Bath Railway Path, which hosts some 2.5 million journeys per year.

And they pointed to the 18-mile Camel Trail in Cornwall, used by around 400,000 people each year and generating roughly £3m of expenditure in local businesses.