Industrial past of former Norfolk railway line to be brought back to life thanks to lottery funding

epu going green march 2015 cycling Part of Marriotts Way, a route popular with walkers and cyclists.

epu going green march 2015 cycling Part of Marriotts Way, a route popular with walkers and cyclists.. Photo Michael Hawes. - Credit:

For more than 100 years it served as an important transport link between Norwich and the Midlands.

 Stroll along Marriotts Way

Stroll along Marriotts Way - Credit:

But when the railway lines along Marriott's Way were closed in 1985 much of the route's fascinating history was forgotten.

Now, a two-and-a-half-year project by Norfolk County Council aims to shed new light on the past of the 26-mile trail between Norwich and Aylsham.

The scheme will see the creation of a new mobile phone app, allowing visitors to use augmented reality to explore the line's history.

And a further eight new walking routes will be established, with four being designed by local school children.

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In the new year, there will also be a series of events along the trail, including a marathon and vintage cycle rally.

The project is expected to cost £667,906, with £167,399 coming from developers through various planning obligations.

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And it was given the official go-ahead yesterday thanks to a £455,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Martin Wilby, chairman of the county council's environment, development and transport committee, said: 'It's a race against time to preserve memories of the historic route, so the project will be recording and preserving the first-hand accounts of people who used to work and travel on, and live nearby the old railway line.

'Overall our aim is to help people to better understand the industrial past of the trail and encourage them to appreciate and explore the haven for nature and recreation on their doorsteps that it is today.'

The route already attracts more than 100,000 cyclists, walkers and horse riders every year.

And over the past 12 months, around £310,000 has been spent on improving its surface between Thorpe Marriott and Norwich.

The new heritage trail project will be overseen by a steering group made up of various local organisations and councils.

The Norfolk Record Office will also be working with community groups to make historic records of the line public.

Andy Hutcheson, the council's countryside manager, said: 'Marriott's Way has been chosen because it is Norfolk's best-used long-distance trail.

'It is an important active transport route and there are a lot of people who live along that stretch in the north west of the city. It would be great if more of them used it to commute in.'

Robyn Llewellyn, head of HLF East of England, said: 'Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, Marriott's Way is set to be transformed for people and wildlife. Volunteer power, technology and a range of community activities will preserve and bring to life the wonderful and diverse heritage that can be found along this historic route – from stories of industry to connecting with nature.'

Augmented reality vision for Marriott's Way

Visitors to Marriott's Way could soon be using augmented reality to learn more about the route's past.

Using their mobile devices, they will be able to see what certain parts of the trail looked like from their location.

The council's countryside manager, Andy Hutcheson, explained the idea would be similar to the Pokemon Go phone app.

He said: 'We will use historical photos and film footage to show what it was like in the past. So at any given place, people can hold up their device and see what it may have looked like 100 years ago.'

The app will also inform visitors about places to eat, drink and stay along the route.

As part of the project, the council will be speaking to people who used or worked on the railway line to record their memories.

It is also hoping to train 200 volunteers to assist with heritage and conservation matters.

Mr Hutcheson said: 'We know people are interested in the history and wildlife of Marriott's Way, so we would like to get more people involved in things like how to improve the biodiversity of the route.'

Next September, there will be a vintage cycle rally along the trail. It is hoped that a new marathon will also begin at some point next year.

The history of Marriott's Way

Marriott's Way is a 26-mile footpath that follows the routes of two disused railway lines.

It runs between Aylsham and Norwich, and is named after the chief engineer of the Midland and Great Northern Railway system, William Marriott.

The first line from Themelthorpe to Norwich was built in 1882 by the Lynn and Fakenham Railway Company.

Meanwhile, the second from Themelthorpe to Aylsham was completed in 1883 by the Great Eastern Railway.

Both routes were said to be unprofitable and they closed to passenger trains in 1959.

A year later, in 1960, the two lines were joined by the Themelthorpe curve, which was said to be the sharpest bend in the British Rail network at the time.

The joining was required to ensure the movement of concrete products from Lenwade railway station to both destinations. But once concrete production ceased in 1985, the line closed to all services.

Since then the route has become a popular destination for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.

There is a wide variety of wildlife along the trail, as well as several concrete works of art that serve as a reminder to the route's past.

The Norwich entrance can be found near the Barn Road and Barker Street roundabout. Meanwhile, in Aylsham, the route starts on Norwich road, opposite the Bure Valley railway station.

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