Cycling Dorset’s Castleman Trailway, a former railway

Alice Barnes-Brown discovers local hidden history by cycling a former railway

Tuesday 09 February 2021 15:02 GMT
(David Brown)

“There’s a reason we called this the Castleman Corkscrew,” recalls my Lycra-clad dad as we pedal along a seemingly straight path. “The old railway line from Southampton to Dorchester took so many weird twists and turns.”

But since we're cyclists and not oversized freight trains, the 16.5 mile Castleman Trailway now feels like a perfectly straightforward bike ride, and any harsh bends that trains may once have struggled to get around are like gentle curves on a cycle ride.

Running from the edge of the New Forest to Poole Harbour, the Castleman is one of hundreds of disused train lines turned cycle/walking routes across Britain. Managed by charity Sustrans, the UK’s extensive network of rail trails is an accessible, lockdown-permitted way of discovering an area. My nearest, the Castleman, passes through millennia of Dorset history, as well as internationally important habitats. Its flat paths are also well-suited to amateurs on rickety, ancient bikes. Like me.

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