“When a train line is closed, in may vanish from the rail map, but it does not disappear. Disused lines often live on as cycleways or walking paths. Where rails once ran, trees continue to stand, forming leafy tunnels that whisper of trains long passed. Brick walls, tunnels and bridges stand, rails rust in the ground, signage lives on. Memories remain.”
When I was a grumpy teenager, my mum used to love taking me on walks on Dartmoor. It was one of her very favourite places, but I simply didn’t get it. It always seemed to be raining, and I always wanted to be elsewhere.
Now years have passed, and mum has sadly gone, but I finally understand what she loved so much about the moor. Because what a wildly beautiful place it is, all emerald and violet rumpled hills, gushing streams and granite boulders piled up like a giant’s discarded toys.
For almost 50 years the moor has been a place best reached by car. But as of November 2021 the Dartmoor Line railway trumps four wheels, gliding from Exeter along the top of the moor to Okehampton, and just about the most beautiful railway station I’ve ever seen.
I was invited to check out the new line ahead of its opening, and I wrote a piece for the Times about why the train is the best way to arrive on Dartmoor – and how you can use Okehampton as a base for exploration.