SPRING has sprung and as the days get warmer and an increasing number of people will be using much-loved walks in the countryside around Stafford and that includes the Gnosall Linear Line. But it wasn't always so.
Within months of the rail route between Newport and Stafford closing in 1964, the old railway line was becoming overgrown with weeds and track-side trees and bushes. But what to do with it?
In the late 1970s, a group of campaigners centred around Gnosall had the bright idea of restoring the track for use by ramblers, dog walkers and anyone who enjoyed the glorious farmland and countryside.
The track (but not the rails) remain yet and if a Staffordshire planner had had his way, the line would have been transformed into a road link between Newport and Gnosall and so taking the bulk of the heavy traffic now using the A518.
Soon that twisting and turning road will see drivers experiencing what they regard as the nuisance of slow- moving farm vehicles going about what is, after all, the business they have been doing for centuries.
But if county surveyor Fred Jepson's plan had come to fruition, the present A518 would have reverted to a country lane, used by local farmers and residents needing access to their homes.
Credit for the idea ought to go to Gnosall Parish Council - a council which in 1963 had been slow to protest about the proposed closure of the village railway station and were almost resigned to the idea of more buses passing through Gnosall.
The old Stafford Rural District Council took up the idea and Mr Jepson was asked to report with the result that he recommended that while the Stafford to Haughton rail track remain unchanged, the remaining route to Newport could be changed into a road for £410,000.
His view was that the road between Stafford and Haughton had been improved substantially over the previous 10 years and would continue to be upgraded; he saw little merit in traffic leaving Stafford along the Doxey Road.
He described the route from Haughton to Newport as “tortuous” as it passed through Gnosall, Gnosall Heath and Coton, a narrow road, often reduced to 16 feet wide, with limited lengths of footpath.
The total cost of a new route from Haughton to a junction near Newport’s old station proposed by Shropshire County Council would, he said, be less than half million pounds.
The rail track was just under seven miles long with a maximum gradient of one in 130 and would allow a 24-foot wide carriageway with 60 miles an hour design speed.
He envisaged five foot wide verges on existing embankments and the replacement of existing bridges - seven in total - and new ones built with sufficient clearance for bulkier vehicles
Mr Jepson said the dividend would be a much safer route and elimination of difficulties in improving the present A5 18. He saw no problem with the Ministry of Transport - as it was - allowing the rerouting of the old road.
His ideas were welcomed by his counterpart in Shropshire, Mr Raymond J Mare, who said the only snag was that the railway line between Newport and Wellington was still in use. “We are really in the hands of British Rail on this. It depends on their plans for the remainder of the line," he said at the time.
And in Gnosall, Councillor SWK Marshall said both the parish and district councils would welcome the plan which would see the creation of a Gnosall bypass.
He added that he hoped the new plan would also include the demolition of “the monstrosity of a bridge that carries the disused railway line over the A518 in the centre of Gnosall”.
Councillor Marshall's wish to remove the bridge was granted later, but the new road plan remained on the drawing board and the old rail track became a footpath.