NEW growing Somerset towns could soon be connected by a stunning walking and cycling route which celebrates the area’s industrial heritage.

Pedestrians and cyclists wishing to travel between Taunton and Wellington currently have to rely on the A38, which is frequently congested and has narrow or limited pavements.

A long-awaited feasibility study into a proposed active travel route linking the towns has identified numerous options for where such a route could go – including the delivery of new cycle paths right alongside the main road.

But retired health professional and Wellington resident Charles Biscoe has put forward a different route, dubbed the Grand Western Greenway, which will link the two towns by following much of the route of the former Grand Western Canal.

The Local Democracy Reporting Services was invited by Mr Biscoe on Saturday (April 6) for a tour of the westernmost section of the proposed route, which would link up with Wellington’s new railway station and the surrounding villages.

Here’s everything you need to know:

What was the Grand Western Canal?

The Grand Western Canal originally ran between Tiverton and Taunton, with the original idea being traced back to 1796.

The Devon section, running 11 miles between Tiverton and Lowdwells Lock, opened in 1814, with the 13-mile Somerset section following in 1839.

The canal struggled to remain profitable as rail travel expanded across the south west, and in 1867 the Somerset section was closed down.

While the Devon stretch of the canal remains in use for recreational craft and has been designated as a country park, the Somerset stretch has largely disappeared save for a few footpaths and surviving heritage assets, such as the Nynehead boat lift near Wellington.

What route will the Grand Western Greenway follow?

The Green Western Greenway is intended to run from the Longforth Farm housing development in Wellington all the way to Taunton railway station – some seven-and-a-half miles.

New sections of all-weather paths will be laid, following construction methods used elsewhere on the Strawberry Line and being delivered as part of the Glastonbury town deal.

Moving from Wellington, pedestrians and cyclists will start at an existing footbridge at Longforth Farm and connect up with the new Wellington station, which will be delivered by Network Rail at a projected cost of £15m.

Somerset County Gazette: A map of the proposed Grand Western Greenway.A map of the proposed Grand Western Greenway. (Image: Grand Western Greenway Association)

From there it will skirt around the existing footpath to the Nynehead boat lift, crossing over Nynehead Road and following (or skirting close to) the West Deane Way through East Nynehead and Bradford-on-Tone.

The planned route then continues along land between the River Tone and the railway line, moving close to the new housing being built at Norton Fitzwarren and passing through the Netherclay Community Wood before reaching the A3065 Silk Mills Road.

From there, it will bend north of the existing park and ride, move south of the Frieze Hill Community Orchard and the Turners Allotments, before connecting up with the existing cycle lane along the A3087 Trenchard Way all the way to Taunton railway station.

Mr Biscoe, chairman of the Grand Western Greenway Association, said: “I’ve been talking about some kind of active travel link between Wellington and Taunton for some 13 years.

“The prospect of coming out into the countryside is a very attractive one. We’ve been looking at doing a route down the A38 for a long time, but it’s unattractive, whereas this is beautiful.

“Nowadays, when you build active travel routes, you want to include everybody – you don’t just want the brave and the foolhardy to use it.

“We hope that putting these paths in the countryside means that not only cyclists will use it, but walkers and people with less mobility (using scooters and wheelchairs) will be able to get out into the countryside more easily.

The largely flat greenway is designed to link up with both existing rights of way (such as the West Deane Way and the paths through Longrun Meadow) and new improvements which could be delivered through other projects (such as links between the new station and Tonedale Mill as part of a £20m levelling up project).

Mr Biscoe added: “This will be a multi-user, multi-benefit path – and greenways get much more use than conventional cycle paths.

“Just look at the Strawberry Line over on the other side of the county, which is fantastically popular, or the Tarka Trail down through north Devon.

“We want to see this not only being something which people use to go to work, but we want to see it linking communities.”

What impact will the delivery of Wellington railway station have?

Following the cancellation of the High Speed 2 rail link between Birmingham and Manchester in October 2023, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that a new railway station at Wellington would be “funded to delivery” (pending approval of the final business case).

The new station will be sited to the north of the town’s Lidl supermarket, with the existing access road off Nynehead Road being extended and delivered through a planned development of around 200 new homes.

There have been positive steps forward in recent times, with Somerset Council working to resolve phosphate issues surrounding the delivery of these homes and a decision on the housing development plans being expected shortly.

While the station was originally expected to be open by September 2025,  Wellington Town Council confirmed on Monday evening (April 8) that this had been pushed back.

Town clerk Dave Farrow said: “The planned opening date has now been put back until the spring or summer of 2026, but all parties remain confident that it will happen.”

Somerset County Gazette: Mr Biscoe on the proposed route.Mr Biscoe on the proposed route. (Image: Daniel Mumby)

Taunton Deane MP Rebecca Pow subsequently confirmed that the final business case for the station had been submitted to the DfT by Network Rail.

She added: “Further work was required on the proposed railway timetable, and to make sure the design is integrated with third party proposals for nearby residential and business development and Somerset Council’s plans for a mobility hub close to the station site.

“Network Rail expects to apply for planning permission later this month but a decision is not expected until later this year, once the results of ecological surveys are known.”

Whenever the station ends up getting built, Mr Boscoe said that it would enable a significant section of the greenway’s western end to be delivered.

He said: “To do the station, Network Rail will have to put a haul road in on the northern side of the railway line, to get all the materials in.

“Hopefully we won’t have to do much on this first stretch, apart from maintaining whatever surface Network Rail puts in.

“I think there will be quite a lot of pressure on Somerset Council, who are overseeing the regeneration of Tonedale Mill, to provide access down to what is going to be a terrific celebration of our heritage.”

How much will the new path cost?

Traditional cycle paths along main roads can prove very costly – with Somerset Council spending £1m on a short section linking Minehead to Dunster (which opened in June 2023) and securing £1.5m from Active Travel England to extend this route along the A39 towards Carhampton.

By contrast, multi-user paths in rural areas (such as the Strawberry Line) are often much cheaper per mile to deliver.

This conclusion was borne out in a long-awaited study completed by Stantec for Somerset Council, which looked at the different options for a cycle route between Taunton and Wellington.

The report admitted that the Grand Western Greenway offered “reasonable value for money”, noting that schemes which followed either side of the A38 faced issues from potential landowner disputes and the higher cost of materials.

Somerset County Gazette: A proposed section of the route near the Nynehead Boat Lift.A proposed section of the route near the Nynehead Boat Lift. (Image: Daniel Mumby)

Despite this, Mr Biscoe’s proposal was not recommended to be taken forward – something which he said he found baffling.

He elaborated: “We’ve had long conversations with Somerset Council, and they said to us that building a path through the countryside is six times cheaper than building something by the side of the highway.

“We would build a path to meet all the existing DfT criteria, and it would be a wide path so it would be accessible to all kinds of bikes. But even when you build it to that standards, it comes out at a fraction of the cost of building a path by the side of the A38 – and everybody recognises that.

“It would cost millions upon millions to build the route along the A38.

“My best guess is that the council feel this would just be a leisure route – I don’t think they believe that it would take cars off the A38 and translate into cyclists coming onto this path.

“I spent years cycling along the A38 to work to Musgrove Park Hospital, and I honestly can’t imagine why anyone would choose to ride the A38 rather than cycling down here.”

What progress is currently being made at the Wellington end of the route?

Mr Biscoe intends for the Grand Western Greenway to be delivered from the outside in – starting at either end and then slowly constructing new sections which will meet in the middle.

Outside of the railway station project, Mr Biscoe is negotiating with existing landowners to deliver the first phase at the Wellington end – and so far, discussions have been positive.

He said: “At this end, the developers who own the land are in conversation with the council’s planners over developing the land – and they’ve been extremely supportive.

“The people who own the Nynehead boat lift are part of our organisation, so things at this end are looking really good. It’s all beginning to come together.

“Doing things like this, you have to build them in bits – you can’t do it all in one go.

“We’re supported by Greenways and Cycle Routes, which has been helping to construct the Strawberry Line. They have committed resources to us, and this will be a community-led, community-driven project.”

What about the Taunton end of the route?

Taunton Town Council has been supportive of the project since its creation, with its grant committee voting in January to provide £500 towards the project’s website along with “research and campaign materials”.

The council currently manages the Frieze Hill Community Orchard and the Turners Allotments, which are both bordered by an existing public right of way.

Councillors voted on Tuesday evening (April 9) to support the upgrade of this public right of way to deliver part of the Taunton end of the greenway, with this support being put in writing to aid with future grant applications.

Councillor Martin Strauss, deputy leader of Taunton Town Council, said: “Embracing sustainable active travel projects not only promotes healthier lifestyles, but also fosters a stronger sense of community and environmental stewardship.

“Through initiatives that prioritise walking, cycling, and public transport, we’re paving the way for greener, more inclusive communities where everyone can thrive.”

What about the risk of flooding?

Somerset has experienced extensive rain and localised flooding in the last few months, with a number of properties in and around Wellington being badly affected.

Many of the existing footpaths which link Taunton and Wellington, such as the West Deane Way, are very low-lying and move very close to the River Tone – meaning that during inclement weather, they can become muddy, waterlogged or totally impassible.

Mr Biscoe hopes that the greenway will get around these issues through new drainage improvements and hugging the route of the former canal as far as possible.

He said: “One of the reasons we’re quite keen to follow the path of the canal is that the canal constructors knew they had to avoid getting washed out by the river.

“They moved up the slope a little bit, and we intend to move up the slope a little bit as well.

“If we followed the path of the West Deane Way, anything we built would be washed out within a season.”

Will the new path celebrate Somerset’s heritage – and the history of the canal?

The Nynehead boat lift, which lies near the western edge of the greenway, is currently grade two listed – and the existing, popular footpath which runs over the top of the structure is too narrow for cyclists.

Instead of widening this entire section through the surrounding trees, Mr Biscoe intends for the path to gingerly loop around the existing structure – utilising two existing archways.

He said: “Our path will go through the existing portals in the grade two listed walls – people may have to get off their bikes and walk through them.

“We’ve been told we can come around the edge of the boat lift and come out in front of an existing gate.

“People come from all over the country to see this heritage – it’s phenomenal.

“Because we’ll end up in Taunton, this path will join up to the end of the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal – so you might end up with a path going all the way from Bridgwater to Tiverton. Wouldn’t that be tremendous?”

What is Somerset Council’s position?

Somerset Council was approached for comment in February regarding the Stantec study into the new Taunton to Wellington cycle route.

A spokesman stated at the time: “We are still discussing the draft proposal with stakeholder groups, so we are not ready to issue a public statement. We hope to update the wider public very soon.”

The council is currently working on a Wellington local cycling and walking infrastructure plan (LCWIP), which will identify and prioritise potential active travel links in and around the town.

Once published, the report will serve as a basis for future funding applications to deliver cycle routes in Wellington, whether funded by central government or through new housing developments.

Even if the council were to publicly endorse any of the options within the report (including the Grand Western Greenway), its precarious financial position precludes it from immediately committing funding.

The council recently secured more than £400,000 from Active Travel England towards the design and development of new walking and cycling schemes – but officers have declined to comment where in the county this will be directed.

The council was approached by the Local Democracy Reporting Service for an additional statement but did not respond before the given deadline.

How do I get involved?

For more information on the Grand Western Greenway project, including how to get involved as a volunteer, visit or email