The site now known as the Southwell Trail has a long history dating back to 1842. That was the year that Midland Railway first proposed running a line from Rolleston via Southwell to Mansfield. By 1847 only the section from Rolleston to Southwell (not including the present Southwell Trail) had been completed. However, threats by others to complete the line and the knowledge of coal deposits around Mansfield spurred Midland Railway on to completion. The line finally opened in April 1871. The line became renowned for slow services and passenger services were few, although goods trains carrying coal etc were more common. However, in 1968 the line was closed, a casualty of British Rail modernisation.
Eventually it was purchased by Nottinghamshire County Council in the 1970s. Since then the line, known as the Southwell Trail, has been managed as a cross-country route for a variety of users from walkers and cyclists to horse riders. It is also an important route for wildlife, providing a habitat corridor through the landscape. The development of the site for both the local community and wildlife took another step forward in 2005 with the formation of the Friends of the Southwell Trail following declaration as a LNR. Contact us to find out more about volunteering with the Friends of the Southwell Trail.
The Trail now supports a wide range of habitats, because it crosses two distinct geological areas. These are the Sherwood Sandstone to the north around Bilsthorpe and Farnsfield and the Keupar Marl further south from Kirklington towards Southwell. The Sherwood Sandstone is acidic and supports soils low in nutrients yielding relatively few species. Typical habitats on this part of the Trail include scrub and acid grassland. The Keupar Marl is entirely different, being characterised by species rich meadows and woodlands. Species to look out for among these habitats include the common lizard (in the open areas around Farnsfield), various birds of prey including sparrow hawks and many butterflies, for example, the speckled wood.
The Southwell Trail now forms part of the Central Linear Route – a multi-user route for people to enjoy on foot. Cycle and horseback. There are a number of free public car parks on the Southwell Trail, at Kirklington, Farnsfield and Bilsthorpe.