Not quite. But First Great Western gave us a taste of how it may be possible from Bristol Temple Meads. Their Community Rail Festival ran a wee train down the Avon Gorge to Portbury Dock gates and back again.
This took us over the junction from which the original line ran to Portishead. The railway plan is to spend £100 million on a Greater Bristol Metro, whose first phase will be the reinstatement of this track. I’m hazy on whether Portbury station would also be resurrected, especially as it’s now a private residence, but that would allow a short walk into the AWT reserve. Hence my headline.
Yup, it’s a pretty tenuous link for writing about a train trip on a birding blog. Only the discovery of reed-fringed pools just past Pill and brief glimpses of the Avon’s muddy banks make it slightly more relevant. Actually the latter would probably be better in the winter, once foliage has dropped from trees screening the river.
Still, it’s a scenic run as you may be able to guess from the smidgen of track running from middle right in the picture above (click to see it more easily).
Views over pools that are otherwise hard to work were also a feature of the first leg of the special train. We got an unexpected loop round Filton, Henbury and Hallen on another freight-only line. These pools lay just before the junction back on to the Severn Beach branch. Not much in ‘em but interesting to see, having tried to find them on a previous visit to Chittening Warth.
We also passed a productive-looking expanse of scrub in the quadrangle of lines that constitute the Filton Junction complex. On the map that all looks off-limits to the public too.
So, a day on the rails. And if the Metro comes to pass, a day that will not be so unusual. The cynic in me is still going, “Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard it all before.” £100 million is easy to spend on roads; not so easy on railways. What odds on “The Austerity” canning the whole project?