A disused platform and an old signal are all that remains of the steam railway that used to run through this lovely 7-mile stretch of green. With a little help from the Big Lottery Fund, the Nickey Line is now being restored as a wildlife corridor through urban Hertfordshire, much to the delight of the local community.
Under the watchful eye of Chairman Dave Abernathy, volunteers forming Friends of the Nickey Line work alongside the hugely supportive Countryside Management Service, spearheaded by Peter Cook.
Now held up as an example of how to form a ‘Friends’ group, they flag up issues to the four local councils that stretch along the length of the line with each sharing responsibility for resolving them.
“The Nickey Line enables local people to enjoy the peace of the countryside virtually from their back doors, which is why it’s worthwhile working to maintain it and to encourage more people to use it.”
Current work parties are concentrating on coppicing to produce poles and stakes for traditional hedge-laying along the line, tree planting along a newly restored section and path widening.
Until coal shortages forced the Nickey Line out of use in 1947 it was used as a public service line. Nickey Line committee member and cycling enthusiast Doug Neville remembers concrete blocks being transported on the line for industrial use right into the 1970s.
Suffering from neglect, conservation work began when the council appealed to the local community for a ‘Friends’ group to take guardianship. Much of the line runs through urban areas and this vital work preserves patches of ancient bluebell woodland and habitats for warblers, buzzards, sparrow-hawks, hares and deer. Badgers have been spotted and in early spring, butterflies such as orange tip, brimstone, peacocks and marbled whites float through this peaceful woodland escape.
Now the attractive line is used by visitors who come to enjoy the wildlife and take part in events run by Friends of the Nickey Line – watch out for Doug’s monthly family cycle rides or take part in some bird watching!
Currently segmented by industry towards the Eastern end of the line, work is being undertaken to improve signposting – encouraging the Nickey Line’s many visitors to explore the delights of the whole line.