AN IMPORTANT link which follows part of an old railway line has been given a boost.

North Dorset District Council has awarded £70,000 towards the upkeep of the North Dorset Trailway Network.

The trailway, used by walkers, cyclists and horse riders, now runs about 14 miles from Sturminster Newton to Spetisbury and it is hoped it can be extended in future into Somerset. It is largely made up of sections of the old Somerset and Dorset Railway which linked Bath and Bournemouth until it was pulled up in the 1960s as part of the Beeching cuts.

The route is looked after by a trust, a registered charity, which campaigns to extend and improve the trailway as a sustainable transport route and recreation space for local people and tourism.

A district council spokesman said: "The trailway has great potential as an economic element of the North Dorset economy. It is very popular with walkers, cyclists, horse riders. It also hugely benefits people with mobility scooters. There is a strong aspiration to extend the trailway. Some land in Sturminster Newton is being secured to help towards the Sturminster to Stalbridge section.

"The primary purpose of the funding is to support the extension of the trailway. This could be through land acquisition, including the land at Sturminster. There is also a secondary smaller scale purpose. This could support the economic development element of trailway projects.

The trailway was one of the community projects to be supported by the council with funding.

Other projects were Stur-fit (£70,000) enabling it to improve Sturminster Newton Leisure Centre’s facilities for community use. It could also increase its income generating potential.

Meanwhile, £30,000 was granted to Marnhull Parish Council which is developing a number of community facilities including extended the village hall, developing a community hub and a Men’s Shed project.

Cllr Sherry Jespersen, North Dorset District Council’s portfolio holder for community and regeneration, said: “I believe these are truly valuable projects. They could deliver long term economic and community benefits to our area of Dorset.”