National award for Rugby Rotary's efforts to upgrade section of Great Central Way

Volunteers laying track last year.Volunteers laying track last year.
Volunteers laying track last year.
The club worked hard to revamp a section of the disused line

A Rugby Rotary Club centenary project to upgrade a section of the Great Central Way has been recognised with a national award.

The Rotary Club’s work, in conjunction with Rugby Borough Council and Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, to upgrade the section of the former railway line has received the Rotary Club of Great Britain and Ireland Environment Award.

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It was picked out as the winner from projects across the UK which fulfil the sustainability criteria, as set out by a judging panel made up of members of The RGB&I Environment Sustainability Group and ESRAG British Isles Chapter.

Former president of the British Rotary Clubs in the British Isles, Rodney Huggins MBE, created the awards in 1999 following receipt of a letter from the private secretary to Prime Minister Tony Blair enquiring about Rotary’s environmental efforts.

He said: “Rugby’s entry was chosen because of the scale of its project, its environmental impact, involvement of young people and potential for growth and development.”

The Great Central Way route ceased use as a railway in 1965 when Rugby Central Station was also demolished.

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Without the resources to manage it along its full length, the council handed over the lease to Warwickshire Wildlife Trust which now maintains the section south of Hillmorton Road.

But they don’t have the resources to manage the northern section.

Plans also include interpretation boards, to be designed by local blacksmiths, in a style echoing the traditional British Rail signs and explaining the history of

the Great Central Way.

Rugby Rotary Club is now more than halfway through its four-year project to enhance the southern section of the Great Central Way, including the removal of undergrowth and trees, improving the Sun Street Play Area, creating a wild play area, providing signage and, subject to community involvement, the provision of a community garden/orchard.

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The plans also include an Art Heritage Trail, which will include interpretation boards, to be designed by local blacksmiths, in a style echoing the traditional British Rail signs and explaining the history of the Great Central Way.

Artists will also be commissioned to collaborate with schools in a competition to produce unique artwork and murals along the 1.2km route between Hillmorton Road and Abbey Street. And arriving soon are three new bespoke benches, funded by The Rugby Group Benevolent Fund and designed by Cawston artist and former Rotarian, Eric Gaskell.

The back of the bench design incorporates trains, pedestrians and a cyclist as well as wildlife.

Rotary and WWT volunteers have already laid 200ft of track thanks to the donation of rails and sleepers by Network Rail.

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Rugby Rotarian and GCW project leader Laurence Wilbraham, said: “All the volunteers involved with this scheme are delighted to have received this prestigious award. It acknowledges the huge effort involved over the last three years with over 1,600 hours having been worked and the considerable improvements which have been carried out.”

He added: “The Great Central Way is one of Rugby’s best kept secrets which was only really rediscovered by people during the first lockdown, particularly when Severn Trent closed Draycote Water.

“To mark our centenary, Rugby Rotary Club members wanted to do something that would raise both the profile of the club and of Rotary, would provide long term benefits for the people of Rugby and involve volunteering and young people as well as doing something environmental.

"The overall aim is to improve the ecological, landscape, educational and recreational value of the way.”

For further information about the Great Central Way project, Rugby Rotary Club or to volunteer, visit: