A DISUSED stretch of railway line which has been transformed into a section of a national trail used by cyclists, horse riders and walkers, has been officially opened.

The 1km stretch of the disused East Lancashire Railway track in Stacksteads, which runs alongside the River Irwell, has been linked with Stacksteads Countryside Park.

Haslingden-based community interest company Proffitts worked on the £180,000 project with Rossendale Council, Lancashire County Council, landowners and neighbours.

Rachael Gildert, a landscape architect at Proffitts, said: “The opening event was brilliant.

“Around 45 people turned up - horse riders, mountain bikers and local residents - and we had only good feedback. Many people said it’s much wider than they had anticipated, which we wanted so horse riders, cyclists and walkers can pass by each other easily and safely.

“People said they would be bringing their grandkids here, which is great.

“Extending the cycleway fits into a lot of existing strategies. It’s environmentally-friendly, it’s sustainable and it promotes tourism.

“And introducing a multi-use pathway will help take horses, cyclists and pedestrians off the busy road.

“The contractors, Marchbridge Builders Ltd, worked very hard.

“They started the work on January 6, and it rained every day for six weeks, sometimes in deep sludge. They worked like troopers.”

Proffitts received £30,000 from the Lancashire Environmental Fund, and a further £150,000 from Natural Enland.

Stacksteads councillor Christine Lamb said: “I’m really pleased.

“We all walked along the new route and it’s just great. I’m very glad it was funded.

“Eventually, you will be able to do the whole route from Rawtenstall to Rochdale off-road.”