A PEDESTRIAN and cycle path on a disused railway line in the Wye Valley has opened after a long-running project.

The Wye Valley Greenway project aims to repurpose the long-since defunct railway line between Chepstow and Monmouth.

Part of the line - now open to the public - heads through a 1km tunnel near the National Diving and Activity Centre (NDAC) just outside Chepstow.

At its deepest point, the tunnel is some 100m below the surface.

There is a slight curve in the track as you head through, giving the illusion that the underground section is far longer than it is.

Volunteers from charitable organisation Greenways and Cycleroutes originally surveyed the route in 2018.

They supervised construction by local contractors and organised volunteer work camps to repair structures, put up fences and install lighting and bat shelters.

A Greenways and Cycleroutes spokesperson said: "The route would not have been possible without the support of the National Diving and Activity Centre, Wyedean School, Forestry England, A to B Communities, Bishton Farm, co-operative neighbours, and Greenways volunteers."

The tunnel was surveyed for 18 months before being opened to the public, as the area is important for lesser horseshoe bats.

Low level lighting has been installed which, although disorienting at first, gives the tunnel atmosphere as well as protecting the bats.

The first people to venture through were commuters, off to work in Tintern and Monmouth respectively.

John Grimshaw of Greenways and Cycleroutes joked that it would soon become a major commuter route in the Wye Valley.

He said that due to coronavirus restrictions, no opening event had been organised.

"We thought it better to allow the public to come down when they wanted to," he said.

The tunnel section will be closed off at night with large gates. This is to protect the bats nesting inside.

In a statement, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust said: "Please enjoy this special access through some of the UK’s richest, internationally important, ancient woodlands of the lower Wye Valley and remember that not all the woodlands are open access so please check for public rights of way and consent to avoid trespassing or disturbing important habitats for wildlife."