COUNCILLLORS and community members from Ilminster, Donyatt, Knowle St Giles and Chard gathered at Donyatt Halt on Thursday to unveil plans to give a former railway line a £69,000 face-lift.

The Old Railway Heritage Community Project has received backing from the Heritage Lottery Fund to tell the story of the five-mile section of the Sustrans cycle track between Ilminster and Chard.

The project aims to give people a history of the abandoned railway line, which was a major transport link before it was lifted in 1963.

The Donyatt Village Plan Steering Group has spearheaded the campaign since 2002, alongside South Somerset District Council and community groups from the four main points along the route.

Group chairman David Willis said: "The idea behind the project is to celebrate our local history, as well as bringing more visitors to the area.

"We've done all the planning, it's just a question of bringing everything together - the sooner we can get stuck in the better."

The makeover, which is expected to get underway this summer, will include the installation of six interpretation boards along the route, improved footpath networks and wildlife information.

It will also feature the exposure of several gun emplacements and tank traps, as the route was once part of the major military Stop Line built to protect the country from invasion during the Second World War.

The focal point of the project will be the complete restoration of Donyatt Halt, including the old station sign, which disappeared in when the railway closed, as well as the platform and the station hut.

Gervais Bellamy, brother of David Bellamy, read out a message from the famous botanist at the unveiling.

He said: "Your wondersome community project is a visionary and excellent example of a green renaissance.

Together you are ensuring that the future generations of Somerset can glean common sense by touching history both natural and people made."

Project manager Brian Harper said: "I'm very pleased that the project is finally getting underway, it has been a community effort and we have worked our socks off to get this far."

Ilminster Mayor Carol Goodall added: "It is an exciting time, a lot of work has gone into the project and there is lot more to come.

"We have the funding now so I don't see why we can't go the whole way."

Work is due to be completed in May 2009.