Japanese visitors seeking to restore their country after the 2011 tsunami call in at the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway

A North Devon railway could be an inspiration to communities in Japan recovering from the 2011 tsunami and Fukushima nuclear accident.

Four Japanese experts visited the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway at Woody Bay to learn about the project and how something similar might help regenerate communities back home.

The group was led by Yoshi Oyama, former deputy director of the Japan Centre at Birmingham University and now with Groundwork Mishima, a leader in environmental and regeneration activities in Japan.

They met with trustee Ian Cowling to learn about how the railway works, its role boosting the economy, and its volunteers.

He said the experts worked with rural communities seeking to make the most of local resources to attract visitors back to Japan and were looking at social enterprise projects.

“They were looking for ideas to move on the tsunami-affected communities and generally small town or rural Japan,” he said.

“Whereas in Britain we generally respect and try to preserve our heritage and have a kind regard for our history, Japanese society is ordered much more from the top down, which makes it more difficult to organise the sort of ‘grass roots’ groups that proliferate in the UK.”

During the group’s three-day visit, they also met with North Devon Coast AONB, Devon Community Foundation and the Tarka Country Trust.