Until the 1970s a
branch railway in the Camel Valley linked Padstow and Wadebridge with the
main line at Bodmin. Now it is an 18-mile hiking, horse riding and
cycling trail, extended to Wenford Bridge on a former quarry tramway, again
alongside the river. For the walker only it then effectively continues
as the Camelford Way as far as the town of Camelford, making a total trail
of some 26 miles. If you are visiting Bodmin, a short extension to
the trail follows what was once a packhorse route as far as Bodmin Jail.
Refreshments in Padstow and Wadebridge, at a tea garden near Dunmere, at
the excellent Borough Arms at Dunmere and at a tea room off the trail at
Keybridge Farm near Poley's Bridge - and since February 2014 at Snail's
Pace Café at Wenford Bridge. Hikers, beware summer vacation
time when there can often be far too many cyclists for comfort, particularly
between Padstow and Wadebridge. Horses and walkers are supposed to
take precedence over cyclists but not many cyclists choose to behave as
if they know that. Bikes can be hired in Padstow, Wadebridge, Bodmin.and
Wenford Bridge. For walkers the level firm terrain could not be easier
- but can be extremely boring compared with the Coast Path or Bodmin Moor.
Most interesting section to walk is Wadebridge to Padstow, following the
delightful estuary of the River
start of the Camel Trail
See ohire for more information about cycling the Camel Trail
For the first three
miles views of the Camel estuary are superb, looking back to Daymer Bay
and Pentire Point and across to Rock. Views are then restricted for
a couple of miles but then open out for sightings of wading birds on tidal
mud flats and salt marshes. It's rather urban for a while through
town (cyclists, please use the road, not the footpath) but you are soon
back on the trail again.
This is my least preferred
section. At first views are open, over what was meadow grazed by
cattle but in 2006 was returned to salt marsh as far as Sladesbridge.
But then you are in fairly uninteresting woodland for the rest of the way
to Dunmere, relieved only by a handsome bridge at Polbrock and by remains
of the occasional station. For interest along the way you could
visit Camel Valley Vineyard
or perhaps encounter a steam train at Boscarne Junction, the western terminus
of the restored Bodmin and
Wenford Railway, which runs not to Wenford but to Bodmin Parkway,
where it links with the main line.
This is my preferred
section of the Camel Trail. Quieter than Padstow to Dunmere, it climbs
and winds gently through beech woodland following the line of a former
quarry railroad that carried granite and china clay from Bodmin Moor. Although
heavily wooded, the feeling is surprisingly open and there are often good
views down to the river below. There is quite a lot of interest along
the way. At Helland Bridge look out for the handsome medieval bridge
and consider visiting the Old Mill Herbary
Garden or Paul Jackson's
studio pottery. The once renowned pottery of Michael Cardew
at Wenford Bridge no longer operates and the adjacent Potters Barn tea
room closed; however, there is a seasonal tea room off the
trail at Tresarrett and Snail's Pace at Wenford Bridge (see the box below).
In the last mile from Poley's Bridge to Wenford Bridge a number of metal
sculptures include a massive silver salmon and you will pass Wenford China
Snail's Pace Café:
Early 2014 saw the opening of the new dog-friendly Snail's Pace Café
in the Wenford Bridge car park, complete with cycle hire and public loo.
We have tried it a couple of times, both when dog walking on the top end
of the Camel Trail. We have had good cakes and sandwiches.
We hope it will be open all year, not just seasonally.
Wadebridge in Summer When we came to Wadebridge
in 2002 the Camel Trail, then 17 miles from Padstow to Poley's Bridge,
was relatively quiet, suffieiently so that I would walk it in summer, except
perhaps at the weekend. Since then it has got steadily busier - to
the point where my feeling is that it is best walked only on a wet, winter
Wednesday. Cycle hire businesses have flourished - two in Padstow,
three in Wadebridge, one in Bodmin and one at Wenford Bridge. Wadebridge
itself, where the trail passes through the town on busy streets, has become
almost over-run by bikes. It would'n't be too bad if they would stick
to the marked cycle lanes; unfortunately too many of them simply
use the pavement. And the car parks can get solid with cars with
bike racks on roof or boot, to the extent that the Piggy Lane car park
behind Lidl was clogged on a recent Sunday. During the summer school
holidays the bikes almost bring Wadebridge to a standstill. Undoubtedly
thay bring income into the town. I question whether the disruption
to a charming and much admired little country town is worth it.