Summer has arrived and a rough plan is made to explore some of the many cycle trails in Devon and Cornwall. With our bicycles tied to our trusty bike rack the boyfriend and I head south-west by car to the coast. The city of Plymouth is to be our first stop. There is a cycle path there called the “Plym Valley path“. This path was once a busy railway line. It opened in 1859 under the South Devon and Tavistock Railway and ran for 16 miles from Plymouth to Tavistock it was built to bring granite down from Dartmoor and to transport the slate from the quarries. It is now a popular walking track and part of the Sustrans National Cycle route 27. It covers an impressive range of landscapes: moorland, woodland, river estuary and parkland. This visit will also give us an opportunity to explore Plymouth city by bicycle.
Heading off on an adventure with a bicycle is always exciting. On the outskirts of Plymouth we find the path by pedalling across busy motorways and cycling under underpasses covered in graffiti (not as interesting as the graffiti I have seen in London). We cycle along the edge of a very still Plym Estuary and eventually hit the trail leaving Plymouth behind. This ride is going to be a bit of a climb. It has a slight gradient all the way to Clearbrook village where the path ends. We carry happy thoughts though, of the down hill return back to Plymouth!
The trail is made up of rough gravel and it is bumpy. Many pebbles and stones spin-off the back of our wheels. As our wheels continue to spin as we are taken under Plym bridge and into the greenery of the National Trust Plymbridge woods where the air is crisp and cool. The hundreds of trees create huge walls. They lean tall and skinny over the trail whispering to us when a breeze passes over their leaves. We squeal and holler cycling through the trees like kids in a playground.
We rest our bikes after spotting the mossy covered shells of old buildings as we play hide and seek in and around their crumbling walls. These are remnants of the quarrying era which were probably used by families involved in the industry. We also find ourselves peering down over the top of the Cann viaduct where we can see the remains of the Rumple wheel pit by the river Plym and the face of Cann Quarry beyond. From the viewing platforms on the Viaduct there is a good chance that Peregrine falcons can be spotted tending their chicks at their cliff-ledge nests in the early summer. We use the mounted binoculars to help us, but are unlucky and spot no birds at all. We carry on and are greeted by three more amazing viaducts… Riverford viaduct, Bickleigh viaduct and Ham Green viaduct all proudly offering beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.
There is a spooky tunnel on this trail and rumour has it that it is supposedly haunted? There are horrid tales about murders that took place within its walls at the turn of the century and tales of the ghosts that also haunt the tunnel.
It is called the Shaugh Tunnel or formerly known as the Leighbeer Tunnel and it was cut out of solid rock and designed by railway engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It curves and is so dimly lit that you might as well be in the dark. The tunnel has a colony of roosting bats in it too – lucky us! As we approach the tunnel I feel myself wanting to pick up speed and race through its blackness. Once inside the tunnel it is grim and eerie any strange noise or movement makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up on end. I could so easily release a high pitch scream within its walls as cold drops of water hit my exposed skin. I pedal pretty quickly through the tunnel and I have to say I am glad to see sunlight again.
We come upon a place called Goodameavy where the bumpy gravel and trees give way to tarmac and open fields and this leads us straight into Clearbrook village. Clearbrook village lies on Dartmoor’s western edge. We cycle past satisfied horses chomping on the moor and families eating sumptuous picnics. It all looks so lovely that we quickly
find a patch of grass and find ourselves lounging on the grass happily eating a rather squashed looking packed lunch…
Finally it is time to head back and enjoy the downhill ride! It is always fun re-tracing your tracks and uncovering anything you might have missed along the way… but at the speed we are going we will have to miss them! With the breeze pulling at my hair and hitting my face I lift my legs off the pedals out to each side and I let the bike wheels whizz me down the gravel trail, back through the spooky tunnel, over the glorious viaducts and under the canopy of trees… This cycle ride has been a huge playground and I have felt like a child again exploring all the Plym valley’s hidden gems. Plymouth city here we come – it is your turn next!