Drakes Trail (part of the Devon C2C - NCN27)

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GeoffL
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Drakes Trail (part of the Devon C2C - NCN27)

Postby GeoffL » 8 May 2009, 11:31am

A few weeks ago, my wife and I decided to have a day out riding the Drakes Trail. We'd seen a TV news piece of the ribbon being cut to open the trail, and Yelverton to Tavistock off-road seemed like a good idea. To cut a long story short, the trail was nowhere near ready IMO but there was much evidence of ongoing work. I'd spotted an uprooted sign for NCN27 and so phoned Sustrans during the week to report it and to ask when the trail would be ready.

Chris at Sustrans passed my report and query to Graham Cornish at Devon. During the ensuing email conversation, I complimented Graham on the restoration of the Horrabridge viaduct. They have done a superb job IMO. It has an excellent running surface and there are thoughtfully placed picnic areas at either end. The trail from there towards Tavistock is pretty good too considering that it's unsealed -adequately wide and smoother than many tarmac roads I've ridden.

However, half a mile from the Horrabridge viaduct there is a hideously steep footpath to the Walkham Valley floor. I asked Graham how he intended to deal with this and hoped for a hairpin. His response caused my jaw to drop. Subject to planning permission, Devon plans to build a brand new viaduct next year at a cost of approx £3M. He sent me an artist's impression (attached), which gives some idea of the size. Graham tells me that the route is being made up to an interim standard and will have a proper surface after construction is finished. However, they cannot surface yet as they need to bring in heavy machinery for the bridge.

To me, this is seriously good news and shows that Devon are willing to spend real money on the cycle infrastructure. Assuming planning consent, when this is done we'll have a proper commuter route between Tavistock and Yelverton. If you don't mind the hairpin at Clearbrook or have good enough brakes for the very steep alternative, it'll give a good, mainly off-road route into the heart of Plymouth. Obviously, this is good news for those on the Devon Coast-to-Coast also.

Geoff
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Walkham_Viadiuct.jpg

FatBat
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Re: Drakes Trail (part of the Devon C2C - NCN27)

Postby FatBat » 8 May 2009, 12:49pm

Gosh! My view of Sustrans paths is that they have always been done on the cheap and the tricky bits have been left out. I guess this shows what can be done with a bit of foresight and a lot of money!

pioneer
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Re: Drakes Trail (part of the Devon C2C - NCN27)

Postby pioneer » 8 May 2009, 10:08pm

I used to ride that route (or at least parts of it), in the 80's when Sustrans where fairly new.Then, it was called the "Plym Valley Cycleway" or something similar.I used to take the kids on it too,happy days!
It started just past the cement works,then past Chelson Meadow tip',beside the river up to the horror that is Marsh Mills roundabout. What a palaver that was to get around,I hope it's easier (and safer!), now.(Are those broken down steam trains still there?).
I think it ended in those days at Goodameavy.

This was also before the routes in North Devon,Tarka Trail etc. My very first cycle tour started on this route. Those first few miles from Plymstock to Goodameavy were the start of a real adventure.
Sadly ofcourse,bits of the original railway tracks were sold off to some people who later, didn't want to sell them back or have cycle track on thier doorstep so the north-south Devon route today,is bound to have bits missing/meandering detours.
Still, I'm sure it's better than it was in 1986!

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Mick F
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Re: Drakes Trail (part of the Devon C2C - NCN27)

Postby Mick F » 9 May 2009, 9:20am

Good bit of info there, Geoff.

I may ride it when they've finished once or twice, but I can't see me using it regularly. As far as I'm concerned, there's nowt wrong with the A386!

Are you aware of the path from Devon Great Consoles to Morwellham Quay? They spent a fortune in building a tunnel under the A390 near Gulworthy to open up the old mining tramway. A nice new path has been built, but it doesn't go anywhere!

The money for the tunnel and path came from EU funding, but the powers that be never clinched the deal with the landowner to the east of the road BEFORE the money was spent! I think that they've opened up new negotiations with him. I expect he's asking for more dosh.
Mick F. Cornwall

GeoffL
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Re: Drakes Trail (part of the Devon C2C - NCN27)

Postby GeoffL » 9 May 2009, 10:15am

I heard that "they" wanted to provide the DGC to Morewellham path for walkers, cyclists, and horse-riders but the land owners wanted to ban horse boxes. However, that's only something I heard while visiting Tavistock Caravans and I can't remember whether I got that from the staff or a customer.

Are you saying that the trail only goes between Morewellham and the A390 underpass? Mrs GeoffL and I like trails with something interesting at the end. I've never been to Morewellham, and so that trail was on my "must do" list. Hopefully, they'll resolve whatever is holding things up. If they can't I suspect that all that disruption with the temporary lights on the A390 might have been for nowt!

Geoff

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Mick F
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Re: Drakes Trail (part of the Devon C2C - NCN27)

Postby Mick F » 9 May 2009, 11:08am

No, sorry.

The path goes between Devon Great Consoles, following the old tramway, then goes under the road and through a cutting. And stops.

The route from Morwellham is there I believe, right through Tavistock Woodlands Estate, but doesn't meet up with the new path by about half a mile or more. I was chatting to friends who tried to walk the path, but they had to come out at Tamar Gate (the big bend in the A390 just up from Gunnislake New Bridge), then walk up the main road to the underpass to complete the walk!

As an aside, the new tunnel/underpass was always there from when the tramway was a going concern. The A390 there is turnpike road (1760's??) and was happy enough with the tunnel. In the 1950s, the farmer filled the tunnel in with rubbish and rubble, and it stayed like that until last year.

Why didn't they just pull out the rubbish and open it up again? Because tunnels have to withstand 44 tonne lorries now, so they spent an absolute fortune rebuilding it.

The path, when it's joined up will have to cross the Old A390 up the steep hill. The Old road used to go straight off Gunnislake New Bridge and in a straight line to well past Gulworthy to Lumburn. Some of the route is only rubble and bridle way now, but the bits up to Gulworthy are still there. The roads are steep, straight and filled with fast traffic hurtling its way up and down as a short cut to get in front of slow vehicles.

The new path has to cross one of these race tracks. Vehicles coming up will be able to stop, but the ones coming down would have a very difficult time of it. The hill must be about 1in6.

Anyway, we'll see.

If anyone doesn't know the area that me and Geoff are talking about, have a look:
Gulworthy.jpg

This is the A390 between Tavistock and Gunnislake, and you can see the old tramway, marked "Dismantled Railway" weaving its way to the mines.
Mick F. Cornwall

rjb
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Re: Drakes Trail (part of the Devon C2C - NCN27)

Postby rjb » 10 May 2009, 10:05pm

Hi Mick F,

Saw your map but didn't recognise the B road through gulworthy. In my youth 60/70's i would use the A390 regularly. When dropping down to Gunnislake from Tavistock half the club would try to get to the bottom first by taking the minor road short cut. No roundabout either at gulworthy in those days. I am glad that the road from tavistock to yelverton is still ok for cycling as i assumed the provision of the cycle route implied that it was now very busy.

Apologies if i have sidetracked this thread but it has jogged my memory as i lived in Plymouth until the early 70's

Regards, roger
At the last count:- Focus Variado, Peugeot 531 pro, Dawes Discovery Tandem, 2 Dawes Kingpins, Falcon K2 MTB dropped bar tourer, On One Pompino, Longstaff trike conversion on a Falcon corsa. :D

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Mick F
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Re: Drakes Trail (part of the Devon C2C - NCN27)

Postby Mick F » 11 May 2009, 8:21am

Hi Roger,

The lower minor road shortcut was changed to "one way" - I believe in the late 70's - after some fatalities/bad accidents. You can only go up now. The upper shortcut to Gulworthy is still two-way.

The roundabout was installed because of many accidents over the years, and even a fatality fairly recently. The view out of the Bere Alston road towards Tavy was almost impossible. Cars had to poke their noses out to see.

The A386 between Tavy and Yelverton is busy at commuting times, but I find it ok to ride on, even though there's some long slogs on the hills! I think the more timid riders, or families, or beginners, wouldn't like it and would prefer a traffic-free ride.

BTW, we moved here in 1985.
Mick F. Cornwall

GeoffL
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Re: Drakes Trail (part of the Devon C2C - NCN27)

Postby GeoffL » 11 May 2009, 9:28am

rjb wrote:I am glad that the road from tavistock to yelverton is still ok for cycling as i assumed the provision of the cycle route implied that it was now very busy.

Hilly rather than busy. In contrast to the A386, the new route will be much flatter since it avoids the hills between around Grenofen. I know that some people would rather the "character-building" climb out of the Walkham Valley, but I suspect that the majority will welcome the somewhat easier route (at least Tavistock-bound).

Geoff

markl66
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Re: Drakes Trail (part of the Devon C2C - NCN27)

Postby markl66 » 13 Nov 2009, 10:31am

This is really good news. I have lived in Tavistock, Devon for 7 years and love the Moorland around that area. I have cycled from Tavistock to Plymouth commuting and that hill is the worst bit. It not only makes for a much easier route, but also a pleasant day out for the family at no cost. I guess they will continue the route up to Yelverton and join up with the Plym Valley cycle way?

GeoffL
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Re: Drakes Trail (part of the Devon C2C - NCN27)

Postby GeoffL » 13 Oct 2013, 11:08am

I hope that nobody minds my resurrection of this thread -- but the viaduct was finished last year and has even won an award according to this article from the local newspaper.

Interestingly, it seems that NCN27 is to become part of the " Velodyssey, a 265-mile (440km) cross-Channel cycle link that will eventually stretch 870 miles (1,400km), from Ilfracombe in through Brittany to the border with Spain.", which should give an interesting 'set tour'!

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Mick F
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Re: Drakes Trail (part of the Devon C2C - NCN27)

Postby Mick F » 13 Oct 2013, 12:28pm

We went to a presentation earlier this year (or was it late last year?) about the proposed opening of the rail link between Tavistock and Bere Alston. There's a proposed cycle route to run parallel with it.

At the presentation, the chap who designed and built Gem Bridge over the Walkham was there. He was also on the team for the Tavy Bere Alston route too.

We chatted about this and that, then I let rip at him. 2M quid for a bridge that hardly anyone uses? Absolute waste of money! The valley is steep, yes, but a zig zag path would have cost a tenth of that and anyway, the zig zag path is there as well as the bridge.

I've tried Drake's Trail a couple of times and it's not very good. It's far quicker and simpler to use the A386 from Tavy all the way to Plymouth. Drake's Trail is a long slog up from Gem Bridge up to Yelverton on a fine gravel pathway and is hard work and steep. The main road is a doddle in comparison. The route from Tavy and through the Brunel tunnel at Grenofen in good fun and worth the walk from the "Grub Up" layby south of Tavy. By bike, it's fun too, but walking would be better. Ditto over Gem Bridge.

If you don't want to use the A386 on a bike to Yelverton there's a very suitable alternative. The Old Road - the road that was built before the coming of the turnpike. It leaves Tavy via Whitchurch and drops down into Horrabridge, then goes through Walkhampton to Yelverton.

As for the rest of Drake's Trail down the Plym Valley, I wouldn't bother again unless I had a couple of kids out for a Sunday afternoon. It's no use for commuting.

Sorry for taking an alternative view, but it's my considered and experienced opinion.
Mick F. Cornwall

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Re: Drakes Trail (part of the Devon C2C - NCN27)

Postby DevonDamo » 13 Oct 2013, 11:17pm

Mick - your description of Drake's trail between the Gem Bridge and Yelverton gives the wrong impression. There's gravel on the bridge and for a few hundred yards beyond. Then it's tarmac the rest of the way to Yelverton. Agreed about the long uphill slog though.

As for the Plym Valley: last time you did it, you went the wrong way, hence you going over the Saltram/Chelson Meadow stretch which you didn't appreciate on your road bike. If you go the right way, it's fine for commuting - straight tarmac all the way from Clearbrook to Plymouth city centre. Lots of people use it - including many in lycra!

Sorry to keep picking you up on this, but the Plym Valley makes for easy, pleasant cycling, and I hate to see people being discouraged from using it. If there's a campaign needed, it's to get the signage sorted out.

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Mick F
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Re: Drakes Trail (part of the Devon C2C - NCN27)

Postby Mick F » 14 Oct 2013, 11:36am

Not really in agreement with you.
The surface from Yelverton all the way to the Whitchurch road is "tarmac" for much of the route. Trouble is, it isn't tarmac, but tarmac with fine gravel on top. It isn't tarmac like a road.

How can anyone commute using Drake's Trail from Tavistock if they work in Plymouth? How far is it? How long would it take? Sorry, but the A386 road is smooth, easy going and fast. Tavistock to Plymouth city centre using the A386 takes 52minutes. (Just checked on my rides diary) 13.6miles.

I didn't go wrong by going via Saltram, I started off at Laira Bridge as I intended. Where I did go wrong though, was attempting the route up to Clearbrook up a very steep rocky path. I understand there's a better way up to the road, but I've never been back to investigate. From Clearbrook, I'd had enough and went the rest of the way home on the roads.

I have tried Yelverton to Whitchurch on the trail and I've done some of it the other way too. It's just too difficult going up to Yelverton as it's too steep. The A386 is easy in comparison.

Don't get me wrong, in principle it's a good route. It's not a good route for commuting, but it is a good route for leisure and family outings. The Gem Bridge cost an obscene amount of money IMHO.
Mick F. Cornwall

Pete Owens
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Re: Drakes Trail (part of the Devon C2C - NCN27)

Postby Pete Owens » 14 Oct 2013, 11:22pm

While I agree with Mick that this is an absurd waste of cash.
It is clearly only suitable for and intended as leisure route - I have ridden parts of the trail as a tourist and it makes for as relaxing family outing - so long as you are not actually trying to get somewhere for a particular time. It really cannot be described as transport infrastructure so should probably be funded from the tourism budget.

However, given the sort of things highway engineers would spend that sort of cash on (even - or perhaps especially - when they are claiming to benefit cyclists), then wasting cash is a to be welcomed just on the grounds of avoiding the damage they would otherwise be able to inflict on us.