An Hens Camhayl (Bodmin to Padstow)
The Camel Trail is arguably the most successful recreational trail in the UK, providing access to the beautiful Cornish countryside along a disused railway line between Bodmin, Wadebridge and Padstow. As the final leg of the Atlantic Coast Express journey from Waterloo, winding alongside the spectacular Camel Estuary, the line was immortalised in ‘Betjeman’s Cornwall’ as “the most beautiful train journey I know”.
Managed as a Partnership involving local community organisations, the Camel Trail is carefully maintained and promoted in order to accommodate the 350,000 users each year.
The Camel Trail is an 18 mile largely traffic free, smooth-surfaced and virtually level cycle way which passes through some of the most spectacular countryside in the south west. Following the disused railway line once used by the London and South West Railway, cyclists hug the Camel Estuary from Padstow to Wadebridge before joining the route through the deeply incised and beautifully wooded Camel Valley to Bodmin. Mid way between Padstow and Wadebridge why not stop for a coffee, snack or ice-cream provided by the wonderful Atlantic Coast Express (Easter – October half term, 10 -5 daily, weather permitting). Just a short cycle ride from Wadebridge and you will come across the beautiful Camel Valley Vineyard, where you can take a wine tour or just sample some of their award winning wines! At Bodmin yet another line, one of the most historic in the country, winds its way inland to the foot of Bodmin Moor where it comes to an end near Blisland, an extraordinarily pretty moorland village. For a little detour why not visit Bodmin Jail, originally built for King George III in 1779; today’s jail was built with the help of the prisoners who brought 20,000 tons of granite from Bodmin’s Cuckoo Quarry. There is also a restaurant in what used to be the Governer’s Hall.
The CamelTrail runs alongside the River Camel (Cornish: Dowr Kammel, meaning crooked river) It rises on the edge of Bodmin Moor and with its tributaries, its catchment area covers much of North Cornwall. The Camel Estuary is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that enters the sea near Padstow, and provides an excellent habitat for birds. Large areas of salt marsh encourage a variety of winter waders, while on the mudflats at low tide you can often see members of what was Britain’s very first colony of Little Egrets. Peregrines are commonly spotted, as is a migrant Osprey, breaking his journey for a few days of fishing and swimming in spring and autumn. Mute Swans nest at several locations, including a small island near the bridge in the centre of Wadebridge, and several types of duck, including Shelduck, Shoveller, Teal and Mallard, make the estuary their home. An American Belted Kingfisher was spotted here in the 1980s, for only the second time in Britain, while native Kingfishers can be seen further up the river and on several of its tributaries. There are a number of purpose-built hides on the estuary with those on the Camel Trail open to the public.
Landscape and wildlife designations abound, contrasts in scenery are striking and access to country and seaside towns provides opportunities to use local shops, pubs and visit attractions.
Visitors can hire bikes in Padstow at Trail Bike Hire which is right at the start of the trail when you leave the main car park and Bridge Bike Hire in Wadebridge. Both take advance bookings which is perfect for peace of mind during the busy periods. The trail provides access in to the heart of North Cornwall; experienced cyclists can make off, away from the trail exploring the many villages and country lanes which lie close to the trail.
The Camel Trail Partnership, formed in 2001, includes the local communities through whose area the trail passes. It also includes the Forestry Commission, English Nature and the Environment Agency all of whom have a particular interest in seeing the trail managed for wildlife and landscape as well as for people. The Partnership is supported by staff from the District and County Council. A ranger from the County Council and one from the District Council work together as a team to look after the day to day management of the trail thus making best use of scarce resources.
For more information on The Camel Trail visit www.cornwall.gov.uk/cameltrail