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Walking and cycling on the Camel Trail

Despite its exotic sounding name, the Camel Trail is a popular17-mile long traffic-free route for walkers, horses and cyclists, with not a camel in sight.
The Camel Trail follows a disused railway line through some of Cornwall’s loveliest countryside from Padstow to Wenfordbridge. It passes through the lovely town of Wadebridge and historic Bodmin along the 17-mile (28km) journey one way. The well-maintained path is relatively flat with a good surface, making it suitable for disabled users and wheelchairs.

History of the Camel Trail

The Camel Trail was developed along the former railway in the area. The line was built to carry sand from the Camel Estuary to inland farms as they used it for fertilizer. The original railway ran from Wadebridge to Wenfordbridge with a branch line to Bodmin. The railway was later used to transport china clay and slate from the inland quarries to the busy commercial port in Padstow. It also carried fish from Padstow, connecting with trains to London and other UK cities, and passenger trains used the route.

In 1846, the London and South Western Railway purchased the Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway and intended to connect it to the rest of the railway system by building a new railway through North Cornwall, but this never materialized. Eventually demand for the railway declined. The last passenger train ran in 1967 and freight trains ceased in 1983 due to the prohibitive cost of replacing the worn track.

Every cloud has a silver lining, and the railway went on to continue to serve North Cornwall in a different capacity. As the railway was built with few inclines and no sharp bends it now makes an excellent recreational trail, and so the Camel Trail was created. It is mostly traffic-free, with just a short section through Wadebridge sharing the road with light traffic before becoming a greenway again. The most scenic section is along the banks of the Camel River from Padstow to Wadebridge, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Camel Trail Features

With the popularity of the Camel Trail, cycle hire shops, cafés and other small businesses have sprouted up to serve its users. Its success has actually saved it from being commandeered for industrial use again. Several plans have been proposed to convert the Camel Trail back to a railway, on the grounds that it would keep heavy lorries off the narrow Cornish roads. All proposals have been rejected as the cycleway is seen as providing great local benefits.

In 2006 the Camel Trail was further extended to the present day route. One extension allowed the Camel Trail to reach the town centre in Bodmin. The second extension saw the Camel Trail run from Poley’s Bridge near St Breward to Wenfordbridge, its present terminus, along the old clay dries.

The Camel Trail has car parking at Padstow, Wadebridge and Poley’s Bridge allowing for shorter walks or rides and the opportunity to enjoy a well-earned cream tea or pasty in one of these towns. The St Piran Trail at Padstow, the Coast and Clay Trail at Bodmin and the North Cornwall Trail at Poley’s Bridge all link with the Camel Trail to provide longer routes for walkers. Bicycle hire is conveniently available from Bridge Bike Hire in Wadebridge, Trail Bike Hire in Padstow and Bodmin Bikes.

About Gillian Birch

Born in Cheshire, Gillian Birch moved to Cornwall at her earliest opportunity and never looked back. After 20 years, her ongoing discovery of popular attractions, quiet footpaths and local eateries has made her a fount of knowledge as she entertains readers with her informative articles on the hidden gems of Devon & Cornwall from a local point-of-view.

Find Gillian on Google+, and Twitter.

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