|Meeting the Railway|
I seemed to recall that the surface of the railway path had once been compacted stone for most of the northern section but as the rail route started properly here it had a tarmac surface from this point onward. This would make walking both a blessing and a curse. Although it makes for nice clean walking, tarmac is quite hard on the feet after awhile and it is much easier to cycle on. I was slightly disappointed not to have brought my bike, for I could have cycled the whole route from Tavistock then. However, it isn’t so easy to stop and look at stuff then.
At the other end of the tunnel the line is crossed by Drake’s Leat once again via a well engineered bridge. I am not clear whether this was provided by the railway company when the line was constructed or whether it was a much later inclusion when the authorities refurbished the Leat in case it was needed during World War II. The line continued southwards on a shelf like part of the slope of the valley, largely through woods that at least afforded views outwards towards the higher moorland beyond.
Soon after and I passed the only intact station left on the line at
. This was only ever a halt station and opened in 1907, some 46 years after the line opened. I am not sure that there were any more facilities during the period it was open than there are now! Heading south and the next feature on the line is the massive 6 arched Ham Green viaduct. This carries the line high above a small tributary valley of a stream that flows into the River Plym. On the left hand side of the viaduct the stumps of a former viaduct can be seen. I imagine these were from an earlier wooden structure – such features are quite commonplace in Devon and Shaugh Bridge . Cornwall
|Ham Green Viaduct|
For a short section through the cutting to the south of the site of Bickleigh Station the path acquires some road markings. The need for these was amply demonstrated by a dog walker in a disabled buggy. Apparently the markings are to remind people that this section is used by these kinds of vehicles. Perhaps that is why the surface has been tarmacked?
|Viaduct with Stumps|
I could tell that I was now reaching the end of the line as there were by now many runners using the line. I should imagine that it is a good route for running. The surface is even but the route far more interesting than pounding the pavements around the city. The section through Plymbridge Woods is delightful, perhaps the most scenic along the whole route.
The next viaduct on the route at Cann is probably the most interesting. The viaduct itself is made of brick rather than the stone of the others crossed so far. Alongside the trackbed are also some ruins from the former quarrying operations that were carried out here. It made for an interesting diversion from the route as I wandered around and tried to picture how the quarry must have operated. It produced slate, but of a much lower quality than material from
, which eventually replaced it. Judging from the ruins there must have been quite an operation though. On the viaduct itself a couple of National Trust people were set up to offer a look at the peregrine falcons that nest high up on the cliff faces of the quarry. They had no shortage of takers to look through their telescope at the birds. Wales
Just south of Cann Viaduct the line is joined by the trackbed of the Lee Moor Tramway and the
, even older transport systems designed to get raw materials out of this former industrial heartland. Both systems have long been abandoned – in the case of the canal about 180 years ago, although some traces of it can still be seen. I soon reached the scenic river crossing at Plymbridge and from here on are the most apparent changes to the route since I last walked it 15 years ago. In recent years the Plym Valley Heritage Railway, just a seed of an idea in the late 1990s, has now reopened the line as far as Plymbridge. Cann Canal
The onward path then doesn’t follow the line as it used to since it is now reoccupied by a railway! The halt at Plymbridge still looks a bit wobbly and the track looks a little mad, but it is early days and I wish the project success. There was sadly no opportunity to ride the trains – the next one apparently isn’t scheduled to run until July! As I wandered around the site I soon heard the unmistakable sound of a mechanical street sweeper. This must be one of the more scenic parts of his round, although the surroundings belie how close you are to the built up area of
. He parked in the station car park, suggesting that this is a popular place for a tea break. Plymouth
|Plym Valley Railway HQ|