We hired our bicycles for the whole day. For slightly less cost you can hire for a shorter time but being such a lovely day and with as much time as we wanted to take there seemed little point in hurrying. Initially the route would not be on the line of the railway itself (for it still exists for the heritage operation!). Instead we had to go down the steep Railway Approach road and then hook a sharp left after the under bridge in order to gain the route. For the first little bit the route then follows alongside the track, presumably using the same formation but on the line of the second track (it is only a single track operation now).
|Meldon Quarry Station|
Beyond the quarry is perhaps the most significant structure on the whole line - the magnificent wrought iron Meldon Viaduct. What a joy it is to still be able to travel across such a magnificent structure, even if it is by bicycle rather than on a train. Indeed Network Rail have stated that the old viaduct is no longer strong enough to carry a train and it would have to be replaced if the line were ever to re-open. I guess this is a significant obstacle to re-opening proposals. The six truss viaduct is over 150m long and 46 m high. Dartmoor looms up above it to the south and the reservoir at Meldon is just beyond. The viaduct actually had to carry road traffic across it while the dam was being constructed in the early 1970s.
|Junction with Bude Branch|
I paused briefly at Sourton to admire the church alongside the track. Fortunately the old sections of diversion in this area no longer apply and the way is clear beyond. It is also quite significantly downhill for I really motored along this part. It wasn't long past here though that I came to a juddering halt for the path reduces to a narrow section winding between the trees and has clearly been left unimproved. This section is privately owned still and no attempt has been made to improve the track surface. Fortunately it is only a short section and once through the gate marking the southern end it was back to tarmac path again. I am guessing that negotiations are underway to include this section officially for there was no attempt to divert us on to a nearby pathway or road.
Just beyond this section and we came to Lake Viaduct. This is a more conventional stone viaduct and having been spoiled by Meldon it wasn't quite as spectacular. Nevertheless there was a lot of activity on the viaduct deck as we approached for it looked like a school group were birdwatching from the parapet. We paused briefly to look at the view and after enjoying what we saw we pressed on. The onward path had a platelayer's hut still guarding the way - a real relic from the past!
As a cycle path this is a joy to cycle - the scenery is magnificent and the going is easy. Be aware though that Okehampton to Lydford is largely downhill while the return is steadily uphill. With a relatively modest length (8 miles) it is an easy one to do in a short day but I would suggest that you combine it with a walk around Lydford Gorge (that is where we are headed next) and possibly even a peek at Lydford Castle and a pub lunch in the welcoming pub next door. As an all day outing I can certainly not praise it enough!