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Plym Valley Way - Saltram House to Clearbrook
The Plym Valley trail is a superb off-road cycle route for families or beginners who don't want to exert too much energy. The trail is part of the much larger Devon Coast to Coast cycle route which runs from Plymouth to the coastal resort of Ilfracombe on the North Devon coast - a distance of 97 miles.
The Plym Valley section, takes you along a gentle incline that follows the route of an old disused railway line. The route takes you through the National Trust woodland at Plym Bridge towards Dartmoor.
Starting at the southern most end of the route provides you with some distinct advantages - a decent pub at the end of the trail and the knowledge that the return journey is very much a downhill trip all the way back.
Starting from Saltram House
The trail itself starts in the grounds of Saltram House (National Trust) - one of Devon's grandest mansions Located on the banks of Plym Estuary, Saltram was built in the reign of George II for the Parker family. The house featured in the film of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. Parking can be found adjacent to the council rubbish tip at Chelson Meadow - not far from Laira Bridge. As you start your journey, you will pass an 18th Century folly - there is also a hide from which you can spend some time watching the wading birds as they feed on the tidal estuary.
The route markers will guide riders through the busy Marsh Mills road junction across the main A38 trunk road to Coypool - where you will pass the Plym Valley Railway. The Marsh Mills retail park is visible from this section, complete with the ever-present PC World and more importantly a Halfords store - for any last minute accessories.
Starting from Coypool
Many people prefer to start the trail at Coypool -it cuts out the problem of negotiating your way across the A38. There is ample parking available in the DIY super store car park, or along the roadside at the start of the trail.
The route from here follows the course of the old Great Western Railway line through tunnels and across viaducts. Keep a look out along the way for remnants of the old railway and other historic remains - some with information boards.
As you leave Coypool, the track has a gentle incline as you make your way to towards Ply Bridge through Plym Bridge Woods (National Trust). This 2 mile stretch of woodland with an incredible variety of tree species and habitats is just 3½ miles from the centre of Plymouth. The wooland has three old railways that run through it as well as the Cann quarry canal. Deer are often seen in amongst the trees and adders can often be seen basking amongst the slabs of discarded slate. At Plym Bridge itself, you can leave the trail, to explore or relax by the old bridge.
From Plym Bridge the route heads out across the dizzy heights of Meldon Viaduct, with its magnificent views across the valley to Great Shaugh Wood - lying to the east of the viaduct. The trail steadily climbs towards Bickleigh bridge. As you ride along the trail, you catch glimpse of the River Plym flowing through the bottom of the valley - now a long way below you.
At Bickleigh, the old railway line used to run under the bridge, but this is sadly blocked - so you must take a short detour up the very steep road towards the village of Bickleigh. Before you reach the village and the Army camp, you take a right turn, following the road down towards a groups of cottages. The road is very narrow in places, so care is needed when travelling with families. At Ham Bridge, the road doglegs to the right, after which you can you can rejoin the track.
After passing Shaugh Prior station, complete with the old platform, you will come to the Shaugh Tunnel. Designed and constructed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the curved tunnel was cut through solid rock. The journey through the tunnel has been greatly improved by the recent addition of electric lights.
From the Shaugh Tunnel it is not far to the end of the trail at Clearbrook, where you can stop and have a refreshing drink and a bite to eat at the Skylark Inn.
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