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Along the Banks of the River Camel at Wadebridge

A gentle walk along the famous old railway trackbed of the Camel Trail and through less-visited woodlands.

Distance 6 miles (9.7km)

Minimum time 3hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 328ft (100m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Farm and forestry tracks and well-surfaced old railway track

Landscape Wooded riverside

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 106 Newquay and Padstow

Start/finish SW 991722

Dog friendliness Dogs should be kept under control and restrained from roaming fields and property adjacent to the Camel Trail. On lead through grazed areas and if notices indicate

Parking Wadebridge main car park. Small parking area at end of Guineaport Road at start of the Camel Trail

Public toilets The Platt, Wadebridge

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© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153

1 From the car parks in Wadebridge, walk along Southern Way Road past the Betjeman Centre and continue along Guineaport Road to the start of the Camel Trail. Start from here if adjacent parking is used.

2 Do not follow the Camel Trail. Instead, where the road forks just past a row of houses, keep right and within a few paces, at a junction, where the road curves up to the right, keep ahead along an unsurfaced track signposted 'Public Footpath to Treraven'. Follow the track steadily uphill. Go through a wooden gate and follow the right-hand field edge to go through another gate. Continue along a track to reach a junction with a wider track. Keep ahead and follow the track.

3 Go left in front of Treraven Farm, then, in about 15yds (14m), at a junction, keep right and continue along the track to reach a bend on a minor public road by a building.

4 Keep straight ahead along the road, with care, then turn left at a cross roads, signposted 'Burlawn'. At the next junction, go left and follow the road through Burlawn. Go steeply downhill on a narrow lane overshadowed by trees.

5 At Hustyn Mill, beyond a little footbridge, turn left off the road and follow a broad woodland track. Stay on the main track to where it reaches the surfaced road at Polbrock Bridge.

6 Turn left over the bridge across the River Camel and, in a few paces, go off left and down steps to join the Camel Trail. Turn left here and follow the unwavering line of the Camel Trail back to Wadebridge.

Wadebridge is emphatically a river town. Even its name defines it as such. Before the mid-15th century the settlement on the banks of the Camel River, upstream from Padstow was known simply as 'Waed', the fording place. It was a dangerous passage across the Camel here and there were many drownings and near escapes. Eventually, in 1485, money was raised for the building of a bridge, known subsequently as 'The Bridge on Wool'. Contemporary records suggest that the foundations for the stone piers of the new bridge were actually made up of wool sacks. But another, less appealing but possibly more accurate, explanation is that the money for the bridge was earned from the lucrative wool trade of the medieval period. The bridge has 17 arches and is 320ft (98m) long. It was widened in 1847 and is recognised as being one of the finest examples of a medieval bridge in Britain.

In the 19th century Wadebridge also acquired a famous railway, first linking the town to Bodmin in 1834 and then to Padstow in 1899. The Wadebridge to Bodmin section was built to carry sand extracted from the Camel Estuary for agricultural use to improve soil conditions. In return the railway carried china clay and granite from the quarries on Bodmin Moor for export by sea. Extending the railway line to Padstow led to the decline of Wadebridge as a port but the Padstow link also established the line as part of the great Atlantic Coast Express carrying huge numbers of holidaymakers from London and the heart of England to the Cornish seaside resorts. The journey from Bodmin through Wadebridge to Padstow was immortalised by the poet John Betjeman who described its length as 'the most beautiful train journey...'

The line was closed in the 1960s. In 1980 Cornwall County Council bought the section from Boscarne Junction near Bodmin to Padstow and turned it into a recreational trail, the Camel Trail, that has subsequently been enjoyed by vast numbers of walkers, cyclists, horse riders, anglers and birdwatchers. This walk follows part of the Camel Trail, but first leads inland through deeply wooded countryside. The route climbs steadily above the Camel valley to the serene little hamlet of Burlawn before it descends into an enfolding blanket of woodland by Hustyn Mill from where it leads to Polbrock Bridge, where the River Camel and the Camel Trail cling to each other like snakes. From Polbrock Bridge you follow the Camel Trail effortlessly back to Wadebridge, in more crowded circumstances at times and sharing the experience with cyclists, yet within that same persuasive world of trees, river, and Cornish air that so enchanted Betjeman.

Where to eat and drink

There are no refreshment outlets along the route but Wadebridge has a number of pubs, restaurants and cafés. The Swan Hotel in Molesworth Street, the town's main street leading to its famous bridge, does good traditional food.

While you're there

Visit the John Betjeman Centre in Southern Way, Wadebridge. It's in the old railway station and contains memorabilia of the famous Poet Laureate. He was unsurpassed as a chronicler of suburbia and the countryside, and a lover of the Padstow and Wadebridge area where he had a family home. Open Monday to Friday, 10-4:30.

What to look for

The River Camel and its flanking woods are a perfect habitat for birds. Look for goldfinch and nuthatch, amongst the trees and for heron and curlew on the river. In the spring and autumn, if you are very lucky, you may spot birds of passage such as the beautiful little egret in its snow-white plumage.

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