The Camel Trail,
Tel: 0300 1234 202
The last day of our week out there in Cornwall was a really beautiful autumn day. We decided to use the sunshine trying out the Camel Trail. No .. not dromadaries and bactrians you don’t find many of those in Cornwall, we were going to walk beside the Camel Estuary to Padstow.
The Camel Trail is a path along a railway line which used to link Bodmin to Wadebridge and Padstow but is now disused and without rails. It is managed by Cornwall Council and their leaflet says that it is “an easy route: traffic free, smooth surface and virtually level. The trail is safe for families and easy to use for the mobility impaired”. So Access Out There in the guise of Di, Richard and Titania and accompanied by Maggi, Jim and Gypsy were off to test this.
We didn’t have the time to walk the whole length of the trail from Bodmin to Padstow so instead we made for Wadebridge, which is roughly the halfway point, and decided to go from there to Padstow.
The town of Wadebridge is the only place on the Bodmin to Padstow walk where the trail actually leaves the river. Instead of the riverside path you have to navigate yourself through the town streets from the path end of the first half to the start of the next half of the path. If you are doing the whole walk this probably isn’t a problem, in fact more of an opportunity to find some suitable watering hole in the town to fortify you for the second half of the walk.
Anyway, we were only going to do half the walk, so having navigated ourselves to Wadebridge we criss-crossed the town a couple of times looking for parking close to the trail. Eventually we parked in a far corner of a car park purporting to be close to the trail and walked round the corner past the public loos (clean and accessible and useful to know it’s here) and the bike hire shop and onto the Camel Trail.
Straight away all the omens were positive for a good walk. The sky remained blue with fluffy white clouds gently drifting by. The path was wide and a well maintained tarmac and to the right of us we could see the river Camel dotted with moored boats. Wadebridge was left behind and soon we are passed by our first bicycles. We discovered that the old fashioned ring of a bike bell was a useful thing on this walk, several times it prevented us being entangled with the leisure, fitness or commuter cyclists who make good use of the trail.
We initially lost sight of the river as the hedgerow to our right got denser and became a thicket of young trees and shrubs. The path continued straight and mostly level, and after we passed under a bridge carrying the main road high above and away from us we were properly in the quiet of the countryside. Much of the trail is in an area designated “An area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” and we agreed with the designation!
The hedgerow between us and the river gave way to reeds and grasses and the river became visible. It was wider and started to look more like an estuary. We passed through an old gateway which had lost its gates, and the path progressed alongside the river, briefly losing sight of it where the old railway had been cut through a small hill. Dark banks on either side of us full of vegetation and the trees still in leaf above made it seem like a railway tunnel. Soon out of the tunnel and into the light again back with our new friend the Camel. Now as we pushed on the path, while still good, in places became a little more stony and prone to the odd puddle. Titania didn’t find it too much of a problem.
A little further along the path there was a bird hide off to the right which was accessible for Titania and with windows which were low enough for Richard to look through. We stopped here for some minutes watching the egrets, shags, and on this day there was a rarer treat of a pair of black tailed godwits.
The path continued alongside the Camel. The views across the estuary became less obscured by bushes and shrubs. At around the half way point near the rocky remains of an old quarry we paused by one of the number of benches with the best view which we had encountered along the way. It was roughly at the halfway point between Wadebridge and Padstow which we could now see in the distance. We decided we would push on all the way, even if it did mean we might have to double the distance walked to retrace our steps back to the car. It was at about this point that unnoticed by Richard, Titania’s GoPro eye ran out of battery power, so unfortunately there is no video record of the rest of the trip. We did however, carry on.
We progressed down the path, fields to the left of us, the Camel to the right. Our bird spotting continued; of special delight to all of us was when we saw the azure flashes of kingfishers flying along the banks of the river. These beautiful birds made several appearances throughout the rest of the walk, especially as we crossed the bridge over a creek joining the Camel just before we came to the outskirts of Padstow (we had no success in capturing them on camera though). The fields on the left gave way to the homes of those lucky people who have the view over the estuary every day and the path entered Padstow.
A few hundred metres more down the path we came to the end of the trail in car park by the Harbour and the lobster hatchery. The debate as to whether we would turn round and retrace our steps started again, but we spotted a bus at the other end of the car park. Further investigation uncovered an appropriate bus leaving in a few minutes which was capable of taking Titania, Gypsy and even the rest of us all the way back to Wadebridge, so the discussion ended and the bus was boarded. Travelling by bus through narrow Cornish lanes is a fun experience too. When two buses meet on one of those lanes you get very intimate with the passengers on the other bus!
From Wadebrigde to Padstow along the walk is 5.5 miles which had taken us about four hours to complete with many pauses for sights for surveying, birds of interest, Gypsy led diversions down to the river, or simply just drinking in the pleasure of it all. Overall it was a very pleasant way to spend a sunny October day. The walk the other way from Wadebridge to Bodmin would have been 5.75 miles. Hopefully we’ll come back another time to try that part of trail too .. if we do Access-Out-There will let you know how we get on.
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Richard & Di
30th October 2016