Plymbridge Woods family cycle trail
near Plymouth, DevonRoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Have fun with the family on this cycle ride which follows the route of an old Great Westen Railway track. From the edge of Plymouth, you plunge straight into glorious oak woodland before emerging out into open countryside. The trail leads you past dramatic industrial remains, including towering quarry faces, and across breathtaking viaducts. You’ll get the chance for close-up views of nesting wild peregrines (in season) and a taste of invigorating moorland fresh air all year round.
Start: Plymbridge Woods car park, grid ref: SX523585
Leave the main National Trust car park at Plymbridge Woods and cycle up a slope onto the old Great Western Railway line, now National Cycle Network route 27. Pause and look left at the disused Plym Halt station. Turn right, away from the city of Plymouth.
The disused Plym Halt station is where day-trippers in the 1950s would catch a train from the city for a day out in the Plym Valley. It was known as the Woolworth's Special because it cost just sixpence.
Ride about 1.5 miles (2.4km) on to the Cann Viaduct. If youre visiting in spring and early summer, stop off at the peregrine viewing platform for fantastic close-ups of these majestic birds of prey through mounted telescopes. If youre lucky, you might see them tending the chicks at their quarry cliff-ledge nest.
Plymbridge Woods are home to a host of woodland and wetland species, like the dipper, grey wagtail, little grebe, grebe, heron and kingfisher. Theyre particularly famed for the breeding peregrine falcons, raven, kestrel and woodpecker. From the Cann Viaduct look down to the river and across to Cann Quarry, where the peregrine falcons can be spotted breeding in early summer. Dedicated bird watching volunteers monitor them to ensure they come to no harm.
Proceed over three more massive viaducts, pausing to look down onto the surrounding woodland and countryside.
This cycle ride takes you along the Sustrans National Cycle Network 27. Also known as the Devon Coast to Coast trail, it heads from Plymouth across Dartmoor to Illfracombe, 97 miles away on the north Devon coast. It was the first Sustrans cycle route to be created 40 years ago in 1967.
After about 4 miles (6.4km), from the start, you will reach Leighbeer Tunnel, cut out of solid rock by railway engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. This is curving and dimly lit, so proceed with extreme care.
Look out for the remains of Plymbridges industrial past as you ride, such as the shells of old quarry workers cottages. Slate was quarried here during the 19th century and a series of tram and railway lines were built to transport heavy loads down into the city and port. Coppiced oaks have started to reclaim the Victorian industrial remains. They provide a tranquil haven for local wildlife. Spot bluebells, foxglove and primrose in spring.
Leave the old railway line and go left down a minor road towards Shaugh Prior. At Shaugh Bridge, cross over the River Plym and immediately pull into the left.
Flowing down from Trowlesworthy Warren on Dartmoor, the river Plym can really grow in size after rain upstream, turning from a placid, slow trickle to a gushing torrent. There are many species of dragon and damselflies living around the river, as well as around the ponds and canal. You may also see bees and butterflies, and catch a glimpse of fallow deer or foxes in quiet spots.
Dismount and wheel your cycle across the footbridge into the National Trust Dewerstone Woods. Here you can explore the remains of an old tile making kiln and search for the remains of old leats and wheelpits. It is an ideal place for a picnic. To return, go back over Shaugh Bridge, ignore the first road on the right (which you came down on from the tunnel), and take the next turning on the right. This will take you back up onto National Cycle Network route 27 at Shaugh Prior platform.
End: Plymbridge Woods car park, grid ref: SX523585
- Trail: Cycling
- Grade: Easy
- Distance: 10 miles (16.1km)
- Time: 1 hour
- OS Map: Explorer OL20, Landranger 201
Well-surfaced, nearly level disused railway line. Can be muddy after wet weather, take care when walking near waterways and the River Plym. Beware that the Leighbeer Tunnel is dimly lit and a torch or bike lights will be handy even in the middle of the day. A variety of other paths offer shorter walks without your bicycle.
- How to get here:
By bike: NCN27, the Plym Valley Trail, starts in Plymouth, in the grounds of Saltram House. See sustrans website
By road: From A38 Marsh Mills exit, head towards Plympton and follow signs to Plymbridge Woods, 5 miles (8km) north-east of Plymouth
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