The Camel Trail is one of the easiest and most delightful cycle trails I have encountered, a gentle 18-mile meander along the old railway track from the heart of Bodmin Moor, through Wadebridge and beyond to Padstow.
I slept well the night before at Cabilla Manor near Bodmin, a very long-established Sawday’s B&B in idyllically lovely countryside. The house is an old Cornish house, with huge rooms, a wonderful view over their own croquet lawn and the modern addition of solar electricity – they even run their cars on it! The bedrooms are sumptuous and it was a superb place to start.
It piddled with rain all morning, but it didn’t seem to matter, as the going was easy, the scenery lush and little effort was needed. I was struck by the ‘hidden’ aspect of the trail; it goes through rich farming land where cows graze in small sloping fields.
I dried off a bit in the award-winning Camel Valley winery – a great stop half way along with a handsome reception and display area where wines can be tasted and drunk at tables overlooking the valley. Cheerful staff, delicious wines – if at a high price – and a very lovely site. It takes but a few minutes to climb up the hill to the winery from the Trail.
Wadebridge has a superb bike hire place called Bridge Bike Hire, where almost any sort of cycling machine seems to be available – whether for children or even for wheelchair users. I had a heart-lifting encounter with a woman pedalling her wheel-chair- bound mother in a specially built bike. It was wonderful seeing her delighted to be back on the track she enjoyed in her youth. Now, THAT is something I would sponsor – pushing someone from John O’Groats to Lands End on a bike.
Right on the edge of the little town and across the river from the Trail, I took a pitstop at The Ship Inn, an attractive pub close to Wadebridge’s old wool port and rich in history. The new owners are dead keen to please, with real commitment to local suppliers – and making kids as welcome as adults, with their Ship Mates menus that include Kernow sausages. A lunch here can be followed by a quick ride back across the river, a right turn and the rewarding ride along the widening estuary to Padstow where the crossing is unexpectedly, and quietly, attractive. It carries a strong hint of the sea to come, giving Wadebridge something of an ‘expectant’ mood.
The last stretch is long and straight, it reminded me a little of the Suffolk estuaries I know – with wind-blown mud flats and a silence broken only by the call of birds. The entry into Padstow, with Rock tantalizingly close across the estuary and its sandy flats, was a fine finish. Suddenly one is in the heart of this throbbing village and at the friendly bar of The Old Custom House, big, busy, buzzy and full of cheerful folk drinking beer and enjoying the atmosphere of the little town. It is full of light and conviviality, a big space just yards from the harbour walls. With one of their award-winning ales in hand, it was the perfect finale to a delightful day.