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Communities: Cycling power – how Bodmin is lining itself up as Cornwall’s first cycling town

Best known for the fabled Beast of Bodmin Moor and Du Maurier’s novel, Jamaica Inn, Bodmin wants to put itself on the map as being Cornwall’s first cycling town

by Kath Hudson | Published in Sports Management Aug 2016 issue 125
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Cornwall Council has approved £7.5m worth of work to extend Bodmin’s Camel Trail to the town centre
Cornwall Council has approved £7.5m worth of work to extend Bodmin’s Camel Trail to the town centre

It’s not on the coast and it doesn’t have an internationally famous attraction or a celebrity chef associated with it, so Bodmin isn’t top of the list for most visitors to Cornwall. And although in recent years a number of cycling centres have developed on its immediate outskirts, frustratingly the town hasn’t reaped the benefits.

Connected by a cycling trail with the more gentrified Wadebridge and the über popular Padstow, the traffic, and the spend, has so far flowed up river, away from Bodmin. Around 94 per cent of trail users between Wadebridge and Bodmin don’t continue into the town centre, but turn around and go back. It isn’t the fault of the visitors: currently the route to the town centre is neither obvious nor cycle friendly.

CYCLING FORWARD
However, now plans are afoot to change all of that. Cornwall Council has approved a £7.5m package of improvements which will bring The Camel Trail into Bodmin town centre, as well as improve links with the two other cycling hubs on Bodmin’s doorstep, Cardinham and Lanhydrock (see boxouts).

Funded through the government’s Growth Deal and local transport money, work is underway and slated for completion by next June. Plans involve narrowing carriageways, widening pavements and installing new surfacing to slow down traffic while still keeping it flowing.

“It has long been an aspiration of the town to make the most of The Camel Trail to drive regeneration,” says Rebecca Jackson, transport, planning and strategy officer at Cornwall Council. “Now that we have two successful cycle hubs on the outskirts, there is even more impetus to do so. We have some fantastic attractions in Bodmin which we would like to improve access to – including Bodmin Gaol, the steam railway and the military museum – as well as a number of historic buildings.”

PEDALLING BENEFITS
Cornwall Council estimates the changes could bring an additional spend of at least £1.2m into the town each year and hopes the cycling network will lead to more tourists using Bodmin – which has beautiful surrounding woods and moorlands – as a base to explore Cornwall.

There are numerous other benefits too. The Camel Trail sparked an influx of independent businesses in Wadebridge and the council is hoping for a similar effect in Bodmin, with cycle hire and food likely to be top of the list.

Further to this, as the town will be so well served for cycle paths, it will make active commuting to work, schools and the new college easy. “Many trips made around the town are localised, so we’re hoping that some of these could be switched to cycling or walking,” says Jackson. “We have taken inspiration nationally from towns which have promoted active travel and we’re hoping to create a modal switch.”

A more active population has knock-on health benefits, so Bodmin is looking forward optimistically to a healthier town, with healthier prospects. Other Cornish towns wanting to make more of cycle tourism, such as Penzance, are now looking on with interest. If Bodmin Cycle Town is a success a similar approach could be taken in other areas.

THE CAMEL TRAIL

Used by walkers, cyclists and horse riders, The Camel Trail is an 18 mile flat, traffic-free path along a disused railway line between Wenfordbridge, Bodmin, Wadebridge and Padstow. It takes in beautiful woodland and spectacular estuary views, as well as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation.

Set up and maintained by Cornwall Council, it has 500,000 users a year and supports five cycle hire companies, bringing an economic benefit of more than £3m to the area.

Changes to the trail is expected to bring more visitors to the town and bring in at least £1.2m annually
Changes to the trail is expected to bring more visitors to the town and bring in at least £1.2m annually

CARDINHAM

Owned by the Forestry Commission, Cardinham is a more adrenalin-fuelled bike track than Lanhydrock (see below). The 12km Bodmin Beast blue trail is moderate enough for the weekend warrior, but the two tough red-graded trails are for more confident mountain bikers.

The Forestry Commission teamed up with the 1 South West off-road cycling project, part of the National Trust, to create the trails. “We saw this as an exciting opportunity to work in partnership to create a different experience of cycle trails,” says Forestry Commission spokesperson, Stuart Burgess. “Cardinham offered existing recreation facilities and a land profile which offered the ideal cycling terrain.”

As the bike trails are complemented by walking trails, a café, barbecue areas and an adventure playground, Cardinham has seen an increase in many user groups including cyclists, dog walkers and families. Other services have sprung up including bike hire, bike maintenance and a forest school. “The Forestry Commission strives to ensure all visitors enjoy their experience and Cardinham is big enough to cater for different interests,” says Burgess.

Cardinham has 50,000 users a year and brings an economic benefit to the area of £0.39m.

Cardinham is a track for adrenalin junkies, with two tough red-graded trails
Cardinham is a track for adrenalin junkies, with two tough red-graded trails

LANHYDROCK CYCLE HUB

Created by The National Trust, with the help of £850,000 of EU grant funding and £1.2m from other unspent projects in the south west, the cycle trails at Lanhydrock House, are open from dawn until dusk and are free to use.

Visitors can bring their own bikes, or hire on site. There are seven trails, which vary from ones suitable for kids and beginners to more difficult and technical rides for more experienced mountain bikers.

There is also a skills track, two practise rollers, rocks, jumps and a pump track. Young riders are catered for with a balance bike track and an adventure playground, conveniently situated next to a newly developed National Trust café.
“We made the decision to develop the trails to make our land more accessible to a wider audience,” says lead ranger, Matt Lewis.

“We wanted people of all ages to get outdoors, active and appreciate our countryside and nature, while having loads of fun.”

“The trails were created in an area of relatively new plantations woodland with very little previous access. Last year we saw 55,000 visitors enjoying the trails, in addition to the 150,000 dog walkers, walkers and nature spotters and 240,000 guests to the house and gardens.

“It is a great facility for both locals and tourists and encourages repeat visits and non NT people. It gets the message across that the NT is all about land as well as houses and gardens.”

There are a number of trails suitable for children and an adventure playground
There are a number of trails suitable for children and an adventure playground
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