Just on the eastern edge of Plymouth is a gorgeous area known as Plymbridge. The name originated from the bridge over the river Plym, which for a very long time was the bridge nearest to the river’s mouth.
For a while, the South Devon and Tavistock railway ran through the area, as it followed the Plym Valley. Later, this was one of many branch lines that was demolished, and was eventually turned into a very nice cycle path – the Plym Valley Trail.
The Plym Valley Trail forms part of NCN 27, also known as the Devon Coast to Coast route.
A large part of the area around Plymbridge is owned by the National Trust, with adjoining woods, such as Cann Woods, owned by the Forestry Commission. Up in Cann Woods, enterprising and intrepid mountain bikers have built a number of single tracks, many of which are too gnarly for me to ride, even if I had a bike that could handle it. These tracks have always been unofficial and informal, more tolerated than approved. The cyclists that use these tracks have always tried their best to keep the area free from litter, and have tried to protect it.
The National Trust recently announced it was granted £4.8 million to build high-quality, dedicated mountain bike trails through Plymbridge woods, which are owned by the National Trust. The nearest trails of similar quality are to be found in Haldon forest, just outside Exeter. Having such a facility in Plymouth would be fantastic. It would bring economic benefit in increased cycle tourism, as well as social and health benefits through increased levels of cycling in Plymouth.
Much of the area where the cycle trails are to be built aren’t much used, something which was recognised by the National Trust.
And yet, suddenly there is a group calling themselves the “Friends of Plymbridge Woods”, who totally oppose these cycle trails being built. They cite various reasons, the most laughable being “environmental concerns”. The real reason why the leader of this group opposes the cycle paths is far simpler. If you look at the map below, you will see a small enclave of houses that are significantly larger, and more expensive, that the average. This appears to be the area where the leader of the group opposed to the trails lives. The woodland around the cluster of luxury homes is Plymbridge Woods.
It seems that those opposed to the cycle tracks care not so much for protecting the environment, but care a great deal about ensuring that others do not have free access to roam what some have come to view as their extended back gardens.
The thinly disguised protests about lack of parking, concerns about litter, and fears that motorcyclists would start using the trails are merely dust clouds designed to hide the truth. The fact is, many (most?) who currently use off-road cycle trails in Cann woods cycle there, and have little impact on parking.
Over many years there has been almost no litter problem in Cann woods, and motorcyclists haven’t been using it at all, even though they actually have had easy access.
This Wednesday there is a gathering of cyclists in support of the trails, meeting at the Plymbridge car park at 18h30. If you can make it, it’d be brilliant.