Cycling the Camel Trail
A ride of 14 flat & traffic-free miles
When you cycle the Camel Trail, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular – it really is a very beautiful route. If you pick the date to ride it well, it simply is one of the best leisurely bike rides you can do. Almost perfectly flat, with stunning views and plenty of picnic spots along the way. With a decent surface most of the way, cycling in the UK doesn’t get much better than this. Now most people only ever ride the bit of the Camel Trail from Wadebridge to Padstow. Almost all of that segment is tarred, and it certainly offers the best estuary views. Unfortunately, on a sunny, warm Saturday, during the summer holidays, the main section of the Camel Trail gets so crowded that it becomes impossible to cycle at barely faster than walking pace.
This route forms part of my DayCycle series if routes. Do go have a look at the others. DayCycle routes are rides that can easily be cycled in less than a day.
This guide is not for that segment, but instead for the far less known part, leading to Wenfordbridge. As with most other route guides on this page, this one ties in with trains. The Bodmin and Wenford heritage railway, which runs a service from Bodmin Parkway. Of course Bodmin Parkway is a train station on the main line between Penzance and Bristol, so you can get there by taking your bicycle on the train.
The part of the Camel Trail this guide covers is built on what was one of the very first railway lines in the world, so there’s much history along the route. There are a number of possible alterations to this route. You could simply cycle from Bodmin Parkway, following the signed NCN3 route that takes you through Bodmin town centre. Just be warned that there’s quite a hill to cycle up between the train station and the town. You could also drive to the Borough Arms pub, and use the dedicated Camel Trail parking there, then cycle onwards.
Boscarne Junction was the old junction between the Wenford railway and the main line at Bodmin Parkway. These days it’s the end of the line for the Bodmin and Wenford Railway.
When stepping off the train and entering the Camel Trail, you need to turn right. Next, ride towards Bodmin for a short while, passing the ramp leading to the Borough Arms pub, and riding under a road bridge.
Very soon after the road bridge, you need to turn off the main Camel Trail. The turning isn’t particularly obvious, and certainly not signed. To add to the confusion, when you turn off the main trail, you’ll find you’re doubling back on yourself, while going down a fairly rough and often muddy ramp. Most people would therefore be inclined to think that they’ve completely left the Camel Trail by mistake, and turn back. Don’t think that, and simply continue to the bottom of the ramp, then turn right, to find yourself back on an old track bed.
The Camel River
! This part of the Camel Trail follows the Camel river, and occasionally you will be cycling right on the riverbank. Especially if you have children along on this otherwise family-friendly route, do ensure that you have thought through what to do in case anyone fell in the river. Obviously, you’d want at least one adult who can swim in your group.
The Wenford branch of the Camel Trail doesn’t get anywhere near the love and attention as the rest does, and you will see the surface isn’t quite as good (certainly not tarred!) and it can be fairly narrow in places.
These are all positives, as it simply means far fewer people will be using this part of the trail, making it far less crowded. It remains a stunning ride all the way to the delightful Snail’s Pace cafe. Once you turned right, at the bottom of the ramp, simply follow the trail as it meanders mostly on the banks of the Camel river. You will occasionally find signs advising you to dismount, seemingly whenever the trail crosses a road or track. I don’t dismount anywhere along this stretch, and the fact remains that the dismount signs are used incorrectly, against DfT guidance here.
You cannot get lost along the trail, until finally, you arrive at the Poley’s Bridge car park – you’ll recognise the fish sculpture shown in the big above to the right. Here, you have to leave to car park and turn left onto the quiet lane. Around 30 metres later, turn right, to continue along the traffic-free route. The Camel Trail route will skirt the side of old china clay works, called the Wenford Dries. The china clay was the main reason the railway was built in the first place. Shortly after, you will see the delightful, off-grid Snail’s Pace café. They usually have toilets, and indoor seating, but COVID restrictions may change that, so check beforehand. Incidentally, they also do bike hire.
After a refreshing café stop (well, you’ve burned the calories, so you earned it) returning is simply a matter of retracing your steps, back to either Boscarne Junction for the train, the Borough Arms car park, or perhaps, if you’re feeling adventurous, cycling back through Bodmin, to the Bodmin Parkway train station.