The River Camel at Wadebridge
A gentle walk along the famous old railway trackbed of the Camel Trail and through less-visited woodlands.
Wadebridge is emphatically a river town. Even its name defines it as such. Before the mid-15th century the settlement on the banks of the Camel River, upstream from Padstow, was known simply as 'Waed' - the fording place. It was a dangerous passage across the Camel here and there were many drownings and close shaves. Eventually, in 1485, money was raised for the building of a bridge, known subsequently as 'The Bridge on Wool'. Contemporary records suggest that the foundations for the stone piers of the new bridge were actually made up of wool sacks. Another, less appealing but possibly more accurate, explanation is that the money for the bridge was earned from the lucrative wool trade of the medieval period. The bridge has 17 arches and is 320ft (98m) long. It was widened in 1847 and is recognised as being one of the finest examples of a medieval bridge in Britain.
In the 19th century Wadebridge also acquired a famous railway, first linking the town to Bodmin in 1875 and then to Padstow in 1899. The Wadebridge to Bodmin section was built to carry sand extracted from the Camel Estuary for agricultural use to improve soil conditions. In return the railway carried china clay and granite from the quarries on Bodmin Moor for export by sea. Extending the railway line to Padstow led to the decline of Wadebridge as a port but the Padstow link also established the line as part of the great Atlantic Coast Express, carrying huge numbers of holidaymakers from London and the heart of England to the Cornish seaside resorts. The journey from Bodmin through Wadebridge to Padstow was immortalised by the poet John Betjeman, who described its length as 'the most beautiful train journey...'
The line was closed in the 1960s. In 1980 Cornwall County Council bought the section from Boscarne Junction near Bodmin to Padstow and turned it into a recreational trail, the Camel Trail, that has subsequently been enjoyed by vast numbers of walkers, cyclists, horse riders, anglers and birders. This walk follows part of the Camel Trail, but first leads inland through wonderful, deeply wooded countryside. The route climbs steadily to the serene of Burlawn before it descends into an enfolding blanket of woodland by Hustyn Mill. From here it leads to Polbrock Bridge, where the River Camel and the Camel Trail cling to each other like enamoured snakes. From Polbrock Bridge you follow the Camel Trail effortlessly back to Wadebridge, in more crowded circumstances at times and sharing the experience with cyclists, yet within that same persuasive world of trees, river, and Cornish air that so enchanted Betjeman.
The walk starts on The Platt in the centre of Wadebridge. Face the town hall and turn left. Cross Trecuddick Bridge and turn left on Jubilee Road and then bear right on Southern Way. Pass the John Betjeman Centre and continue along the Guineaport Road, following the Camel Trail.
At the fork, keep right (leaving the Camel Trail) and within a few paces, at a junction where the road curves up to the right, keep ahead along an unsurfaced track signposted 'Public footpath Treraven 1/3m'. Follow the track steadily uphill. Go through a wooden gate and follow the right-hand field-edge to go through another gate. Continue along a track to reach a junction in front of Treraven farm.
Go left and follow the track as it bears right to a junction. Turn right, soon following the track to the left and continue along the track to reach a bend on a minor public road by a house.
Keep straight ahead along the road, with care, then turn left at a crossroads, signed 'Burlawn'. At the next junction bear left and follow the road through Burlawn. Go steeply downhill on a narrow lane overshadowed by trees.
At Hustyn Mill, beyond a little footbridge and a public footpath, turn left off the road past a barrier and follow a broad woodland track through Bishops Wood. Stay on the main track to where it reaches the surfaced road at Polbrock Bridge.
Turn left over the bridge across the River Camel and, in a few paces, go off left and down steps to join the Camel Trail. Turn left here and follow the unwavering line of the Camel Trail back to Wadebridge.
Farm tracks (sometimes muddy) and good forestry tracks; cycle path along old railway line
Dogs should be kept under control and restrained from roaming fields and property adjacent to the Camel Trail. On lead through grazed areas and if notices indicate
OS Explorer 106 Newquay & Padstow
Several car parks in Wadebridge
The Platt, Wadebridge
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
Discover Cornwall and Isles of Scilly
Cornwall has just about everything – wild moorland landscapes, glorious river valley scenery, picturesque villages and miles of breathtaking coastline. With more than 80 surfing spots, there are plenty of sporting enthusiasts who also make their way here to enjoy wave-surfing, kite surfing and blokarting.
In recent years, new or restored visitor attractions have attracted even more visitors to the region; the Eden Project is famous for its giant geodesic domes housing exotic plants from different parts of the globe, while nearby the Lost Gardens of Heligan has impressive kitchen gardens and a wildlife hide.