bunn (bunn) wrote,

Tamar Trails : a poor piece of work

 Here's a map showing the new Tamar Trails project, on which a great deal of public money has been spent:

Looks good, yes?  Lots of public access to interesting offroad paths?

Actually, no.  If you actually know the area, then the first thing that takes your eye is that, from Gunnislake, which is the only decent-sized village within walking distance, which frankly is somewhat depressed and could desperately do with some help from tourism -  there is no safe route on foot to these trails at all! 

To get to them from Gunnislake, you are expected to walk along the A390.  This is a narrow, busy, twisting 60Mph road, with poor visibility, no pavements and no lighting.  I don't think I'm particularly nervous as a walker, but having lived in the area for 9 years, I've only once done that walk over the Tamar and turned right to walk down stream on the Devon side, because that road is seriously scary.  You feel like a traffic hazard, and horribly vulnerable.  The traffic whizzing along the main road to Tavistock and points beyond is not expecting pedestrians, there is little space for them to avoid you,  and due to the winding of the road, cars often can't see walkers until they are almost on top of them. 

Here's the Google Maps version of that map:

Notice anything?  Yes, the Google Maps version shows a *lot* more paths, and a nice pedestrian friendly left turning on the Devon side of the bridge to take you upstream into the main woodland.   That's not shown at all on the tourist map, which to my eyes is clearly aimed at people who will drive to one of the car parks (situated well away from Gunnislake) pay to park, then drive back to their accommodation on the coast or in Tavistock in the evening. 

And why are there so many more paths shown on the google Maps version?  Well, because most of the paths shown on the tourist map are not really new 'Tamar Trails'.  They have  been there for years.  A few of  them have been tidied up, and many of the rest have been closed, gated or  fenced off - the only really  new bit is the underpass under the A390, which is nice to have, but doesn't compensate for all the routes lost.  Most of the nice walks you used to be able to do from the Gunnislake direction, on foot from the village, or parking for free in the lane, have now been closed off: there is only one circular route left, and that is about 2 hours long with no short cuts. 

 Instead, you can drive to a carpark, pay and display, then follow a 'trail' which is fenced on both sides practically all the way (none of this wandering happily through open forest that you used to be able to do).   The fencing is  very visually obtrusive, and most of the atmosphere of the valley has been destroyed.  Rather than walking through a real relic of the industrial past, it feels like a themed recreation. 

Oh yes, and don't forget to put your dog on a lead. You'll probably need to do that anyway, because instead of having plenty of room to walk past other walkers and people safely, you are now forced into a narrow channel that is bound to cause problems with any reactive dogs that get worried if they come too close to others. And if you are scared of dogs, better  put on your big girl pants or not go at all, because you aren't going to be able to stand at a safe distance while they walk through, they'll be right next to you.  

Though as the walks are now so dull and restricted, I can't think why you'd take your dog there anyway: I've stopped walking along there entirely, personally. 

Oh, I wouldn't think about taking the kids, either.  After all, kids don't usually walk that far, their little legs get tired.  And with these trails, you no longer have the option of cutting along a short cut, skipping a steep climb or doing a half-circuit. There's no two ways about it, they are designed for adult hikers who want to stride along for hours on end, not locals who want an afternoon stroll with the family and to get back in plenty of time for tea. 

What a waste.  What a mess.  Before you ask, yes, I complained. My first message, asking what the plans were when the funding was announced, before they were implemented, got no reply at all.  

My second message, pointing out some of the things I mention above when I realised what they were doing, got a reply saying that they had planned a foot bridge route from Gunnislake, but it had had to be cut due to budget restraints.  This doesn't really address the problem that the project has been carried out with no regard for the local community at all.  If you lose funding for a key part of your plan, to my mind, you rethink the entire plan, you don't just go on with the left over bits that no longer make any sense. 

If they were going to cut something, they should have cut all the damn fencing, and cut the new car parks, and concentrated on pedestrian routes.  In fact, if they'd thought it out properly, instead of a playground for adult hikers*  this could have fitted in with a project to make it possible to actually walk or cycle from Gunnislake to Tavistock, which is the nearest town that provides shops, employment, etc.  (Again, I've done this walk. Once.  It's not actually as far as you might think, but the traffic, the nature of the road and lack of any provision for walkers or cyclists makes it truly hair raising).  

That might actually reduce dependence on cars, specially if they joined it up with the nearest railway station, which is, surprise surprise, in Gunnislake.  But no. 

The local offroad cycle club are happy.  They've now got special trails that they don't have to share with pedestrians.  The people running the new fun-but-frivolous  'Tree Surfers' attraction by one of the new car parks are presumably happy as well (possibly this is what you are supposed to do with the kids instead of  walking with them?  At £20 an adult, £17 a child, I can't see this being a regular weekend outing though...) .  

But I'm not happy.   I think this is v. poor. 

* which we need why, exactly?  Hello? hello?  Dartmoor on your left, Bodmin moor on your right? We are not exactly short of areas for adult walkers who own cars to use!  And neither Bodmin nor Dartmoor charges for parking!

Tags: cornwall, loons, rant, tamar valley

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