Exciting plan to extend Tarka Trail Cycle Route
Work gets under way on missing link
Back in 1987, the Tarka Trail was formed from a section of former railway line that ran from Barnstaple through to Okehampton. This line linked up with another very popular tourist route that ran trains from Barnstaple to Ilfracombe.
As cars increased the train was used less and less to the point that the service ended in 1970 and the track fell into disrepair. Attempts were made in 1975 to purchase the land for conservation and leisure but were unsuccessful resulting in much of the track between Willingcott and Braunton being sold off to private land owners.
In Ilfracombe a stretch of track was retained for public use and is now a tarmacked cycle path between Ilfracombe and Willingcott, passing the picturesque Slade reservoir.
Another section between Braunton and Barnstaple was also retained and is now shared between Route 27 of the National Cycle Network, The South West Coast Path and The Tarka Trail.
It has long been a goal to connect the cycle path at Braunton with the cycle path at Willingcott and that goal has recently taken a step closer.
A private development company is undertaking work to extend the cycle path through the Willingcott Holiday Village development and Devon County Council will be extending this work with a further 0.6km stretch at an estimated cost of £220,000.
The section between Willingcott and Knowle is likely to be a shared use bridleway accessible to walkers and cyclists with some access for horses (TBC).
The council’s plan is to continue adding new stretches over time until the cycle path finally reaches Knowle where an existing cycle path already exists, running into Braunton.
Work will start later this year and is excpetced to be completed in March 2023, but unfortunately, the reset of the work can only be carried out as and when funds become available, so it may take some time to complete and the council have confirmed that no sections will be available to the public until work has been completed.
A Tarka Trail alternative
The new track, once opened will be named Tarka Trail though this may cause some confusion. The Tarka Trail currently follows the South West Coast Path out of Ilfracombe then follows the coast until Braunton, only then linking with the former railway line. This new path will offer an alternative which will be more suited to cyclists or walkers who want to take a short cut.
Once linked with Braunton it would extend the current Tarka Trail cycle path by an additional 9 miles, making the entire route 41 miles long. The cycle path section of the Tarka Trail is already the longest, continuous, traffic free cycle path in the UK and the additional section would make it hard to beat.