The completion of the new landmark Gem Bridge near Tavistock in Devon has been celebrated at a special ceremony.
Work on Gem Bridge started in March last year and has been part-funded with a £600,000 European grant, to establish better cycling tourism links between the south west of England and France. The structure is on the route of Cycle West’s “Vélodyssée”, which is a 265 mile (440km) cross-Channel cycle link that will eventually stretch from Ilfracombe to Redon in Southern Brittany, when the stretch of Drake’s Trail from Tavistock to Plymouth is fully open by the Autumn.
Devon County Council marked the occasion at the £2.1 million cycle and pedestrian bridge, which crosses the Walkham Valley, and also officially opened the picnic area next to the bridge.
The picnic area, designed by pupils from Whitchurch Primary School, has been made from reclaimed granite blocks from the ruins of Brunel’s original viaduct, which was constructed in the valley in 1859 and demolished in the 1960s. Local school children buried a time capsule in the picnic area after the ceremony.
Brunel’s viaduct was one of the longest in Devon at over 300 metres, standing up to 40 metres above the River and the then working mines. The new 200-metre long bridge is 24 metres high, or the equivalent height of five double-decker buses stacked on top of each other. It looks across to Dartmoor to the east and Sticklepath Woods to the west.
While work is continuing on the final sections of Drake’s Trail, a temporary route will be signed until the Trail is fully open.
Heading south from Tavistock, this will follow the signed National Cycle Network 27 on-road route climbing towards Woodtown, before descending steeply to Grenofen Bridge. Just before Grenofen Bridge, the route leaves the road and the off-road route is joined on the left, climbing towards Gem Bridge. The path then leads to Yelverton across Roborough Down.
Heading north from Yelverton, the route crosses Roborough Down before following the old railway through Grenofen Woods to Gem Bridge. A steep path leads down to Grenofen Bridge. From here the route joins the signed NCN27 on-road route climbing steeply out of the Walkham Valley before descending into Tavistock.
A formal opening ceremony will be held in the autumn when the entire route is finally complete.
For the latest developments on the trail see the Drake’s Trail website.