Oct 2021 – Dousland, Devon.

The old line from Yelverton to Princetown in Devon was first identified as a potential leisure route in John Grimshaw’s report on disused railways in 1982, and the section which falls outside Dartmoor National Park (DNP) has long since been converted into one, today forming part of the popular Devon Coast to Coast path. However, the missing link between Dousland and Yelverton remains just that, despite hefty funding and the purchase of the requisite land by Devon County Council. In 2013, a Council bid in conjunction with DNP landed £4.4m from the Department for Transport’s (DfT) ‘Linking Communities’ grant, with the aim of making Dartmoor accessible to a wider range of people, not just the super-fit cyclist equipped with sophisticated GPS equipment.

The Yelverton path would fit the ‘family-friendly’ bill perfectly, except that it still hasn’t been built, despite a cost estimate of a mere £25,000 to finish the job! To be fair, there were delays in the Council purchasing the land and obtaining planning permission, yet the DNP has concentrated on paths outside the park rather than those within its borders. Some suspect they are not that keen to encourage those seeking quiet active recreation within the national park, even though they bemoan the fact that 93% of visitors arrive by car. Opening up a greenway would offer a viable alternative.

A path of sorts does exist between Dousland and Princetown (see map), and the missing bridge at Peekhill over the B3212 has been replaced. However, the surface in places is appalling, the access barriers are a problem even for the able[1]bodied, maintenance seems mostly absent, and the route is still not complete, while the on-road alternative between Yelverton and Lake Lane is pretty lethal. The DNP approach seems rather weighted towards cyclists, and given the distances involved perhaps understandably, yet research has shown that on average 50% of the usage of off-road trails is by pedestrians, people with buggies, and those on mobility scooters. The burgeoning e-bike market is also opening up access for a much wider range of abilities. (West Country Bylines)