UPDATE: You may wish to read a more up-to-date post about Gem Bridge here: http://willcycle.blogspot.com/2011/08/more-on-gem-bridge.html
On Friday, 22 April 2011, I went cycling, specifically to see what progress was being made with the new viaduct over the Walkham valley, at Grenofen.
We've been having some gorgeous weather lately, and Friday was no exception despite being far cloudier. As can be expected on Good Friday, there were loads of cyclists out, with the majority of those seeming to be families. It's always great to see parents cycling with their kids and it always makes me feel there's hope for the future.
I didn't get onto the road as I usually do where the tar surface ends on the Plym valley trail, but continued straight on. This route eventually brought me to Clearbrook, where I saw loads more cyclists resting up. Sadly, I also saw many cars with bike racks, meaning many people drove there, instead of cycling there.
Sometimes I fear we'll never get through to people that cycling isn't just a leisure activity, nor just a sport.
From Clearbrook it was simply a matter of cycling up the bit of a hill, before turning right onto the traffic-free cycle path again, just after having crossed the leat. Not long after that I was in Yelverton, where I had my usual pit stop at Sonya's, and enjoyed my normal slice of coffee and walnut cake, washed down with a cup of coffee. I do suggest you pay them a visit if ever you're in Yelverton!
Soon I was off again, on the tarred path that is part of Drake's Trail. I still find it ironic that such a peaceful trail was named after such a violent and nasty man!
At the end of Station road, Drake's Trail continues as a path that has an unsealed surface. It has obviously suffered from the heavy construction vehicles that have been using it to gain access to the south side of the Walkham valley, but at some point I still managed to get up to 20 mph for a while.
There are signs in Yelverton, as well as further along that clearly state this segment of Drake's Trail is closed while they're building the new viaduct. Obviously I ignored those, as getting to where the viaduct is to be built was the whole point of this trip. I wanted to see with my own eyes what progress (if any) there was.
After a while the path was blocked with typical construction site fencing, but the trusty steed and I managed to get by. Not long after, I reached the point where the action obviously was, and I'm at once happy as well as relieved to say there was quite a bit!
For starters, there's a new temporary bridge to allow construction vehicles to cross the river, and there was a great deal of digging that have been taking place.
I didn't descend down into the valley as to do so would have meant leaving my bike behind, something I don't much like doing.
I was relieved to see so much evidence of progress because in this era of austerity cuts, the new Gem bridge could so easily have fallen prey. In fact, despite the progress, I suppose there is still some risk of it being cancelled, and that makes me slightly apprehensive about it all.
Gem bridge (seriously, couldn't they have found a better name?) is scheduled to open in January 2012. Now that isn't exactly the height of cycling season, but in a way I'm glad about that. This is because I cycle all year round, pretty much regardless of the weather (in Plymouth there seems to be a fair few cyclists who do so).
This simply means I'll have a much better chance of being one of the 1st cyclists to use the brand spanking new Gem bridge!