Since then I've actually cycled the path - all of it - and I'm rather disappointed. No, scratch that - I'm very disappointed!
Let's start with the surface of the path. While there is a short, very steep section somewhere in the middle that is tarred, the rest of the path has a compacted dirt surface that is already (and predictably!) showing signs of water erosion. I believe it won't be long at all before the bulk of the path will be in shockingly poor state, purely because it was never tarred.
|This picture was taken shortly after the path opened. You can already see the erosion.|
A different section of the path is used by farmer/s to get to some fields, and while the path is wider here, it is just wide enough to accommodate a car. If you were walking or cycling, you'd have to get out of the way, which defeats the point of a traffic-free shared path, doesn't it?
There are numerous gates along the path. The gate where you access the path at Brixton was jammed wide open when I rode through. Now to a degree I suppose I can understand the need for gates. After all, we wouldn't want livestock escaping and getting killed on the roads, would we?
What I don't understand is why the path wasn't simply fenced off, in which case there'd have been no need for all these gates. But wait - it gets better, or shall I rather say worse?
Aside from the entry and exit points, there are two other places along the path where it is accessible from the road - the A379 in both cases. Cycling from Brixton, the path goes downhill before turning left just before the A379. A short, reasonably flat section follows before the path heads downhill again. Near the bottom of that downhill, you will encounter this:
|The fence to the left starts with the post you see in the photo.|
Seriously, what brain surgeon thought this was a good solution? The gate serves NO purpose other than to slow you down! This gate does NOT exist to control livestock, as they can simply walk around it.
Overall, the gradients on the path makes it pretty much unusable for wheelchair users. The dirt surface means that cyclists cannot brake properly on downhill stretches and will get wheelspin on uphill sections, especially if the path is wet.
There was the potential of a decent path here, but what was put in place is a sad excuse that has been poorly implemented.
I really don't like riding on the A379, with the bit between Brixton & Yealmpton being the worst for quite some time, but I would much rather ride on that road than risk skidding and perhaps falling on this pathetic path.