Kitiara Pascoe – A Cycle Ride Along The Old Railway To Budleigh
I’ve been meaning to do this little day ride for months but every time I plan to, the weather gets in the way. There are so many places to cycle in Devon but if you’re looking for flat routes that even children can manage, you might struggle.
When I found out that the old train line from Exmouth to Budleigh Salterton was now a cycle path, I immediately wanted to do it. Trains, like me on a Sunday morning, don’t like hills very much. So I figured it would be an easy ride topped and tailed by cafes and fish and chip shops.
We parked at Phear Park in the centre of Exmouth. There’s a small car park at the end of the park’s dead end road and a handy set of public toilets should you have been overzealous on the pre-ride hydration.
The trail starts from the south west corner of the park and is well signposted with blue route signs to Budleigh. It’s a smooth track here that meanders briefly through the residential areas of Exmouth before getting onto the track proper at Bidmead Close.
Within moments, I forgot the town behind me because we were immediately surrounded by hedgerows and woodland. The track here is rougher, you wouldn’t want to do it on a bike with slick tyres. But it’s beautiful, amazingly so.
The trees form a tunnel with sunlight piercing through and bridges span the trail with aged brickwork wrapped in ivy and other precocious climbers. Considering it was a Sunday, we only came across a few other people, mainly dog walkers.
The route is only around six miles and at the end, we descended down into Budleigh to check the sea was still there. The promenade was windy and filled with people resolutely enjoying the autumn sunshine despite the buffeting. We stopped at the Cosy Teapot, a traditional tea room complete with doilies over the sugar. I’m always sceptical when it comes to cafes with excessive lace but the Cosy Teapot do genuinely excellent cream teas.
The hill on the way back up to the cycle route wasn’t as bad as I’d expected. From the town, follow Moor Lane, Bedland’s Lane and then a short way up Bear Lane. Back on the path and the wind was entirely gone. In fact, the trail is so sheltered that you’d probably get away with doing it in the rain without suffering much.
The sun was on its way south during our return trip as we’d set off from Exmouth close to 2 pm. Autumn afternoon sunshine has got to be the most incredible, filling the leaves with a rich green and lining them with gold. The trail ends with an easy descent along the tarmac path to Phear Park and whizzing down is the perfect finish, freewheeling all the way to the car.
Aside from a couple of gentle hills, it’s a very easy route for a Sunday jaunt and you’re never far from civilisation. To make it longer, you can start from Exeter and ride through Topsham and along the cycle path to Exmouth.
To make it perfect, stop for cream tea. Because…it’s Devon, no?
Written by Kitiara Pascoe
Photos supplied by Kitiara Pascoe