Cycle link to twin Ilfracombe and the continent

Joseph Bulmer

MULTI million pound plans are afoot to enable cyclists to travel off road from Ilfracombe to France without getting their wheels wet!

Details of a new �7.6 million European initiative to boost green tourism have been announced – with North Devon and the rest of the county standing by to welcome thousands of overseas cyclists each year.

One of the three rou�s being promoted by project leaders Cycle West is La V�lodyss�e, which begins in Ilfracombe and enables two wheeled travellers to make their way all the way down to Southern Brittany if they so wish.

Supported by Devon County Council, the aim is to boost tourism and the economies of both sides of the channel in the South West, Normandy and Brittany.

At the North Devon end the Cycle Network Task Group, a cross authority working party including Ilfracombe Town Council, the county, district and local parish councils, is seeking to connect off road sections of the cycle route from Ilfracombe to Plymouth.

In September councillors and officers from all councils involved are planning to cycle the full route form Ilfracombe to Plymouth.

There is a four mile gap between Knowle and Willingcott Bridge at Mortehoe, but the partnership is hoping to change that and ensure an unbroken, safe off road Tarka Trail.

Much is on private land and the group is pursuing negotiations with landowners and seeking sources of funding to make it possible.

“If we have a safe link to Braunton and Barnstaple more people will be encouraged to cycle the route for the benefit of tourism or to travel to work,” said Ilfracombe Councillor Ron Ley.

“It’s becoming an increasingly important leisure activity but families need safe cycle routes and that does not include roads. When you have a route, people always remember the end of the line and that will be Ilfracombe. It is important we work with the parishes around to deliver this.

“If you go on the Plymouth to Roscoff ferry you see a huge number of people using it to go cycling around Brittany.”

County Councillor Stuart Hughes, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation, said they were committed to making Devon a premier destination for cycling tourism and the project had enormous potential to help achieve that.

“I’m very excited about this latest venture which will really put Devon on the map as a destination not just for serious cyclists, but also for families and groups who want to spend part of their time with us here off the beaten track, exploring the fantastic countryside – safely and in a really relaxing way,” he said.

Ilfracombe county councillor Geoff Fowler they were working to promote similar projects rights across Devon and hoped in future to development new cycle routes, such as a link to South Wales.