Stuart and I had a child-free day this week, so we decided to go out on our cyclocross bikes and do the Coast to Coast Trail. We’ve not done this route before and hadn’t heard of it until Stu found a leaflet about it. We mostly tend to stick to road cycling.
Several years ago, Stu and I did a 100km bike ride in Cornwall with Donna. It took us a lot longer than we expected as Cornwall is so hilly. We had to decide whether to cycle to the Coast to Coast route from Hayle or whether to start in Nancekuke. As I wasn’t sure how tough it would be, I suggested we start in Nancekuke as we could then as many laps or as few as we liked. I was also aware that the route out of Portreath towards Hayle (via Tregea Hill) is incredibly steep.
When we arrived at Elm Farm Cycles, Camp & Cafe in Nancekuke, we were surprised at how busy it was. There was a bike shop, a bike barn and a cafe, with cyclists milling around everywhere.
What did we know about the Coast to Coast trail?
We parked the car, got our bikes out and had a brief comfort break before setting off. We had looked up the route before setting out, but I wasn’t sure what to expect.
The Mineral Tramways Trails are a unique network of 37.5 miles of traffic free trails exploring the historic mining region in the heart of Cornwall. Centred on the Camborne and Redruth area there are a number of routes connecting the remains of the industrial infrastructure of the 19th century via the beautiful Cornish countryside. Open for walking, cycling and horse riding the trails take in both coasts, the remains of numerous engine houses and some fantastic views on the way. In addition the trails are fairly level and provide access to the countryside to wheelchair users and buggies.Cornwall Guide
Unsurprisingly, this is the longest of the trails at 11 miles (17.5 km). It stretches from the North Coast harbour town of Portreath through Cornwall’s mining heartland to the South Coast port of Devoran. Whilst today this route is used primarily for leisure, it actually follows two of the mining era’s main transport routes; the Portreath tram road and Redruth & Chacewater Railway. These routes were vital in moving the produce of what were the richest copper mines in the world to the ships that would carry it far and wide.
Taking a wrong turn
The first section of the mineral tramways trail was along a cycle path and then there was a stretch of quiet road before going onto a compacted gravel path. It was gentle riding, but I decided to take it steady as I’m not used to riding my cyclocross bike. At one point we went down a small hill and then had to go up the opposite hill. It was quite steep with a lot of loose gravel and large rocks. I unclipped as I was nervous that I would fall and then I dismounted because it felt really unstable.
At the top of the hill, we followed a narrow path. It became narrower and narrower, so I suggested that perhaps we had gone the wrong way. After a few minutes, we found a sign that suggested we were going the wrong way and were on a side trail.
It turned out that at the bottom of the hill with the loose gravel, we had missed one of the granite markers (like the one in the image below).
Point Mills Arsenic Refinery
A little further on, the path forked. There was a gentle decline and a slightly rougher uphill section. The downhill section looked like the more likely option, however, we could see a family on bikes up ahead who had gone that way and were calling to their group members to turn back as they had gone the wrong way. Their mistake saved us from making a mistake. I was amused that we could hear some of their conversations, “I wouldn’t fancy riding this on their bikes!”
A little further on, we came to the Point Mills Arsenic Refinery. The path was much smoother at this point and we were enjoying looking at the scenery.
I was taught about tin mining in Cornwall at school and my siblings both work in mining, but I was unaware of arsenic being mined in Cornwall. Apparently, arsenic is a byproduct of the tin smelting process but also had an important commercial use. The arsenic produced by these works was of a particularly high quality and was exported for use in cotton plantations where it was used in insecticides to control boll weevil.
The arsenic works now lie on the Bissoe / Devoran trail adjacent to Bissoe Valley Nature Reserve. The scenery was particularly attractive and we saw a lot of dragonflies.
Arriving in Devoran
It didn’t take long for us to reach Devoran. We paused and looked at the view before wheeling our bikes to the point.
We wanted to have a look around in Devoran, so we cycled on the road for a little bit. When we got to Feock, we turned around and cycled back to the Coast to Coast trail.
Refuelling at Elm Farm
Heading back to Elm Farm was easier than the ride out – probably because we weren’t having to concentrate on the route as much. When we got back we decided to treat ourselves.
Stu had a slice of carrot cake, whilst I had a delicious chunk of vegan red velvet cake.
The path to Portreath was really easy to follow. It was smoother than the route towards Devoran, however, it was possible to feel the old sleepers, so it was still slightly bumpy.
Arriving in Portreath
When we arrived in Portreath, we decided to have some chips whilst sitting at a table overlooking the beach.
After a break, we cycled back to Elm Farm and then headed home.
Overall, we really enjoyed our day out. We would recommend the Coast to Coast Trail for anyone who wants an alternative to the busy but popular Camel Trail, which is further north. The cakes at Elm Farm were lovely and it sounds like a beautiful place to camp.