Wray Valley Trail extension would benefit environment and local businesses

West Devon Borough Councillor Nicky Heyworth has stepped up her campaign to extend the Wray Valley Trail, which links Bovey Tracey to Moretonhampstead via Lustleigh. The extension of the trail to Chagford would be good for the environment as it would encourage people travelling between Chagford and Moretonhampstead to cycle, walk or horse ride, instead of using their car and would contribute to climate mitigation by reducing the use of fossil fuels.

With the trail already proving popular among visitors to Dartmoor, it would also bring more revenue into Chagford and Moretonhampstead, benefiting local businesses and entrepreneurial opportunities. The announcement by Devon County Council of the train link between Exeter and Okehampton will encourage many people to consider combining cycle and train travel in the future, remove cars from our busy roads and reduce pollution and congestion. The train link opens up integrated travel options for so many people, whether as a commuter or for improved health and leisure.

Cllr Heyworth met with enthusiastic local supporters of the proposal in October, at the Moretonhampstead end of the trail, with cyclists from both communities maintaining social distancing throughout.

She explained: “This summer the Government announced £2 billion of additional funding for cycle and walking routes. I have been in touch with our local MP Mel Stride, about access to this funding and with the Leader of West Devon Borough Council Neil Jory, to discuss planning obstacles. They have both been very helpful and with a lot of hard work there is no reason we can’t this get off the ground.

‘We have nearly 100 local supporters already, which include doctors from both Moretonhampstead and Chagford, who clearly see the mental and physical health benefits from exercise and connection to nature.

‘The proposals have the backing of Sustrans (Sustainable Transport) who are being commissioned to undertake a feasibility study of the possible routes. There will be a launch of a Crowd Funder in early December to meet these costs and already generous donations have been offered from the public as well as local authorities and DNPA. The project core group will email a ‘Survey Monkey’ questionnaire to a wide cross-section of the local communities. Paper copies of the questionnaire will also be available in local outlets in Moretonhampstead and Chagford. We hope the local communities will communicate their interest, opinions and support for the proposals.”

The local communities have responded immediately to communicate their interest, opinions and support for the proposals. Since the launch of the survey at the end of November, there have been 429 responses on the questionnaire – over 95% positive.

Central Devon MP Mel Stride said: “We should always be looking at ways we can make our communities more environmentally-friendly and this also has the potential to be very good news for local businesses. I am very happy to support Nicky with this campaign and will do whatever I can to help.”

Geoffrey Cox QC, MP for Torridge and West Devon, recognises the importance of the cycle trails and will keep the improvement and extension of the cycle trail network in mind when discussing related issues with colleagues, both locally and in government.

Mr Cox said: “Cycling and walking have a significant role to play in tackling some of the biggest health and environmental challenges that we face in Britain. As such, the more we can do to create the opportunities for people to engage in these activities, whether for commuting or leisure, the better. I therefore welcome and support the work going on locally to expand our network of safe off-road trails in Devon, particularly in relation to the Wray Valley Trail.”

Cllr Heyworth bumped into local writer and historian Ian Mortimer on the trail. Ian said: “I use the path at least three times a week for running and once or twice for walking. My sons (aged 17 and 21) both use it for runs and walks. My wife also uses it – and that is perhaps most significant as she fell out of love with running some years ago but, since that path opened, she now runs that way three times a week.

‘Beyond my own family, hundreds of people use it regularly for exercise. Runners, cyclists, lycra-clad sporty types, grumpy old men, little old ladies, big old ladies, teenagers getting away from their parents, youngsters learning to ride their bikes, mums chatting while pushing prams, grandmas pushing grandchildren in their prams…

‘What’s really significant about the path is that it’s both flat and car-free. Nowhere else around Moreton has both those qualities. When my children were in a pram, my wife and I could not go for local walks as the stiles, rough paths, awkward gates and hills made it just too difficult. That meant your mums and grandparents on their own or in couples could not push prams around the area. Runners only ran if they were prepared to take on very big hills or off-road running. Cyclists had to stick to the dangerous roads or too-hilly lanes. It has, quite literally, been a life-saver.”

Cllr Heyworth concluded: “A network of safe, connected, multi-use trails across the magnificent scenery of the South West will bring transformative change to our mental and physical well-being, and help secure a prosperous future for all our communities.”
To request a questionnaire please email greencycleway2020@gmail.com

The link to complete the questionnaire is
https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/HD8DNC2

Hard copies can be found in Sally’s Newsagents in Chagford and Zero Waste and Baskerville Café in Moretonhampstead.

Any local residents who want to support the campaign to extend the Wray Valley Trail should contact Cllr Nicky Heyworth on
cllr.nicky.heyworth@west.devon.gov.uk

Ben Fox

Author: Ben Fox

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