BERE PENINSULA A Branch Line Railway Walk

About this route

The Bere Peninsula is the triangle of land between the Tamar and Tavy rivers, in the south west corner of Devon just north of Plymouth. Despite the geographical proximity to Plymouth, the peninsula is surprisingly remote by reason of its poor road access. The Bere Peninsula has part of one of Devon’s long-distance walking routes, the Tamar Valley Discovery Trail. The walk described here uses the train and the Discovery Trail to look at one of Devon’s unknown corners.


Getting Around

The walk links the two Tamar Valley branch line stations of Bere Alston and Bere Ferrers, using the train to link the finish and start of the walk. The train could be taken either before doing the walk or after finishing it, but the former is recommended since this does not give you a time limit for the walk. Better still, take the train from Plymouth to the start at Bere Alston, then another train back to Plymouth from Bere Ferrers at the end.

Parking at Bere Ferrers station is quite limited. If parking in the village streets, please park considerately. Bere Alston has rather better parking provision at the station, but if full the nearest alternative parking is some way away in the centre of the village.

There are also buses between Tavistock, Bere Alston and Bere Ferrers.

Bere Alston : shops, pub, toilets, car park; Bere Ferrers : village shop, pub, and toilets. There are no facilities along the walk.
14 stiles; 3 climbs, of which one is quite steep, 70m/230ft; one short and sharp, 45m/150ft; one long and relatively gentle, 40m/130ft.
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OS Maps

Landranger [1:50,000 scale] no. 201 Plymouth and Launceston
Explorer [1:25,000 scale] no. 108 Lower Tamar Valley

For More Information

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Interesting information

Note that there are actually two railway bridges, the line from Plymouth and Bere Ferrers coming in on one bridge with the line continuing to Gunnislake returning out on the other. Originally the Gunnislake line was the branch, the line from Plymouth continuing through Bere Alston station and on to Tavistock and ultimately London Waterloo, as the London and South Western Railway’s main line.

As the lane descends views ahead to the opposite side of the Tamar reveal a number of old mine chimneys, of which that on top of the large dome-shape hill, Kit Hill, is especially obvious. Mining for metal ores was once very  important to the Tamar Valley, dating back to silver mines in the medieval period.

Towards the bottom of the lane the market gardening on the opposite of the river becomes obvious. During the first half of the 20th century this was very important to the Tamar, and most of the valley slopes were used for horticulture. Relatively little remains today, the area opposite being one of the largest areas.

The field was formally one of the Tamar Valley orchards. A few fruit trees remain. The wood is relatively recent and was previously used for the cultivation of bulbs. In the spring, the floor of the wood is still covered in daffodils.

Kit Hill forms the background of the skyline, while on the far bend of the Tamar are the buildings at Cotehele Quay, a fascinating National Trust property on the Cornish bank.

At this point the Tamar takes a great meander in its course, and the Discovery Trail cuts across the neck of this loop. When we next meet the river it will have changed its character completely, reappearing very definitely as an estuary, a surprising change for such a short distance.

At Hole’s Hole, the quay on the right was once an important point for loading market produce onto boats to Plymouth. The building on the left was a pub.

Near Weir Quay are the remains of mines. The last were abandoned in the mid-19th century when the river broke into the workings. There were also smelting works here. Later, one of the works became a jam factory using the local produce. Just beyond Weir Quay are the remains of some substantial lime kilns, the burnt lime being used to fertilise the soil.

This is Liphill, believed to be the site of Tavistock Abbey’s medieval salt pan. More recently, it was the home of TV wildlife broadcaster Tony Soper.

A cul-de-sac footpath goes through the gate here, leading to Thorn Point. This was an historic ferry crossing point, said to have been used as a pilgrim route in medieval times [Landulph on the Cornish bank was a pilgrims’ embarkation point]. When the railway arrived the ferry was used to bring produce from Cornwall to the trains at Bere Ferrers.

Climbing alongside the fence, there are superb views behind, both upstream back to Weir Quay and beyond and downstream to the Tamar Bridge at Plymouth.

Photo of boats on the mud in front of houses at Bere Ferris
Bere Ferrers Copyright Martin Bodman

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Photo of Buckland Abbey

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Landscape photo of mine buildings at Devon Great Consuls

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