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.