Totnes. The missing link…

3rd February 2020

When it comes to how we get around, here in the South Hams we have little choice but to rely on our cars, due to our limited public transport.  One potential alternative we do have however, is to get on our bikes. Unfortunately, our road network is simply not bike friendly. One of the principle road connections into Totnes is the A381 from Newton Abbot. Due to the presence of the river Dart, this road serves as the only connection for the many villages to the north and northeast of the town.

There is no denying that this dangerous road is unsuitable for cycling, however there is a solution to cross the Dart without using it. This option is direct, safe and mostly flat, all the prerequisites for any successful cycling and walking trail. Importantly, it also makes use of existing infrastructure, the well-known Bulliver Bridge that crosses the river near the old Diary Crest site, now the Atmos project. Opening this route would also enable Totnes to become part of the National Cycle Network, which currently has a missing link on a route called NCN2 that runs from Dover to St Austell.

And here lies the problem. Despite the bridge being 50% publicly funded back in 1993, its current owners, The South Devon Railway, do not want to share it. A position they have maintained for over a decade. Met with this kind of objection one might ask why the campaign to share the bridge is now more popular than ever.

Image Courtesy Wikimedia

The answer is simple, times have changed.

It’s 2020 and Totnes is faced with growing congestion and pollution breaching recognised safe limits. We have also just entered a decade where urgent action is required to tackle the climate emergency. Business as usual is no longer an option. Communities are now coming together to determine how to reduce emissions and cut pollution. This means looking at everything from energy use to waste management, housing and of course, transport. We need to create alternatives to relying solely on our cars.

That is why we are calling on the South Devon Railway to reconsider their position and agree to enter into discussions on how their security concerns could be dealt with.The redevelopment of the Old Diary Crest site is set to redefine the land use around the bridge. This will go a long way towards combatting these concerns. Further work could be done around the bridge to create a secure and attractive solution. Our campaign is prepared to fund this investigation.


Of course, we could build a second bridge.  This is something we have looked at in detail and something we have the skills and resources to pursue.  However, embarking on such a costly infrastructure project, when there has never been a practical discussion on how to share the bridge that already exists, seems like folly.

Nick Oldridge is the Chairman of South Devon Cycle Link

Should Totnes improve the cycle network? Comment below…

  9 comments for “Totnes. The missing link…

  1. David
    3rd February 2020 at 2:49 pm

    Of course Totnes HAS to improve the cycle network, and it needs to be linked up to surrounding towns. One of the joys of South Devon are the numerous lanes that aren’t used much by through car traffic, and by closing a series of these to through traffic – you simply block one end so farmers/house owners can still have access – these lanes become safe and environmentally clean. Forget about the A381 and their like, leave those for vehicular traffic, but create a parallel system for bikes (and walkers). Electric bikes make the South Devon hills disappear, and cycling can become mainstream if it is safe and perceived as safe. How to cross the Dart? By any means possible avoiding the main roads, allowing a route from Totnes-Littlehempston -Ipplepen-Newton Abbot. Using the existing bridge seems sensible, but it is but one part of the route. Get the rest in place and the blocking of access to the bridge becomes untenable…

  2. Nev
    3rd February 2020 at 2:54 pm

    Surely it’s beyond obvious that cycle networks should be opened up wherever possible . Lots of people in this community would ditch cars more often if safe cycling routes were available..

  3. Kris
    3rd February 2020 at 3:12 pm

    This is an essential piece of infrastructure that’s well overdue. Totnes with its congestion and pollution problems needs an alternative.. With more housing being planned the commuters between Torbay and Plymouth will only increase. Surely its a no brainier to remove local traffic from that..

  4. John
    3rd February 2020 at 4:50 pm

    Something South Hams District Council should consider funding within their new climate emergence policy, if not already in there. Could the bridge be compulsory purchased or some partnership with the district council?

    • Peter Shearn
      3rd February 2020 at 6:16 pm
    • Andy Smith
      4th February 2020 at 9:29 pm

      DCC has already discounted this option as too costly. Whereas another bridge is obviously going to be too costly. It seems some cyclists will need to be killed on the main road before this gets any attention from Devon, who let’s face it, don’t give a monkeys.

  5. Jude
    3rd February 2020 at 7:31 pm

    We’ve lived in Littlehempston for over 8 years now, and I cannot begin to imagine the car journeys we would have saved had there been a cycle path. It takes me half an hour to drive into Totnes during busy periods – It’s absolutely ridiculous not to have a path there – bordering on criminal in the light of the recent IPCC reports and bearing in mind Devon County Council have delcared a climate emergency. If there was a war on, and the bridge was needed, do you think they would be allowed to quibble like this for however many years? Of course not!

  6. 9th February 2020 at 11:23 am

    After some technical problems our website is now back up. Please support our campaign by signing the petition

  7. Laurie Taylor
    27th May 2020 at 11:25 am

    I’m trying to locate a Josh Reeves…maybe windmill down?

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