Cycling UK Launches new Cycle Route in Cornwall

Cycling UK has announced the launch of a new long-distance cycling route in Cornwall. The route, called West Kernow Way is a 150-mile loop of west Cornwall starting in Penzance. Launched in September to avoid the summer rush, the route has reclaimed many lost ways. A mostly off-road route it takes in quiet roads, coast and over 4200m of climbing.

The press release reads:

West Kernow Way

On Friday 3 September, two days before professional road cycling’s superstars leave Penzance to begin the Tour of Britain, cyclists looking for a different way to experience Cornwall can do so on England’s newest route, the West Kernow Way.

Developed Cycling UK, the West Kernow Way (West Kernow is Cornish for West Cornwall) is a largely off-road 150-mile route starting in Penzance. Winding its way west through the Cornish landscape to become a figure of eight. Using quiet roads, bridleways, byways and lost ways. Taking in rugged coastlines and old miners’ tracks. It also passes the World Heritage Site of the Tin Coast. Passing the Botallack tin mines, the Bronze Age monument Mên-an-Tol, Land’s End, St Michael’s Mount and Lizard Point. It is estimated to take three to four days to complete.

Stefan Amato (Pannier) and Sam Jones (Cycling UK) inspect a sign about improvements to the Coast Path as part of the EU-funded experience project to develop sustainable year-round tourism activities in Cornwall.

Exploring Cornwall

The West Kernow Way is an adventure cycling route. The route takes you to the famous familiar sites along unfamiliar but fantastic trails. Travelling through lost lanes and forgotten ways, you get to experience Cornwall’s rugged beauty, its history and culture. And of course, of great importance to any cyclists: the hearty Cornish cuisine!

Sophie Gordon, Cycling UK’s campaigns officer.

Vedangi Kulkarni (freelance) and Katherine Moore (Unpaved podcast) concentrate on the gravel descent down to Cape Cornwall during a recce ride.

Developing the Route

The charity has worked for over a year developing and consulting on the route. This includes site surveying and recceing the route to bring about the right balance between adventure and challenge.

The route’s development was difficult. Cycling UK delved into the archives to unearth old maps and lost ways to take cyclists away from busy roads.

Some of the lost ways the West Kernow Way reclaims are along the Tinners Way on the Penwith Peninsula. This ancient 18-mile trail running from St Ives to Cape Cornwall has its origins in the Bronze Age. At one time it was an important highway used by horse and cart to transport ore during Cornwall’s mining boom in the 18th and 19th century.

West Kernow Way cycling UK
Sophie Gordon (Cycling UK), Stefan Amato (Pannier), Rob Penn (freelance journalist) and Sam Jones (Cycling UK) check the map during a recce ride of Cycling UK’s West Kernow Way.

Rights of Way

Despite its historic use and suitability for riding along, parts of it are not currently recorded as bridleways. For this and several other sections along the West Kernow Way, Cycling UK has submitted applications to Cornwall Council for Definitive Map Modification Orders to correct these anomalies. This is from a time when rights of way maps were originally drawn up. It’s also to ensure routes are protected for future use by the public.

Collating the necessary evidence to upgrade omissions made back in the fifties has required sifting through old journals and maps decades if not centuries old. It’s definitely been an interesting insight into Cornwall’s past. It also shows how difficult and complex it is to upgrade rights of way in England. It’s no wonder under-resourced councils across the UK are only correctly recording historic rights at a rate of less than one route a year. This is a clear justification for why the Government needs to simplify this process.

Sophie Gordon, Cycling UK’s campaigns officer.

Cycling UK West Kernow
A group of cyclists begin climbing towards the village of Mullion during a recce ride of Cycling UK’s West Kernow Way, June 2021.

EU Funding

In a bid to limit the risk of infection, the charity has deliberately waited until after the summer holidays to launch. In doing so, Cycling UK aims to encourage tourism when it is quieter as part of its role in the European Regional Development Fund, funded EXPERIENCE pilot project.

Cycling UK is one of 14 partners involved in the project. The goal, to deliver sustainable new off-season tourism experiences in six pilot regions in England and France. This includes Cornwall, Norfolk and Kent. Cycle tourism spending from cyclists in the UK generates £520m per year. There are 1.23 million overnight trips each year, benefiting small businesses in particular, and these contribute £433m to the economy.

West Kernow Way
Stefan Amato (Pannier) and Katherine Moore (Unpaved podcast) reach the end of the National Cycle Network at Land’s End during a recce ride of Cycling UK’s West Kernow Way.

New Routes

Cycling UK intends to launch new routes in Norfolk and Kent in 2022. The charity is already working with the hospitality and accommodation sectors in these three counties to provide businesses with free equipment and advice as part of its Cycle Friendly Places accreditation.

These new routes sit within Cycling UK’s wider goal to see the creation of a network of long-distance off-road routes across the UK. The three new trails will complement England’s 15 national trails. Two of which are cyclable from end to end: the Pennine Bridleway and the South Downs Way.

The West Kernow Way is the fourth long-distance cycling route Cycling UK has launched since its riders’ route for the North Downs Way was unveiled in 2018.

See the route map here.

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