The Gem Bridge near Tavistock cost more than two million pounds and forms part of a cross-channel cycle link stretching more than 260 miles. The new bridge spans the River Walkham about five miles south of Tavistock where one of Brunel's magnificent viaducts once stood. It was officially opened today to almost universal acclaim, even from locals worried that it would spoil this wonderful wooded valley on the edge of Dartmoor.
The bridge provides another link in the 'Velodysee', a 265 mile cycle route all the way from
southern Britanny to Ilfracombe. It's hoped the long distance route will attract tourists from
both sides of the Channel as well as locals enjoying a healthy day out. The new bridge is 24 metres high, or about the height of five double decker buses. But Brunel's original bridge was nearly twice as high. Local resident Barney Gawman was one of the team of just four men who demolished the old bridge nearly fifty years ago.
Some of the old stonework has been rescued to make a picnic area, designed by children
from nearby Whitchurch Primary School. Children from several local schools helped choose
items to go in a time capsule buried under one of the rocks to tell future generations about
this corner of Dartmoor in the year 2012. There are some sections of the long distance cycle route yet to be finished, including a section of tunnel just south of the new bridge. It’s hoped it will be complete by the autumn and there are plans for a further opening ceremony then.