The small town of Wadebridge lies on the Camel Estuary between Padstow and Bodmin. Many centuries ago the settlement was known simply as Wade, for it was here that, at low tide, travellers waded across the River Camel by all accounts a risky business for both man and beast. It was not until the mid-15th century that a bridge was built and added to the towns name.
June is an ideal time to visit Wadebridge as the summer days mean spending time on the beach, maybe surfing, maybe enjoying a picnic, or maybe both.
Folklore has it that the foundations of the bridge were formed from bales of wool, which were flexible enough to withstand the shifting sands of the river. This theory has now been largely discounted, although what is certainly true is that the bridge was financed from the profits of the wool trade.
It has been widened on a couple of occasions but remains one of the finest medieval bridges in England. For most of the last century the bridge groaned under the increasing weight of traffic off the A39. Salvation came in 1991 with the opening of the bypass across a newly constructed road bridge some three-quarters of a mile downstream. Today traffic in the town is manageable and the main street is now pedestrianised.
In years gone by, Wadebridge was well known for its livestock market and, while this has closed, the town has another claim to fame. Since 1960 it has been the permanent home of the Royal Cornwall Agricultural Show.
Communities need to adapt to changing circumstances and Wadebridge has certainly done that. In 1967 the railway linking Wadebridge to Padstow and Bodmin was closed but the transformation of the rail bed into the Camel Trail saw a remarkable renaissance in the town’s economic fortunes the Trail is now the third largest visitor attraction in the whole of Cornwall.
June is an ideal time to visit Wadebridge as the summer days mean spending time on the beach, maybe surfing, maybe enjoying a picnic, or maybe both. The north coast has a great selection of beaches to chose from, all within easy reach of Wadebridge. Visit Trevose Head just along from Padstow for some gorgeous Cornish sea and sand and check out Mother Ivey’s Beach for a little peace and quiet, or Constantine Bay for good surf. The area has beautiful flower-covered cliffs and lovely walks too if you don’t fancy the seaside.
At this time of year the event not to miss is the Royal Cornwall Show in June. Held at the town’s Royal Cornwall Showground, this popular annual event comprises three days of shows, food and drink, and fun for all the family. There are rare breeds exhibits, steam trains, a classic car show, plenty of local food and drink stalls, a flower tent and lots of attractions and shows each day in the main ring.
Wadebridge is a great place for walkers. Not only is the Camel Trail flat and car-free but the town is also located on the Saints Way. This is a 16-mile cross-country route that offers good walking and beautiful scenery. Rock is a handful of miles away and is the place to try out some watersports such as windsurfing, waterskiing and sailing. There are riding stables and indoor karting in the area. Of course a huge appeal is the number of sandy beaches around the area.
Most of Wadebridges shops are small family-run businesses. Not far from the Camel Trail, in Eddystone Road, is Cornwall Harvest shop specialising in all things Cornish including arts and craft items, clothing and every sort of home produce imaginable. Next door is the Southern Gallery. Recently opened, this extremely well-appointed gallery specialises in wildlife art and has some fine originals and prints on sale.
The main street in Wadebridge is Molesworth Street, and apart from the usual banks and building societies, there are a number of small shops including a couple of excellent butchers, a hardware shop, a crystal shop, two bookshops and what must be one of the largest antiques shops in the county. Victoria Antiques is a double-fronted Aladdins cave with no less than three floors of antique furniture, objets dart and, notably, clocks and barometers.
There are a handful of restaurants in Wadebridge, which also has a good selection of pubs. In the village of Egloshayle just across the river is another pub with a great reputation for food. For something rather more sedentary, take in a film at the Regal Cinema. It opened in 1930 as the Cinedrome and has been going strong ever since.
There’s plenty to do in and around Wadebridge. Pride of place goes of course to the Camel Trail, a wonderfully flat footpath and cycleway connecting Bodmin with Wadebridge and Padstow over the bed of the old railway. Running alongside the River Camel, its great for a stroll or a more energetic cycle and the birdlife in the estuary is world class. Close by is Pencarrow House, with exquisite gardens and a fascinating guided tour round the stately home.
Enjoy the view
Surrounded by such gorgeous countryside and with the coast being so close, there are many wonderful views to soak up in the area. Go to Bodmin Moor, just over five miles away, for hills and uninterrupted green spaces, or hit the coast around Padstow and Newquay for typical Cornish beach scenes. If you like views of gorgeous gardens and country houses then Pencarrow, Lanhydrock and Prideaux Place are all near Wadebridge.