THE new Drake's Trail cycle path between Tavistock and Plymouth has huge potential to attract visitors to the area, a meeting in Tavistock heard last week. The first section of the cycle path, part of route 27 of the National Cycle Network, was opened in October. Named after the famous Elizabethan adventurer who was born near Tavistock and lived at Buckland Abbey at Buckland Monachorum, the creation of the path has attracted funding from Devon Renaissance, West Devon Borough Council and the county council. Newly appointed project officer Phil Baker last week told members of Tavistock Town Council the route could become an important resource for West Devon, attracting visitors and providing social and educational opportunities in the area. Mr Baker said Tavistock, as the main service point for the Drake's Trail, would benefit from additional trade, as users of the route came to the town to sample the shops, restaurants and cafés. Spur routes would also be developed at the Tavistock end of the trail, taking in the canal tow path towards Crowndale, Drake's birthplace, and also the old railway line between Tavistock and Bere Alston. Eventually, the trail would make use of the old railway tunnel beneath Grenofen, and a new bridge would be installed across the Walkham Valley, above the footbridge which has recently been placed across the river between Grenofen and Magpie Bridge. Mr Baker said: 'Another side of the project will be to set up spur routes around the Yelverton area, which will wind around some of the surrounding countryside, taking in Burrator and Drake's Leat. 'We aim to re-emphasise West Devon as an attractive tourist destination, to increase visitor numbers to the area, and produce information and materials to support use of the trail, which is creating a traffic-free route between Tavistock and Yelverton, and provide a safe cycling route for children. 'The idea of the trail is to attract as many different user groups as we can.' The project is being carried out in close collaboration with Dartmoor National Park Authority, Maristow Estate, parish and town councils and schools in the area, who were already getting involved, having created artwork which could be used in signage. Cllr Jenny Metcalf asked how much the legacy and significance of Sir Francis Drake would feature in the new route. Mr Baker said: 'We will make sure any information we prepare will be very much Drake-themed. It will need to be in most things we do, it's no good calling it Drake's Trail and then not providing any information about him. It's very much shaping what we do.' Cllr Philip Sanders said many people had complained to him about environmental damage caused by the installation of the new footbridge across the Walkham. As an off-road cyclist, he felt this had destroyed 'an exciting downhill' stretch of the valley. Mr Baker said he would be liaising closely with the county council regarding the new bridge and hoped disturbance could be kept to a minimum. The main launch of Drake's Trail is timetabled to take place in March 2009, to coincide with the official opening of the complete Route 27 route.