Wednesday 22nd May
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Bickleigh Vale Phenoix Mine

Bickleigh Vale Mine is a side spur off of the old Leighbeer Tunnel, effectionately known as "Smokeys Tunnel".

The main Leighbeer Tunnel was part of a railway which linked Plymouth to Tavistock via Yelverton. Work on building the railway began during August 1856. Mr Brampton the original engineer died suddenly in 1857 and was replaced by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The official opening of the South Devon & Tavistock Railway took place on June 21st 1859. The line was closed to passengers in the 1962 and totally closed in 1966. Most of the route from Marsh Mills to Yelverton, including Leighbeer tunnel, is now a cyle track, part of the Plym Valley Trail.

Nothing exciting in that I guess - A VERY long tunnel open to the public, with lighting and cyclists and walkers flying through.


If you look at all the railway refuge'es down the sides you will notice they are all covered in bars to prevent people hiding in them I guess? BUT, one of these refuge'es is actually a fair sized tunnel! You wouldn't spot it without a torch. Oddly, this is the only refuge not fenced off to full height.... The tunnel was an exploritry one dug into the hillside when they came across copper while digging the main Leighbeer tunnel. It opened in the same year as the railway line which must have proved tricky! It was only operated for around 3 years as not as much copper as expected was found.

The Leighbeer tunnel also featured on TV on one of David Icke's ghost documentarys.

Quite wet at the start but the tunnel rises up slightly out of the water. Certainly a welliable jaunt!