Chris and I recently had another visit to Plymouth and once more enjoyed the kind and generous hospitality of his brother Andy and sister-in-law Teresa. On this trip they took us into the Dartmoor National Park and led us on two short circular walks followed by a pub visit!
Dartmoor National Park spreads across Devon which is the third largest county in England. With its wild natural beauty and generous rights of access it is popular with hikers who enjoy exploring the many exposed granite boulder-like hilltops, known as tors. The highest peak of Dartmoor is High Willhays which Chris and I climbed in September 2021.
The first of the two walks was a 5 mile circular which began at the car park next to Shaugh Bridge. We crossed this 17th century bridge and we were soon climbing uphill into the enchanting moss covered woodlands.
The climb was fairly steep as it rose high above the River Plym. It was also rocky and uneven so decent footwear is necessary.
The route followed part of the Dartmoor Way a long distance circular footpath and cycle route of 109 miles.
We were rewarded at the top as the woods cleared and gave way to panoramic views towards the South Devon coast. The weather was overcast but as the forecast was for torrential rain all day we considered ourselves fortunate!
Once on the top of the moors the path had levelled off and the walk became much easier.
The route then descended on the grassy Wigmore Down towards Cadover Bridge. Above is Cadover Cross, a mediaeval waymarker which is thought to have been put there by the monks of Plympton Priory. This cross dates back to the 1200’s.
We crossed the River Plym at Cadover Bridge and started to make our way towards North Wood. Dartmoor is home to many different species of birds including rare birds and those whose numbers have declined elsewhere in the country. Chris had his bird app and identified stonechats’s, skylarks and mistle thrushes and Andy kept watch with his binoculars.
This section of the walk is known as the ‘pipe walk’ as you follow the remains of an old clay pipe which was previously part of an old mining industry. Apparently in the spring time, this wood is full of bluebells although as we were there in mid March, we were about a month too early for this.
Dartmoor is full of legends and it is said to be the home of pixies! You can certainly imagine pixies peering from the nooks and crannies of these ancient woodlands.
We returned to the car and Andy drove us towards Burrator Reservoir for our second short walk of 2 miles. We parked up and headed off towards Leather Tor Farm, crossing over the flat stones of the Old Clapper Bridge! The path just past the bridge was fairly muddy and the surroundings were swampy and home to hundreds of clumps of jelly-like frogspawn.
The story of the Francis Drake water channel, Drake’s Leat, is really fascinating. More is explained by Wikipedia however by way of summary this water system was constructed in the late 16th century to connect the River Meavy and transport water down to Plymouth. Sir Francis Drake oversaw the project with took 35 men just over 4 months to complete the work in 1591.
It is possible to do a 3.5 hour walk around Burrator Reservoir however our path took us high above. This reservoir was completed in 1898 and supplies drinking water to the city of Plymouth and its surrounding towns.
We spotted some of the famous Dartmoor ponies which roam freely among the moors and the roads passing through. These hardy ponies thrive in the tough conditions of Dartmoor and have been present here for centuries. Their grazing plays an important role in the ecosystem and it is illegal to feed them.
We finished our walks with a drink in the historic 15th century Royal Oak Inn at Meavy. This pub is named after the 800 year old oak tree which is growing just in front on the green.
With spectacular views, idyllic woodlands and some fascinating local history we had a fabulous day with Andy and Teresa showcasing the wide variation of Dartmoor National Park landscapes.