BRENT TOR TO LYDFORD GORGE CIRCULAR WALK
START POINT GRID REF: 468 806

March 2000 was an excellent month for walking with blue skies and in the main light winds. Sunday 19th was no exception and the forecast of a fine and warm spring day attracted 30 ramblers to the start point just below Brent Tor for a 10.30 AM start to walk of just about 10 miles.

The leader for the day, Helen Rowett, had recently broken her ankle and Margaret Vatcher had taken on the walk and had done at least two recces to ensure that she was familiar with the route.

The map of the route is outlined above and readers who wish to monitor the route more closely should relate this walk to a suitable 1:25000 ordnance survey map of the area. The route is on the west fringe of Dartmoor between Tavistock and Lydford Gorge and unfortunately just off my 1:25000 map of Dartmoor.

The car park is just below Brent Tor and the Tor is a rather impressive large rock outcrop with a church at the top. The photograph above was taken with the morning sun above the Tor, hence the effect. An unusual feature is that the church is still functioning in its original role and is quite popular for weddings, with the wedding photographs certainly being a high point. The sight of the wedding party approaching the church in gumboots should indeed make for some good memories.

At just after 10.30 AM we all gathered together in the car park for the customary leaders briefing as to the general route and the anticipated length of the walk; we were soon leaving the car park and turning right onto the road below the park.

Margaret had pointed out that the early part of the walk was interspersed with tarmaced road walking and so it proved to be. After a hundred yards or so we turned left and down a path for 300 hundred yards, before turning right into a field and a quarter of a mile walking east through fields.

Shortly after turning into the field we walked past what was a derelict mine.

What was particularly spectacular was the sight of the spoil heaps completely covered with gorse out in its full yellow bloom of flowers. Having past through a few fields we emerged onto a narrow country road.

We turned due north and walked down the road for 400 yards before joining another road and turning more north east for a couple of hundred yards before coming to a fork in the road. At this point we took the right fork which continued on down hill and which would eventually emerge at Liddadon in the valley below us.

To our right was more gorse but not in bloom, it had been all burnt down during the preceding week and the smell of burning was all around us. We could have taken a footpath which would have passed through the gorse but we decided to keep to the road rather than walk through the middle of the fired section.

As the picture to the right shows the burnt section was fairly widespread, whether it was a case of farmers clearing scrubland or an accidental blaze was difficult to tell.

There was a turning off to the right and we took it and the road soon became a track still descending into the valley.

To our right was woodland and we turned right and followed a track into the woods.

Strangely there was no signpost to indicate that it was a footpath and how Margaret had managed to find the route with no apparent signposts was beyond me, but she had and we were on the right route. Margaret mentioned that she had spent a considerable time trying to find the route down through this area and I could certainly see why she had encountered the difficulties.

We passed down through the woods and out into a small grassy area, then back into woodlands once again as we continued north east.

 

We emerged from the woods onto a small country road and made our way down the steep windy road to a river at the bottom.

From the map we could see that it was the river Lyd with a water flow which must have come down from the tourist attraction of Lydford Gorge a few miles upstream. The road ran parallel to the stream for a few yards and there were two bridges across the river.

Taken from the lower bridge, the photograph shows the second bridge and a small weir just below it. A few yards further up the road we could see that there was a ford across the river just below the bridge and it was easily navigable, but I doubt whether it would have been so easily crossed after a period of heavy rain.

We turned right and headed uphill and away from the River Lyd. We passed a sign indicating that Lydford Forestry Commission land was to our left.

We were walking past some houses to our right just up the hill from the sign for the forestry commission land when the owner emerged apologising for the lack for footpath signs. He informed us that the footpath turned right and went along just beside his house and then turned left up the hill.

It is quite unusual for someone to invite us to walk alongside a house, particularly his own and we thanked him and continued on our way.

There was plenty of evidence of the railway which must have run up through the valley many years before; we went under a railway bridge and continued uphill and into a field. I wondered to myself when the line was last used, it must have once run from Tavistock up to Lydford before turning to Launceston to the west of Dartmoor. The railway is long gone now unfortunately.

In the field, we stopped to enjoy our morning coffee in the sun. It was becoming quite warm as the sun was getting higher and must have been in the low sixties by the time we set off again for a uphill section along the track.

We continued to make our way uphill, heading generally south. We left the wood and entered a field heading up a still unmarked footpath. Above us at the top of the hill we could see a large house, quite imposing, even from our view down the fields below.

There were signs of a water pump operating to draw water from the river below up to the house above. In the middle of the fields there were some well disguised water pumps. The picture to the right shows how one pump even had a small tree atop of it.

After this uphill section the route levelled out as we approached the big house in its enclosed walled garden.

We turned right by the house and made our way along the front of the house. The big house and its outbuildings is called Langstone Manor and the entrance gate was quite ornate with its stone sculptured horses either side of the gate itself.

We followed the road and came upon the 'B' road that we had turned onto an hour and a half before. We were less than two miles along the road from the Brent Tor car park.

We turned left however and followed the road for a hundred yards and then turned right onto a narrower road heading due east.

We passed some houses, marked on the map as Burnville and made our way through a farm yard where a number of children and adults were shepherding sheep and lamb. They decided to hold them in the yard until our own flock of 30 had passed by.

There were still no real sign of any footpath indicator posts. We had a choice of two farm gates and took the right hand one to head diagonally across a field to a small yellow indicator showing that we were indeed on a footpath, at last after some 4 miles a sign showing that footpaths exist.

The path swung more north east and we could soon see some more farmhouses. The map showed that we were about to pass through Wastor Farm.

Greeted by barking dogs we made our way through the farm and past a derelict barn to our left with the main farm buildings on the other side.

The track continued on west and was fairly well constrained. We made our way through a path with high wire fences on either side, apparently until recently this area had been a deer farm but there was no sign of any deer as we made our way through the path.

To our right we could see the open moor across a small valley. It seemed strange that on one side the land should be so cultivated and farm like whilst just across the valley should lie the open moorland.

We soon emerged onto a road and immediately in front of us lay a large pub/hotel called the "Mucky Duck" yes it really does exist. There was a large car park just beyond the pub and the signs clearly showed the reasons for the large car park, we were at the western entrance to the Lydford Gorge National Trust run beauty spot with its gorge and waterfalls.

We stopped at the car park for lunch and there was plenty of activity from other walkers since there was a big walking event in progress, with many young walking teams finishing their 14 mile morning walk, they too had also enjoyed excellent walking weather.

This was the easterly end of the walk and after lunch at 1.30 PM we walked back past the Mucky Duck, over a bridge and then turned right onto the open moorland. After the undulations of the morning, the early afternoon section was to be a relatively flat section across the moorland down heading south west.

We had a fast easy 2 mile section heading towards the landmark of Brent Tor, very distinctive in the distance.

We crossed West Blackdown and then walked along the side of a small country road towards Blacknor Park where there were some quite large houses looking down into a valley.

We turned right just before the houses and followed a track down a windy road into the valley below us.

There were a couple of large derelict barns to our right, surely someone had them earmarked for redevelopment. Sure enough there were notices pinned up indicating that redevelopment planning permission had been applied for. Doubtless in a couple of years time there will be large prestigious houses where these barns are today.

Just past the barns we crossed two bridges in quick succession, one over an disused railway line and the other over a small stream, just how many such rail routes had existed here 75 or more years earlier??

We stopped by the bridges for our afternoon break and above us loomed Brent Tor.

Since it was the plan to walk up and around the Tor then we knew a steep uphill section must lie ahead.

So it proved, after the break we had steady steep climb of a quarter of a mile east up a rough track. The track turned into a narrow road and although the climb continued, it was less steep and along metalled roads. A few hundred yards further and the Tor was to our right.

The road continued on swinging left and we could see a bridlepath heading off to our right which would take us just west of the Tor. We made our way through yet another gate and headed up the bridlepath, more uphill.

Ahead of us there was another gorse area and Margaret told us that it was the site of an old manganese mine, quite unusual, tin, even arsenic but manganese, the moor must have had many such metals and minerals mined over the past few hundred years.

We walked steeply uphill to the right of the magnesium mine and passed immediately under Brent Tor with its church at the top.

Cresting the hill, we could see the car park with our cars in only two hundred yards or so west and below us. A quick descent and we were changing our gear ready for the home run back to Plymouth.

Once again the weather had been magnificent, Margaret had stood in for Helen Rowett and had given us an excellent day out. We all passed on our gratitude to Margaret for her efforts and made our way back to Plymouth.

Margaret headed off to see Helen and to give her our get well card and hopefully the bottle of sherry to help her recover from her broken ankle and to be able to rejoin us walking before long.

"Get well soon Helen" was the message from the group who had enjoyed the walk so much on this excellent Spring day.