SPARKWELL HEMERDON AREA AROUND THE CLAY PITS 28 FEB 99

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This Sunday walk, organised by the Ramblers, and only a short distance from Plymouth was on the southern fringes of Dartmoor. It was led by Des Deveney. We met at Sparkwell, in late February 1999, at the community centre car park for a 10 A.M. start. The weather forecast was not particularly good, however we still managed to get between 20 and 30 walkers out for the Sunday walk which was planned to be of the order of the eight miles. The walk skirts the fringes of one of the larger China Clay workings in the area.

We set off from Sparkwell on time heading in a N. N. W. direction and we soon were heading directly uphill towards the moors. After a short section of road, we were soon on a farm track and we continued to climb up through fields for about a half mile until we reached the local high point. There was a mast at this point, with many microwave antenna at the top. We turned right at this point and then headed along some relatively level ground along a path, now heading in N.N.E direction .

 

We knew it was likely to be a little muddy but as you can see in the accompanying picture there was rather more mud and pools of water for us to circumvent than we really wanted. We soon found ourselves on the Moors surrounding the spoil tips of the local clay works run by English China Clay.

On a similar walk in March 2003, but this time on a wonderfully sunny day, ideal for walking, Des had found a way of avoiding the muddy pools along the lane. He found a footpath through fields and along a lower track, admittedly involving several stiles, just before reaching the antenna.

This alternative option is shown in the red dotted line on the map. As can be seen we eventually ended up on the same track as on the 1999 walk, but this time with much cleaner boots.

 

The paths here were wide and dry and we shared the walk with a number of people out on horses enjoying themselves. There most be stables near by judging from the number around.

We continued along in a N.N.E direction for about a mile gently descending all the time. There were good views of local villages below. We skirted a plantation, descended down a steep path and then had our first break for coffee followed by a ladies stay behind. (Very similar to a ladies excuse me!)

The road between Cornwood and thechina clay works at Lee Moor was below us. We headed North and made our way down to the road. We were only on the road for a couple of hundred yards and then we turned left in through the entrance to Heaton Clay Works. There is a right of way here for a short distance through the works but we were soon climbing out over styles and heading upwards quite steeply at times in a N. W. direction, making our way through the thick mud which made this uphill section even harder.

After a few detours to avoid the mudiest spots, we ended up on the high ground above the china clay working. We then turned left and walked in a S. W. direction for a short while before stopping for our lunch break, sheltering behind hedges from the strong S. W. wind. The weather looked threatening but the rain held off.

 

After lunch and a comfort stop, we continued S. W, climbing up to local high point which had excellent views of the mine workings below and of the big settlement pools. The descent started, still in a S. W. direction and into the teeth of the strong wind.

 

 

At one point, we could look right down into the china clay workings, where water cannon washed the clay from the sides. The workings here were deep indeed. There must have been a great deal of work done over the years to produce a hole of that depth and width. We continued generally southerly, descending all the time until we reached Drakelands Corner where we were on metal road again. Jack informed me that the little pool on our right was a very well stocked trout pond run by the local farmer at 20 a day. He indicated that you could catch trout here without really trying and that it was an excellent way of stocking the freezer

We soon turned left and headed back in an Easterly direction along rising ground. We entered a disused mine called Hemmerden mine. Although inactive for many years, the buildings were still there, although in great disrepair. According to Helen, our local historian, it had not been used for twenty years and indeed was the home of troops during the last war. Perhaps the Tavern sign had more significance then. We made way through the derelict buildings, I noticed that some buildings were now used as stables.

We continued to climb, not so much mud here thank goodness, and then we were back at the high point above Sparkwell once again by the mast. The general consensus of opinion was that the mast was used by the telephone companies as a transmitter. To finish, we retraced our path down over the hill through the fields and back into Sparkwell and our cars.

It was four hour walk and the rain had held off for the whole duration. 5 minutes after getting into the car to return home, the rains arrived with a vengeance and we had a very wet trip home. Sparkwell is only about seven miles from Plymouth so it didn't take long to get home. For once we had luck on our side, it was an interesting day out. In the past I have never seen on the mine workings from close-up, the spoil heaps are visible from great distances and I often spot them from my boat off Plymouth. To see them and the mines close up brings home just how much the workings have affected the local landscape.