SHIPLEY BRIDGE UP THE AVON AND RETURN VIA THE WHITE BARROW TORS
START POINT GRID REF: 680629

This walk up onto the moors from Shipley Bridge, north of South Brent, took place on Sunday 7th May and was led by John Hutton.

The day dawned overcast but with the promise of sunshine and showers later. For once we only had the good part of the forecast, as the day progressed the sun came out and with only a light breeze it was sunny and warm up on the moors of South Dartmoor.

20 ramblers arrived for the walk which started at the local beauty spot of Shipley Bridge, three miles north of South Brent just off the A38.

The large car park was full by just gone 10 AM and many walkers had to park on the road. After a good briefing by John Hutton on the planned route we were off just gone 10.30 AM for this planned 8 to 9 mile walk up the River Avon to Huntingdon Warren then across and up to Western White Barrow and return to the car park via Eastern White Barrow and Black Tor.

 map of route to appear here
The outline route we took is shown on the map above and by following this in conjunction with a 1:25000 ordnance survey map of Dartmoor and the illustrated description which follows, you should be able to get a clear indication of our exact route on the day.

The river Avon runs down from the moors and passes just below the car park.

Leaving the car park, we headed north, passing the toilets and were soon following a track which led to a metalled road heading up towards the Avon Dam reservoir , a mile or so to our north.

We walked up the metalled road with the river running swiftly on our right hand side. Although uphill, walking was very easy along the narrow road.

A few hundred yards along the road we saw a rock engraved with names at the side of the road. It is called Hunter's Rock and the names on it are of the local hunting gentry of many years ago. Shortly after, we passed a wooded area on the left and a derelict youth hostel. Apparently it was demolished when the dam was constructed as being in a dangerous location in the valley immediately below the dam. Because of it's location it was deemed unsafe and the hostel was closed and the buildings partly demolished.

Following the road upwards about a half a mile on we bore right onto a track which led us directly up to the right hand side of the dam. As we approached the reservoir the dam itself loomed high above us.

 

After a short steep climb we were on a level with the dam with excellent views of the dam and to the moors above us.

We followed the track which ran along the right hand side of the reservoir, navigated a brook and continued along a track to the end of the reservoir.

The track was relatively easy to follow and led us up the valley, through which the Avon flowed down into the reservoir, towards the Huntingdon Warren hill area.

 

As we walked up the valley we merged with a well known track called the Abbots Way. Just before the ascent to Huntongdon Warren, there were some stepping stones across the Western Wella Brook which ran into the River Avon. Unfortunately the stepping stones were slippery and partly submerged so we made our way slightly further up the brook to seek out a crossing point.

As you can see from the picture, the point we chose to cross at was slightly wider than we would normally have chosen and meant that we had to take particular care in crossing it. We almost crossed it without loss of dignity but one of us decided it was time for an early bath, the sun soon dried her off though.

After the leader was duly slapped for letting the lady concerned slip back into the brook, we considered climbing up to the cairn at the top of Huntingdon Warren before taking our morning coffee break.

We soon changed our minds and decided to stop for morning coffee and enjoy the views looking back down the valley we had just walked through.

 

After the break, we followed the contours around the left hand side of the hill.

We were pleased that we did so since we met our first Adder of the year on the path.

This, the only poisonous snake in the UK, was sunning itself on the track and decidedly didn't like having it's sunbathing disturbed by a group of Ramblers.

 

It eventually made good its escape and we continued along paralleling the river Avon and gradually dropping down to an excellent clapper bridge which enabled us to cross the river without any difficulty.

Our next target point was up on the high moors above, at Western White Barrow and this entailed the only really steep ascent of the day. Leaving the clapper bridge we took the direct route, straight up over the steep hill. More and more of us stopped to enjoy the views as we climbed up this steep section.

In the distance above us, due south, we could see a marker post and we looped our way up and around towards this marker post, avoiding a deep girt en route.

From the marker post, it was only a few yards west to the collapsed barrow called Western White Barrow.

Although we were very close to the barrow, also known as Petre's Cross, we couldn't see it from the marker post until we had climbed those extra few yards up the hill.

In the distance about a mile north west of us, we could see the distinctive china clay spoil heap at Red Lake and less than a mile away to our south east the sister barrow called Eastern White Barrow.

John explained how Red Lake had been one of the largest china clay workings of its type in the area. The 'hill' was just an example of how a clay spoil tip can in time almost merge into the local landscape. It still remains a significant landmark in this area, nevertheless.

The moor had dried out amazingly quickly from the heavy rains throughout April and we made our way on a bearing of 110 degrees towards the next barrow which looked rather like a grounded submarine with its conning tower in the distance.

With the relatively level and dry moorland, we were soon at the barrow and the views from this rebuilt barrow were really good in the bright summer sunshine. In the distance, we could see North Hessary Tor and beyond that Great MIS Tor.

We settled down around and on the barrow for a leisurely lunch break in the sun. We had a full 40 minute lunch break for a rest in the sun, what a way to spend a Sunday, on the moors in the warm summer sun, wonderful!! At 1.30 PM we were off again, now well on our return leg. We remained high above the Avon Dam and were heading generally South East down towards Black Tor, some two miles away.

In as far as we could, we followed the natural contours rather than dropping down into valleys to have to climb up again. Although the route we took was therefore looping rather than straight, by doing so we had an easy and gradual descent across and down to Black Tor.

As we descended gradually the Tor came into view and when we arrived at it, we stopped at the Tor for another break to enjoy the sun once more and to have a tea break. Fifteen minutes later we were off again for our final descent to the Shipley Bridge Car Park a half a mile SSE of us.

Leaving the Tor, the first part of the gradual descent south east was across a granite scree field which meant that we had to take care to avoid tripping over the granite lumps. Shortly after the scree field, we could see the outline of a path which took us gradually down towards the Shipley Bridge Car Park.

We could see a narrow metalled road running diagonally down from the Avon Dam filtration plant but it was away from the direction we wanted.

 

 

We crossed the road and continued along the track in the same direction until we were immediately above the car park by the old tramway terminus derelict buildings.

In the early industrial era of Dartmoor the tramway ran right up to Shipley bridge to carry the granite down and to the sea for transport all over the world. Today, only the hollow roofless walls of the tramway buildings above the car park remain.

We picked our way down passed the buildings to the car park below us. We had enjoyed a good 8 mile walk on a lovely summers day. Thanks John for leading us around the route today and for arranging for the weather to be so kind to us all.