SOUTH BRENT TO SHIPLEY BRIDGE VIA DIDWORTHY RETURN VIA BALL GATE AND AISH
START POINT: SOUTH BRENT STATION CP GRID REF: 698603

South Brent is a large village just off the A38 located 15 m to the east of Plymouth and is located within the National park on the moorland fringe. Bob and Daphne Perkins offered a 6/7 mile walk on 17th August 03 up to Shipley Bridge and from there up to the moors above returning to South Brent down through the old Ball Gate moor entrance. The day was forecast as likely to be dry but much less hot than of late.

The combination of factors mentioned attracted a good group of 32 ramblers out to the start point of the walk for the 10.30 AM set off time.

The outline of the walk, graded as easy to moderate by the leaders , is given above.

If you click on the map you should be able to get an expanded version of it. It will take a few seconds to download though. Click on the browser back button to return to the route description.

To fully appreciate the route, the footpaths across fields, woods and country lanes we used both up to and down from the moor, this outline should be related to a good 1:25000 map of the area such as the OS leisure series map no 28 of Dartmoor.

We were pleased to welcome the chairman of Devon Area of the Ramblers Association to this walk. Jean Mills is planning to walk with all the ramblers groups in Devon and we are the 7th group she has walked with so far.

After the usual round of announcements and briefings, we left the car park at just gone 10.30 AM and made our way west along the side of the old railway station to the bridge at the far end with the magnificent village church just off to the left of the bridge.

 

 

We turned right over the bridge and a few yards beyond the bridge we took a footpath off to our left which took us right beside the River Avon for about 300 metres until we came to a beautiful old bridge, called Lydia Bridge.

We made our way from the riverside up to the road across Lydia Bridge over a very old stone stile. Most made it over the stile without difficulty although our one dog on the day found it a little difficult to get under and needed a small amount of assistance from Des, our back marker for the day.

The views upstream of the bridge showed a tangle of large boulders with the river frothing down between them. When the River Avon is like in flood at this place, there must be an amazing mass of water tumbling down.

We didn't cross over Lydia Bridge but turned right for a short distance, before coming to a road off to our left leading up to Lutton, which we followed.

We headed north up a hill towards Lutton for a couple of hundred metres until we came to a footpath sign which led us off the road left over a stile into a field.

This footpath saved us walking along the country lane into Lutton itself and 2 fields later we walked by some houses located just to the west of the hamlet of Lutton.

One of the houses had stone engraving above the lintel of the door which I duly photographed. Apparently it was placed there a few years ago by the then owner and is not an original feature of the house.

We swung left and descended down to cross an old brook and then came a long uphill section. We were heading up to the moors after all!!

We followed a narrow track climbing steadily for approaching a kilometre up through the fringes of the wooded area.

Shortly after we levelled out we descended through the fringes of Didworthy, where approaching 50 years ago and more there had been a TB sanatorium located.

It had long since ceased to be a TB hospital but is still currently owned and managed by Devon Social Services.

Although we must have walked very close to the old hospital, such was the canopy of trees and bushes that I didn't actually spot it.

What did catch my eye however was a small plaque set into the hedge which read "A.J.B. Royal Navy taken by this tree 25.1.1990" .

I can only imagine a gale blowing a tree down which fell on the poor unfortunate A.J.B.... Can anyone reading this who might know the actual reason for the plaque let me know??

Beyond Didworthy it was once again uphill along a narrow track with access to the fields on the higher side blocked to us.

Bob wasn't keen to take morning coffee on the track in the middle of the wooded area with no views to speak of so we continued on up before we emerging out onto a road just by a cattle grid some 500 m after leaving Didworthy.

Over the cattle grid and a few yards on we came to Shipley Bridge with the large car park and toilets just beyond and our morning drinks stop at 11.45 AM.

Some members thought it was an early lunch break but Bob reminded them that he aimed to get up to the moors first.

We could see the moors high above us so we knew lunch wouldn't be long.

There are ruins of buildings just by the car park and I was asked what they could be. My first guess was that they could be linked to the old horse drawn tramway which ran from Shipley Bridge to Redlake.

Subsequent investigations using Mike Brown's Dartmoor CDROM reveal that the ruins at Shipley Bridge are those of the Brent Moor Clay Works, itself built on the site of an earlier naptha works. Fronting the car park are the old drying kilns, on the slope above which are the more interesting remains of the settling pits.

After a 10 to15 minute break we were off again, heading south down a country lane, over another cattle grid and not far beyond by a farm and beyond that Zeal Cottage, now a Buddhist Centre, according to the notice on the gate.

We continued along the road for another 100 to 200 metres and then came to a gate off to our right which led onto a very rough, bouldery and steeply ascending track heading up south west to the moors above.

The track is accorded the status of a lane, Diamond Lane is the name given to it. I wonder why. The large and uneven boulders we had to traverse certainly were far too large to be called granite diamonds for sure.

After 300 metres of picking our way up steeply through and over the granite boulders we emerged out onto the short green grass of the moorland above.

For a while the route was constrained between two narrow hedges before it opened out to nice moorland, still rising steadily. I well recall the first time I came up through Diamond Lane, on that occasion we climbed at a frantic pace for 4 kilometres from the road right up to Three Barrows, an ascent approaching a 1000 feet of hard climbing......and all at between 3 and 4 mph.

Three Barrows was not on our route today. Once on the moors Bob and Daphne led us up for a five minute climb to a height of 310 metres, a climb in total of about 350 feet from the road and then we sat down to enjoy the views all round us and to have a 30 minute lunch break.

 

After lunch we made our way across to a gate with two large granite balls on top of high plinths, thus giving the gate the apt name of 'Ball Gate'.

I believe the gate marks the exit onto the moor from the path up from an old manor house located in the valley a couple of miles below.

We made our way through Ball Gate and after a slight uphill section started our 600 feet plus descent back to the village of South Brent some 2 miles off to the south east of us.

 

The descent was fairly steady initially to the north and east of Corringdon Ball, a local high point, and then up again through fields along Aish Ridge before descending again and eventually emerging out onto a country road at Aish, a quaint old hamlet just off the moor.

We continued on down, along the country lane with some lovely old houses interspersed en route. "Ball Gates" seem all the rage in this area as down the hill we passed yet another Ball Gate leading into a largish old house.

Surely this wasn't the Manor House linking to the Ball Gate onto the moor we had passed through earlier.

About 500 metres down the hill from Aish we came to Lydia Bridge once again with its old plaque on the bridge warning heavy locomotives to keep off the bridge unless they had permission from Devon County to use this bridge.

We continued along the road and then swung right and onto a wider road for the final few hundred metres of descent back towards South Brent.

Part way down the hill we came to another Ball Gate leading to a track through the grounds of quite a large old Manor House. This looked far more like the size of house I might have expected to have a track of its own up though 2 miles of private estate and onto the moors..

The style of the ball gate on to the moor is almost identical with the ball gate into this manor house, perhaps reinforcing the theory that there is a link between them.

After admiring the gate and the Manor House, we continued on down and shortly afterwards we crossed over the bridge over the railway line we had crossed at the start of the walk. There was certainly no sign of a station there now though although it was obvious that one had existed at this spot not long ago.

Once over the bridge we turned left and made our way back to the car park at the end of this 3 hr 45 minute walk. It had been a nice days walking and we gave our thanks to the leaders for their efforts in taking us around the six mile walk on the day.

Normally our Sunday walks are rather longer than this so it made a pleasant change to have a shorter easier walk, very different to the two 10 mile walks in the heat of the previous two Sundays, for sure.

Most made their way back to Plymouth with the exception of 8 of us, including Jean Mills, our Devon Area chairman, who made their way to the nearest pub instead.