Saturday 23rd June saw our 1st work day on Plymouth Leat, also known as Drake’s Leat.

From a slim start during the organising process, we ended up 14 of us, so I want to say “Thank you” to Andrea, Anthony & Helen, Bill, Chris, Chris (Western Mortgage Services), Ian (Western Mortgage Services), John & Elaine, John, Keith, Nigel & Stephanie, and Sylvia, who with myself made 14 volunteers. We started from the car park down the road that is nearest to the Dartmoor Diner cafe, at grid reference SX 507 636.

After a few words of introduction and about what we were doing, slashers, first aid carried etc., we set off down the road to the bridge over the leat. We then turned towards Clearbrook and started work. The leat was not terribly overgrown – we had only finished clearing it last summer. However, there are now a lot of ferns mixed with bracken growing after our previous efforts.

This photograph shows how the leat looked before we started ….

Leat before DPA volunteers started work

Before DPA volunteers started work.
Click the image to see a larger version – you can even click twice to really enlarge it.

……. and afterwards …..

After the bracken was cut.

After the bracken was cut. Click the image to see a larger version.

Besides bracken, there were other ferns that have yet to be identified. Their future needs to be decided because fern roots can apply tremendous pressure over time to walls as was desscribed by one of our volunteers and, presumably, to archaeological features.

The volunteers worked really hard and we covered the ground quite quickly. Iheard several expressions of surprise about how quickly the stash of rucksacks had to be moved to keep up with our progress. At morning coffee, the fun began, with chocolate chip biscuits, made by Sylvia.

Later, at lunchtime, the tradition of “cake on the leat” was again upheld, with the offering of a honey sponge from Elaine. Very nice! Our many thanks to both ladies.

Lunchtime on Plymouth Leat

Lunchtime on Plymouth Leat. Click the image to see a larger version.

The photograph above shows the volunteers at lunch, with the leat at the bottom-right, uncleared in this photograph.

It was a bit of a surprise to see the Land Rover coming towards us alongside the leat. It was very useful for carrying the group’s ruck sacks etc. and so nice to see a local Dartmoor Ranger joining us – it was much appreciated. While we were having lunch, one of the local ponies decided to have a bit of a trot past us, right down in the leat …..

Pony trotting along the leat.

Pony trotting along the leat.
Double-click on the pony TWICE to see the problem of ferns in the leat. You can move around the image using the four arrow keys. Return to normal view using the Back Space key.

Some time after lunch, we were joined by Clifton, an “old soldier” from the gorse clearing days on the leat.

We finished at 3.00 pm at the road bridge over the leat at grid reference SX 514 647, 1.61 km (i.e. 1.00 mile) along a 3.10 km (1.93 mile) stretch to the main car park at Clearbrook. In other words, half of the job is done.

Once again, in keeping with tradition, most of us met again at The Rock Inn, Yeleverton, for discussion about aspects of conservation, the meaning of life and the universe.

Next Thursday (28th June), we will meet at the Clearbrook car park and hopefully complete this “bracken bash”, leaving the gorse etc. for brush cutters later in the season.

(Addendum: The ferns mentioned above appear to be two very common ones, the Common Male Fern, Dryopteris filix-mas, and the Lady Fern, Athyrium filix-femina. You can see different parts of the ferns by hovering your computer mouse over the titles to the left of the main image that appears after clicking these links).