Monday 12th October 2015 saw a great work party on Plymouth Leat, aka Drake’s Leat – leats are usually named after the place that they bring water to. The volunteers of the DPA Conservation Team were joined by 16 members of the Devon County Council Waste Management Team from Exeter. For their benefit, the history of the leat can be seen HERE.

The starting point - the bridge on Roborough Down Lane.

The starting point – the bridge on Roborough Down Lane.

We started at the bridge on Roborough Down Lane, at SX 5147 6471, often referred to as “Dead Man’s Bridge” because of a notorious event in it’s past: a dismembered, burnt body was found under it in 2001: BBC News – Link 1, BBC News – Link 2, BBC News – Link 3, BBC News – Link 4, BBC News – Link 5. 

View along the leat from the bridge before work started.

View along the leat from the bridge before work started.

The task for the day was to remove bracken, bramble and gorse from within the leat and along its banks.

Another

Another “Before” photograph.

The weather was as good as could be wished for, following an exhortation for me to “shake the bones” really well! We had wall-to-wall sunshine all day, as can be seen in the photographs.

Work under way, in the morning sun.

Work under way, in the morning sun.

“Forking” cuttings away from the leat.

More of the team.

More of the team.

At one point, there was a discussion about livestock levels, ponies and the eating of the gorse. There is a blog post from 20th September 2013 that shows how interested the ponies can be in our gorse cutting activities. They like the tender cuttings! More information about livestock and grazing on Dartmoor generally can be found in a Virtual Visit to Haytor, starting with the link at the bottom of the page. There is a list of speakers along the bottom of the picture and one of them (they continue a long way off to the right of the speakers initially visible) is a ‘piece’ about “Ponies grazing on the moor in the spring“, this includes how the ponies like eating burnt gorse, probably as a source of carbon. There is also a version of the saying that I prefer as “When the gorse flower’s missing, there’ll be no more kissing” – more poetic, even romantic. But, of course, gorse is in flower somewhere on the moor all year round!

Morning coffee for the DCC Waste Team.

Morning coffee for the DCC Waste Team.

Not only did the Exeter team have their coffee or tea freshly made, there was also the offer of bacon and eggs. Perhaps the DPA could follow suite with this jolly good idea, Derek ……..? We could buy you a “pinnie” if that would help …..

Final trimming near the bridge.

Final trimming near the bridge.

The start area, finished.

The start area, finished.

Another section, near the bridge, finished.

Another section, near the bridge, finished.

Busy, busy, busy!

Busy, busy, busy!

Trimming the banks.

Trimming the banks.

Having fun?!

Having fun?!

Then came lunch ……

Three DPA stalwarts, see no evil .....

Three wise DPA stalwarts, see no evil …..

The DPA volunteers were Chris Francis, David Auty, Derek Collins, Elaine Viant, Helen Wilson, John Viant, John Watson, Keith Ryan, Rachel Watson, Stephen Barrow and Sylvia Hamilton: 11 in all.

General lunch scene.

General lunch scene.

Now, while the DCC team had the offer of a fry-up at coffee time, the DPA folks had the offer of CAKE – Ginger and Carrot & Chocolate cakes from Elaine AND Pear & Ginger from Sylvia! Thank you, both – they were all excellent.

Back to work .....

Back to work …..

..... and how!

….. and how!

“I’ve seen the water up to here …..”

This is quite a busy scene.

This is quite a busy scene.

I am happy to report ......

I am happy to tell you ……

….. that the report of a pony down proved to be in error. Specsavers was mentioned to someone!

Derek:

Derek: “I think you’ve missed a bit”.

The area where the granite slabs lining the dam are still intact.

The area where the granite slabs lining the dam are still intact.

Drake’s Plymouth Leat was dug in five months between December 1590 and its inauguration on 24 April 1591. Much of it was lined with granite slabs in 1871, just 27 years before Burrator Reservoir was opened in 1898 – the year my father was born! I have heard that a lot of the slabs were “robbed” during the building of Lopwell Dam in 1953.

Concrete bridge, at SX 51966 64868.

Concrete bridge, at SX 51966 64868.

We worked as far as the concrete bridge in the photograph above – covering the magnificent distance of 577 ± 3 metres (631 yards). This has been added to the project Google Satellite map and can be seen HERE. I have added a label (“Mistake?) to the top section of the curve in today’s work where there is a section of “ditch” running for some distance parallel to the leat, perhaps dug in error regarding the “fall” of the leat.

It is a pleasure to extend the thanks of the DPA to the Exeter-based Devon County Council Waste Management Team for its great turn-out and their enthusiastic help in supporting the regular DPA team in the effort to conserve this Elizabethan archaeological jewel that is such a feature of this part of Dartmoor. A lot of work was done – many thanks, indeed.