The first work day on this new conservation project.


Twenty-three volunteers turned out on Fri 2nd September 2011 for the first work day on the old Devonport leat where it crosses Roborough Common. We congregated at Clearbrook car park beside Drake’s Leat, which supplied old Plymouth. The team walked to the site along the cycle track towards Yelverton, while the tools were driven around by road.

The day started with a coffee break – which seemed like a good idea! Actually, this doubled up for introductions to be made and induction and safety points to be given. That seemed to set the tone for an excellent and very productive day!

As we started work, the Secretary of Roborough Commoners Association visited us so that we could make doubly sure that we were about to do what was required to clear the leat of scrub and self-seeded trees – these are blocking the leat and making it difficult for walkers to follow – improved access was required. The work is supported by Dartmoor National Park Authority. This short site meeting was very useful and then we really got to work.

There were two chainsaw teams, a hand saw and lopper team and a team clearing parts of the leat floor. Members of the teams carried away the cut material and rendered it small so that it could be stacked to decay, forming new micro-habitats for insects and other wildlife.


This photo is taken above the leat tunnel entrance (hidden from view) looking towards Yelverton. A multi-stemmed hawthorn, cut many years ago, was regrowing on the roof of the tunnel: the weight and roots of a growing tree could damage the tunnel structure.


This photo was taken after work was done, showing the leat more clearly. The Natural England stewardship agreement with the Commoners stipulates that the cut tree stumps should be treated to prevent regrowth.

Mature trees are being left where they are. Many of the trees are unfortunately damaged and malformed due to struggling in a crowded, unmanaged environment. There are very few that are good examples of “specimen” trees. It is hoped that, with the work being done, the trees that are left will mature into better specimens.


The photograph above shows the end of this section of the leat, taken looking towards Yelverton. There is a small bridge over the leat although it is hidden from view by the trees.


This photo shows the same view after trees were removed. There is a well-formed, established oak tree that is being left in the leat for now.

This first day on the project resulted in a near-clearance of what was intended to be at least two days’ work, although there is still more to be done on this section. The next step is to cross the bridge seen above and enter the golf course section where the growth is lower and more spiky, being a mixture of hawthorn, gorse and bracken with just a few brambles! If the next work day (16th Sep) is dry, this will be the target; if it is wet, we will return to this first day’s section.

After finishing at 3 pm, we returned to the car park, sorted and transferred tools, and then most of us headed to the Rock Inn at Yelverton for a well-deserved libation. The day had been quite hot and humid and for many of us, re-hydration was required. As we sat outside, the sun shone, the sky was blue, and all was well with the world.

PS – I almost forgot, for the afternoon break, we also had cakes! Thank you, Val.