Devonport Leat

This article illustrates the “before” and “after” of scrub clearance on Devonport Leat. The work done by the DPA volunteers can have dramatic results. Looking over the parapet of the bridge that carries the road to Chubb Tor across the golf course and over the leat – but where is the leat?


The same view, after the volunteers of the Conservation Team spent a day clearing scrub: the leat is clear and has walk ways on each bank.


A great advantage of working on Devonport Leat is that it is a linear feature and it is easy to see the effects of clearance work.

In a few areas on Roborough Common, the leat was simply not visible. It was hidden behind a near-impenetrable growth of brambles, gorse and hawthorn trees – an unholy triumvirate! The scrub was self-sown, having “come in on the wind” or, more likely, having been spread by birds.

The result was that the leat was lost in some places but Roborough Commoners Association, with the backing of Natural England and Dartmoor National Park Authority, decided that it needed to be cleared and made open to the public. It can be seen in some sections that the tree growth has been cut in the past but, without stump treatment, it has re-grown into multi-stemmed trees, these are often twisted and deformed. As we work, some ‘specimen’ trees are being left to grow without being over-crowded, hopefully to achieve worthwhile maturity.

Thinking of birds and other wildlife, our conservation work has to be sensitive to habitat considerations and particularly the breeding season. The cleared areas will let in more light so that wild flowers will have more opportunities, attracting more insects and, indirectly, birds, and this will enhance the biological diversity of the area. Also, the cut “brash” is being formed into compact piles that will decay and attract yet more insects and birds.


This is where we started – the photo was taken before anything was done. The viewpoint is from on top of the leat tunnel – the entrance is just underneath the multi-stemmed hawthorn tree seen left of centre. If this tree was left to grow, its roots and weight could damage the tunnel, even causing it to collapse. The leat is seen, filled with trees, running towards the centre of the photo. This view is looking towards Yelverton.


After some clearance on 2nd Sept. 2011. The hawthorn growing on the tunnel roof has been removed as have several other trees, leaving others to grow on in less crowded conditons.


The photo above shows how crowded the scrub trees can be. There is a small bridge in the background that is hardly visible (see next photo).


After many of the trees have been removed, the bridge is seen clearly; beyond it is the second section of the leat to be cleared – this is on the golf course.


The view above is a close-up of the next section, behind a wall of brambles and hawthorn. The bridge is seen at the bottom of the photograph.


This photo shows the start of the second section of the leat beyond the small bridge after it was cleared, on 16th and 20th Sept. 2011, with clear walk ways on both banks.


Approaching the 18th tee on Yelverton golf course – note the large oak tree with two white scars where low, hanging branches were removed as part of the pre-work session where access was cleared for the volunteers. This is actually a “before” photograph after access was prepared for work.


The same area after clearing. The oak tree mentioned in the previous photo caption is seen on the right side of the leat in this image, with the raised area of the 18th tee just behind the oak. Another footbridge can be seen in the distance that was hidden in the previous photograph.


Beside the 18th tee, the raised area of ground on the right. There was quite a tangle of growth at this point …..


After clearing, the 18th tee section of leat looked very different.


Looking over the side of the bridge where the road crosses the golf course, at the third section of leat to be worked on (29 Sept. 2011). The leat is totally invisible and impenetrable to all but the most determined explorer.


Again, after the DPA volunteers have finished, quite a difference!


Standing in the leat, looking back towards the road bridge ….. some bridge structure is seen at upper right of centre of the photo.


Standing in the leat, looking back towards the road bridge after clearing ….. a dramatic change!


A general scene near the middle of the third section …..


A similar scene after clearing.

To date, there have been four work days on the leat and we have cleared three sections, although we can always go back and do more! The work started at the Clearbrook end and we are working towards Yelverton.

The photographs above show how effective an efficient team of committed volunteers can be. The results are sometimes very dramatic.