On Monday 11th December, eighteen DPA members and friends met at the car park beside Plymouth (Drake’s) Leat above Clearbrook. The weather was not a clear blue sky and sun as promised the day before – it was spitting rain and grey, althrough there were small patches of blue above. The weather improved during the walk and by the time we passed the Skylark Inn at the end of the walk, the sun was shining!
Plymouth Leat, built in 1858-1859 by Sir Frances Drake, runs very close to the car park. Three of the walkers present had spent many volunteer days cutting the gorse that had completely overgrown the leat in years past. It was a project that lasted several years and is still being maintained by the volunteers of the DPA Conservation Group. Originally, it was a 6-feet wide earth ditch but in 1871 it was lined with granite slabs. Further improvements were made in WW2 in case Burrator dam was bombed. The leat fell largely into disuse after Burrator Reservoir came online in 1898. In the background above, “The Wharf” can be seen. This was a block of stables for horses used on Thomas Tyrwhitt’s tramway – the Plymouth & Dartmoor Railway that was inaugurated in 1823. It is recorded that 1,000 people were here to mark its opening.
A rough, natural stone above lies on the border between the parishes of Bickleigh and Buckland Monachorum.
A short walk led us to the leat again, as it describes a large loop in this area. The side wall was breached at this point in around 1599 by local tinner and landowner, William Crymes, who was exercising tinners’ rights. Stannary Law was above Common Law in many aspects, such was the value of tin to the Crown. This led to a dispute between Plymouth Corporation, with Sir Thomas Drake (elder brother to the then-late Sir Francis) and William Crymes, who was supported by the Warden of the Stannaries, Sir Walter Raleigh. This was settled in the Star Chamber, a court at Parliament, with the result that Crymes was permitted to take enough water to run two stamping mills.
Along the way, this series of unusual bumps in the ground was pointed out, near a location marked as “Quarry” on some old maps. There are gorse-filled depressions nearby although we wondered if these were sand dumps as there was exposed white sand close by. Perhaps the “Quarry” was in fact a sand pit?
The walk passed off Roborough Common onto a small road down towards Shaugh Bridge which offered a good view of Shaugh Prior village. A Bronze Age enclosure with hut circles is seen in the distance, on Shaugh Moor
The photograph above shows the platform, all that is left, of Shaugh Bridge Platform …..
Coffe time, which seemed to be welcomed by several of the group!
The walk proceeded towards Leighbeer Tunnel and a feature of the approach is an overhead aqueduct that carried the Wheal Lopes Mine Leat, of which we will see more below.
There appears to be a lot of rivets used in the construction of the aqueduct.
This photograph was taken from above the aqueduct – an exercise not undertaken on the walk! It certainly shows a different angle and also shows an unusual round stone with a large hole through the centre. I have no idea what it was used for.
Inside the tunnel, which is 308 yards long, is quite dark although flash photography yields some interesting records of how it looks …..
Along one side of the wall is the entrance to Bickleigh Vale Phoenix Mine. During the construction of the tunnel, a vein of copper ore was discovered and this was worked for a short time …..
The view above is taken from the gate that protects the mine entrance.
At the northern end of the tunnel is a substantial mile post along the cycle track.
There is an area where the Wheal Lopes Leat runs alongside the cycle track – the photograph above is taken looking south, towards Bickleigh where the Lopes mine was located.
There is a sluice valve at this point and hidden in trees opposite is a “white elephant”. The local landowner started building a railway to link with the main line so that he could move stone out from the Dewerstone granite quarries. Unfortunately, the landowner on this side, Sir Massey Lopes refused permission for a bridge to be built over the River Meavy (which can be seen in the photograph) and the stone had to be taken by cart to Goodameavy Gate.
Near Clearbrook, the old railway and the cycle track part company, with the recently built cycle track addition bearing off up the slope to the village.
The gorse-lined trench on the right of the photograph above is part of the remains of Crymes’ Leat, just above Clearbrook. The leat ran down left and crossed the road to pass the end of the Clearbrook houses but then it simply disappears. There seems to be no sign of tin-working to be seen there today.
Another photograph of the walkers – at least, the ones who hadn’t already peeled off for the Skylark Inn!
I can’t remember where this little group photograph was taken!
So – from the DPA Short Walks group, after twelve monthly walks – Merry Christmas.