This walk was cancelled due to the Coronavirus lockdown situation. The photographs shown here are from reconnaissance walks on the 3rd and 11th March.  The walk was due to start from  the first car park along the road eastwards from the Warren House Inn, towards Moretonhampstead.

The Redwater Valley has a complicated history. “Tinning” and possibly underground mining started in the Middle Ages, with tinning probably from the 1300s and perhaps in the Bronze Age (bronze being an alloy of copper and tin).  There are four mines here:

(1) Vytifer Mine
(2) Birch Tor Mine
(3) East Birch Tor Mine (aka Headland Mine)
(4) Golden Dagger Mine.

Vitifer and Birch Tor were separate mines, then combined, then separated, and then combined again. Seemingly, either name can refer to either or both mines – whether they were combined at the time or not!

The modern era ran from 1750 (Vitifer, Hemery) to 1913 (underground working) and (1939, surface working, reprocessing old waste). In 1838 – Birch Tor (with Vitifer) employed 117 men (+ they had families).

Their histories are intertwined, records are scarce, there are several books about them – some saying slightly different things, leading to confusion.

The mines were powered mostly by water –  by the Birch Tor & Vitifer Mine Leat. This came from 7 miles away with leat take-offs at …..

(1) the entrance to Sandy Hole on the East Dart
(2) North Teign River, under Little Varracombe
(3) South Teign River, under Whit Ridge
(4) effluents from the wheels at West Vitifer and Caroline Mines.

Waterwheels were used for pumping out water, raising ore from shafts and driving the crushing stamps. Small waterwheels were used for other work e.g. driving the “sweeps” that swept the crushed ore on buddles. Waterwheels were sited, from the north, at …..

(1) SX 68164 81241 (east of Sandy Park “Ace” field, 2nd from north “Ace” field)
(2) SX 68067 81108 (north-west from central smithy/dry)
(3) SX 68154 80906 (immediately south of smithy/dry)
(4) SX 67878 80824 (way out west-south-west of central area)
(5) SX 68326 80726 (south extension of Birch Tor Mine)
(6) SX 68373 80245 (Golden Dagger, beside the path)
(7) SX 68333 80123 (big one with 16 Cornish stamps, on right bank before Dinah’s House)
(8) SX 68448 80066 (just yards north of Dinah’s House)

East Birch Tor Mine (aka Headland Mine) extends east over the hill into the head of the West Webburn River valley, at Headland Warren Farm.

West Vitifer Mine is across the road, 2 km away at SX 679 827.


Looking down the grassy path at the Vitifer Mine site ….. Birch Tor at top left and one of the Ace Fields over to the the right (behind the pole). Down the slope is the site of the blacksmith’s and carpenter’s sites – the latter has a piece of standing wall visible (see later). The Birch Tor mine site is across the Redriver Brook.


One man and his dog up on Birch Tor, SX 686 814, elevation 487 metres (1597 feet).


The chimney with the ruin of the blacksmith’s “shop” to the left foreground and Rex’s Bridge (SX 68186 80977) at top left ….. there seems to be a covered flue to the chimney, seen in the bottom left corner of the photograph. The standing wall of the carpenter’s workshop is seen down the slope.


SX 6815 8091 – the site of the turbine house (bottom right) and a large water wheelpit (left side). The turbine house does not appear on the 1904 OS map so it was probably later than that. This supplied electricity to the later workings?


View back across the wheelpit to the turbine house and the path from the blacksmith’s and carpenter’s site.


Looking across Rex’s clapper bridge to the blacksmith’s ruins (with the miners’ dry” ruins to the right) and the grass path immediately left of the ruins that leads to the turbine house and wheelpit site. The walk approaches the site from the top right.


A piece of the wall of the carpenter’s shop.


Signpost down the valley not far from the Golden Dagger miners’ dry …..


The minewrs’ dry at Golden Dagger Mine – the mine’s activities extended down the valley and beyond this feature in its later stages.


The track between the miners’ dry and later features …..


Small waterfall beside the track, at SX 68400 80183.


Six-impost (?) clapper bridge at SX 68405 80108 that leads off west to a large wheelpit …..


The built-up walls of the wheelpit at SX 68405 80108 – this was the 22 x 9 ft wheel that drove 16 Cornish stamps for crushing the tin ore, close to the clapper bridge.


“Dinah’s House” at SX 68465 80048 – this was originally the Mine Captain’s house and office, officially Stamps Cottage, Dinah Hext and her children lived here in 1860s and 1870s, having moved from Challacombe. “CEH 1832” in cement on lower side, southern end of the house. It was also apparently once a dormitory and a garage.



Dinah’s House, there is a wheelpit about halfway along the track in this photograph, on the same side of the track as the house.


Engine House, looking south, with the site of the Petter Engine (centre, video), its cooling tanks (extreme left), gas engine (extreme left) and gas-producing plant (centre distance).  The Magnetic Separator was right of the camera and the winter turbine/generator to the left. The summer generator was beyond the Petter Engine. This tin mining was a complicated operation – and this was only re-working the former waste material on the surface!


Across the track (same side as Dinah’s House) and a few yards further on was a simpler setup – a buddle ….. in the distance is the gate onto Challacombe Down.


Buddle – this is where crushed ore was separated into heavy (tin-bearing) sand and lighter waste sand. It was fed as a slurry onto the cone by a small leat arrangement and swept by water-wheel-driven wood-and-rag “sweeps” that were driven around the buddle, separating different weight mineral particles.


Redwater Brook – this contributed to the powering of the mining complex, but the Birch Tor & Vitifer Mine Leat brought a lot more water to the site.


Last view, over the Carpenter’s Shop, across to Birch Tor.

Satellite map + GPS track of the 29th January reconnaissance walk

More photographs on the Dartmoor CAM web site