Following on from “Virtual Walks” to Golden Dagger Mine, Powdermills and Haytor, this is another DPA Short Walk cancelled due to the Coronavirus situation – this walk was scheduled for 25th June to Venford Reservoir. The photographs and satellite track (linked below) are from two reconnaissance walks on 15th and 23rd June. One good thing about doing the reconnaissance walks in the current situation is that the weather has been, for the most part, quite glorious.
The walk starts from the car park at the west end of the dam, nearest to Combestone Tor, where there are toilets – but not open at the moment. The short granite pillar by the railings is one of the boundary marker stones that encircle the catchment area of the reservoir. The ground was bought from Richard Dawson, lord of the manor of Holne, and the dam was constructed during 1901-1907. The catchment area is 700 acres and the lake covers approximately 33 acres. It supplied Paignton but now Brixham, Ashburton and Widecombe-in-the-Moor also receive water from here.
The overflow area is interesting, being alongside the dam and not a part of it.
The view above is from about the middle of the dam, looknmg to the far end where Venford Brook enters into the reservoir.
There aqre two commemorative stones giving names of who opened the Water Works and who the engineers were, only one is shown here.
There are some interesting engineering features halfway along the dam – I am still on a quest to find out what they are.
Sharp Tor is seen in the distance after turning left at the end of the dam and starting to climb towards South Bench Tor. This is also known as Benjy Tor and on the Holne Tithe Map it is “Benchator”.
Once the right part of the slope is reached above the end of the dam, there is a good track up to an old, wide track to South Bench Tor. On the top of this in the past there was a triangulation pillar, but there seems to be no sign of it nowadays.
The photograph above is a zoomed view to the River Dart down in its gorge. This is the “Double Dart”, below Dartmeet which is where the West Dart and the East Dart rivers join together.
After leaving South Bench Tor and heading north to North Bench Tor, there is another tor, about halfway between them. On this walk, this is known as Middle Bench Tor!
North Bench Tor is quite a large structure with various piles with great crevices between them – one can meander here and take too many photographs! To the left of the view above, about 60 metres to the left, is the start of a path down to a track that returns to the dam. I have several times started down it only to miss a “bear left” waypoint that is a shortcut. Also, there is more than one shortcut – I blame the high bracken! Parts of the path between the tors are quite narrow and gravelly and with a little imagination I was back on alpine paths in Tyrol – its the drop to the gorge, you know! I would advise walkers who use poles to have them longer than normal up here, until you reach the Pipe Track.
On descending the narrow path that is quite steep in places, the Pipe Track is reached. This runs on a near-level terrace around this promontory from the Water Works to the farms on the other side of the hill. The track runs through White Wood, where oak was coppiced in the past for the making of charcoal for several purposes, not least probably its use in blacksmith’s forges and burning for energy generally.
The track becomes open on side as it nears the back of the Water Works – but it is still quite a long and pleasant walk.
The track enters the Water Works at a pair of double gates, here we have to double back a short distance to climb the side of the valley. It is not too difficult but after “shielding” during lockdown, and just pottering in the garden , I realised that leg muscles can waste away! At the top of the climb, I sat on a stone for a drink, looking at the stone in the photograph above. The slope up is on the right.
After returning to the road that crosses the dam, a few yards further along the road reaches a gate into the enclosure around the reservoir …..
The path around the lake is a pleasant walk which is mostly easy-going underfoot. In one place there are tree roots that cross the path (photo above). Also, just before the head of the reservoir, where Venford Brook enters the lake, there is a short muddy, stony area.
There is a wooden footbridge over the brook and a yard or two further there is a small path that leads to an area that contains a medieval longhouse where DPA volunteers have been working over the years to clear away gorse and other growth to expose the ruins.
Just above the footbridge is a small waterfall.
Near the end of the walk, just before an exit gate to the car park, is a triple mortar stone from a tin mill that was submerged when the reservoir was filled …..
THIS MORTARSTONE DATES TO ABOUT AD
1600 AND WAS USED AS A BASE ON WHICH
TIN ORE WAS CRUSHED THE CUP SHAPED
HOLLOWS WERE FORMED BY THE
MECHANICAL ACTION OF STAMPS POWERED
BY A WATERWHEEL EARLY THIS CENTURY
THE STONE WAS REMOVED FROM A SITE
ABOUT TO BE FLOODED BY THE RESERVOIR
IT WAS PLACED HERE IN 1984
The first time I saw the feature above, I thought it was an upwelling caused by the water from the River Swincombe entering the reservoir. Now I know it is one of ten(?) points where the water is aerated to improve its quality. The Swincombe water enters via a pipe on the side of the lake a little way before reaching the mortar stone.
This last photograph shows the length of the dam and the road that runs across it, taken from the car park.