Friday 20th Sept. saw the volunteers of the DPA Conservation Team in action again, back on the leat built by Sir Francis Drake in 1591 to take water into Plymouth.  Over a five-year period recently, the leat was cleared from a near-total covering of gorse in places to expose it again to public view, for the enjoyment of walkers, riders, dog-walkers, archaeologists, local historians and the public at large.

Since it was cleared, of course, the gorse has started to make a come back, as can be seen in some of the photos below. There is also an on-going problem with bracken.

Ponies on Drake's Plymouth Leat

Emily with ponies on Drake’s Plymouth Leat

Today the work seemed harder than on other occasions – the gorse was at its greatest regrowth on this particular section of the leat.  The machinists, operating three brush-cutters today, found the bed of the dry leat was supporting quite a lot of bramble that seemed to be growing out from the base of the leat side walls. This made them difficult to cut and also the brambles were tangled with (mainly) gorse on the leat bed so that moving the cutting machines was not easy.

Inquisitive ponies coming to see what we are doing.

Inquisitive ponies coming to see what we are doing.

At one point, we were almost invaded by a group of ponies who were keen to investigate what we were doing – they had no fear of the noise we were making during our cutting activities. In fact, they were very friendly! The photograph above illustrates both the gorse in the leat and how close the ponies were approaching.

I have to thank the volunteers who turned out today: Bill, Derek, Elaine & John, Emily, Helen, John L, Mally and myself making just nine of us. Despite the relatively small group on this occasion and the difficulty of the work, we cleared about 160 metres of leat. We might have done more if there had been some cake! 

A plethora of ponies!

A plethora of ponies!

The pony in the photograph above is standing on the footpath alongside the leat – the gorse in the leat can be seen to the right, quite dense.


Showing most of the work party.

Sometime, I must try and take some photographs of the guys working – we only have groups, usually at break time – probably because we all work so hard that we don’t have time for photos! The photograph above was taken at the end of the session and shows a small section of leat that has been cleared.

Addendum: For those who like technicalities, I have started a Google map showing the leat and the progress we have made along it. The section that was already done from the road bridge at the southern (Plymouth) end is shown as one length because I don’t have accurate details of lengths done each work day. Today’s accomplishment is show between two location markers. The car parks in the area are also shown by location markers. It is fun to zoom in using your mouse thumb-wheel, or the “+” and “-” keys. The map opens in a new window. The finish point today was at SX 50951 64234 ± 3 metres. Car park no.2 next time – click on the blue location markers to read their details (click “x” to exit).

For the “techies”, HERE are the Google and Bing maps side-by-side, centred on the clapper bridge (for ease of location) that we passed today. Unfortunately, it is not possible to display the GPS track on this side-by-side system. Taken at different times etc, the two aerial images can show slightly different detail. You can zoom in/out as above and click and drag to move the maps.