Tag Archives: Drake’s Plymouth Leat

The DPA Conservation Team gathered again near Clearbrook, on Roborough Common, on Friday 17th September 2015 under a somewhat leaden sky – the weather showed us both sunshine and a light shower during the day. By the “close of play”, we had reached the road – Roborough Down Lane, which is a milestone along the route of the leat.


The bridge on Roborough Down Lane.

The photograph above shows the bridge where we gathered and where work started. The bridge is known to some as “Dead Man’s Bridge” after at a dismembered, burnt body was found under it in 2001: BBC News – Link 1, BBC News – Link 2, BBC News – Link 3, BBC News – Link 4, BBC News – Link 5. 


Looking towards Plymouth from near the bridge.

Two concrete artefacts are lying in the leat that were possibly the bases of runway lights of the decoy airfield from WWII that was built to guide enemy planes from RAF  RAF Harrowbeer, at Yelverton. There is a map of the decoy airfield here – it shows the locations of the lights.


Concrete base.

The as-always gallant volunteers today were Bill Radcliffe, Chris Francis, David Auty, Derek Collins, Hilary Luce, John Watson, Keith Ryan, Rachel Watson, Stephen Barrow, Val Barns plus visitors Bob and Ben, making a total of 12.


Concrete base in situ in the leat, looking down from the road bridge.

A third concrete base (presumed) is still in place in the leat. This is a little unexpected because the leat was apparently prepared for possible use in WWII in case Burrator Dam were to be damaged or destroyed.


The “banyan” tree under which we had lunch.

Under the banyan tree” great stories were told, and an errant zip was eventually tamed!


Low-angle view along the leat after this section was cleared.

After several years of occasional research, walking the leats, writing web pages about the leats supplying water to Plymouth, and helping with a television programme about them, I finally found out today when this leat was lined with granite flagstones! It was built, under the leadership of Sir Francis Drake, in 1591, in the reign of Elizabeth I, when it was nothing more than an earth ditch. It was lined in 1871 (source: Eric Hemery, High Dartmoor, page 113). The nearby Devonport Leat was completed in 1801, in the reign of George III.


“I’ve got this zip …..”

Sometimes it is hard writing a blog, and sometimes it writes itself!


General view – working back towards where we finished on the last visit.


Making the cuttings disappear into the landscape.


A brush-cutter with a hedge-cutter attachment.


Loppers take care of what the machines leave uncut.


A section of leat that is not yet cleared.

The photograph above shows the extent of the regrowth of gorse, bramble and bracken since our previous time on this section. The last time we were here was 28th June 2012, although that was from the opposite direction. I don’t seem to have a record when we approached in this same direction previously.


There is enough for everyone!


Loppers take care of some of the tricky bits.


Last photograph before tidying up.

We have had four working days on this section of leat, doing 551, 500, 325 and 331 metres – making a total of 1.71 km. In Imperial units: 602, 546, 355 and 362 yards, making a total of 1.06 miles. These are all visible on the project Google Satellite map HERE. Well done to all concerned. 

    1. Plymouth Leat milestone reached

      The DPA Conservation Team gathered again near Clearbrook, on Roborough Common, on Friday 17th September 2015 under a somewhat leaden sky – the weather showed us both sunshine and a light shower during the day. By the “close of play”, we had reached the road – Roborough Down Lane, which is a milestone along the…

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    2. PS – More photos from Plymouth Leat

      Three more photos from Friday 12th December when the DPA Conservation Team started clearing the end-section of the Plymouth (Drake’s) Leat. The photo above shows work on the habitat pile, made from cuttings, for the benefit of insects etc. Derek with a trenching tool borrowed from David, digging a drainage channel to take water from…

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    3. Mission accomplished – Plymouth Leat project is completed.

      “Keith’s sold his soul to the Devil” – that’s what they said when they saw the weather that we had for the work party on Saturday 11th January.  I know that’s not true, but it was a fantastically beautiful day, wall-to-wall blue sky, and it was due to the bones. Divination by throwing chicken bones is…

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    4. Plymouth Leat – another goal achieved

      Monday 9th December saw the DPA volunteers meeting at the main car park beside Plymouth Leat at Clearbrook. The day was a little cool and there was a mist in the valley of the River Meavy ….. The clan gathered in the car park, picked up the tools and then walked back to the finish…

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    5. Plymouth Leat – rapid progress

      Thursday 14th November saw quite a large party of DPA volunteers appearing at Plymouth, or Drake’s, Leat on Roborough Common. The quite amazing news about this work party is that covered close to 650 metres of the leat! Admittedly, some sections had no or next to no growth to deal with. Unfortunately, I was on…

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    6. Plymouth Leat – against the weather forecast!

      Sometimes I sit here and wonder what the whats-it can I say that hasn’t been said already – the joy of being a regular blogger! The DPA’s intrepid volunteers were out again on Friday 1st November, on the Plymouth Leat, built (profitably) by Sir Francis Drake, which became operational on 24th April 1591. The water…

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    7. Plymouth (Drake’s) Leat once more …..

      I said in the last blog entry for the work on the leat (Fri. 20 Sep) that I must try and take more photos of people working rather than just sat for lunch. This time, Fri. 18th October, I have done that – although it was all a bit rushed near the end of the…

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    8. Gorse control on Drake’s Plymouth Leat

      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…

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    9. Drake’s Plymouth Leat, a bracken day

      Thursday 5th September saw the DPA volunteers turning out again under a moderately hot sun. It was a good day to carry plenty of liquid – I don’t normally drink between between the regular breaks but I did today, it was warm. The photograph above shows the area where we started, there is previously cleared…

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    10. Bracken cutting on Roborough Common

      Following a Spring ‘break’, the DPA volunteers have started into action again. There have been days of bracken cutting on Sharpitor, Leeden Hill, Drake’s Plymouth Leat, Grimspound and Venford Reservoir. I was present for some but not all of these. On Saturday 20th July, we returned to Roborough Common. First, we cleared bracken from the…

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