Our First Hike on Dartmoor, Devonport Leat

The dogs and I moved to Plymouth at the start of 2020 and I’ve been itching to explore Dartmoor ever since. However, with no previous experience hiking on the moors, I had absolutely no idea where to start. Combined with our miserable wet winter this year, I always put off a trip to the moors. That is until we were invited by our friends to join them on a walk around Devonport Leat.

We jumped at the opportunity to explore Dartmoor with our friend Holly at the start of spring. Holly has plenty of experience hiking on the moors, so we were in good hands. Her friends Emily and Grant from Dexter in Devon also joined us, which meant Woody and Hen had another dog to play with. Dexter is a Springer Spaniel cross Collie, or a Sprollie as they’re also known. The dogs were kept on lead the entire hike, as there were plenty of livestock, including Dartmoor ponies, dotted about along the route. We made the most of our DogFit Canicross set, which enabled me to walk hands-free with the dogs secured to my harness.

Crazywell Pool | Paws and TorsCrazywell Pool | Paws and Tors

The circular route we took was about 5 or so miles long, starting at Norsworthy Car Park. If you’re using Google Maps to find the car park, it’s best to ignore its directions once you get to Burrator Reservoir, as it does have a tendency to send you to Sheepstor village instead. After my unintended diversion, I finally found the car park. There was plenty of space to park and I was delighted to find out it was free of charge. We visited on the weekend too, however it was quite a drizzly spring day that day. I expect the car park would quickly fill up in warmer seasons.

From the car park, we hiked up to Crazywell Pool, a popular wild swimming location on Dartmoor. Folklore tales surrounding Crazywell Pool’s depth have tantalised local’s for centuries. Rumour has it the dark waters are bottomless and staring into the pool on Midsummer’s Eve will show the face of the next parishioner to perish. The waters are indeed mysterious and incredibly dark. The remote location of the ex-mining gert adds to its spooky persona. Nevertheless, the dogs thoroughly enjoyed paddling in the water and I’m sure we’ll all be back come summer time for a cooling dip ourselves.

Devonport Leat Route | Paws and Tors
The Circular Route We Took. Illustration credit: Holly Cavill

Continuing on, we followed the Devonport Leat towards Black Tor. We didn’t climb Black Tor this time but it’s definitely something I’m looking forward to in the future. It’s a great way to extend this walk if you’re looking for something a little longer. It takes you past the aqueduct, as well as the remains of Black Tor Tinworks.

Devonport Leat was constructed in the 1790s as a means of transporting drinking water from Dartmoor to Plymouth Dockyard (now known as Devonport.) The leat is fed by five rivers, the West Dart, the Cowsic, the Hart Tor Brook, the River Meavy and the Blackabrook. Our route took us to where the leat intercepted the river Meavy, which we followed down into the woods. The descent was fairly steep and particularly boggy, as it follows the cascading river. If you’re visiting after heavy rain, you’ll definitely need waterproof boots for this section! The terrain on the whole is fairly rugged, so I recommend wearing appropriate hiking boots regardless when exploring this route.

Exploring Devonport Leat | Paws and TorsExploring Devonport Leat | Paws and Tors

After being dragged down the hill by the dogs, we were relieved to be walking on flat ground once more. The whole landscape transformed as we walked deeper and deeper into the woods, clinging close to the river Meavy for the rest of the way. The woods are made up of four plantations: Stanlake, Raddick, Leathertor and Norsworthy. They’re incredibly photogenic, even in mist. We spotted plenty of Dartmoor ponies too. Understandably Woody and Hen were kept firmly on-lead, particularly now Woody has discovered his all-time favourite hobby, freelance pheasant chasing!

We didn’t pass many other walkers on our adventure, aside from a school group practicing for their Ten Tors Challenge. It was great to be outdoors exploring the moors. This route was the perfect length to catch up with friends. It took us a couple of hours to complete, with plenty of stops in between. There are some lovely spots to stop for a tea-break along the way, with stunning views across the moors and woods. Local amenities can be found in either Sheepstor or at the Discovery Centre near Burrator reservoir.

Exploring Devonport Leat | Paws and TorsMitsubishi L200 Norsworthy Car Park | Paws and Tors

We thoroughly enjoyed our first hike on Dartmoor and highly recommend this route. We can’t wait to explore more of the moors with the dogs very soon. Where do you recommend we visit?

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