WILLSWORTHY RANGES, TAVY CLEAVE ON A HOT DAY - 12 MILES
START POINT GRID REF 518835

Tavy Cleave lies within the Wilsworthy firing range and can only be walked when there is no scheduled firing. Because of the foot and mouth Vivienne Dalton, our leader was unable to recce the route until just before the scheduled date for the walk, in fact Viv accompanied by 5 intrepid recciers met at 11 AM at Willsworthy range car park on the 29th July, just one week before the walk was offered to the group.

Viv is a very busy lady with a diverse range of interests. Not least of those is her admiration of an Australian Band, named "Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts". Viv can be seen wearing her TOFOG baseball hat.

The other word on the hat is Gaslight, which I understand is the title of one of their albums.

I freely admit to never ever having heard of the group until Viv explained what they play and the general background to the group.

The 29th July also happened to be in the middle of a really rare event, a heat wave in England, on the day the temperature in the walking area soared to approaching 30 degrees and with very little wind and a virtually cloudless sky it was hot, very hot indeed. We all coped with the heat in our own ways, and the fact that we all made it back lies testament to that.

On the day of the walk rather than the recce, 5th Aug 01, it was rather more normal Dartmoor weather, much cooler with a peppering of showers during the afternoon. On the day 15 ramblers made it to the car park for the start of the walk.

An outline of the route we followed on the day is shown above. To gain a better appreciation of the route taken then this outline and the description of the route should be related to a 1:25000 ordnance survey map of Dartmoor such as the outdoor leisure map no 28.

We set off from the car park at 11 AM and followed the track through the gate and towards the firing ranges which appeared to our right and left.

The climb was steady but relatively easy along the metalled road and we made steady progress towards the ranges.

Just beyond the first range on our right hand side, the one in the background to the TOFOG hat picture, we swung off to the right and followed a track heading off on a bearing of 100 degrees.

After a few hundred yards we crossed a stream and beside it a very wide leat which used to carry water down to Wheal Betsy and to this day is used to carry water to a hydro electric plant at Peter Tavy a few miles below us.

We walked along the left hand side of the leat for a few yards before crossing over a bridge when we continued to walk along the right hand side.

 

We remained on this leatside heading south east for approximately a mile or more and the wide fast flowing leat full of water supported a wide range of wild life, fish large and small and a myriad of dragon and damsel flies.

As we walked along upstream deep into the moor the grandeur of this area unfolded ahead of us.

 

First we passed Nattor Down and we could see Tors to either side and ahead of us and then we began to at Tor and to enter the beginning of a deep scarred valley with the river Tavy, very low after all the dry weather way below us in the valley floor.

We were entering the majestic Tavy Cleave.

This cleave continued for a full 3 miles or more and we intended to follow it all the way to where it exits onto the open moor again. On the right below us the Tavy, even with little water in it, was moving swiftly. It is the second fastest flowing river in Britain at this point with a descent of many hundreds of feet over a relatively short distance.

Ahead of us we could see Ger Tor with its very steep side of scree leading right down to the floor of he cleave.

When we were level with this Tor we came to the take off point for the leat, where it is fed by water from the Tavy.

We had a choice at this point, to stay on the left bank of the cleave or to cross over the Tavy to the right hand side, where we would need to be when the cleave exits on to the flatter moorland.

We chose to cross to the right hand bank, very easy in midsummer after a dry spell, but all together a different proposition in winter or after heavy rain.

The side of the cleave we were on was very steep and we were almost scrambling at times.

We stopped to admire a number of Tors on the other side on the cleave high above us, strangely not marked on the 1:25000 map. They are known as the Tavy Tors and are quite impressive, high overlooking the cleave.

The going along this side of the cleave was at times arduous with no real path to speak of and hopping up and down over rocks.

We learnt to try to keep close to the valley floor and use the flat rocks at the side of the river whenever we could, not always possible however.

The sun continued to beat down on us and in the cleave the temperature must have been in excess of 30 degrees, it was a hard half hour of walking/ scree hopping.

 

This arduous section continued until we reached the most northerly point of the cleave where the Rattle Brook ran down to join the Tavy passing below Deadlake Foot in the process.

Just beyond here, over two hours since leaving the start point we stopped for lunch.

A few of us immediately took the opportunity of dipping our feet into the cooling water of the Tavy, one got rather more adventurous and lay down in the river to cool rather more than the feet and legs.

We enjoyed a well earned lunch break of approaching 30 minutes before continuing our way along the southern bank of the cleave as it now swung south east and headed out onto the open moor.

We were almost finished with the hard section of the cleave and a half a mile beyond Rattle Brook we exited the cleave and passed a brook called Western Red Lake with an old WD stone at the point the stream joined the Tavy.

We followed the Tavy east along much flatter terrain, comparatively so......

A few hundred yards along just before the point the river swung north east passing a spot called Sandy Hold we came to another stream, that of Eastern Red Lake and Fur Tor Brook.

 

High above us about a mile to the East we could see the imposing Fur Tor, not on our route today though, just before Eastern Red Lake we turned south and followed the stream uphill onto open and sometimes boggy moorland for a good mile.

It was still hot but at least there was a breeze now, albeit a light one.

We followed the stream south and up onto the moors until we finally came across a peat track, barely discernable but nevertheless just visible on a bearing of approximately 240 degrees.

Off to our right there was a large hill and down known as Standon Down and Standon Hill respectively.

 

We had been climbing, easily but steadily for a full two hours and could see the track now heading SSW and downhill as we made our way down to a stone wall.

This dry stone wall enclosed a neat circular wood, shown on the map as South Common plantation.

We followed along the line of the dry stone wall and came upon a wide track heading on a bearing of 290 degrees. This was the Lych Way and it was the path that would eventually lead us back to the car park about 4 miles away to the north east.

We followed this well defined track along through a gate passing Bagga Tor on our right and then descended steeply passing Brousentor Farm on our left hand side.

Just beyond the farm the track had been concreted to allow easier access to the farm.

We followed the signposted track down towards a river below, swung left on the Lych Way and picked our way through fields and into a wood, the edge of Coffin Wood and down to River Tavy just below the point where the Baggator Brook joins the Tavy.

There were two footpath signs indicating the route to take to get to Higher Willsworthy but after crossing a bridge over the brook, crossing the Tavy proved rather more difficult.

There were supposed to be a set of stepping stones to take us to the other side but the middle one was noticeable by its absence and we were forced to make our way upstream to find stones to cross over, in a rather more hazardous fashion. I wouldn't like to attempt it with much more water flowing.

It proved slightly difficult to pick up the track heading northwest up from the crossing but we eventually found it and after a narrow track through high hedges and a crossing of a couple of fields we emerged onto to lane which soon took us past a farm and onto a country lane at Higher Willsworthy.

Rather than go up to Lanehead we followed the signpost down the road on the Lychway to Lower Willsworthy and after a hundred yards or so on the road we headed off road again on a bearing of 340 degrees up towards the moor once again.

At this point we were less than two miles from the start point.

Initially the path was through a wooded area but it soon emerged via stiles onto moorland again.

Yes it was all uphill but it was easy going along the path across the moorland and over stiles and it wasn't a steep uphill section, just a gentle incline interspersed by stiles.

Further up we could see the firing ranges we had passed by at the start of the walk and we knew it wasn't far to go.

We followed the track up to where it crossed the leat once again and then swung away to the left of the Lych way and followed a track to the top of the hill on a bearing of approximately 300 degrees towards the car park.

We reached the brow of the hill and the last section was a gently descent again along the metalled track through the gate and into the car park and the cars.

It was 5.30 and we had been walking with a few watering stops for well over six hours, with the heat and the hard section up through the cleave our progress had been slowed but it was certainly up to the 12 mile advertised walk.

We hoped the weather would be kind but not so hot the following week when Vivienne leads the walk with the group.

There was only one thing we could do after such a long hot walk, we got into our cars and drove to the nearest pub on the way home which happened to be the Royal Standard at Mary Tavy where we slaked our thirst after all the hard work of the day.

Good luck with the real thing Vivienne, at least you weren't playing TOFOG music to accompany us on our journey.