Editor's Blog

Spring walking on Dartmoor

The last two weekends have seen some stunning weather here on Dartmoor, and I’ve managed to get out on the moor two or three times. One of my favourite short walks is a circuit from Meldon Reservoir and up the West Okement river to Black-a-tor Copse and Black Tor, then over Longstone Hill and back to the car park. I first wrote the route up back in 2000 for 50 Walks in Devon, and each time I go back and do it again it’s just as good as that first time: tranquil reservoir, tumbling river, ‘ancient’ oak woodland, magnificent tor (Black Tor, above), open common and views of Dartmoor’s highest ground. And all this within a stone’s throw of the A30.

The walk starts from the car park at Meldon Reservoir, from where you cross the impressive dam (1970–2) with its view towards the 150ft-high Meldon Viaduct, towering over the West Okement river. The structure dates from 1874 when the L&SW railway line was extended to Lydford (from Exeter). A narrow path is followed along the southeast bank of the reservoir. The little island at the far end of the reservoir seems to be home to a colony of Canada geese.

From Vellake Corner the beautiful West Okement river is followed upstream.

Black Tor and Black-a-tor Copse (NNR) come into view, the latter one of three remaining areas of ancient high-altitude oak woodland on the moor (the others being Wistman’s Wood and Piles Copse). The views upriver and across the water to Corn Ridge are magical.

A steep climb up the valley side past the outcrops of Black Tor is rewarded with a lovely level track that runs over Homerton and then Longstone hills: Dartmoor’s loftiest tops, High Willhays and Yes Tor, rise above the route to the east.

The views all around are still stunning, especially when looking up the valley of the Red-a-ven Brook towards Row Tor and West Mill Tor.

All in all it’s a fabulous walk – I never tire of it. And what a wonderful day to be out on Dartmoor!