Northeast Dartmoor – Devon
Large stretches of ancient forest, especially along the upper Teign valley, make this area of Dartmoor perfect for secluded river swims. Up on the high moor, abandoned villages and the rocky remains of a once-thriving mining industry dominate this extraordinary landscape.
One of the most famous iron-ore mines can be found beneath Haytor, an amphitheatre of smooth granite reflected in its clear, quarry pool. Look out for the tramway that runs out along the hillside. Made of flanged granite rails, it is an eerie reminder of Dartmoor’s industrial past.
Follow the tramway north to reach Holwell Lawn, carpeted with bluebells in spring, and then on to Hound Tor and the remains of its medieval village. A combination of population growth and favourable weather seems to have encouraged people to move higher up on to the moor and abandon it in the early 15th century. The remains of four distinctive Dartmoor long houses – family lived at one end, livestock at the other – have been identified as well as smaller dwellings and barns.
Follow the tramway steeply down and you’ll find yourself deep in Yarner Woods, passing through an avenue of ancient beech to further mine ruins. Don’t miss other large tracts of ancient and often remote woodland at Shaptor and Lustleigh Cleave, but for more lost villages head further north to Grimspound, a late Bronze Age village that may date from 1300 BC.
In the far north-east corner of the moor, close to Scorhill stone circle, the river Teign rises. The most spectacular pools are the Victorian ‘Salmon Leaps’ in woods beneath Castle Drogo. Three rectangular square pools cascade, one into the other, like stacked glasses of champagne. The turbulence literally lifts you off your feet but you soon get the knack of bobbing about in these moorland jacuzzis.
Another mile or so downstream, you’ll find a second weir and river pool before arriving at beautiful Fingle Bridge, deep in woods. This 17th-century narrow packhorse bridge was built to transport goods from local enterprises, such as corn-milling and charcoal burning. It has long been a local paddling and picnicking spot.
An important source of the Teign is Blackaton Brook, and you may like to search out the tiny and rather secret Shilley Pool. In this sheltered and sunny glen bathers and nymphs have built up a low dam to create a perfect bath. The water flows in across wide stone slabs, perfect for sunbathing and summertime picnics.