Upper Dart Valley

18/07/2014 - 15:31


The Dart, the eponymous river of the moor through which it runs, is a delight in its many stages. The stretch known as the Upper Dart (to those who descend it by kayak, canoe or whitewater raft) is the section below the confluence of the West & East Dart Rivers (shortly downstream of the bridge at Dartmeet) downstream to Newbridge. It offers delightful woodland walking.


Parking at Dartmeet / Badger's Holt is good place to start, then cross the road (i.e. do not walk over the bridge itself) and you will find a footpath. The path goes through often boggy ground and veers left up to a gate, go through and turn right and the track descends and re-joins the river bank soon. The terrain is grassy with periodic silver birch and rowan trees. You may well see people picnicking or wild swimming on a sunny day in this area… it’s about as far as most people go along this stretch of the river I reckon.



After a few hundred metres walking downstream, one enters charming old sessile oak woodland beside the ‘river left’ channel of Combestone Island, below.




From here down the path becomes much more rocky and there are many exposed roots to trip the unwary on a damp day, so hiking boots, wellies or walking shoes are recommended.  The confluence of the two channels at the end of the river island is a fine place to stop and enjoy pleasing views and the gurgling of converging currents bouncing over the granite boulders.


The path goes on towards the charming river-wide ledge waterfalls, below.




In the summer months there are plenty of deep crystal-clear pools with slow moving water which would make for a great wild swim, a tempting idea on a warm spring or summer’s day.


The path appears less obvious once you are about 3/4 mile or so downstream of Combestone Island. If you head up the ‘obvious’ path, you soon have to walk 50m through a primordial swamp in the damp base of the scree slopes high up on the bank (but it’s you can quite easily cross the granite scree boulders poking out of the swamp in summer and you can descend to the lower path again down a short steep set of earthen steps!). Instead maybe for the benefit of you and the swamp, taking care, cross the layers of big slabs of rock and you will see the path again, 50m further on and it scrambles up the banks again to a wide woody glade with Royal Ferns, mosses and lichens and some very good views of the sessile oak lined river, this is where I made the ‘Sylvan Kings’ photo, below.





 Birdsong from the wood warbler, pied flycatcher, grey wagtail and dipper may well be heard as you walk through Mel Tor Woods along this section of the Upper Dart. Much of the walk is within the Dart Valley Nature Reserve, which is managed by the Devon Wildlife Trust.


It is a beguiling place indeed, at least in my opinion… a sylvan palace full of wild flora, birdsong, textured granite rocks and the fascinating hum & flow lines of racing water. The track goes someway further yet, if you have the time to explore…




* In kayaking / canoeing/ rafting terminology, ‘river left’ refers to the left-hand bank, as observed whilst facing downstream


** It is very likely that you will have the river valley to yourself once you are past the ‘picnic spot’ so take a First Aid kit with you just in case, let someone know where you are going/ when you expect to be back and take plenty of drinking water  - especially on a warm day.



















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