Keeping on track

By Contributed in Local People

Norman Maudsley writes: On a dry but cold day, Teignmouth and Dawlish long walkers met Karen Bridgman, the group’s new programme secretary who had volunteered to lead her first A walk for the group.

Travelling out to Haytor Visitors’ Centre the group were soon booted up and ready for the off.

Karen outlined the route, a loose figure-of-eight, explaining that should the weather break it could be shortened from the 11-mile route.

We were soon on a route around Yarner Wood, recognised as the East Dartmoor National Nature Reserve, an internationally-important area of woodland and said to be one of the best places to spot woodland birds, especially the enigmatic pied flycatcher, secretive woodpecker and vocal wood warbler.

The River Bovey flows through the length of this reserve which follows the line of the Sticklepath geological fault.

Its rugged, steep-sided valley is a perfect place to experience the more dramatic side of Dartmoor.

The reserve is open access for walkers, so if this whets your appetite to get your boots on then head out to Yarner Wood and enjoy the myriad of paths and tracks.

Parking and toilets can be found on the edge of the woodland, and to satisfy the minds of all ages why not sit quietly in the bird hide that is positioned over a wetland area with suspended bird feed.

On the day of our visit these were being enjoyed by a range of bird life.

Soon we reached the Haytor granite tramway, which we used to head up onto the moor and on towards the quarries.

The tramway was the first railway in Devon, it is eight miles long and was constructed in 1820 by the Templer family who owned the Stover estate.

It was built of granite because it was readily available so, unlike iron, it did not need costly transportation.

The line was made up of blocks of granite laid end-to-end, held together by their own weight.

The bends were constructed in short, straight blocks that wore down to a curve when in use.

It was built on a downhill slope from the quarries and the completed sections were used to transport the sets for the later sections.

The route was carefully chosen and required only one cutting along its length which we passed through on Haytor Down and on to the Stover Canal.

Wagons got back to the quarries by horse power. As many as 18 horses were used to transport the wagons back to the quarries.

Walking up the track bed through woodland we stopped to have our morning coffee before taking the above photo of the group, standing astride a good section of the old granite track.

Arriving back onto the open moorland where we were met with a raw wind, we were all thankful for modern walking gear to keep us warm that day.

Following the main track which had feeder tracks coming out from various quarries one could see the design also incorporated granite points which guided the wagons on their way.

Passing the rear of Haytor quarries, Haytor rocks and Saddle Tor, it was time now to find some shelter from the wind to enjoy a hot drink and our packed lunch.

We were now on the second loop of our walk and heading down to Emsworthy mire nature reserve, a mixture of moorland, woodland and boggy mires. Yes, being gluttons for punishment we were heading through watery ground.

This area is home for a spectacular range of plants, birds, butterflies and bugs. Information boards recommended an early summer visit to witness one of the most spectacular displays of bluebells seen anywhere.

New marker posts marking the direction of the circuit with board walks allowing dry passage over the wettest sections of this reasonably-sized mire.

It is pleasing to note that funding for this project undertaken by the Devon Wildlife Trust had been provided from the People’s Postcode Lottery – so a big thanks to all our readers who have purchased these lottery tickets.

Leaving the mire behind we started back over Saddle Tor to meet up with the moor road, then skirted the road back to the cars.

With Karen thanked for a good walk on what turned out to be a dry day, with a biting wind we departed.

Geoff joined our group of five at the Copper Kettle for light refreshments before heading back to Dawlish.­

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