Walking the Redlake tramway

On the Redlake Tramway on southern Dartmoor

Out for a walk a couple of weeks back now we decided to wander up the Redlake tramway on southern Dartmoor.  This was originally used by a small railway line which served the china clay works at Redlake however work stopped there in 1933 and there has been no rails there in my lifetime.  It is actually not the best walking surface however it is usually less wet than the surrounding moorland.

The “watery” sunlight in the top image shows that we got some sun however it was weak and the weather was more than variable.  The two images above were both taken just after we set off from the car near Ivybridge.  The left hand image shows that weak winter sun on the South Hams while the right hand image, which looks a little left of the left hand one, shows the interface between the good weather and the rain more.

Looking south over Dartmoor from Three Barrows

Walking up the tramway we left it to head a little right handed at the base of Three Barrows (so named as it has three barrows at the summit).  It is one of the highest points of the moor in that area so gives – on a clear day – great views over the surrounding area.  The above image is taken part way up to the top and looking back south the way we had come.  The tramway can be seen lower down the hill heading off to the left.

Looking west from Three Barrows over the valley of the river Erme

Taken from the top of Three Barrows this looks roughly west over the valley of the river Erme.  The low winter light creates good contrast in the shadows here.  The small broken up granite in the foreground is known as “clitter” and is a regular facet of Dartmoor tors formed be erosion.

Pond at the disused Leftlake china clay works

Dropping off Three Barrows north towards the tramway as the moorland was both rough and very wet around here, we reached the old china clay works at Leftlake which is roughly halfway to Redlake.  The remains are quite significant here and the pool seen above is where the granite was washed out to get the china clay.  An old bridge allows the tramway to cross the water course that flows out from the pool to the river Erme.  I have seen otters here but there was no signs of wildlife today.

Looking over moorland up the valley of the river Erme

We walked further north but at one point the actual tramway turned into something of a river which does happen in wet conditions so we decided to turn west and head down to the valley of the river Erme.  The image above epitomises this part of the moors in winter for me.  The ground is very rough with large tussocks of the straw coloured grass and rare patches of green.  As can be seen it is fairly featureless other then the obvious valley of the river and I guess it is not a very hospitable place for a fair weather walker.  However both my companion and I have been roaming the moors for many years enjoying both better and worse conditions than this and we agreed more than once on this walk that we preferred winter conditions frequently even if it can be very wet.  This was almost the last real sun we saw!

Looking down the valley of the river Erme

It did start raining from time to time after this and the camera was in and out of its case quite a bit.  In the winter the days are quite short so we started heading south down the valley of the Erme intending to strike up left lower down and get back to the tramway around Leftlake again.  The above image capture the valley of the lower part of the Erme on Dartmoor quite well and the clouds in the distance that looked like rain were just that.

Sunlight and rain over the South Hams

We got back on the tramway as planned and headed south on it for a while forking left near Hangershell Rock to go down the spine of the ridge.  Stopping for a drink in relatively benign condition at Butterdon, one of the high points on the way back, we sat enjoying the views.  There was sunlight on the sea (the English Channel) with lines of cloud and rain moving from west to east across the South Hams.  I could have filled this blog with the image I took from there – the light, colour and drama of the weather was something very special and we probably stayed longer then we intended.  It certainly was a very good winter walk.

A “footnote”

A boot!









When my friend spotted this I said that this image would make a good footnote and we both laughed – maybe others will enjoy the humour too.  This single boot was some 3 miles up the the tramway and there was no sign of anything else left abandoned nearby.  We saw no one with a missing boot and still had both of ours when we got back – there is a back story to this :-).