When we left the car at Shipley Bridge there was only one other car there as we were early. In fact the morning was quite cold and we set off at a brisk pace taking the road (water board vehicles only) up to the Avon Dam. It had rained fairly hard over the past few days so it was not surprising to see that there was a good flow of water in the river. We had also caught the rhododendrons (never can spell that word!) in flower along the banks.
This arrangement of leaves and flowers looked really interesting and someone had obviously taken quite a lot of time and care over this probably on the day before as it was obvious that some of the careful arrangement had been affected by the wind and rain overnight. We walked on up to the Dam and then left the road heading off right handed to go around the back of the reservoir. We then followed the river on up the valley.
A little way up there is an ancient clapper bridge across the river which can be seen in the left hand image. These old bridges look simply like a collection of stones however they last amazingly well and there are quite a number of examples small and large on the moors. The valley turn to the right at the bridge and we crossed the bridge and headed on up to Broad Falls. The drop at Broad Falls can be seen in the centre image. In practice there is not much of a waterfall there however it is obviously that centuries ago the water would have come off quite a high step to fall into the valley below. At the base of the falls there are some very large granite boulders the detail of which can be seen in the right hand image.
At Broad Falls we turned left and headed up to Redlake. The ground here tends to vary between quite wet and very wet and we certainly got damp feet heading up to the spoil heap there. Not that long ago I walked down the Avon to Broad Falls and commented that I could see the spoil heap in the distance and what a prominent sight it was – that blog can be found here. Redlake was one of the early china clay works on Dartmoor and the other side of the spoil heap there is a hole (water filled) from which the spoil came. The china clay was piped off the moors in suspension in water and the photo on the right shows the remains of some of the associated buildings.
From Redlake we headed south (again with somewhat wet feet) to Western Whitabarrow which can be seen in the left hand image above. There is an ancient barrow here and the upright stone is the remains of an old (now headless) cross which was probably originally somewhere close by. Redlake spoil heaps can just be seen on the right hand edge of the picture. The right hand image shows another iconic feature of the area – the barrow at Eastern Whitabarrow. As with the spoil heap this can be seen from many parts of the south moor and is quite unmistakable. We walked on to the large barrow and then headed down the ridge back towards Shipley Bridge.
As we walked back down to Shipley Bridge the extent of the rhododendrons was far clearer. As a child I used to come up to the river here to play in it and the valley used to be wide open. Now the rhododendrons really are taking over both the valley and increasingly the river here. I am not a fans of destroying anything unnecessarily however if action is not taken soon these bushes will start to cover over parts of the river completely. The distinction between conservation and preservation is open to endless discussion however the landscape here is being radically affected by a non native species. Whatever the views on this are I decided to take the colour out of these images other than that of the flowers to show them more dramatically.