Wayward Wanderers Walking Group

Meldon Reservoir and Wood

May 09, 2010, prb, Comments: 0

Moor, Gorse, Bluebells & Ten Tors


Unusually for us, this walk  involved an earlier start than normal, and a picnic.   We were pleased to welcome Jane who was with us for the second time.  

From the Meldon Reservoir car park, we headed onto the moor, and followed a path above and alongside .....

.......the northern shore of Meldon Reservoir.  

This gave us plenty of scenic views over the reservoir, made all the more attractive with the plentiful freshly blossoming gorse.


Dropping down close to the reservoir bank at its southern end, we crossed over its intake stream, the West Okement River, via a stone arch bridge, sadly probably built with the reservoir, which was opened in 1972, rather than being of considerable age.   On the other side we came across a pair of mares, each with a very young foal.


Continuing in a southwards direction along the east side of the stream, we spotted a team of Ten Tors competitors yomping down the valley side from the south-west - interesting that some members of the party were sensibly wearing woolly hats in an almost fluorescent yellow, no doubt for safety's sake.  We stopped and chatted with them for a few minutes before carrying on along the eastern bank of the stream, by now well immersed  in the moorland scenery.

Hunger pangs insistent, it was now time for lunch, so at a point more or less opposite Shelstone Tor to the west of the stream, we paused, sitting on rocks among the stunted trees characteristic of this moorland watercourse, and close to a pretty waterfall.  



Besides its scenic attractions, this spot had a further advantage in keeping us largely out of the biting northerly winds that have been an unwelcome feature of the last few days.

Refreshed, we left the stream and struck off to the east, climbing up to the small plateau at the southern end of Homerton Hill and keeping well north of Black Tor (apart from the two of the group who eschewed lunch for an extra hike to its summit).   Picking our way carefully across the areas of boggy ground on this shallow plateau, we soon joined the end of a track, and turned northwards.   


Over to our right, we spotted the Army helicopter keeping a watchful eye on Ten Tors competitors.  Since the event was drawing to an end, we could see probably 30-40 competitors walking northwards in five or six teams on a route on the open moor to our east, all no doubt making their way back to their finish at Okehampton Camp.  Rarely can group members have seen the moor so well populated!   

The track we were on followed round the eastern side of Longstone Hill and then dropped down to give us a grandstand view of Meldon Dam, and a photocall.   

We continued down until we came to a level track which bridged a rocky stream close to a small car park and some old quarry buildings, then turned to face Meldon viaduct and a further view of  yellow flowering gorse.


After dropping down across an old quarry spoil heap, we entered  Meldon Wood, and after passing under the old railway viaduct, left the road through the wood for a track to the right.   Meldon Wood has ancient woodland status, which means it is over 400 years old and has some statutory protection, contains a number of valuable habitats, and at this time of year is usually a riot of bluebells.  For this reason it is, not surprisingly, known locally as Bluebell Wood. 

Unfortunately, with the late spring, they were not fully in flower  for us.

Our walk took us to the point where the track rejoined the road through the wood close to the point where the dual carriageway A30 cut through the wood about 20 years ago.  Although we could not easily see it through the tree cover, its unwelcome presence was evident from the noise of the traffic on it.

Here we retraced our steps, under the railway viaduct, and through the old quarry area, before taking a different route to the south of the waterfilled old quarry working.   After crossing over the West Okement River again, this time on the downstream side of the dam, we started climbing steeply up the side of the valley for 3-400 metres until we reached the lane taking us back to  Meldon Reservoir car park.

We all enjoyed the walk, notwithstanding the unseasonably cold conditions, but at least it was dry.  The route's variety of scenery, ecology, and historic interest, made it particularly varied, and for that we thank our leaders, Sara-Jane  and Tony.  But in addition we had the pleasure of seeing a sizeable selection of young people close to reaching the end of what for most will be one of life's more memorable achievements.    Our 5.5 miles pales into insignificance compared to the 35, 45 or 55 miles these youngsters will have managed over the weekend.   

For anyone interested in learning more about the area's wealth of natural and historic interest, the link below gives an overview.    Further detail can be found on the National Park's website.    


The route has been uploaded to GPSies and can be found at the following URL:



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