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The Mysteries of the Dewerstone

Industrial archaeology along the Plym - and a hard climb past the eerie Dewerstone Crags.

Distance 3.5 miles (5.7km)

Minimum time 1hr 45min

Ascent/gradient 180ft (55m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Woodland paths, some rocky, and rough moorland, 4 stiles

Landscape Oak woodland, deep river valley and open moorland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Outdoor Leisure 28 Dartmoor

Start/finish SX 555646

Dog friendliness Dogs can run free at all times, watch for sheep

Parking Free car park at Cadover Bridge

Public toilets None on route

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1 From the car park, walk away from Cadover Bridge, with the river on your right. Cross over a stile into a willow plantation; the path here is rocky and muddy in places but the river beside you is always delightful, and you will come across lots of great picnic spots.

2 A wooden ladder down a bank leads to a short stretch of pasture. A stile and footbridge leads into North Wood oak woodland. There is a choice of paths here; keep to the one with the large pipe set in the ground.

3 Leave North Wood over a stile and follow the path through an open brackeny area; the Plym is far below on the right. Note the group of Dewerstone Crags ahead on the other side of the valley. The path leads into mixed silver birch and oak past a ruined building, then forks. Take the right fork slightly downhill to a small track and gate.

4 Turn right inside the wire fence, following the footpath sign 'Shaugh Bridge'. Stay within the woods as the path twists downhill and you can hear the river below right. The path leads over a stile past a notice 'Hazardous Area: Proceed with Caution' - this part can be slippery, but it's not that bad! You pass a settling tank (right), and the path ends at a road.

5 Turn immediately right and take the left fork then down steps into Shaugh Bridge car park. Turn right to walk through the car park towards the river.

6 Cross the river via the railed wooden footbridge to enter Goodameavy (National Trust). Follow the path right. It becomes a restored rocky track leading above the river and winds steeply uphill so take your time. Where the path goes straight ahead and there is also a sharp bend right, keep right and forever uphill until you see the top of the Dewerstone Crags through the trees right.

7 At this point the path becomes a rocky scramble left and up to leave the woods and onto open moorland to reach Dewerstone Rock, with glorious views.

8 Turn 90 degrees right at the rock and follow the broad central grassy path along the ridge to pass Oxen Tor and over Wigford Down, keeping Cadworthy Wood and the Plym Valley right. Keep straight on to the boundary wall of the wood, then left to follow the wall around fields. Eventually the wall veers right and you walk downhill past Cadover Cross with views of the china clay works beyond. Head towards the bridge, cross over on the road and walk back to your car.

This is a popular walk, not only because of its proximity to Plymouth, but also because of the wealth of obvious industrial archaeological interest. The best way to experience this is to start from Cadover Bridge, on the edge of the open moor towards the Lee Moor China Clay Works. You follow the route of the pipeline that carried the china clay in suspension from the works to the drying kilns at Shaugh Bridge (seen in the car park), via settling tanks, the remains of which are passed on the walk.

The area around Shaugh Bridge is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), nationally important for plants and wildlife, and there is a constant conservation programme going on here. The bridge itself dates from the late 1820s, and replaces one that was badly damaged in January 1823. Cadover Bridge was named in a charter of 1291 as 'ponta de Cada worth', so its name probably derives from cad, Celtic for 'skirmish'. The Plym is also referred to as Plymma, from the Celtic pilim, 'to roll'.

This is definitely not the place to be on a black winter's night - the Devil (locally known as 'Dewer') has long been associated with the Dewerstone. The Devil's fearsome pack of wisht-hounds are said to roam the desolate moors at night, seeking unrepentant sinners, whom they drive over the edge of the crags to the Devil waiting below. One of the more unpleasant legends associated with this distinctive granite formation tells of how an old farmer met the Devil carrying a sack near the rock and, not recognising him, asked if he'd had a good day's hunting. The Devil is said to have laughed, and to have given the farmer the sack. The farmer, delighted, rushed home - only to find that the sack contained the body of his son. And beware, the woods near the Dewerstone are said to be haunted at night by a huge, evil dog with red eyes. Such stories are common in moorland areas, and perhaps date back to a time when wolves still inhabited the more remote parts of the country. Their eventual extinction in Britain was largely due to this process of demonisation.

There are Bronze Age hut circles and cairns on Wigford Down, dating to at least 1000 bc, and Iron Age fortifications protecting the summit of the ridge. Cadover Cross, passed on Point 8, is an ancient restored cross - the modern shaft is made of red granite - set on the line of the Monastic Way between Plympton and Tavistock. It was found lying recumbent in 1873 and re-erected, only to fall and be put up again in 1915, set in a large socket stone. It stands over 7ft 6in (2m) tall.

While you're there

Buckland Abbey, in the Tavy Valley to the west of Yelverton, has strong associations with Sir Francis Drake. It was originally a small Cistercian monastery, and the house incorporates the remains of the 13th-century abbey church. There is a superb monastic barn, and delightful gardens and estate walks. Buckland Abbey is managed jointly by Plymouth City Council and the National Trust.

What to look for the dewerstone crags provide the best middle-grade climbing in dartmoor, and you are almost bound to see climbers from this walk. the main crag, devil's rock, rises 150ft (46m) from the banks of the plym; to the right lie the isolated needle and upper and lower raven buttresses. evocative names for the many routes here include hagar the horrible, if i should fall? and knucklecracker! in 1960 a climber found a late bronze age (c 1000 bc) drinking vessel here.

Where to eat and drink

There's often an ice cream van in the car park at both Cadover Bridge and Shaugh Bridge. Formerly the old Church House, the Royal Oak at Meavy, a free house with good food and attractively sited tables outside, is over 500 years old and is set on the village green near the famous 1,000-year-old oak tree from which it takes its name. Meavy can be found on the way to Burrator Reservoir north of Cadover Bridge.

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