Avon Dam and Zeal Tor Tramway
South Brent, Devon
About this walk
A pleasant seven miles around Avon Dam reservoir taking in an ancient trackway and two crosses.
DISTANCE: 7 miles medium difficulty (or 3 miles easy, to the dam and back)
NEAREST REFRESHMENTS: South Brent
FACILITIES: Toilets and information board
CAR PARKING: Car park.
Park at Shipley Bridge (SX 681629). It gets very busy here so if you want a parking space I’d advise arriving before 11am. There are a number of old industries dotted around this areas including peat works, tin mining and the structure in the car park is the remains of 19th century naphtha works which were later used for processing china clay from Bala Brook. Both these venures failed.
The first part of this walk is very pretty as it follows a surfaced road next to the river Avon. This path is a slow ascent but good for pushchairs and wheelchairs. Nearer the dam the path splits and the easier route is to the left, but I went uphill to the the right and ended up on the right hand side of the Avon Dam (SX 680 654) which was completed in 1957. It was 1.5 miles to this point.
From here follow the path alongside the reservoir and after a while it bends to the right and temporarily heads away from the water to join onto the Abbot’s Way at SX 679 658. This is one of the many ancient trackways on the moor and if you want to read its legend visit here.
The path passes by ancient settlements and give you a lovely view back across the reservoir towards the dam. At some point you will sight a granite wall in the distance. This is where you are headed, though it can be a bit muddy underfoot at times.
Just in front of the wall and three miles from the walk start is Huntingdon Cross (SX 664 661). This was originally a marker for the Abbot’s Way but in the mid-16th century was also utilised by Sir William Petre to mark the boundary of his estate, Brent. The granite wall is a more recent addition, probably in the last decade.
The Western Wallabrook meets the river Avon here and was nice spot for some lunch. On the map the path seems to cross the river around here but I couldn’t see anywhere so hooked on the Two Moors Way and continued up to a pretty clapper bridge (SX 656 667) which had nice views up and down the valley.
From here is a steep but relatively short hill and when you near the top at about 11 o’clock on the horizon you’ll see a boundary stone. Head across to this via animal paths.
For a shorter route go back down the hill a little to link with the path that takes you via Eastern White Barrows. Otherwise walk a uphill a short distance to the remains if Petre’s Cross (SX 664654) on Western White barrow. It doesn’t look very cross-like as the arms have been knocked off, but sits it an impressive location on a Bronze Age cairn.
You will also notice, in the distance, a very strange looking hill which is Green Hill. As the ferns were just starting to turn brown when I did this walk it really stood out – one to investigate another day!
A short distance after the cross and you will meet a track running right to left which is the remains of the old Zeal Tor tramway (SX 654 655). This was built in 1846 to take peat/clay from Redlake to Shipley Bridge and you can still see stones and iron nails in the ground at certain points.
Go left and follow this. You will also see another old tramway to your right which looks a lot more even, which is the Two Moors Way.
This track will take you right back past the Avon Filtration Station and on to the surfaced road you started out on, not too far from the car park. The last thing of note on this walk at the intersection of the paths is the Hunter’s Stone which dates from 1948 and has the names of Masters of the Dartmoor Foxhounds inscribed on it.
There is usually an ice cream van in the car park and a fitting end to a pleasant walk.
View a Google map of the walk here
Written by Gillian Adams www.divinedartmoorwalks.co.uk