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Section 1b - South Brent to Buckfastleigh (for those on more relaxed routes)

Although the Dartmoor Way does not pass through it, South Brent, one of the larger settlements on the route, is a nice diversion of around 1/2 mile along the bubbling river Avon to see the striking town at the end with its impressive church and several eating and drinking options.

Information on overnight stops at South Brent for those wanting shorter walking days.

Leaving Lydia Bridge above the churning Avon, as you may have guessed, you will be back up to the moor again, this time breaking out on Aish Ridge just shy of the oddly named Corringdon Ball Summit. This is a lovely section of moorland following a very rough old drove track below the summit. Its ends at a bizarre and desolate spot know as Ball Gate where two huge stone gateposts stand alone in solid defiance of the emptiness around it.

It is an exhilarating descent from the "Stone Balls" on a bridleway that as you near the river valley below gets steeper, stonier and more tricky by the minute. This is Diamond Lane, another section of the historic Abbots Way, the Buckfast Abbey to Plympton Abbey Monks trail.

Crashing out of the stunted trees and bracken you find a lane at the bottom by a racing river course, which is in fact the Avon river once again. This time you stick faithfully to it, following the road to Shipley Bridge and the start of the trek to the Avon dam.

This is lovely easy section along a tarmac track but with wilder and wilder views of the moor. As it is a dead end access road to the dam, there is no traffic to worry about at the Avon Reservoir. You follow the infant Avon further and further into the interior - its deep pools and dashing rapids accompanying you all the way to its source at the main dam.

As you leave the wooded sections for the open moor you pass the tumbling remains of Brent Moor House which was the last habitation before the moor - during the war it was a home for evacuated deaf children. In later years, deemed to be at risk due to its position downstream of the dam, it was blown up by the Army who used it for target practice! You can wander through the remains of the walls and gardens as you pass by.

Beyond Moor House, continue until you round a bend in the steep sided valley to see the dam looming above you. It is now a climb past trees to reach the right side of the dam, a desolate yet beautiful spot, with the blue waters stretching away into the hills on the horizon. Look back behind you for dramatic views of the dam wall into the valley below and out over coastal Devon.

After trekking along the lapping waters of the reservoir you lurch off following a stream towards the next ridge, at one point joining the Abbots Way, an ancient route used by the monks of Buckfast Abbey to reach Tavistock Abbey on the other side of the moor.  A journey of well over 20 miles of hard moorland travel with no settlements, little shelter, watery bogs, marshes, steep sided valleys and changeable weather - still there was no danger of robbers up here and I guess it is as close physically to God as you get in Devon.

As you summit the ridge above the Avon Dam, see the valley below you stretching up showing a green and wooded welcome in the line of your descent. Above them a stunning ring of Tors like a vast stone circle sitting on the horizon above.  A rambling descent on bridleway takes you past plantations of trees, grassy meadows and then into more Ancient Woodland, at which point you pick up the old route to Buckfastleigh.

As you near the town you leave the Abbots Way to climb through trees, arriving on the Western Edge of the very agreeable town of Buckfastleigh with its old cottages, friendly pubs, steam railway and eerie ruins of The Holy Trinity Church - but then that is a story for tomorrows walk when you will encounter it.

Information on overnight stops at Buckfastleigh.

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