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Section 7 - Tavistock to Shaugh Prior

Distance :  Around 11.7 miles (18.8km)  - Grade Generally easy walking with some moderate climbs  - what these grades mean

Summary:  A superb mix of scenery today, from deep forested gorges to placid river meadows, sub moorland uplands on disused railway lines and a dramatic finish in the shadow of the Dewerstone Crags.

The Dartmoor Way snakes out of Tavistock initially alongside the rushing River Tavy before joining the narrow Tavistock Canal and cycle trail.  It’s a pleasant and easy start, which leaves the town through its extensive playing fields before taking a back lane to climb up above Tavistock to West Down, with ever more enchanting views glimpsed through the woodland of the V shaped River Tavy valley far below.

West Down brings the first expansive heath of the day, with fine views over the three river valleys that snake through here (Tavy, Walkham and the mighty Tamar) all shrouded in thick woods.

It’s a wonderfully sharp drop into the woods at the lip of the Walkham Gorge, entering a world of green gloom as you get closer and closer to the moss stoned river below.  Take time to divert to Double Waters - a fabulously middle earth type spot - where the two rivers of the Walkham and Tavy collide together in a thrashing maelstrom at the base of the gorge.  There are some handy pools here if you need dip your feet or more as it’s a noted wild swimming spot.

Back on the Dartmoor Way you follow a magical route, now walking upstream on the gushing Walkham river past a huge fern covered Tor which looms out of the gorge side above you. Walk past tumbled remains of old mine buildings and then a long-abandoned mine chimney, all adding to the atmosphere as you pass under the cover of the dense foliage, the river never out of sight.

Eventually you do have to leave the river and climb up to meet the Devon coast to coast cycle route (Number 27) which you "borrow" for a while. It is well worth it, as the first thing the cycle route delivers is the impressive Gem, hanging high above the Walkham Gorge.

The views from up here are superb - the bridge was opened in 2012 to avoid a long and steep alternative, and it remains one of the highlights of the Southern Moor section thrusting you out over the gorge into open skies, before you are enveloped again by the woodlands on the other side.  The shared cycle route follows the old railway line here making for easy grade walking as you pass over Roborough Down, with its gangs of Dartmoor Ponies, and then smaller bridges and viaducts around the remains of Horrabridge Station where you can divert to the village for refreshments if needed.

The most obvious spot for lunch today is Yelverton, a small town in the shadow of the moor, where you will see the remnants of the Wartime RAF Harrowbeer, including the Tearooms in the old Control Tower.  If you don't want to divert to those, there is one of the area’s best food stops on the route at The Dartmoor Bakery, which sits at the end of the lane amusingly known as Leg 'o' Mutton Corner.

If you need a drink then head to the Rock Inn,  an iconic stop for travellers on the way to or from the high moor. Situated here since 1880 you can "reGINerate" with its huge gin collection in your choice of one of the three bars.

Overnight options in Yelverton

Leaving Yelverton you travel alongside the Devonport Leat (now just a deep trench as the water has long stopped running), the traffic of Yelverton quickly left in your wake as you drop down into the next river valley that of the Meavy.

This is a very different outlook to this morning’s gorges, entering a world of rich fertile grassy meadowland in a wide ‘U’ shaped valley floor, with the slow-moving river an oasis of peace after the dashing and thrashing gorges of this morning.

The section between the lovely old bridges at Hoo Meavy, and the packhorse like bridge at Goodameavy is a delight, meandering waters on one side, munching horses in the meadows on the other and above you the woods that shroud the last remains of the old railway line from Yelverton.

From Goodameavy Bridge, we leave gentle routes behind as you climb to head along a stoney track into Dewerstone Woods. Here, after passing a Hansel and Gretel type cottage in the woods you are very much flung back into the rocks, trees and rushing waters that are so typical of the South West edge of Dartmoor.

Boulders, rocks, uprooted trees all add to the chaotic and ever-changing feel to this area and you carefully follow your own choice of snaking paths back to river level, eventually coming to a meeting of the Rivers Meavy and Plym at Shaugh Bridge still deep in the moss draped woodland. This is a former site for charcoal burners in centuries past,  and to the left of the bridge you can wander around the  crumbled walls and remains of mining, kilns and other industrial ruins confirming the significance of this spot over the years and a fitting place to end the walk today.

Read about overnight stops at Shaugh Prior and Wotter

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