Section 8 - Shaugh Bridge to Ivybridge
Distance : Around 12 miles (19.3km) - Grade Moderate Grade with some Strenuous walking on the moorland sections - what these grades mean
Summary: A unique section of the walk as you hit the Southern Moors and wander through the pits, pools and white scars of the China Clay Fields with fine views in every direction. Descending the edge of the moor once more, you finish today linking in with the river Erme as it flows through the woods to the edge of Dartmoor at Ivybridge.
It’s a steep climb first thing today on the Dartmoor Way as you snake through the woodland above the old drying kilns and mineworks, leaving the river far below. This is the pipe route - so named as you will spot at regular intervals broken remains of the pipe that carried China clay downhill to the works at Shaugh Bridge from the high moor at Cadover Bridge over 1.5 miles away.
As you pass along the stoney, root-filled trail, the glimpses of pipe keep you on the right track. Over on the other side of the river, shrouded in thick woodland like something out of the jungle book, are the mighty Dewerstone Crag and Devils Rock, where a Tor enclosure dates back to Neolithic times, making this one of the earliest places of settlement in this part of the Moor. Dewer himself is none other than Satan, and the Dartmoor tales are that he hunts the high space above the cliffs with a pack of spectral hounds. Those who wander in the area are lured to the cliffs by Dewer who, dressed in black, would trick them into falling and providing a feast for the hounds of hell far below. These days you may well spot people at the base of the cliffs but rather than bait for Satan's Hounds they will be rock climbers and you can often see them stretching up the huge cliffs as you watch from the other side of the deep gorge.
Eventually you start a gentle descent out of the woods and meet the river at the top of the Gorge and with all thoughts of the Dewer Devil behind you head across grassy tufts to the bridge at Cadover - a pretty spot by a road that often sees families in the summer arriving for a swim.
The high moor now expands away into the interior in front after the enclosed forest and woods since Shaugh Prior. You follow a lonely dead end track which snakes into the open moor up above the Tors, forming a ring starting with Little Trowlesworthy and Great Trowlesworthy Tors - the signs of the early China Clay workings start to appear and you can divert into stark quarry faces with deep blue pools. Blackaton Cross - also known as Romans Cross - looms out of the moor here - an impressive and iconic 6 foot Dartmoor Stone Cross, which marked the route for monks travelling from Plympton Abbey to Tavistock Abbey. Beyond it is the deep blue waters of the aptly named ‘Big Pond’ and you pass alongside it guided now by the Tors directly ahead at Shell Top and Penn Beacon.
Taking old Quarry Tracks and passing over huge, dried leats (waterways), the full expanse of the white alien landscape of the Cholwichtown Clay Workings is now visible, an amazing sight covering a huge area on the edge of the moor.
Following the stoney mining track as it rises on the contour of the moor you get great views over the Western Beacon and the South Tors, to the coast in West Devon and the expansive waterfront at Plymouth, a short diversion to the top of the Tor at Penn Beacon will allow you to see it all in its full glory.
Leaving the moor is a bracing descent on little more than sheep tracks to the forestry at East Rook Gate and the end of the moor proper. A welcome change from the moor you follow little used back lanes through hamlets and valleys before leaving the road on a section through grassy plantations, oak and beech trees with the natural woodlands getting older and taller until you arrive at the chattering River Erme.
A lovely stretch follows passing the little waterfalls and rapids of the rivers beneath the ancient woodlands on board walks, stone stepping stones and snaking pathways.
At times the route leaves the river to climb around obstacles, but always returns to its youthful exuberance, until the waters are suddenly dwarfed by the looming towers of the London to Cornwall line Viaduct at Ivybridge.
Pass below this huge structure and you are almost at your journeys end the river leading you into the centre of town and the famous ‘Ivy Bridge’ at the Southern End of the Dartmoor Way.