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Walking Lustleigh Cleave

March 6, 2011

On Saturday we walked in Lustleigh Cleave, that deep valley of the River Bovey on eastern Dartmoor. A dry and frosty day, though the views were limited by low cloud.

It is a place full of memories for me. I first sought out the Cleave over forty years ago. A pal and I caught the bus from Newton Abbot to Lustleigh village. Mapless, we walked up and down paths but never quite seemed to get there. But in time I got to know the area really well. It has changed in those forty years. The sides of the Cleave are now far more wooded – in my youth there were bare slopes falling down to the tumbling river. I was pleased to see that someone was making an effort to tackle the scrub and bracken.

Lustleigh Village


We walked through the orchard at Lustleigh, the trees wrapped with the last of the mistletoe, then through those fields of great boulders that are such a feature of the district. At Sharpitor, we sought out the cave under a huge rock just below the summit. Many years ago, I used to sleep there, my camp fire sending seemingly prehistoric shadows around the surrounding granite.

The path along the edge of the Cleave is a really pleasant mile of walking, though the clouds denied us the grand views. Only as we passed the enclosure and fort near to Hunter’s Tor did the cloud give way, the cold breeze easing as we descended to Peck Farm. Then on to Foxworthy, along what is clearly a very ancient trackway. Though mid-morning we heard a tawny owl cry the valley.

Foxworthy itself a hamlet far away from the world, I always think. It has changed somewhat since I first knew it. It all looked a bit more modern, though the yell of the swift-flowing river is just the same.

We returned along the path that climbs gradually above Foxes Yard, and then through the hamlet of Pethybridge, and back to Lustleigh. We explored the church, with its 6th century memorial stone to a long-dead landholder, and seeing the memorial to the statesman Leo Amery, who, amidst his other accomplishments, was a renowned hillwalker and climber.Old Track by Foxworthy

We used to hold ramblers’ meetings in the old church hall, though few of those who participated are alive today. But the memories of old friends who once walked in ancient sunlight are still vivid.

If you would like to really get to know the area around Lustleigh Cleave, then please do seek out William Crossing’s Guide to Dartmoor. First published in 1909, and still the best guide to the neighbourhood. Do all of the walks in it and you will get to know Dartmoor very well indeed!


2 Comments leave one →
  1. jim gamble permalink
    December 13, 2012 9:38 am

    I’ve never been to this area but i feel i have through all the images of it i have veiwed. I live in the midlands,a good four hours from this area but i plan to visit as saoon as i am financially able. I envy people who live close to the villages and hamlets of devon,a place where god surely smiled.

  2. December 13, 2012 10:15 am

    A very good area to explore, best in the spring and autumn. Hope you get there soon,Jim.

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