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Swincombe—wild and lonely and free

December 3, 2013

This was the greatest of Dartmoor victories. If it had gone ahead you might as well have scrapped Dartmoor’s national park status.


Forty-three years ago today Swincombe, in the heart of wild Dartmoor, was saved from a reservoir—largely thanks to the efforts of the Dartmoor Preservation Association‘s chairman, Lady (Sylvia) Sayer.  In honour of the event I reproduce here an article I wrote for the DPA in 2004.

At about 3pm on Thursday 3 December 1970, a small joyous figure appeared at the Ramblers’ Association’s office in Crawford Mews, London.  ‘I’m walking on air,’ said Sylvia Sayer to the Ramblers’ chief and fellow-campaigner Chris Hall.  She had just come from the House of Commons where the bill to destroy the Swincombe valley had—against all the odds—been rejected.

Vast dam
The proposal, from Plymouth Corporation and the South West Devon Water Board, was to create a 754-acre reservoir in the Swincombe basin.  The vast dam would cross the valley about 250 yards downstream from Stream Hill Ford.  The reservoir itself would form…

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