Note that all maps on this site are only
indicative. You should never set out without the correct OS map.
The Western Morning News reported how an ancient hump-backed bridge
that is normally submerged by the waters of Fernworthy Reservoir
was becoming quite a tourist destination. Visitors were following
the old road out across the mud and sand to reach it.
The nearest water bird was a forlorn looking heron peering into
the water several hundred yards away. I tell you all this because
a walk around Fernworthy Reservoir is usually quite a different
experience from the one we enjoyed and you will probably see a lot
more water than displayed in our pictures.
To find the three-and-a-half-mile walk that circumnavigates the
lake, you can either follow the brown road signs up into the hills
from charming Chagford, or follow the signs from the Moretonhampstead-Princeton
road. Either way is narrow and full of bends. But don’t be
put off – Fernworthy is a wonderful place to visit –
both in a watery and an arboreal sense. There’s a visitor
car park and a scenic picnic area for those who simply wish to stop
and admire the reservoir and the magnificent forests – or
there ’s a choice of hikes for those who fancy some exercise.
The round-the-lake walk is probably easiest and most desirable.
In the dry summer when the Western Morning
News hikes column went to Fernworthy Reservoir, it looked a bit
like the Aral Sea. There were no trawlers lying careened a 100 miles
from the nearest drop of water, but the lake was awfully dry. However,
Fernworthy Reservoir, in the heart of northern Dartmoor, is wonderfully
scenic and it has its own circular walk.
Basic hike: a circumnavigation of Fernworthy
Recommended map: Ordnance
Survey OL 28 – but you don’t really need it as there’s
a map on the interpretation board and walking around the lake is
as obvious as a hike can get.
Distance and going: three and a half miles –
There seems little point in telling
you where to go: a) because a large illustrated map adorns the interpretation
board by the car park, and b) because the route around the lake
is obvious. The only difficult thing is making up your mind as to
whether you should walk clockwise or anti-clockwise.
Having looked at Fernworthy on the map, you could assume that
the walk would be an unbroken belt of dark conifers. You’d
be wrong. After a brief walk through the dark trees you soon find
yourself on the other side of the gloom and walking across what
used to be ancient fields belonging to the three farms that once
made a living up here.
Indigenous scrub trees line the way and looked most colourful
on the autumn day when we did the walk.
It was at this point that we could
see the aforementioned bridge. It was part of a Dartmoor lane until
1942 when Torbay council built Fernworthy Reservoir. There’s
a plaque by the dam which tells you all about the wartime opening
We walked down to the humpback bridge and took our photos for
the WMN newsdesk and retreated to the woods again. Here we found
ourselves on a boardwalk that skirts through the trees to the western
end of the forest. The wooden way eventually ends in moorland –
and now we were on the western shore of the lake. As the reservoir
narrows towards the dam you can look across at the remains of a
Bronze Age hut encampment on the far bank. Eventually the path descends
under the dry side of the dam. Unlike some of the region’s
larger reservoirs, Fernworthy doesn’t have a dam that you