Back in May this year my family managed to escape to the countryside for a week of mixed weather but all round fun. We were in the middle of nowhere at the only airbnb my mum could find to fit us all, in Devon. We visited the RHS Garden Rosemoor, explored Bideford, went surfing in Croyde Bay, and spent a day on Dartmoor by way of Meldon Reservoir.
My family simply cannot survive without a midmorning coffee. So on our way to Dartmoor we stopped at nearby Okehampton and headed for Toast, one of the only cafes open. The stop turned out to be doubly advantageous as we were able to pop into Ellis Bakery to fill our backpacks with Cornish pasties.
To access this area of Dartmoor, the best thing to do is drive in and park at the Meldon Reservoir Car Park where you only pay £1 for cars up to 3 hours (£2 for more). The path towards the viaduct is immediately obvious, and then there are many routes that meander up and down the valley and over West Okement River.
Annoyingly, Mapometer doesn’t seem to be able to cope with cutting across fields. I tried to map our route here, but as you can see it had to double back on itself to close the loop. In actual fact it was probably about 3 and a half miles.
Surrounded by steep sided banks and approximately 900 feet above sea level, Meldon Reservoir offers some of the most breath taking scenery that Dartmoor has to offer. Enjoy a leisurely walk and explore the network of off-road footpaths, bridleways and old tracks that cross the valley. For keen ramblers, navigate open moorland and experience a real adventure in Dartmoor.
A must do on your day in Devon – enjoy the stunning views of Okement Valley from Meldon Reservoir and walk or cycle the Granite Way, crossing the impressive Meldon Viaduct.
Popular with families, bird watchers, wildlife enthusiasts and fishermen alike, Meldon boasts a rich abundance of wildlife. Keep an eye out for adders, grass snakes and herons or bring your rod and fish for natural brown trout.Visit Dartmoor
I love a bit of history, so I went digging for the story of this dam. It supplies water to much of South Devon, but was very controversial when it was first built, as government approval for it was given just a year before Dartmoor was awards National Park status in 1951, which would have protected it from this type of activity. Local towns were worried about the impact such a blight would have on tourism, which was starting to pick up with the recent introduction of the railway to the area. Many local organisations and charities campaigned against it, but construction went ahead and it started supplying water in 1972.
Now a giant dam blocks Meldon Gorge, and the valley has been drowned under the still, dead waters of a reservoir. To those who knew it so well, the destruction of Meldon’s magnificent natural beauty seemed as cruel a blow as the murder of a friend.The Meldon Story
So dramatic. Obviously tourism hasn’t been dampened too much, although a visit during a global pandemic maybe isn’t the best time to judge.
The weather was pretty patchy while we were there, but we had loads of fun picking our way around the edge of the reservoir, with spectacular views above and behind. The wild moors were dotted with white sheep grazing between the bracken, and Matt thoroughly enjoyed a spot of birdwatching.
As the sun came out halfway around our route, we thought the time was ripe to feast on our supply of Cornish pasties. We should’ve known better, and just as we took our first bites, the heavens opened and we were treated to the heaviest downpour we’d seen all day. There was a large overgrown bush on the stone bridge across the river that feeds the reservoir, and we ended up cowering underneath it, clutching our pasties for warmth and fending off the blustery winds with struggling umbrellas.
As is usually the way, the weather dried up as we finished eating, and the rest of the walk we were treated to positively balmy conditions. We rounded the end of the reservoir and ventured across the sheep-dotted hill, making our way over streams and fences. The view back over the water from this vantage point was the highlight of the day for me.
If a walk is this fun in the pouring rain then you know it’s good. Especially when it’s me talking. This route isn’t too long (definitely family-friendly), and gives you good views with lots of bridges and streams and things to climb over on your way. 10/10 would walk again!