Continuing my gentle introduction to Dartmoor I took a trip to Burrator Dam and Reservoir near Yelverton, Devon. The weatherman promised sunshine and that’s what I was greeted with as I parked for free at the side of the road, near the dam itself.
Having lived near the South Downs in Sussex for several years I was unsure what to expect from a dam and reservoir; seems a silly thing to type but most of the reservoirs in the South East are man-made giant ponds. Burrator Reservoir was completed in 1898 and the reservoir was expanded in 1929. The structure is concrete faced with granite blocks, very impressive up close.
Burrator Reservoir promised from online searches a flat walk around a large lake, perfect for the puppy (though at 6 months old he’s now more dog). There are several official free car parks and parking is allowed on street close to the dam structure itself. Toilets and an ice-cream van set the scene.
I parked the car and followed the road for a few hundred feet and was greeted with a gorgeous vista across the reservoir, a light breeze meant very little movement on the surface of the lake.
Sounds of happy voices could be heard from all directions but the ambience was one of tranquillity and calm. The base of the dam was easy enough to reach after a scramble over rocks and moss.
The centre spillway was dry, the beginning of August in Devon had seen very little rainfall, as I mentioned in another blog post a few days of rain is enough to make the water level rise several feet and spill over.
You can (and I did) walk around almost all of the lake when the water level is low, a mixture of rock, sand and sticky mud. Dogs sadly have to be kept on a lead 365 days a year. Not for water quality issues but more a case of not upsetting the paying anglers who are allowed to fish.
At least there is a good supply of water for dogs to sip at from the water’s edge.
Warm sunshine was welcome as I trod the very fringe of an underwater world. Reservoirs are fascinating in times of drought when they give up their secrets for a few fleeting weeks. Nothing so dramatic at Burrator on this walk but still it was enjoyable to be able to walk the lake edge and not have to follow the perimeter road.
Either side of the lake are tors, for the more adventurous hiker these viewpoints down onto the lake should not be missed.
At the opposite end of the reservoir to the dam, the River Meavy is crossable if you don’t mind wet feet. I took a more sensible option and walked onto the perimeter road and followed that around the weir head, to the other side.
The northern edge of Burrator Reservoir was quieter, most people preferring to stay on the southern edge which is easier to access and walk from the car parks. Also the southern edge would be bathed in sunlight longer.
The sun dropped below Yennadon Down to the west and the lake took on a tranquil state, it now belonged once more almost exclusively to the wildlife. If you have walked coastal marshes in late afternoon you will understand that feeling.
It is like the turning of the tide, the scenery takes on a different feel, a subtle change – a shift in ownership.
Shadows now covered the foreshore and families headed home as the day cooled, I walked the final part of the route back to my car on the road I had originally parked on.
If you are looking for a gentle walk with the opportunity to venture away from the reservoir to climb a tor or two then Burrator Dam is a good place to start.
Route: Burrator Reservoir circular walk.
Distance: 4.2 miles (6.75 kms)
Burrator Reservoir Dam – OS Grid Ref: SX 55083 68122
Burrator Reservoir Weir – OS Grid Ref: SX 56853 69262
OS Explorer OL28 Dartmoor (OS Explorer Map) – Buy map online at Amazon UK.
Map of Walking Route
The map shown is a rough guide to the route that I walked. Please make sure you always follow safe and legal paths, roads and walkways. The actual location of the red-route on the map is an approximation. Never walk without proper maps and informing someone of your intended route in advance.