Devon

Fernworthy Reservoir, Dartmoor

Fernworthy Reservoir lies in a steep-sided valley cut by the South Teign River, surrounded by the lush green forest making it a picturesque, peaceful spot. Completed in 1942, it feeds into Trenchford Reservoir which supplies Torquay, Totnes and Brixham with drinking water, and it can hold up to 380 million gallons of water. You can access the reservoir from Fernworthy Forest where you’ll find the car park. From here, you can circumnavigate the reservoir and it’s a fairly easy walk of about 3 miles.

The weekend we visited Fernworthy we were lucky enough to be staying at nearby Thornworthy Barn, our gorgeous retreat for two that’s set just beyond Chagford. From here, it’s a short descent down to the reservoir and you can easily join the path that follows the edge of the reservoir. As with any activity on Dartmoor, please be prepared for any weather and wear suitable footwear – walking boots are a must!

We joined the path close to the immense dam, a huge granite structure that according to legend upset the resident gnomes who lived in the hillside when it was being built. Apparently, it was so noisy, they caused widespread havoc in 1938 by flooding the site which led to massive delays in construction. It is an awe-inspiring sight; giant blackened granite rocks hold back the water which on the day we visited was blustery and creating waves, lapping angrily over the top.

You can’t walk across the dam, but an easy path zigzags down into the valley and up the other side. Here the path becomes gravelled and easy to walk on; good for those with limited ability. The way we came meant next we walked through the main picnic area which is close to the main car park as you enter Fernworthy Forest. This is a fabulous spot for lunch, but we carried on around.

As we walked, we passed one of the two bird hides here. Fernworthy is a very important site for wildlife. It’s a haven for wader birds such as the Black Tailed Godwit, Snipe, Heron and Grebe so make sure you bring your binoculars if you’re keen on birding. Around the lake there’s special habitats such as rhos (moorland) pasture and grassland, home to rare species such as the Mash fritillary butterfly and the Bee hawk moth. We passed may of these sites, where sometimes the path became raised wooden walkways to protect the surrounding marshy landscape.

As we walked, we delved more into the surrounding forest, and I want to come back again to explore it further as we only saw a small part of it and there are a host of archaeological sites to discover too. As it was, the late autumnal colours and the tall, majestic fir trees were truly spectacular to walk through with barely another person around.

Finally, we completed the walk but before returning home we sat for a moment in the light rain and looked out over the water. With a light mist hanging over the trees, it was so beautiful and peaceful and just what we needed as an escape from the everyday.

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