"Each step forward has a sacred meaning of its own" Sri Chinmoy
Meldon Reservoir Circuit - August 1st 2020
With international travel still off the menu in this covid-19 era, the need to get a change of surroundings and to escape from the working-from-home bubble took me and Kokila down to Dartmoor for a trip of barely 48 hours...though it seemed like much longer! We had an amazing campsite where we were glamping rather than camping in very serene surroundings. Our first expedition was at the nearby Meldon Reservoir where we set out on a hike in some mixed weather to see if we could do a full circuit of the lake.
I lived in Devon in the 80s and spent a lot of time out on the moor, but that was mostly the South Moor. My memories of the Okehampton area are mainly from my time as a student geologist (I remember studying the Sticklepath Fault and visiting Meldon Quarry) and from a couple of races I did back in the early 2000s. On that occasion I vividly remember running through the mist on a bearing, silva compass in hand, in the closing stages of the awesome Sticklepath Horseshoe race. I also put in hard effort to come second at Sourton Tor the following day. Somehow I had never found time to visit the reservoir at Meldon, but that turned out to be a good thing as I had the opportunity to see it with totally fresh eyes on this coming-out-of-lockdown trip.
Despite very mixed weather - and what else do you expect on Dartmoor - the car park at Meldon was filling up when we got there mid-morning. Families were heading out on bikes to join the local sustrans paths and some hard core hikers looked like they were going deep into the moor for some wild camping with full packs. We crossed the dam, which commands great views of the moor on one side and the rolling fields of North Devon on the other, and set our sights on a full circuit of the reservoir. From the map it was very hard to judge how long that would take as the reservoir has the classic irregular shape you get when you flood a number of upland valleys.
After a couple of false trails that led close to the lake but were only to access picnic sites on the shore, we found the best path and started the loop. We took it slowly and found we had to make regular stops to look at the wild flowers, take photos of the landscape or just gaze at the views and breathe the vastness and beauty in. Here on the edge of the moor you get a wonderful blend of bleakness and sweetness.
My favourite part of the route was a gorgeous hidden valley at the reservoir head, a lush meadow nestling between bleak moorland ridges with the river running down one side under an old stone bridge. The path beyond that bridge was blocked so we had to detour "inland" and find the upper bridge, where the water was roaring off the moor over rocks under a narrow concrete bar with a handrail. Once over that the path alongside the lake was closed so another detour away from the water on to higher ground was needed - on the plus side that opened up some more panoramas over the moorland.
By the time we arrived back at the dam we'd complete the full circuit including some sections of the Dartmoor Way alongside mature beechwoods and old hedgerows. Some wonderfully mixed terrain and expansive views in the space of a short trek.
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