Sandy Hole Pass walk and swim
“Each golden day was cherished to the full, for one had the feeling that each must be the last. Tomorrow it would be winter.”
― Elizabeth Enright, The Four-Story Mistake
It's September and the last of the summer sunshine is upon us, each sunny weekend feels like it will be the last for a while.
On Sunday we decided we would make the most of the remaining warmth and hike up to Sandy Hole Pass where the boys had camped earlier in the year. They had enjoyed themselves so much that the girls and I wanted to see their new favourite swim spot.
We took the same route as the boys had for their camping trip, parking at Postbridge and heading up past the East Dart Waterfall (another beautiful spot for photos and a swim) the directions can be found in the 'Boys on Dartmoor' blog post written by Owen.
It's a fairly easy two mile walk there and three (ish) back but mostly uphill to start. We packed our lunch and swimming accoutrements including several inflatables. Sandy Hole is very deep, there are two or three lovely spots for swimming in the bends of the river just before Sandy Hole cleave, where the peat has been cut for fuel centuries ago and all are perfect for a rubber ring or inflatable crocodile (with common sense).
Sandy Hole Pass is a beautiful part of Dartmoor. It lies SX 621814 in the upper parts of the East Dart River about 2 miles NW of Postbridge.
Here the banks of the East Dart river have been straightened, the sides fortified with stone walls. There are several theories as to why this was done; William Crossing suggests that it was to store water in a dam like structure, probably at the lower end of the pass, for use by medieval tinner’s. Another idea was that it was to drain the wetlands of Broada Marsh whilst supplying water to carry away the tin waste and sand. In the early sixteenth century the harbour at Dartmouth became silted up causing problems for ships docking. Around the same time, Plymouth docks were also having similar problems with silt and so Richard Strode, a local member of parliament took matters up with Westminster. The Stannary authorities immediately fined him £160. He refused to pay the fine which resulted in him landing up in Lydford gaol. His crime was interfering with the rights of the Dartmoor tinners who at that time brought in high revenues and were beyond reproach. Basically the whole idea was to narrow the passage of water, speeding its rate of flow. This then meant that any waste from mining operations was easier to flush away.
There are several examples of tinner's huts and spoil heaps in the area and on the route back we stopped to admire a 'Beehive Hut'.
Beehive huts date back to the medieval period as this was the busiest time for tin streaming on the moor. They weren’t for housing bees but probably used as small shelters.
We saw a few other walkers on our route but it was still relatively quiet compared to the area around the East Dart Waterfall and the clapper bridge in Postbridge it's self, which was extremely busy. We had most of our swim time to ourselves.
The walk back passes Heartland Tor where you could always spend a little time pottering on the rocks and look for letterboxes but we were all tuckered out and decided to head for the car, and a well deserved Ice cream from Postbridge Post Office Stores. I highly recommend the clotted cream flavour, so does 'Johnathan'.