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  • Writer's pictureJodie Newton

Tavy Cleave walk

We left home as early as we could, knowing that Tavy Cleave is a popular swim spot.

We arrived at the car park at 8.20am and there were already half a dozen cars parked. Some from over night campers and others like us, who’d thought it sensible to get there early to avoid the later crowds.

Parking at Lane end car park near Mary Tavy PL19 9NB, SX 537 823

This walk took us through the Wilsworthy range and it is best to check the website before walking in this area

Always look out for the red flags when walking on the ranges.

A cleave is a valley with steep, cliff-like sides, the word is said to be from the Anglo Saxon word cleof meaning cliff. There are several cleaves on Dartmoor, Belstone Cleave, Lustleigh Cleave, Halstock Cleave, and Tavy Cleave.

Neither My husband nor I had visited Tavy Cleave before and we were both blown away by it’s rugged, breath taking vistas.

If you’re after a reasonable length walk (say 3-4 miles) but don’t fancy the tricky “bouldering” after The Devils Kitchen swim, then you could easily stop here and avoid the Tor’s at the top of the Cleave, retracing your steps back to the car.

Be warned, I got bitten by horse flies beside the water so bug spray is advisable.

A foot bridge over the leat, looking at the fish

From the car park we followed the path beside the wall East to Nattor Farm and up to the mine Leat. We walked the nice flat path beside the leat keeping it on our left.

As we turned the corner the views were pretty but it was already hot and I was dreaming of jumping in the water at the first opportunity.

Fish darted along the Leat and Dragon flies buzzed across its surface like one of natures motorways. There were a few ponies with very new foals and a plethora of sheep dotting the sheer hillsides.

We crossed the leat where it met the river and stopped for a water break and a little shade while we checked the map.

Having just crossed the leat at the foot bridge and following the Tavy

The path here becomes a little trickier and the ground can obviously get rather wet. We headed up the side of the hill and found a higher path to avoid thick mud and wet feet.

As we followed the path around its bends, the Cleave came into sight along with one of the better swimming spots.

There were three or four lovely places to swim on the river.

We chose to continue to Devils Kitchen SX 555 832

It’s stepped waterfall and the large pool bellow were about another 5 minutes walk along the path.

By 10.00am we’d reached our swimming spot for the day and all five of us were in.

Devils Kitchen, Tavy Cleave

I can see why it’s so popular, but we had the place to ourselves and as it turned out, during the hottest part of the walk.

The bottom of the pool was rocky but the water was beautifully clear. The rocks around the waterfall were slippy but manageable.

Beside the swim spot the ground was still marshy in places and so swim shoes were useful.

We all had a fantastic time playing in the falls and found it most amusing when the power of the waterfall pulled my bikini bottoms almost clean off, so be warned. I was grateful we were alone🤣.

Super depth for a decent swim as well as the waterfall to play in

Once we’d finished swimming, we continued along the river to more pools but found they were occupied with over night campers.

By this point and contrary to the weather forecast, it had clouded over and we decided we’d spare the campers the obnoxious noise the children are capable of whilst splashing around and leave them in peace.

We continued onward along the river.

The path here became fairly non existent, we were pretty much just clambering over boulders for what felt like a long time but it was probably only about half a mile.

All of us took a tumble except for our middle child (thankfully, as she’s the most fragile).

We were all of us, scraped and bruised and I was bleeding which seemed to enthral the local horsefly population (6 bites and counting so far today).

It was tough but sadistically enjoyable. Eventually we cleared the worst of the boulders and found a discernible trail once more.

Here we stopped and decided to shorten our intended route.

Looking back the way we’d come the views were breath taking.

We checked our trusty map and decided to head for a path up one of the tributaries on the left of the Rattle Brook.

Again the ground on this part of the walk was marshy and our youngest almost lost a hiking boot.

It was going to be a bit of a climb to the top of the hill and the Tor’s above, so we took an early lunch break in the valley, beside Rattle Brook.

This was when we felt the fist few drops of rain. It most certainly wasn’t forecast and I was feeling rather smug when I could tell the children, ‘see this is why you should always carry a raincoat’.

After lunch we took one of the paths up the hill towards Hare Tor and decided to fly our kite.

Climbing up the hill from the bottom of the Cleave towards Hare Tor

Our fantastic neighbour Gill had bought the children pocket kites one Christmas and we’ve taken them in our backpacks on days out ever since.

Only recently we realised that we’d been trying to fly them in the wrong conditions and trusty YouTube taught us that there really doesn’t need to be that much wind at all for them to fly properly.

Up it glided, peacefully with no real effort and all of us took delight in holding the string while it was in the air a good 30 minutes or so before the rain started to lash down upon us.

Lets go fly a kite

The coats came out of the bag on what was supposed to be a 24º and gloriously clear skies sort of day.

We pulled in the kite and the coats about us, as the wind whipped up and the children began to shiver.

Onwards and upwards we headed for Hare Tor, which by now was on the horizon.

Looking up to Hare Tor

The panoramas from the top were beautiful. Our eldest found a frog hopping around up there and it wasn’t out of place as the ground again was marshy, even after several previous dry days.

From Hare Tor we headed over to Ger Tor to see the views of the Cleave far below.

Looking down upon the Cleave from Ger Tor

We seemed to have planned our walk for flying ant day or 'Flants' day as we call it and Ger tor was swarmed in thick black clouds of them, which we could even see in my photographs.

Ger Tor with 'Flants' clearly swarming the rocky precipice.

There was a little hut on the side of the Tor which our son thought was exciting and from the top of the Tor we could see the car park.

Small hut on the side of Ger Tor

Once we’d finished pottering on the Tor we headed back down the hill towards the car, passing Bronze Age field systems and evidence of a settlement.

Once more the ground was boggy in places as we neared the leat from the start of the walk.

We crossed the leat on a foot bridge and headed for the car.

Footbridge heading back to the car.

We’d clocked up about 5.5 miles in total but it felt like a lot more and I don’t mind admitting to feeling rather worn out after this adventure.

On our return, the car park was full with some people having parked on the road beside it's entrance. Always remember to park respectfully on the Moor, taking care to never block gateways and entrances and leave enough room for large emergency vehicles to get past.

Tavy cleave is stunning, the pools were beautiful and if you’re up for it the walk is a wet, sometimes rocky but fun one.

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