Monday, 20 February 2017

The Goodameavy Trek

A rather longer than expected walk with our monthly group this week. The promised "around 6 miles" turned out to be 9 1/2 and 9 1/2 tough ones at that. Lots of ups and downs, with the emphasis very much on the ups. But, with good weather and some new parts on the western edge of Dartmoor to discover, what was there to complain about? Apart from the ups, that is.
Our figure of eight route started and ended at Lower Goodameavy Bridge. We headed south along the Meavy to Dewerstone Bridge and then followed the Plym down to Bickleigh Bridge. From there we headed back north along the Plym Valley path to Clearbrook and completed a loop via Hoo Meavy, Wigford Down and Goodameavy.
This looks like an embankment but is actually the bed of an abandoned mineral railway. Abandoned because the landowners of the next stretch refused permission for it to go any further. That was a lot of wasted effort back in the 1800s but not uncommon with speculative railway building.
River Plym looking relatively benign. There hadn't been that much heavy rain in the preceding few days.
I liked these tree roots wrapped around a large boulder. I think it was originally from an old hedge.
Across the valley is the parish church of St Edward, King and Martyr, Shaugh Prior. Rather shamefully, this is one that we have never visited even though we've been in the area many, many times. It dates from the 11th century although what you see is from a 15th century rebuild. Famous sons of Shaugh Prior? Not that many by all accounts but there is one of interest: Joseph Palmer (1716–88), an American general during the American Revolutionary War, was born here. Google him and you'll be surprised at what someone from such a sleepy place got up to.
Spring flower 1: Lesser Celandine. Not that many around but a good sign that the season is changing.
Spring flower 2: Snowdrops. A sight to gladden every galanthophile's heart. Lots and lots of these around.
Scarlet Elf Cap. Not rare but not common and can be difficult to spot as they like places where they get covered in fallen leaves. Starts off as a cup which flattens with maturity. One reference source says that these are quite edible and hold their shape when cooked. One recipe suggests eating them raw whilst using them as an edible receptacle for other savouries. As they are fairly small (this one was about 1 cm across), it would take a lot of effort to get more than a decent mouthful. It takes all sorts, I guess.
Just one of the viaducts on what is now the Plym Valley Trail. It runs along the bed of the old railway from Plymouth to Yelverton (for Princetown) and Tavistock (for London) which opened in 1859 and closed in 1962. The original viaducts were made of wood on brick piers and the piers are still visible if you lean over the parapets in the middle of the viaduct.
A frisson of excitement when we walked through the Leighbeer Tunnel. It's about 1/2 mile and is reasonably well lit. Work on building the railway and the tunnel began during August 1856. Mr Brampton, the original engineer, died suddenly in 1857 and was replaced by one Isambard Kingdom Brunel. I wonder where I've heard that name before?
Here's something interesting to bear in mind if you are ever in the tunnel. If you look at all the railway refuges down the sides you will notice they are all covered in bars to prevent people hiding in them (spoilsports!). But one of them is actually a fair sized tunnel that you wouldn't spot it without a torch or knowing that it was there. The tunnel was an exploratory one dug into the hillside when they came across copper while digging the main Leighbeer tunnel. It, the Bickleigh Vale Phoenix Mine, opened at the same time as the railway line which must have proved tricky! It was only operated for around 3 years as not as much copper as expected was found. You can clearly see the copper as the bluey green on the tunnel walls.
Leighbeer Tunnel - a moment captured when cyclists weren't flying through. Question: why don't they use bells to warn walkers to get out of their way? Or do they prefer to knock people over?
Oh look, we said, these look like miners' cottages. And indeed they were. Their age attesting to the long history of mining in this area.
Yes, that is the sea in the distance. We are looking due west out of Plymouth Sound. Those with keen eyes will be able to make out the Eddystone Lighthouse on the horizon to the left of the plume of smoke. I'd estimate that's about 25 miles from where I was standing when I took this shot. Rame Head in Cornwall is the ridge to the right.
The wayside Urgles Cross on the edge of Wigford Down. I couldn't find a reliable estimate of its age but, from what I can gather, what is there now is an early 20th Century reproduction of the long lost original waymark.
Joy of joys. We came back to a car with a flat battery. Not a disaster as it was sorted out by the RAC within an hour. That's not the RAC man poking under the bonnet. That's Kim, affecting a level of mechanical knowledge he admits he does not possess.

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