The Rangers Leigham Leap

Rangers from the Plym Valley celebrated the recent Leap day by taking a ‘Local Leap’ with their local primary school. Using their time to volunteer for the Leigham School community, they helped out with a number of projects designed to help the children enjoy their outdoor environment.

Rangers, teachers and pupils spent the afternoon carving chairs, cutting stepping stones and creating den spaces within the school grounds. There was even time to help one of the school governers with benches for the school’s outdoor stage!

Can you guess what it is?

On entering the National Trust car park for the Dewerstone at Shaugh Bridge, you are confronted by a large stone building nestled in the hill side. For those you who aren’t aware of its past, this archaeological feature can turn your thoughts into an episode of “Time Team”, giving rise to questions like what, when and why? Further clues of its function, including a ceramic pipeline, a number of stone structures and spoil heaps, can be found along the south eastern side of the river Plym, between Cadover and Shaugh Bridge.

This network of infrastructure represents what was once a thriving China Clay Industry in south west Dartmoor, operating from around the 1870’s to the 1950’s. Starting further up the river Plym close to Cadover Bridge, china clay was extracted from pits at Shaugh Lake and Wigford down. The resulting clay suspension was then fed by pipeline down to a mica drag close to the village of Shaugh Prior. Here any sand particles were removed before the remaining clay slurry was piped down to settling tanks at Shaugh Bridge. The water was drained off and the china clay dried in the pan kiln, before being cut into blocks and transported up to Shaugh Bridge platform on the Tavistock to Plymouth railway line.

 

From the car park you can clearly see the loading bays at the front of the building, where blocks of clay were loaded onto carts. The pan kiln was situated on the level above these, with the large settling tanks located above the kiln. The steps on the right hand side of the building will lead you onto a footpath to Cadover Bridge, and offer you a chance to explore the upper levels of the china clay works.

 

Efforts to preserve such archaeological features are a regular occurrence in the Plym Valley Ranger’s annual calendar of work. Recently for example, a group of 26 student volunteers from the University of Plymouth, including members of the Student Union’s Musical Theatre Group and the Environmental Society, assisted with scrub clearance and vegetation removal from the mica drag near Shaugh Prior. A large pile of garden waste close by was also cleared thanks to their efforts.

 

Student volunteers clearing scrub in a highly efficient manner.

Student volunteers from the University of Plymouth inside the cleared mica drag.

 

Throughout the year we hold a number of archaeological guided walks in the Plym Valley, including some taking in the Shaugh Bridge China Clay Works. If you would like to know more please ring the Ranger team on 01752 341377.

 

To reach the site…

 

By Bike: Use National Cycle Network Route 27 from Plymouth. Leave the route at Shaugh Bridge platform on the right (SX 527 636). Follow the short stretch of road down to the small t-junction and turn left. Follow this road round to Shaugh Bridge. The NT car park is on the left immediately after the bridge over the River Plym.  Visit www.sustrans.org.uk or www.devon.gov.uk/cycling

 

By Bus: Target Travel Bus Route 59 stops right outside the NT car park at Shaugh Bridge. Buses run seven times a day, Monday to Saturday, between Plymouth, Plympton, Sparkwell, Bickleigh and Plymouth’s George P&R. Bus times available at www.transportdirect.info or http://targettravel.co.uk/59-plympton.html.

 

By Car: From the A38, exit at Manadon Junction and take the A386 towards Tavistock. At Bickleigh Cross (immediately after the Belliver Roundabout), turn right onto New Road (signposted Bickleigh, Shaugh Prior). Continue on this road through the village of Bickleigh and after passing the barracks, take the next left signposted Shaugh Prior, Wotter and Lee Moor. Follow this road for a couple of miles round to Shaugh Bridge. The NT car park is on the left immediately after the bridge over the River Plym.

 

Did you know….?

 

Did you know that the National Trust on Dartmoor now looks after West Down? This area of open moorland and mixed woodland lies adjacent to the village of Shaugh Prior, and was acquired by the Trust just over a year ago. Stunning views can be taken in from the highest point, including that of the Dewerstone and the Plym Valley all the way down to the City of Plymouth. There is great potential for the area to be managed for a variety of our native flora and fauna, including some rare Fritillary butterflies.

A view of the Dewerstone from West Down

You can reach West Down from Cadover Bridge by walking down river along the pipe track and through North Wood. Alternatively, you can come up from Shaugh Bridge, following the footpath that heads up behind the china clay kiln adjacent to the car park.

Long Term Volunteer Jonathan Noades with the new sign he and the team recently erected on the West Down border with North Wood.

 

Students escape a warm library for an afternoon in the rain….!

Last Wednesday (9th November) afternoon, students from the University of Plymouth braved the continuous down pour of rain, to help the Plym Valley ranger team remove fly tipping and garden waste around the boundaries of Plymbridge Woods. Such refuse poses a threat to the natural balance of the woodland, with garden waste in particular likely to introduce non-native invasive plant species.

The student volunteers worked enthusiastically to help complete the work, despite the weather. The dumped material was collected and taken back to Plym Valley HQ, where a fire was burning ready for the garden waste, as well as a highly earned cup of tea and biscuits for those involved.

Students from the university are becoming more and more involved with the management of the Plym Valley estate. Many have undertaken research projects on site, which in turn have deepened the management team’s understanding on subjects ranging from peatlands to bats. For the last three summers, some have undertaken an 8 week work placement on site and more recently, have assisted with fund raising events such as the Halloween trail. In connection with the volunteering department at the university’s students’ union, it is hoped that we will have a helping hand from students at least once a month, with the practical management of the property.

The River Plym: Source to Saltram

Last Saturday,  Rangers  from the Plym Valley led a guided walk down the River Plym as part of the National Trust’s first ever nationwide Walking Festival which is running from the 22 – 30 October.

 

 

The Plym Valley walk covered 16 miles from its source at Plym Head all the way to Saltram House. Included along the way were stops at Cadover Bridge, Shaugh Bridge and Plym Bridge which encouraged those people looking for a shorter walk to join in.

Checkpoint at Cadover Bridge

In total, 16 people joined the event at various points with the intrepid 7 starting the walk at 8am, being rewarded with an impressive sunrise! Weather conditions for the day were excellent and ground conditions for Dartmoor in late October were surprisingly dry.

On the way to Plym Bridge

 

The finish at Saltram House was reached at 3 o’clock with a much welcomed tea or coffee (and biscuits!). A thoroughly enjoyable day was had by all with several also expressing an interest to do it all again next year!

 

Cornwood Show

The Plym Valley team had a great day out at the Cornwood show on Saturday.  After a damp start because of a mighty deluge of rain the sun came out and dried us all off for a warm afternoon.  The visitors to our stand enjoyed the challenge of riding the virtual bike, in fact our senior ranger Pete encouraged 80 people to try to outride each other with the fastest time posted at 1.02.  The children enjoyed making clay bugs with Jonny one of our long term volunteers and designing their own badges with ranger Beth.  Takings were good at the shop as well thanks to the enthiusiasm of Sarah the retail manager from Lydford Gorge and her volunteer Joan.  Jeff was with us too, talking to visitors about the benefits of becoming a National Trust member.  But of course the star of our stand was Bella the VW camper, everyone wanted to take her home and many had their photo taken with her.  She really is a great attraction to all ages and a colourful addition to any event.