Devon days – Tavy Cleave

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08/08/2014 by Carl Reynolds

Nestled in bed overlooking the Avon south of Gara Bridge we wake to birdsong, the call of a buzzard, the wind rustling leaves and no other sound. If astronomers have Dark Sky locations around the UK where you can see the night sky without it being impinged by light pollution, then we are in its aural equivalent. Notwithstanding that in comparison to how it might have been a couple of thousand years ago, it is too quiet. For this ape in the 21st century AD, it is a rare privilege to be so ensconced.

We drive across the top of Dartmoor to Mary Tavy, passing tors, ancient settlements, quarries, a 19th century prison, and drop off through another narrow holloway to the abode of Lynne, aka Wildwomanswimming. After the usual swimmers’ faffage, we head up to the end of the lane and walk up to Hell’s Kitchen, a pool near the head of the Tavy in Tavy Cleave (cleave being derived from a Saxon word for cliff).

We walk, mostly, along a Leat. An old irrigation channel that follows the contours, delivering water to mills, farms and towns. We speculate on a swim down it. It’s about half a metre deep, so do-able, a mile or so long and would, I think, feel like a watery toboggan run. We vow to return.

And then up, and below three small tors Hell’s Kitchen – cool, exhilarating and giving us the opportunity, once again, to provide amusement to passing hikers. We don’t return to Lynne’s til past four and faced with a commute back and into Torbay, call and cancel our rendezvous with Sophie. Instead we meander back across the tops and stop to absorb the views, stones and muse on what life was like at the top of a hill.

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