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DPA Devonport Leat Project

Date tag: 2011-2-4

History: Devonport Leat runs from three take-off points on the Blackabrook, Cowsic and West Dart rivers north of Two Bridges. Devonport was known as Plymouth Dock (being a separate town from Plymouth) until 1824. The Plymouth Dock Water Works Act received Royal Assent on 17 Dec. 1792, establishing the Plymouth Water Works Company, which had 25,000 capital. A shareholder, Mr. Thomas Gray, Exeter, was awarded the contract on 24 July 1793 to build the leat. It was to supply Devonport and Stonehouse: Plymouth already had the 17-mile long Plymouth (Drake's) Leat, built in 1591.

It seems water was flowing along the leat by 1797 but the works were not completed until 1801. The leat terminated in a small reservoir in Devonport Park, Moricetown, close to Granby Street, about to mile from the Torpoint ferry crossing. Originally, it ran 27 miles but today it runs about 15 miles to Burrator/Dousland. Sources: Water Supply to Plymouth Dock / Devonport (from the now defunct Plymouth Data web site) and Eric Hemery (1986), Walking the Dartmoor Waterways, David & Charles, pages 9-33.

DPA responsibility is to clear the leat from the northern end where it emerges from under the A386 Yelverton-Plymouth road
down to where it enters the next tunnel: a distance of 2.0 km (1.24 miles) or 2182 yards
- although we will start from the tunnel (i.e. Clearbrook) exit end.

The thick red line on the map below is a GPS track of a walk along the leat, from the Yelverton end.
Black sections show gorse and woodland on the golf course (check the "golf wood" labels).
Between the black sections on the map is an open section of leat (red, 150 yards?) that is cleared and forms part of the golf course.

There is a 200 metre scale bar on the map.

The "Helicopter" grid references are for emergency use in the project risk assessment, to be carried by the Project Co-ordinator on work days.

Dartmoor National Park Authority Press Release (8 March 2011)

Link to the starting area of the project (23 July 2011)

Journey through the leat tunnel (3 August 2011)

DPA web site, Devonport Leat conservation page (21 September 2011)

DPA blog with work day reports (21 September 2011)

Devonport Leat - before & after conservation work (2 October 2011)

Devon County Council - Historic Environment Record (Devonport Leat) (added 7 July 2012)



Ordnance Survey © Crown copyright 2005. All rights reserved. Licence number 100047373.
Also, Copyright © 2005, Memory-Map Europe, with permission.



The northern end, where the leat emerges from under the A386 - a lot of leaves to clear. The cricket club turn-off is in the background.


Near the above photograph - a side leat, possibly drainage from Harrowbeer air field - bracken, bramble and saplings.


Progressing along the leat, some brambles and small trees.


Quite an open area with some easy trees to remove.


As previous ..... plus brambles.


This section is very clean.


Then we meet the small road bridge over the leat by the car park (yellow cross on the map) .... next photo is from the other side .....


The small road bridge, showing a rhododendron growing in the leat. I have estimated at least 100 saw cuts to this point.


The other side of the bridge ..... mostly bramble, bracken and leaves to remove


Further along ...... clear 2 metres each side?


Several hawthorn trees to come out - which we are now quite expert at.


Not too bad here, a few small trees to remove.


Taken in the leat, wide and shallow at this point, approaching a "road" bridge where the golf course is on the right
(has been for a long time, visible through the brush), at the "Growth STARTS" label on the map.


Another view of the bridge with the golf course visible behind the trees at the right side of this photograph .....


As the previous photo, golf course on the right side, there is a run of dense gorse and hawthorn going into the golf course.
This area will be reserved for "Corporate days".


The end of the tarmac road. Through the gate is the cycle path, the "last house" (on the map) is down on the left, as is Plymouth Leat aka Drake's Leat. Off to the right of this photo is our leat .....


This is the Plymouth (Drake's) Leat, this being left of the gates in the previous photo.


The southern limit of our allotted length, except for the tunnel roof - being kept until Autumn/poor weather. The multi-stemmed hawthorn above the tunnel entrance will be our first tree.
There is a large bramble area towards the far end of the tunnel - plenty of brush cutter opportunity.


At this point there is a clearing where material might be burned, seen across the leat.
Contrary to an earlier caption here, we can burn on the edge of the golf course.


The stretch beyond the tunnel entrance .... the trees above the entrance could be doing some damage to the tunnel
but they need to come down either to the left or the right and not fall along the tunnel axis.


Inside the tunnel entrance - no obvious sign of root damage


Above the tunnel - easy for DPA - although there is a large bramble patch in the distance.


In need of brush-cutters here, about 80-yards-worth ....


The tunnel exit, 200 metres from the entrance. This is where Tavistock Taskforce have already started but since this photo was taken everything in the leat has been removed. They have now cleared at least 300 metres of the leat.


Another view, looking into this end of the tunnel .....


And, inside.


This 150 metre stretch is already cleared by Tavistock Task Force ..... the trees are gone now (this photo is out of date).


Stumps cut almost flush with the ground - apologies for the boots - they show the scale.


Ditto, this was a large tree ....


Ditto .....


Ditto ......


Felled trees "lost" in the undergowth.


End of the section of leat cleared by Tavistock Taskforce
(this is out of date, they have done a lot more now).


This was obviously a large multi-stemmed tree. We have a few of these on our stretch.


Some felled material is stacked here near the Plymouth leat. I have seen this inside Burrator Reservoir grounds.
We will be doing quite a lot of this in order to "lose" or hide our trimmings as there will be no bonfires in the wood.
Big timber will be left near Devonport Leat as loggable wood for wood burners or open fires, to be scavenged by the residents
- and ourselves if we wish.


Link to the starting area of the project (23 July 2011)


All photographs on this web site are copyright ©2007-2016 Keith Ryan.
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