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This walk: 2019-9-30. Bedford Bridge (aka Magpie Bridge), River Walkham, West Devon Brick Works, Wheal Franco Mine, buddleia, disused leat, (Little) Gem Mine / West Devon Consols Mine / Devon Poldice Mine, Dartmoor Way, Gem Bridge (site of former Grenofen Viaduct), Tavistock & South Devon Railway 1859, old building, buddles, fish ladder, Grenofen Bridge, Lady Bertha Mine leat, Walkham United Mine, The Sticklepath, Gem Cottage.

Walk details below - Information about the route etc.

Previous walks in this area:  12 January 2011,  (16 November 2011), 6 June 2012 24 September 2014 29 July 2015 27 January 2016 

Reconnaissance walks:  30 Sept. 2019  (5.26 km)

Google Satellite map + GPS track of the walk 


 Some old 25-inch OS maps - in relative "table" form i.e. the maps are contiguous (join onto each other) - colour
(1882) 1884
Grenofen Bridge
Walkham United Mine (Copper)
Elvan Quarry and building
Best old mine details - colour
(1882) 1884
Walkham United Mine (Tin)
aka West Sortridge = Gem Mine
- both sides of river - top right corner
Gem Viaduct
Westdown Mine  (Copper) Chimney
Double Waters - Walkham flows into Tavy
Virtuous Lady Mine (Copper) - colour
(1883) 1885
See top left for ...
Bedford Bridge
West Devon Brick Works
Walkham Cottages
Magpie Viaduct
Leats - colour
(1882) 1892
Lady Bertha Mine (Copper) - top right corner
2.9 km (1.8 miles) from Grenofen Bridge, 221°
------- -------

25-inch Ordnance Survey zoomable map, 1888-1913, centred on Gem (Grenofen) Viaduct


Some information about the local mines is derived from Phil Newman (2011), Mining in the Tavy Valley, West Devon: An Assessment of Archaeological Potential (Sites 12, 14, 15 and 19, with mention of Sites 4, 16 and 21) and from the Devon & Dartmoor Historical Environment Records.


Bedford or Magpie Bridge over the River Walkham, built 1822. There was a tall white building to the right, which was the King's Arms in 1850 but Crossing knew it as The Magpie Inn. Nearby Magpie Mill produced violin strings.

The bridge was built in 1822 as part of the turnpike toll road from Plymouth to Tavistock. It declined after the railway opened in 1859 and toll houses at Horrabridge and Grenofen were sold in 1882. Source: Paul Rendell (1996), Exploring the Lower Walkham Valley, Forest Publishing, Newton Abbot, pp.26-27.

Devon & Dartmoor HER - MDV25923 - Mine in the Parish of Buckland Monachorum
"West Devon Works (disused)" near Bedford Bridge" - this refers to the brick works, not a mine!


The function of this structure is elusive! It has a removeable cover so it provides access to something. Also, the three bent-over ironworks suggest that they may have held a "crane" or "hoist" at some stage, for access to whatever is, or was, below?


Near Bedford Bridge, close to the old clay pit used by the West Devon Brick Works ..... the "dump" in this photograph may be "spoil" from the clay/brick works or the Wheal Franco copper mine (1823-1875). This also operated in this area, employing around 130 men and going down to 160 fathoms (960 feet) - see the old map link above, although it was mostly across the main road.  Between 1846-62, operating mainly from the new site on the east side of the main road, 10,333 tons of ore were raised at Wheal Franco, valued at £51,500. The sites were briefly re-opened during the early 1870s, but these later operations were apparently not attended by any great success.

Newman - Site 14 (page 36) - SX 5091 7010 - Wheal Franco (Sn); Wheal Franco Consols, Wheal Robert. Location: This is a large sett made up of a southern sett called Old Wheal Franco, on Roborough Down to the west of the Tavistock Road, and Wheal Franco to the north, bounded by the southern bank of the River Walkham. Either side of Bedford Bridge & main road. 


A multi-stemmed tree near the River Walkham.


Footway over a small stream, from up under Magpie Viaduct.


Buddleia davidii, Butterfly bush, beside the footbridge.


View from the footbridge, a stream running down to the River Walkham.


The path a little way removed from the river.


A junction in the track, the left-hand track leads up to Screw Bridge that crosses over the old railway - now a cycle track.


Having left the main track and crossing an old leat at SX 49986 70389, this is the view to the river.


This photograph shows part of the old leat (un-named?), south of the river and under the viaduct, as shown on the (1882) 1884 25-inch OS single sheet map. Across the river is the site of other mining activities .....

Devon & Dartmoor HER - MDV7379 - Mine in the Parish of Whitchurch
Gem Mine
"SX 494 706 -  A line of pits on west down are the result of past prospecting trials for Sortridge and Bedford mines. Gem mine, also called West Sortridge Consols, has left some completly ruinous and overgrown buildings. A tin mine, probably closing in the late 1870s; it lies on the east bank of the walkham viaduct, stone from which, after its demolition in 1965, was used for filling the deep mine shaft."

Newman - Site 19 (page 44) - SX 4948 7055 - Lucy' Shaft Walkham United Mine (Tin,disused); West Sortridge Consols, Walkham Valley, Little Gem.  Location: On the east bank of the River Walkham at Grenofen, almost opposite Devon Poldice (site 15) i.e Gem Mine (Sn).


The small gate almost under the Gem Bridge/Grenofen Viaduct that gives access to a footpath up to the old railway .....


Dartmoor Way.


Gem Bridge aka Grenofen Viaduct, the site of Brunel's old Walkham railway viaduct, now rebuilt for the cycle track. Officially opened on 22 May 2012, costing £2.1M, i.e. opened in time for Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee and to coincide with the Summer of Cycling. The previous bridge (rebuilt 1910 using iron girders) was demolished in the 1960's.  The new bridge was partly funded by a £600,000 EU grant with the aim to improve cycling links between UK and France. This cycle track runs from Ilfracombe, on the north Devon coast, to  Redon, in south Brittany. Brunel's bridge was 40 metres high and over 300 metres long. The new bridge is 24 metres high and 200 metres long.

Devon & Dartmoor HER - MDV117612 - Grenofen Viaduct, Buckland Monachorum
Also known as Gem Viaduct. Much useful detail.


South Devon & Tavistock Railway, 1859 - The viaducts were of the type classified as Continuous Laminated Beam. There were three longitudinal beams supporting the deck; these were in turn supported by the fans of four raking timbers springing from stone piers. On reconstruction the viaducts were built as stone arches. Now, that construction has been replaced.


Newman - Site 15 (page 38) - SX 4938 7052 - Walkham United Mine (Tin, disused); Devon Poldice (Cu, Sn, Pb), Walkham United, East Poldice, Old Poldice.  Location: Within Sticklepath Wood on the south bank of the River Walkham. Surface workings extend to the west up the moderate slopes of the valley. A dressing floor is at river level. Location: Just west of the line of the former Grenofen Viaduct. Gem Mine. My GPS location for this is SX 49486 70494.


A view of the river underneath the viaduct .....


A feature inside the old building ..... quite possibly a fireplace or could it have been a furnace? There are leats nearby and there might have been a water wjeel to drive stamps because there are four buddles near by, so they were used for sorting crushed tin ore?


Along the river bank are the sites of four buddles ..... there is a line of stones near the bottom edge of the photograph that may have been a straight retaining wall? These are located between SX 49458 70506 ("buddle 1") and SX 49430 70540 ("buddle 4").


A circle of staones are traceable in this photograph, outlining a circular buddle pit ..... two more beyond .....


A second buddle, a further pit is a possibility but it is smothered by vegetation.


Weir and fish ladder at SX 49091 70817; the weir was the headweir for the Lady Bertha Mine but is now dilapidated and was under water at this time following recent heavy rain. The fish ladder conisits of a series of boxes that fish can jump more easily one at a time than to jump the weir in flood.  An easy way to see this is to walk 170 metres (185 yards) upstream from Grenofen Bridge!


Behind the camera - Grenofen Bridge car park, the area of a mine .....

Devon & Dartmoor HER - MDV4070 - Walkham United Mine, Copper
Buckland Monachorum; Whitchurch "Site of 'Walkham United Mine (Copper, disused)' shown on OS 25" (1880s & 1906) maps with a small square building. A 'Shaft' is shown on the 1906 map. The mine is to the north of 'Walkham United Mine (Tin)'". The main mine area inside the river bend at Grenofen Bridge.

Newman - Site 12 (page 32) - SX 4897 7084 - Walkham United Mine (Copper, disused); Walkham and Poldice (Cu, Sn, Pb), Devon Poldice, Walkham United, Gem, (Huel) Wheal Walkham.  Location: At the foot of a steep slope on the south bank of River Walkham in Sticklepath Wood. The mine remains are on the sharp bend in the river opposite Grenofen.  Just over Grenofen Bridge and below Sticklepath. Also includes the Walkham United Mine (Copper, disused) area just south-east of the main river bend.

Devon & Dartmoor HER - MDV4720 - Mine in in the Parish of Buckland Monachorum, Whitchurch
Buckland Monachorum; Whitchurch - "At Poldice Mine, the wheel pit and the remains of some walls can be seen south of the River Walkham, near Grenofen Bridge. Further up the hillside, above the tip of rubble, an adit leads in to a shaft. Worked in the 1880's, small yields of lead, copper and tin were obtained. A tin mine, probably closing in the late 1870's, it lies on the east bank of the Walkham Valley close beside the site of the Walkham Viaduct, stone from which, after its demolition in 1965 was used for filling the deep mine shaft". Near the leat head weir.


A parapet of the road bridge over the Lady Bertha Mine leat - the leat is hidden by vegetation.


Other mines down the Walkham valley, below Grenofen Bridge



Ruins of a wall corner on The Sticklepath (="steep path"). This old road  is across from the entrance to the Grenofen Bridge car park. The climb is about 82 metres (270 feet) over a distance of 650 metres (710 yards) , which equates to a hill of 1 in 8, or 12% in steepness. I had to stop a few times! There is no wall shown on the old OS (1882) 1884 map (HERE).

Mike Brown (2001) Guide to Dartmoor, CD-ROM, Dartmoor Press, Grid Square 4900 7099:
"Here begins the steep path leading from Grenofen Bridge to Buckland Monachorum, known as the Sticklepath — “stickle” in this context means “steep”, as also used in the village of this name near Belstone (q.v. grid square 6494). An important thoroughfare in former times, linking the village of Buckland Monachorum with the main highway leading to Tavistock, in 1732 the Buckland parishioners contracted with Robert Fogwill for “three shillings per year for seven years for keeping Stikellpath hill in good repare the time to comence from Mickelmas last”"

The Sticklepath zig-zag old road is bare bedrock for the most part and ascends what I suspect is the unnamed dyke that is shown on the BGS Geology of Britain Viewer, described as .....

Permian - Felsite. Igneous Bedrock formed approximately 252 to 299 million years ago in the Permian Period. Local environment previously dominated by intrusions of silica-rich magma. Setting: intrusions of silica-rich magma. These igneous rocks are magmatic (intrusive) in origin. Rich in silica, they form intruded batholiths, plutons, dykes and sills.
Devonian - Tavy Formation - Slate. Sedimentary Bedrock formed approximately 359 to 383 million years ago in the Devonian Period. Local environment previously dominated by open seas with pelagite deposits. Setting: open seas with pelagite deposits. These sedimentary rocks are marine in origin (pelagic). They are detrital, comprising very-fine grained accumulated deposits of silica, carbonate or biogenic material, forming thinly laminated or structureless beds.

A common felsite is granite. As the exposed bedrock on The Sticklepath is a bluish colour, I surmise it is the slate.


The track back across the higher part of North Roborough Down, once known as Buckland Down. It was raining quite heavily at this stage.


Gem Cottage seen across the valley, off the road from Bedford Bridge up the hill to Grenofen - on the sharp bend.

Devon & Dartmoor HER - MDV7380 - Counting House in the Parish of Whitchurch
"SX 494 708  -  Gem Cottage was the former count house, where ore was weighed in the presence of the bailiff, who took due of one shilling for every ton of ore, he saw weighed from West Sortridge mine".

Tavistock Times Gazette, Weds. 27 January 2010Angela Rippon: "For many years I lived at Gem Cottage, Grenofen. The house was, I understand, the former mine captain's house for Gem Mine, remnants of which can still be found along the banks of the River Walkham, so naming this new bridge Gem Bridge is wholly appropriate."


The rest of the walk was a maze of paths in the bracken followed by a hazardous steep descent into the valley above Magpie Viaduct.  In heavy rain, on narrow sheep trails!


Walk details

MAP: Red = GPS satellite track of the walk.

© Crown copyright 2016  Ordnance Survey Licence number 100047373
Also, Copyright © 2005, Memory-Map Europe, with permission.


The car park is marked by the the  P  symbol and the yellow cross on the map at the bottom of the hill, approaching from Yelverton it is on the LEFT, after going through Horrabridge, before crossing the bridge over the River Walkham. Coming from Tavistock, the car park is on the RIGHT, immediately after crossing the bridge over the River Walkham.

Distance - 5.26 km / 3.27 miles


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