Flowing from the slopes of Eylesbarrow to a confluence with the West Dart – a distance no more than 4 miles – The short yet fascinating Swincombe river takes in many more features and far more history than its diminutive size would suggest.
It was the lower part of this river valley that I headed to on my most recent Dartmoor Letterboxing adventure. I started at the estate of Sherberton Farm. One of Dartmoor's oldest such properties. The weather was incredible; bright blue skies, not even the slightest hint of wind. I had the moor to myself, and perhaps this was due to the low temperature. All pools and bogs were frozen solid, with patches of snow visible on some higher slopes. I set off for Deep Swincombe. A fabulous combe off the river valley. Its steep sided and rocky, chocked full of tinners huts, workings and, so it transpired – snow. Letterboxes found required defrosting, or a thump to release it from an icy grip in the ground.
As I continued upstream, the concrete and brick structure of the Swincombe Intake Works came into view. Built in the early 20th century to provide water to Torbay, it was subject to a controversial planning application to extend it in the early 1980s, but alas it was refused, and the area now lies in private hands.
The track up to the works makes for a solid and easy route back to the car. Close to the Sherberton Estate, where a bridleway crosses the Swincombe river, the Fairy Bridge would normally be found. A bridge was originally installed here to aid mine workers cross the unpredictable river, where a ford already existed. Over the years the wooden structure had been replaced on more than one occasion. However, the National Park Authority removed the bridge last Autumn. A victim of last February's storms, the footbridge was condemned, and funding for a replacement is being sought.
I approached the car. The clouds were building, the ice was melting, and sensation in my extremities was recovering. I could reflect on a highly successful day. 9 boxes found.