What better way to enjoy a sunny bank holiday Monday than to go for a good explore on Dartmoor.
Meldon Reservoir gave me everything from a hike that I would want. Sunshine, rivers, a beautiful valley and a huge dam. Sunday night, out came the Dartmoor map, and an hour-long discussion of places Joe and I wanted to visit began. Eventually, we settled on Meldon Reservoir, with the idea to head over to Yes Tor.
Monday morning we kitted ourselves out with extra water bottles, suncream and swimwear we headed out to find a new reservoir to look at. The journey was around an hour from Exeter along the A30, just the other side of Okehampton. It is signposted so far along, however, if you are coming from Exeter you cannot get off at the junction you need so will need to go to the next junction and come back.
Weather: Hot and sunny, not much cloud cover at all.
Terrain: Footpaths, moorland tracks and some tarmac road in the route at the start.
Interesting Sights: Meldon Reservoir & dam, Yes Tor and in the distance you can see the Meldon viaduct.
Note: If you continue up towards Yes Tor be aware that it is on a military training ground and there are some days where you cannot walk across due to training.
The Hot Hill Struggle
I was expecting the place to be busy but not as busy as it was. The car park was pretty much full, but squeezed our little car on the end of a row and headed off. The reservoir sits at around 900ft above sea level and is a beautiful sight to look at. On either side of Meldon Reservoir sits sloping hillsides that frame the water below. The path leads down the dam and you walk over the dam to reach the footpaths the other side. There is a great view down into the valley below from the top of the dam which was full of gorse bushes in full yellow bloom.
Once crossing the dam our route took us left alongside the reservoir then round and up towards Yes Tor via Longstone Hill. The track that ran up this hill was steeper and longer than we thought. It was also in the full force of the sun so the walk to the top become tough. Eventually, we made it (pretty much) to the top of Longstone Hill, the view was lovely, the reservoir below then open moorland with tors perched on the top of various mounds.
Spotting Yes Tor and seeing the route up to the tor a decision was made. It was getting too hot and is very fair skinned both Joe and I burn quickly in the sun. It had been a struggle to get up Longstone hill already and it was pushing it to continue on. So we started back down the hill and veered off following a footpath towards the valley.
A Wild Cooling Off
We were not disappointed as we headed into the valley, running along the bottom was a river that had loads of small waterfalls and pools along it. Just perfect wild swimming territory. So we found a small spot with a little shade, pulled on our swimwear and stepped into the water. Yep, it was freezing! It also was more of a wild dip than a swim as it was quite shallow, but exactly what we needed to cool off from the hard walk up the hill.
I think we spent an hour just chilling in the water. Only seeing a few other people walk past along the footpaths, then a few kids walking past in swim gear looking for another spot further up the river. Except for that, it was all peaceful and secluded. I think going back on a non-bank holiday day and you wouldn’t see anyone.
After pulling back on our hiking boots we started walking along the riverbank back towards Meldon Reservoir. The further downstream we got the more families we’re enjoying paddling in the water and having picnics. We followed the footpath around all the families back over the river and further into the valley.
Lost In A Wonderland
Following the dam in the distance, the next bit of this hike was just beautiful. Full of trees, flowering gorse bushes and the water flowing peacefully, it was like getting lost in another little world. It was nice as it wasn’t too hot down in the valley. If you looked carefully hidden under the bushes were sheep sleeping and sheltering from the heat. Parts of this path were boggy underfoot as al the rain filters down to the bottom of the valley so be aware of the puddles!
The closer we got to the end of the footpath the bigger the dam grew, we headed up the steps to the side of the dam and back to the top. Then it was just the easy stroll back across the dam and over to the car park.
A Hiking Message To Myself
Not only was Meldon Reservoir a new spot to discover, I learnt when to accept that it was not the right time to continue. Heading up Longstone Hill was a challenge and I always try to push myself to achieve my challenges. However, I had to accept that it wasn’t too hot and affecting our health by pushing onto Yes Tor.
That decision brought me to something even more exciting my first go at outdoor swimming (well paddling/dip). Now, this is something I want to do more of! If you know of any swimming spots on Dartmoor, please feel free to share them with me.
Next time I will reach Yes Tor and admire the reservoir from yet another viewpoint.
My Other Dartmoor Adventures:
See you next time and happy adventuring!
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