Diplets in Two Small Rivers
I intended to dip by Leather Tor Bridge, an elderly and very narrow granite crossing of the Meavy above Burrator. There has never been a road here, only a hard core track. It’s a beautiful, gentle valley where the rocks and trees are softened by mosses and ferns, and where potato caves, their walls luminous with troglodyte lichens, hide beneath banks and rocks. The local farmers were evicted in 1917 to allow for a purer catchment and the eventual deepening of Burrator reservoir. Then the Forestry Commission littered this productive valley area of tiny Newtakes, Devon banks, and fungus-clad beeches and oaks, with fast-growing non-native pines. Somehow in places the indigenous lushness breaks through the Forestry, like green satin knickers from beneath a witch’s black cloak. The land between Leather Tor and the river has recently been clear-felled and currently resembles Mount Washington post-pyroclastic flow. So no dip here today.
Honey and I climb over a stile downstream and pick and tunnel our way through the undergrowth and trees to a long and darkly mysterious pool. I find it’s littered with hidden black rocks and is mostly not deep enough to swim in. I navigate and propel myself upstream with my arms to the little waterfall, and lie back to let the river pass over me. The sound in this bongo-shaped haven is deep and resonant, and we’re cocooned by trees.
We scrabble out and walk down to Newleycombe Lake (in this part of Devon, a ‘lake’ is a stream). Here in the lower clearing wild yellow flag irises are coming into flower. Wending down the narrow falls, I perch on a comfortably mossy rock and listen to the bubbling tinkles and plinks and plops of the water as it worms around roots and rocks. Hemlock sprouts everywhere.