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Wistlandpound Reservoir Trail

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Wistlandpound Reservoir Trail
Author: Claire, Published: 28 May 2017 Walk Rating:star1 Wistlandpound Reservoir Trail Walking Guide star1 Wistlandpound Reservoir Trail Walking Guide star1 Wistlandpound Reservoir Trail Walking Guide star1 Wistlandpound Reservoir Trail Walking Guide star0 Wistlandpound Reservoir Trail Walking Guide
Devon, Exmoor
Walk Type: River or lakeside
Wistlandpound Reservoir Trail
Length: 2 miles,  Difficulty: boot Wistlandpound Reservoir Trail Walking Guide
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A 1.5 mile circular easy-access walk around Wistlandpound Reservoir, on the edge of Exmoor in Devon. The route takes you on a beautiful waterside journey, through pretty sections of woodland and through open sections with far-reaching views. There is plenty of wildlife to discover, including lots of birds that you can enjoy from a purpose-built hide. There are several picnic tables around the trail, ideal for extending your visit in summer.

The route follows a wide, compacted stone path for its entire length, with just a few gentle or moderate gradients. There are no stiles, steps or kissing gates on route, just a few single wooden gates, meaning the route is suitable for pushchairs and disability buggies. Dogs are welcome on the reservoir trail, but you are asked to keep them on a lead. Two dog waste bins are provided. There are some side paths into the woodlands where dogs can be given a run off-lead. Allow 1 hour.

Wistlandpound reservoir is located on the edge of Exmoor in Devon, near Blackmoor Gate. There is a brown tourism sign to direct you from the A399 (just south of its junction with the A39). Having turned off the A399, follow the narrow road heading south. Ignore the first car park on your left (this is for the Calvert Trust discovery and activity centre) and continue to reach the next brown sign. Turn left here (passing a sheep pasture on your left) and then turn left again (signed for the parking and trails). You will come to the parking area on your right. The parking fee is £1 for 2 hours or £2 all day (correct May 2017), with funds going towards managing the trails. Nearest post code EX31 4SL.

Walk Sections

Start to Pontoon
Start to Pontoon

Start point: 51.1569 lat, -3.9445 long
End point: 51.161 lat, -3.9393 long

From the parking area, cross over the access road and go through the bridle gate to enter the reservoir site. Keep ahead for a few paces to reach a fork in the path, with a large information board to your right. This trail follows the inner path, where dogs need to be on leads, however you can fork left here onto the outer trail, should you wish to give your dog a run off-lead before you set off. For the main walk, take the right-hand branch (the inner path). Follow this into the trees with glimpses of the reservoir across to your right.

Wistlandpound Reservoir is managed by South West Water and supplies drinking water for Barnstaple, Combe Martin, Ilfracombe and the surrounding areas. Completed in 1957, it is 22 metres deep in the middle and holds 1550 litres when it is full, about the same as 620 Olympic-size swimming pools.

Stay with the compacted stone path which meanders ahead for a while before performing two hairpin bends (right and then left) to descend gently. The path swings right once again to reach two picnic benches alongside the boat pontoon on the northern banks of the reservoir.

Pontoon to Bird Hide
Pontoon to Bird Hide

Start point: 51.161 lat, -3.9393 long
End point: 51.1591 lat, -3.9343 long

Keep ahead along the path, still with the water to your right. Further along you will pass a hexagonal shelter just to your left, decorated with carved animals including a flapping duck sitting right on the top. This is part of the facilities for the Calvert Trust activity centre, which offers activities for people with disabilities and their families. Ignore the sharp left turn here, instead keep straight ahead on the main stone path.

The path leads you between two concrete walls, a bridge that crosses an inlet stream that feeds the reservoir. Soon after this bridge you will come to a junction of paths, take the right-hand branch.

Stay with the path, winding around the reservoir edge and then crossing a raised boardwalk and footbridge, over another of the reservoir’s inlet streams. Soon afterwards, you will come to a bird hide on your right. This is the ideal spot to pause and enjoy the birdlife on the water. Regular winter visitors include wigeon and teal, while summer visitors include swallows and spotted flycatchers.

Bird Hide to End
Bird Hide to End

Start point: 51.1591 lat, -3.9343 long
End point: 51.1571 lat, -3.9444 long

Keep ahead and, along this next stretch, you will pass a bench and railway sleepers on your right. These commemorate the original Lynton and Barnstaple Railway, a narrow-gauge railway that ran through Exmoor. The last train ran in 1935 and much of the track was removed and recycled. When the reservoir was built, it flooded the remains of the track here. Parts of the route were reopened as a heritage steam railway for tourists in 2004 and plans are underway to extend the heritage route even further, including a new station at Wistlandpound Reservoir.

Eventually the path approaches a fence ahead, where it swings sharp right to pass through a wooden gate, emerging onto the dam wall. Go straight ahead to cross the dam wall, taking time to enjoy the views across the reservoir to your right and the valley to your left. At the far side of the wall, continue along the access road which leads you directly to the parking area where the walk began.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2017 by iFootpath and the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.


The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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