Last Saturday we went to Lydford Gorge just outside of Okehampton. I had wanted to go there for a while but decided to wait until the spring when all the footpaths are fully open. Saying that, when we arrived we were advised that part of one path (under the road bridge after the Devil’s Cauldron) was closed due to a tree fall.
I’m not sure what we thought we would see, we knew there was a waterfall and a few steep climbs, but it far surpassed our expectations.
The route around the gorge is one way for safety reasons but more on that later. We started on the upper path with views through the trees down to the river below.
There were a lot of steps here and we found parts of the ground underfoot quite slippery. As with many places on Dartmoor, water seemed to seep from every crevice and many trees were green and moss covered.
There were several steams which crossed the path and lots of evidence of fallen trees – the aftermath of a very stormy winter.
As we reached the half-way point we began to hear the roar of the White Lady waterfall.
After crossing a wooden bridge we had two route options to choose from to get down the gorge; long & easy or short & steep. Obviously we went for short & steep! This turned out to be a zigzag path that resembled a queuing rail at a theme park. We caught little glimpses of the waterfall on the way down but it only came into full view when we emerged out of the trees at the bottom.
The path underfoot became super interesting from here on in! The bank was mostly rock, which rose and fell as it followed the contours of the river. At times there were steps with iron hand rails on one side and a drop to the water below on the other! The narrow path on this section would make passing people coming in the other direction quite dangerous and we really began to understand why it was one way.
We then reached the Tunnel Falls – a series of large potholes caused by erosion. The path here became a wooden walkway.
After more scrambling, through a tunnel and up and down more hair-raising steps you emerge in a lovely flat ‘rest area’. The water here is calm and the path is flat and easy. We soon realised that we didn’t have much time for a rest though. Immediately up ahead was the Devil’s Cauldron. The gorge narrows and the walls run wild with green moss.
The first part of the path to the Cauldron is metal and fenced in on the gorge side but after passing through a tiny gate you are on your own! The steps down are under a jutting out rock which has a handrail on one side and nothing but fresh air on the other. The noise is much more intense here and the air becomes wet and misty. The Devil’s Cauldron itself is a very large pool into which the river forcefully flows. The water here has the appearance of boiling which is probably what inspired the name!
We carefully climbed back up and came out near the high road bridge.
Due to the closure of this section we made our way back to the car park, stopping at the visitor centre to buy another book of local walks on the way.
We both really enjoyed this varied and interesting walk and will no doubt be spending much time here in the future.