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Nun's Cross Path

Accessible wildness

Dartmoor’s reputation for wildness is well deserved – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle immortalised its beauty and mystery in the Sherlock Holmes novels. Yet it is easily accessible from most of the South West of England, with major population centres like Plymouth and Exeter just a short drive away, and easy transport to links to London and beyond. Britain’s ‘most southerly wilderness’ sees around four million visitor days per year.

The Princetown-Burrator Loop is a circular route that leaves Princetown and immediately plunges into open moorland with all the desolate grandeur that Dartmoor offers on show.

The problem

Winter storms in 2014 destroyed several miles worth of trail on the route. Combined with erosion damage along these sections and others, this has meant the workload to repair the route has increased exponentially. The route is used by something like 30,000 walkers and 10,000 mountain bikers every year – that’s quite a lot of erosion.

Work is done in phases and the current phase will see the repairs extended to Eylesbarrow Reservoir, completing the circle and fully restoring this brilliant route. Although the first four kilometres of the section in question have already been done, the next four kilometres still remain, and as the most remote section of the route, are by far the hardest to repair.

The work

Sympathetic path repair takes time, energy and resources. Here in Dartmoor, experienced rangers and contractors will build cross drains to ensure that in heavy rain the path is not washed away or damaged. Proper drainage will also stop the ground nearby from becoming waterlogged. The path will be resurfaced using locally sourced materials to provide a durable surface, and at the same time erosion scars and associated damage will be cleaned up and restored.

Once complete, this will provide a high quality, sustainable and resilient route enabling a 12 mile (20 kilometre) circuit for walking and off road cycling from Princetown, boosting tourism and the local economy, as well as providing a high quality experience across remote moorland.