The weather forecast was ‘rather windy again with scattered blustery showers, some heavy, some sunny spells between’ but that didn’t deter 15 club members from venturing out on this eight-mile walk.  

Their route started from the National Trust, Lydford Gorge (south entrance) car park. The previous landmark of the ‘Mucky Duck Inn’ has now been converted into six luxury houses.

The walkers climbed over Black Down and up to the summit of Gibbet Hill, where there had been a prehistoric barrow, and still is a trig point.  Gibbet Hill was also called Gallows Hill. 

What is now the A386 has always been a busy route carrying horse-drawn coaches, wagons, riders and pedestrians and was the supposed haunt of several highwaymen such as Captain Jack and Dick Rawley, who was the last highwayman to be hanged on Gibbet Hill.  Although not known as a beacon, in 1897 Gibbet Hill was one of the chain of fires lit to commemorate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee.  

The group passed Wheal Betsy mine, also known as Prince Arthur or North Wheal Friendship, which opened about 1740 and produced lead, copper, arsenic and silver.  Some of its output was transported along the Tavistock Canal to Morwellham Quay on the River Tamar.  

Climbing out over moorland again, one of the forecast heavy showers arrived as their route crossed Kingsett Down, towards the site of Wheal Jewell mine, which was worked for tin in 1796.  The deepest shafts were nearby on Horndon Down. The mine was abandoned in 1797 but has been subsequently worked on various occasions, for the last time in 1924.  The reservoir, fed by Mine Leat, was built in 1932 as part of a hydro-electric scheme.

The walkers then walked along a narrow lane crossing Willsworthy bridge, where they looked for, but were unable to find, a promised Bench Mark.  However, several War Department boundary posts were seen along their route, marking the edge of Willsworthy range.  

Turning off the lane, the group joined the Lych Way, also known as Lichway, Way of the Dead, Coffin Path or Corpse Way.  This path was trodden for centuries by people carrying their dead to Lydford for burial.  The path is narrow and difficult under foot now, so carrying a body on a packhorse, or pony and trap, or even carrying a coffin by hand, must have been quite a feat. 

Walking out onto open moor again, the group crossed both mine leat and Wheal Jewell leat.  Another of the forecast heavy showers occurred on this exposed section, but there had been dry, warm, windy spells between, which dried everyone out.  Then they walked back over Black Down to Lydford, where some of the club members enjoyed welcome tea and biscuits at the National Trust cafe.

New walkers are always welcome at Okehampton Rambling Club.  Please be suitably attired for all weather conditions, including sturdy footwear, and bring drinks and a packed lunch.  They meet at the post office in George Street, Okehampton on Sundays, ready to leave at 9.30am.  

They share cars so please be there in plenty of time so the group can leave promptly.  Car drivers with spare seats are encouraged to meet at the post office to offer lifts to non-drivers.  If you would like to bring your dog, please contact the leader of the walk to check that the route is suitable.  Next week’s walk is at Fernworthy.