River Taw, Belstone, Dartmoor National Park

River Taw, Belstone, Dartmoor National Park

For anyone who loves the poetry of Ted Hughes, the River Taw should be a very special place. Near Taw Head, where the river rises, is a simple granite memorial stone to the Poet Laureate. Sunk into a mound on the west bank of the river, a visit to the memorial stone on a walk from Belstone is a great way to explore the Dartmoor section of this river.

The Taw is one of Devon's great rivers. It rises on Dartmoor's north plateau by the headwaters of the East Dart and West Okement. Hangingstone Hill is nearby. It's a remote, boggy area where you'll find the famous Dartmoor landmark Cranmere Pool.

From the headwaters, the River Taw flows south past the Ted Hughes Memorial Stone. It crosses Okement Hill ford on the Army ring road and then flows to the mouth of Steeperton Gorge. It crosses another ford by Knack Mine in the shadow of Steeperton Tor before tumbling through the gorge.

At the southern end of the gorge, it meets the boggy Taw Plain where it meanders to another ford below Higher Tor and Cosdon Hill.

Below the village Belstone, the River Taw bends east into the stunning Belstone Cleave and Skaigh Woods. There are footbridges at the western end of Belstone Cleave, by Ivy Tor, below Skaigh and down at the National Trust's Finch Foundry in Sticklepath.

At Sticklepath, the River Taw arcs north and leaves the National Park under the A30.

You can pretty much walk the course of the River Taw from high moor down to the National Park boundary. To do this, follow the Army ring road to Hangingstone Hill. Bog hop west to Taw Head. Follow the west side past the Ted Hughes Memorial Stone. You come to the Army ring road.

Walk this road to the ford at the mouth of Steeperton Gorge (you'll have to cross Okement Hill ford to which we referred above as well). Walk the west side of the river in the gorge and along the upper section of Taw Plain.

Connect with the Army road and follow it all the way down to Belstone. From there, take the Tarka Trail into Belstone Cleave and Skaigh Woods. The very last stretch of the River Taw between Sticklepath and the National Trust boundary is on private land.

Note that you can walk east of the River Taw along Taw Plain and north of the river in Belstone Cleave and Skaigh Woods. As ever, consult the Ordnance Survey Explorer OL28 'Dartmoor' map for detail. We wouldn't recommend walking the River Taw after a spell of wet weather as the terrain will be very boggy and fords on Okement Hill and at the mouth of Steeperton Gorge impassable.