White Wood, Holne, Dartmoor National Park

White Wood, Holne, Dartmoor National Park

[Main photo: White Wood (left), the River Dart and Meltor Wood (right) in the heart of the Dart Gorge near Mel Pool. View upriver to Rowbrook House]

 

The Dart Gorge

The Dart Gorge is one of the most remarkable and beautiful places in Dartmoor National Park. Cut by the River Dart, roughly speaking, the heavily wooded, steep-sided gorge runs from Dartmeet in the west to New Bridge in the east. After rain, the gorge walls amplify the sound of the River Dart. It’s an extraordinary experience.

On the north side of the River Dart, the Dart Valley Nature Reserve consists of woodland, tors and open moorland. There’s a lot more woodland coverage in reality than depicted on Ordnance Survey mapping. On the south side of the River Dart, there’s wild, chaotic woodland cloaking the steep and high gorge walls. This is where you’ll find White Wood. The wood extends up the gorge wall to a spur of land topped by Bench Tor. The views up top are amazing. Again, Ordnance Survey mapping doesn’t fully capture the woodland covering south of the river or the extent of regeneration in the wider area.

 

Location of White Wood

For the purposes of this site, we’ll take White Wood to mean the woodland between Venford Brook to the west and Sharrah Pool to the east as marked on Ordnance Survey mapping. On the ground, this is a big area in the heart of the Dart Gorge. The gorge walls are steep and high. Woods run west of Venford Brook but they’re not as dramatic. A good path and then track run east of Sharrah Pool to Holne Woods, New Bridge and then the super popular Spitchwick/Deeper Marsh.

The section of White Wood between Meltor Pool and Sharrah Pool is the most wild. There are no established paths and steep drops and plenty of landslides. The way is high above the River Dart between these two pools of water but you’ll see tracks descending to the edge of the river. A word of warning. Only explore this section of White Wood if you’re an experienced and confident walker, especially if you’re there in, say, autumn after a period of heavy rain. The stretch of gorge between Venford Brook and Meltor Pool is safer, the established path flatter and just as impressive.

We’ve positioned White Wood on Google maps. Zoom in on the ‘Satellite’ setting to see its location.

 

Directions to, and parking at, White Wood

The Dart Gorge is on the eastern side of Dartmoor near Ashburton. You can approach from many directions but we’d recommend heading to Ashburton and then following the road past River Dart Country Park and over Holne Bridge as marked on Ordnance Survey mapping. That road climbs and then splits. Drive right and you come to New Bridge. Drive left and you pass the village Holne on your way to Venford Reservoir. There are car parking areas on either side of the dam wall. We’d recommend starting from the car parking area east of Venford Reservoir when visiting for the first time.

If you’re heading from the heart of Dartmoor follow the B3357 from Two Bridges to Dartmeet. Take the right turning and drive over Hexworthy Bridge as marked on Ordnance Survey mapping and the road climbs steeply past the Forest Inn to Combestone Tor and then Venford Reservoir.

Car parking area east of Venford Reservoir. This car parking area is on the eastern side of Venford Reservoir’s dam wall. It’s also on the eastern side of Venford Brook. Paths and tracks run out to the spur of land on which the stunning Bench Tor sits.

Car parking area west of Venford Reservoir. This car parking area is on the western side of Venford Reservoir’s dam wall. It’s also on the western side of Venford Brook. Paths run down to the River Dart or west along the side of the moor. You can head up to Combestone Tor (and the south moor) and down to the stepping stones and River Dart at Dartmeet.

Combestone Tor car parking area. This smaller car parking area is by Combestone Tor just west of the Dart Gorge and White Wood.

New Bridge car park. This large, tarmac car park is by New Bridge that spans the River Dart. Head east and you’re at Spitchwick/Deeper Marsh. Follow the path, track and then path west and you walk through the glorious Holne Woods to Sharrah Pool and White Wood. Gets very tricky after that though (see below).

Dartmeet car park. There’s a large car park at Dartmeet. You can use the stepping stones to cross the river and then climb up to the Venford Reservoir area.

Holne village car park (out of tourist season). You can park at Holne near the village pub and then drop down on the Two Moors Way into Holne Woods. Follow the track and path west through the glorious Holne Woods to Sharrah Pool and White Wood. Gets very tricky after that though (see below).

Bel Tor Corner car park/Mel Tor car park (as part of long Dart Gorge circular walk). This car parking area is north of the River Dart and White Wood. Clearly, the river is a formidable barrier so only start from here if you want to complete a full circular walk of the Dart Gorge whilst taking in White Wood. It’s a big walk with lots of climbs.

 

Recommended route to White Wood for the first time

To visit for the first time, we’d recommend approaching from the car parking area on the eastern side of Venford Reservoir.

There’s a water works marked on Ordnance Survey mapping. This sits within metal fencing. Head for the corner of the metal fencing and you’ll see a worn path that takes you in the direction of Venford Brook. This path meets a good track that skirts the spur of land topped by Bench Tor. About half way up this track, you’ll see paths descending left to Venford Brook and White Wood. These lead you to the ‘secret’ Venford Waterfalls and then all the way down to the bottom of the gorge where Venford Brook meets the River Dart. There’s a super view here west to the trees that line the mouth of the Dart Gorge.

Follow the path east along the south bank of the River Dart to the Mel Pool area. You’ll see plenty of wild swimming spots. The views back upriver to the gorge walls and Rowbrook House are sensational.

There’s a large, flattish area of woodland in the Mel Pool area. It looks and feels as if you’re in a rainforest (yes, we have, in South America, Africa and Asia :-)). Unless you’re a confident, experienced walker, turn around and retrace your steps back to Venford Brook.

Alternatively, from the car parking area on the eastern side of Venford Reservoir head out to Bench Tor. The views of White Wood, Meltor Wood, the Dart Gorge and Dart Valley Nature Reserve are up there with the best in the national park. From Bench Tor, walk north west and you’ll pick up a path that descends through the oak woodland to the abovementioned track. Turn left, and walk to the paths that drop down to Venford Brook and the River Dart. Note that if you turn right on the track then you’re in the heart of White Wood. There’s no way down other than to crash through the undergrowth. It’s steep and wee but slippery so we’d recommend the other route down.

 

Other routes and directions to White Wood

As is the case with most natural attractions on Dartmoor, you can approach White Wood from multiple directions.

 

Routes and directions to White Wood from the west

Combestone Tor car parking area. Park at Combestone Tor for super views of the river valley and Dart Gorge with its surrounding tors. Head east across moorland to Venford Brook. If the water level is low you can cross the brook at the top near the water works or all the way down at the bottom.

Dartmeet car park. Start from the large car park at Badger’s Holt. Cross Dartmeet Bridge (you can walk the north bank but this takes you to Luckey Tor and then Meltor Wood) and you’ll see directions for stepping stones. These cross the West Dart River just before it meets the East Dart River to form the River Dart or Double Dart. Now yomp up the side of the moor on the path marked on Ordnance Survey mapping. Head across to Venford Brook and then White Wood.

 

Routes and directions to White Wood from the east

New Bridge car park. Park at New Bridge. Follow the path, track and then path west and you walk through the glorious Holne Woods to Sharrah Pool and White Wood. Gets very tricky after that though.

Holne village car park (out of tourist season). Drop down on the Two Moors Way into Holne Woods. Follow the track and path west through the glorious Holne Woods to Sharrah Pool and White Wood. Gets very tricky after that though.

 

Routes and directions to White Wood from the north

Bel Tor Corner car park/Mel Tor car park (as part of long Dart Gorge circular walk). This car parking area is north of the River Dart and White Wood. Only start here if you’re want to complete a big, circular walk that takes in White Wood. Either head west to Dartmeet or east to New Bridge.

There are remarkable views of White Wood and Bench Tor from Dr Blackall’s Drive.

 

Routes and directions to White Wood from the south

Car parking area west of Venford Reservoir. Follow the path down the west side of Venford Reservoir. If the water level is low you can cross the brook at the top near the water works or all the way down at the bottom.

 

Points of interest in White Wood

Bench Tor. This is collection of rocky outcrops on the spur of land that juts out into the Dart Gorge. One of the best tors on Dartmoor.

Venford Falls. People used to ask directions to these ‘secret falls’. They’ve become so popular that it’s now relatively easy to find them. Again, head for the corner of the metal fencing and you’ll see a worn path that takes you in the direction of Venford Brook. This path meets a good track that skirts the spur of land topped by Bench Tor. About half way up this track, you’ll see paths descending left to Venford Brook and White Wood. Paths lead off this to Venford Falls which are roughly half way up the valley. They’re small.

Meltor Pool. Extraordinary location in the heart of the Dart Gorge. Can’t recommend this general area highly enough. Be careful on the slippery rocks. Worth visiting after heavy rain although stay away from the water as it gets dangerous in those conditions.

Sharrah Pool. Very popular spot for more adventurous wild swimmers.

 

The views from White Wood

Above:

Bench Tor. The 360 degree view is awesome.

Dr Blackall’s Drive. This track on the north side of the Dart Gorge offers top views of White Wood and Bench Tor.

Other tors. The views from Mel Tor and Sharp Tor pop up regularly on social media.

Below:

Venford Brook. There’s a super view where Venford Brook meets the River Dart.

Mel Pool area. This is our favourite area for river views. Looking back up to the gorge wall and Rowbrook House is a treat.

Between Mel Pool and Sharrah Pool. This is the wild, chaotic section of the Dart Gorge with views to match.

 

Other woods in the local area

Holne Woods. These are the woods east of White Wood on the south side of the river.

Meltor Woods. These are the woods on the north side of the River Dart opposite White Wood.

Town Wood. This wood is downstream where the River Webburn meets the River Dart beyond Spitchwick/Deeper Marsh. Few people walk here. It’s wild.

Ausewell Wood. These woods are further east and have been open to the public for a relatively short time.

We’d also recommend the River Dart in Hembury Woods.

 

Nature Reserves in the local area

Dart Valley Nature Reserve. This is basically the land on the north side of the River Dart from White Wood.

Blackadon Nature Reserve. This reserve covers Town Wood, Blackadon Down and Blackadon Tor. Top views from up top. Chaotic, wild woodland down by the river.

 

Wild swimming in the River Dart at White Wood

Mel Pool. In the heart of the Dart Gorge.

Sharrah Pool. At the eastern end of White Wood where it runs into Holne Woods.

 

Other things to do near White Wood

Venford Reservoir. There’s a nice circular walk around the reservoir.

Dartmoor’s south moor. Head up to Ryder’s Hill which is the highest point on Dartmoor’s south moor.

Spitchwick/Deeper Marsh. Very popular place for a picnic and swim.

 

Places to eat and drink near White Wood

The Church House Inn is a great pub in Holne.

If you don’t fancy the pub then cross the road for Holne shop and tearoom.

The Tavistock Inn is on the north side of the Dart Gorge.

Last, drop down to Ashburton which is packed with pubs and cafes.