Lichway/Lych Way, Dartmoor, Dartmoor National Park

Lichway/Lych Way, Dartmoor, Dartmoor National Park

This is a practical guide to walking the Lichway or Lych Way in Dartmoor National Park. When walking the trail, you'll come across plenty of signs and waymarkers using the 'Lichway' spelling so we follow this naming convention. In addition, when exploring Dartmoor's ancient trackways, we use Eric Hemery's 'Walking Dartmoor's Ancient Tracks: A guide to 28 routes' in tandem with the Harvey British Mountain Map 'Dartmoor' map which shows these routes. Note that the early 21st century reality on the ground is a little different, in places, to Hemery's sketch map in his book.

We've walked the Lichway a number of times now in different seasons. It crosses many rivers and streams. Whilst there hasn't been a problem completing the walk after a period of dry weather, we've also had to turn back on other occasions because these waterways were impassable. Clearly, plan the trip when water levels are low after a dry spell.

The route description below runs from east to west. On his map, Hemery starts the Lichway at Cator Gate which is about a mile east of Bellever (in the text, he refers to a cluster of tenements such as Pizwell and Babeny from which moormen walked to 'the historical main east terminus' of Bellever). There are some nice views of Bellever Forest on this stretch but we'd recommend starting from the large car parking area in Bellever Forest. If you're coming by bus to Postbridge, just wander across to Bellever to start the Lichway. To complicate things a little, there's another trackway called the 'Church Way' that runs east from the Pizwell/Cator Gate area over Hamel Down to Widecombe-in-the-Moor so it is possible to start from there. We cover the basic route here.

The Lichway runs from the heart of Dartmoor around Bellever Forest to Lydford St Petroc's Church in Lydford on the western border of the National Park. It crosses the West Dart River, River Cowsic, River Walkham, River Tavy, River Lyd and other smaller streams and mining leats on its way.


Starting at Bellever Forest

Start at the car parking area by the public toilets in Bellever Forest near the hamlet Bellever. This is marked on both the Ordnance Survey Explorer OL28 'Dartmoor' map and the Harvey British Mountain Map 'Dartmoor' map. The East Dart River is about a hundred metres to the east of the car parking area. Wander across to the bridge that spans this river and you'll see a ruined clapper bridge. Those walking the Lichway would have come down the hill from the Pizwell/Cator Gate/Babeny area to this clapper bridge and then crossed it on their way through the hamlet Bellever to the high moors. It's a nice way to begin the walk.


Bellever to Wistman's Wood Ford

Follow the road from the clapper bridge past the YHA Dartmoor Hostel to the end of the road. A path rises steeply through the forest and cuts across an open section of moorland. Here, you'll see Bellever Tor to the south and there are an extraordinary number of prehistoric attractions just off the Lichway to the north. Having crossed this section of moorland, the Lichway runs west and then north through the forest until you come to the B3212. Cross the road and you see a sign for the Lichway on a gate. Note that Hemery's map of the original Lichway runs south west of here. It has been redirected in recent years. From this gate, the Lichway crosses a boggy area. You come to the old gunpowder works with its distinctive chimney. Cross Cherry Brook and head across moorland to Longaford Tor that rises in the distance. From Longaford Tor, you drop down to Wistman's Wood Ford. If you are determined to walk the way after a spell of wet weather and cannot ford the river here, head south to Two Bridges and then come back up the valley via Beardown Tors.


Wistman's Wood Ford to Sandy Ford

This is the most remote section of the Lichway. It runs over high moorland in the British Army's Merrivale Range. From Wistman's Wood Ford, the way rises sharply to Lydford Tor. You won't see a distinct path. The way then descends to another ford at Broad Hole. It crosses the lower section of Conies Down to the River Walkham and Sandy Ford. If you find it difficult to ford the River Cowsic at Broad Hole, there is a good footbridge about a mile south below Holming Beam.


Sandy Ford to Cataloo Steps

From Sandy Ford, the Lichway climbs to White Barrow. You are on the edge of Dartmoor's north plateau so there are big views. Now follow the way past Bagga Tor to the River Tavy. You can cross on the stepping stones at Cataloo Steps. If the water is high, you can cross on the footbridge just north at Standon Steps.


Cataloo Steps to Lydford

This is the final stretch of the Lichway. You pass by a farm before coming to a road that runs to the car parking area at Lane End. Walk south on this road a little way and you'll pick up the Lichway by the dogleg in the road. There are plenty of Lichway signposts in this area. You cross a stream on a modern clapper bridge and then follow signs through the British Army's Willsworthy Range. By Wilsworthy Camp, you ford another stream and a track takes you to Watervale and the A386. Take care when crossing the road. The Lichway runs from there along another farm track to a signpost that directs you down an ancient track to a footbridge that spans the River Lyd. You pass under Lydford Viaduct and then walk into Lydford. There's a pub next to the church.


Other walks like this

If this walk is of interest, we'd also recommend the Abbot's Way and the Buckfast to Tavistock Monastic Route.