27. Wild Swimming on Dartmoor: New Bridge to Sharrah Pool - 4.5 miles - OS Explorer OL 28
A chance to sweat and swim and enjoy perfect woodland. Easy going.
Think of Dartmoor and what comes to mind is wide open moorland, stunted lichen hung trees huddled in sheltered spots, granite outcrops and a rabid dog scaring everyone but a bloke in a deerstalker. It’s not all like that. On lower Dartmoor, lush old-fashioned woodland follows the path of the tumbling river Dart as it widens on its way to the ocean. The walk to Sharrah Pool is a good example with the opportunity for a wild swim thrown in.
Take the B3357 from Ashburton into the Dartmoor National Park, although I’d recommend a stop at Ashburton first. It's a pretty old town with perfect tea houses, ancient pubs, and antique shops aplenty. When you've done exploring Ashburton, get back on the B3357 and, after passing over Holne Bridge, continue until you approach a second bridge over the Dart.
Called New Bridge, this granite beauty is actually going on for 600 years old. Park on your left just before the bridge. This is where the path starts.
What lies ahead is a couple of miles of birch, beech, holly, hazel, Ash, oak and maple. A wonderland of old English woodland following the Dart as it tumbles over granite rocks.
The first stretch includes a few swimming spots but, as with beaches, the further you’re prepared to walk from a car park and road the quieter it is.
On your way, as you rise above the river, you can enjoy the view down to Wellsfoot Island, a swimming spot on the other side. You can't miss it. It’s got what looks like a sandy beach.
Nearing Sharrah pool, a stream cuts across the track. Make sure to look left to the cascading waterfall. I missed it on the way there for some inexplicable reason.
Soon after you come to a stile, after which the path drops down to the river and Sharrah Pool, a quiet section of water between granite boulders.
My partner thought the water bracing but wonderful. I thought it was freezing and preferred to watch and make tea. I'll bring a wetsuit next time.
As with lots of walks in Devon this one is spectacular enough to retrace your steps without getting bored. There’s so much to see and it changes with the light. There’s also no path according the O/S map that would make it circular.
However, according to Wild Swimming Walks by Sophie Pierce and Matt Newberry, it’s possible to reach Bench Tor from here then return via a lane to Holne.
The length of fairly dull lane walk put me off investigating but Holne is a lovely village with the Church House Inn an interesting 13th century pub. The village shop also has a café and friendly staff who, on a different walk a different day, made us a tea despite being closed.
If you fancy seeing Holne but not doing the long lane treck, you can. After passing Wellsfoot Island, take a track on your right. A small detour that will add a mile to the walk, but a pleasant mile.