Historic Landscapes

Dartmoor’s tranquil and apparently undisturbed landscape has a long history of human use and is rich in cultural heritage from early Bronze Age stone rows and hut circles to abandoned medieval settlements and relic field systems.  The land has been exploited for its stone and mineral resource and evidence of extensive working of minerals and stone from the late medieval to the present day is still visible across the moor.

Water has been harnessed and used by many generations on Dartmoor.  Leats (watercourses built by people to transport water over long distances) were constructed to carry water from the high ground and thread across the open moor and through the enclosed farmland to provide drinking water for farms, local settlements and even for the population of Plymouth. Water transported along leats also provided power for the mining industry and other small industrial businesses across the moor.  Some leats are still transporting water today and are an important element in the landscape.

During the 19th and 20th Centuries several dams and reservoirs were built on Dartmoor to provide drinking water to lowland towns and cities.  The first reservoir was built at Tottiford in 1861 and the last built at Meldon in 1972.  Several old farmsteads had to be abandoned and disappeared under water, at times of drought some of these farmsteads reappear – in Fernworthy a clapper bridge and the remains of Fernworthy Farm become visible and under the waters of Tottiford lie the remains of a prehistoric ceremonial site including stone rows and a stone circle. Today, 45% of South West Water’s daily supply comes from Dartmoor.