Shipley Bridge to Avon Dam

Avon Dam from the top

The first three of our “Big Walks for Little Legs” have stuck to the coast, but this time we head inland to explore a little bit of the equally stunning Dartmoor around the Avon Dam reservoir.

The great thing about this walk is that it is completely pushchair / scooter / balance bike friendly, even if you don’t have an “off-road” type pushchair.

The walk from the car park to the base of the dam is just under two miles – there and back is just under 4 miles – so it’s slightly longer than some of the other walks in the “Big Walks…” series – but as mentioned is perfect for scooters / balance bikes / pushchairs, which makes it easier to cover a bit more ground.

It’s a “there and back” rather than a circular walk, so of course if you want a shorter walk you can stop at any point along the route and head back, although the dam is at the half way point of the full walk.  There is still lots of beautiful scenery to see even if you don’t go all the way to the dam.

Walking to Avon dam


The walk starts at Shipley Bridge car park TQ10 9EL (approximate postcode – following the signs once you are close is the best idea) – the best way to reach it is to head to South Brent on the A38. At the Marley Head junction, take the road to Harbourneford Cross, Gingaford Cross and Yalland Cross – you will pick up signs to Shipley Bridge and Avon Dam.

At the car park there are public toilets and (usually) a refreshment van selling hot and cold drinks and food. Its not the biggest of car parks so arriving in the middle of the day in the sunshine probably won’t guarantee you a space.

The car parking is paid and is on the myringgo App.

Avon Dam walk


From the ticket machine / toilets in the car park, follow the path to join a smooth tarmac track – this tarmacked track is not open to public vehicles so is traffic free – apart from the very (very very) occasional South West Water vehicle accessing the reservoir.

The track follows the River Avon (which flows to the sea at Bigbury / Bantham) all the way along the valley.  At the beginning of the walk, the river is on your right and the valley is wooded and shaded, and there are lots of pleasant areas of river bank that are perfect for a picnic or a snack.  Our children were fascinated by the weird hanging moss on the trees and had fun fashioning it into long moustaches and beards!

There are some great sections of flat rock which are a good spot for a quick paddle if it’s hot (maybe best saved for the way back unless you want to be walking with wet feet).

As you continue up the valley (the track has a very slight incline as you head up the valley, but it isn’t at all steep), the trees thin out and you will cross a small bridge so that the River Avon is now on your left side. The scenery changes to a more typical moorland landscape, with the grassy moors climbing either side of the valley.

The tarmacked track continues right to the base of the dam. From here – if you want to – you can scramble up a steep rocky track to reach the reservoir.  There is also an alternative gravel path – which you will have passed on your right just as the reservoir comes into view shortly after crossing the bridge – which is less steep and takes you up to the eastern side of the dam.  Neither path to the top of the dam is really suitable for pushchairs or scooters, but if you don’t have these (and you have the energy) it’s worth the climb to see the reservoir and the views back down the valley.

From here it’s a simple case of retracing your steps back to the car park – the good news is that it’s a gentle downhill all the way (make sure any inexperienced scooter-ers or balance bikers know how to stop!).

The walk to Avon Dam


There is usually a coffee / snack van in Shipley Bridge car park – check opening times and days on their Facebook page which is updated regularly

For something more substantial, there are a few places to stop off on the way back to Pitt Farm:

Ben’s Farm Shop at Staverton (TQ9 6AF)

The Turtley Corn Mill at Avonwick (TQ10 9ES)

The Ring Feeder Café (on the B3196 near California Cross)

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