Accessibility Information and Accesskeys | Skip navigation

Meldon

Introduction

On the northern edge of Dartmoor's granite mass the area known as Meldon Valley surrounds the valley of the West Okement River about three miles south west of Okehampton.

This peaceful moorland valley, framed by a Victorian railway viaduct to the north and a late 20th century dam to the south, has for many years been a place of recreation for local people, but the current tranquil atmosphere here belies a busy industrial past which exploited the extensive variety of, in some cases unique, rocks and minerals found in the area.

In the middle of the area on the left bank of the river lies Meldon Pool. Now a popular bathing and picnicking spot for local families it was, in the 18th and early 19th century, a deepening limestone quarry whose product, after processing, was used to fertilise the surrounding local farmland. Archaeological remains associated with this quarrying activity can be found in the immediate area including lime kilns, wheel pits and spoil heaps.

Alongside these lime quarrying activities a number of copper mining endeavours also took place throughout the19th century; the remains of some of these have now been flooded by the reservoir but some quite impressive remains can still be seen up stream of the Red-a-ven Brook, a tributary of the West Okement River.

The two aplite quarries also found in the valley were worked throughout the first half of the 20th century and are now designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest, protected for the rare minerals found there. But in the 1920s there was a brief period when these minerals were exploited for the production of glass; this enterprise didn't last long but the remains of the distinctive green glass produced at the glassworks can still be found in the walls around the area.

In the 1870s The London and Southwest Railway Company brought its line down from Waterloo through southern England to Plymouth and North Cornwall; when it got to Meldon, the stone there was found to be particularly good for use as railway ballast. A quarry was opened in 1897 and remains in operation today, still producing ballast as well as stone for other constructive industries. Although the railway line from Okehampton to Plymouth and Cornwall fell foul of the branch line cuts of the 1960s, the line as far as Meldon was kept open because of its continued use for freight by Meldon Quarry; since the 1997 the Dartmoor Railway has run a regular passenger service, often pulled by steam engine, on the three mile stretch of the line between Okehampton and Meldon.

Crossing the West Okement Valley at Meldon the railway runs over Meldon Viaduct. This impressive example of Victorian engineering was initially built in 1874 to carry a single track but was widened into double track five years later, thus creating a rare example of two separate but interwoven structures which is now protected as a scheduled monument. Today the viaduct carries cyclists across it as part of a ten mile traffic-free stretch of the National Cycle Network around the edge of the moor along the bed of the old railway track.

The industrial activity that took place at Meldon relied to a greater or lesser degree on water for power; water which came off the moor in abundance via the West Okement River and the Red-a-ven Brook. In the early 1960s the West Okement River was identified as an ideal source for the increasing demand for domestic water supply by the North Devon Water Board; after several years of planning and protest the construction of the Meldon Dam up stream from the industrial area got under way in 1970. The West Okement Valley was flooded two years later creating a reservoir which now attracts many visitors.
3D Navigation
3D Navigation
Archive Photographs
Detail Description
Photographic Galleries
Local Memories
Local People
Archive Images

Visiting

Meldon Valley lies on the north western corner of Dartmoor three miles southwest of Okehampton on the B3260.

Parking and toilets are available at the reservoir car park three quarters of a mile from the hamlet [SX563/918]; from the car park you can walk to the reservoir and the valley below the dam. There is also a small car park on the other side of the valley just below Meldon Quarry [SX567/922] follow signs off the B3260 to Meldon Quarry.

By Rail: Throughout the year the Dartmoor Railway runs regular weekend train services to Meldon Quarry Station from Okehampton and daily services for six weeks in the summer; in addition it runs a number of special services, see www.dartmoorrailway.co.uk or contact 01837 55667 for details.

By Bicycle: The National Cycle Route 27 between Tavistock and Okehampton runs through Meldon over the viaduct at Meldon Quarry station, see www.sustrans.org.uk for further information.

The Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) has published a booklet entitled Exploring a Dartmoor Valley: The Meldon Beneath our Feet which provides suggested walking routes around the Meldon Valley detailing points of interest on the way, this can be obtained from the DNPA online shop at www.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk, at High Moorland Visitor Centre in Princetown and other local outlets. The DNPA website also contains a number of case studies relating to Meldon.
Postbridge lies right at the centre of Dartmoor
Meldon lies on the north western corner of Dartmoor

Using the Tour

Each location in the Meldon interactive visit may be accessed by clicking the locations indicated on the map, or the arrows that hover within the panoramas. Each location will have a series of speakers associated with it. You may select any speaker, or just sit back and allow the narrative to unfold. As the speakers deliver their presentation, supporting images will appear in the presentation panel, from which you may gain access to the gallery of photographs. This will pause the presentation and give you the opportunity to peruse the images in your own time. For those users with Apple's Quicktime plugin, fully immersive 360° spherical panoramas of each location are also available.

Please leave your comments in the guest book provided.

Navigate the interactive features is easy and intuitive

Technical Info

The Meldon visit is an interactive multimedia presentation that uses Macromedia Flash, there is also an option to use Apple Quicktime.

If you don't have these plugins you can download them from here:

Get Flash Player

Get Quicktime Player
Interactive Features
Interactive Features

Accessibility

Here at the Dartmoor National Park Authority making sure the information on our websites is easily accessible to all is a high priority.

We have made sure this site is fully Accessible (see our Accessibility page for details) and we have introduced features within the Interactive Visit that accommodate users with visual / hearing impairment:
  • Visits are primarily audio tours, playing sequentially without the need to click anything.
  • All objects are captioned.
  • All text/captions are re sizeable.
  • Transcripts for all audio elements are available for the hard of hearing.
Sequential Audio with clear icons
Sequential Audio with icons
Dartmoor National Park AuthorityMoor MemoriesDartmoor Sustainable Development FundEnglish HeritageThe Dartmoor Trust