There are few things more pleasurable than spreading an OS map out on the floor, getting down on your hands and knees and having a really good look. The only thing more pleasurable is deciding on a route and setting off into glorious sunshine.
This route starts at Kennick Reservoir, which is worth a gawp all by itself. The hike heads along footpaths, through woodlands and enclosures before descending through a magnificent patch of forest filled with ferns, streams and rocks that try to trip you up. Eventually you pop up in the pretty village of Lustleigh whereupon you promptly turn back up the hill and complete the circle, with a good stretch of steep incline, a handful of sheep and a further two reservoirs.
I recreated my route on komoot for you here, in case you want to grab it and go, rather than reading me ramble about how utterly glorious this patch of Dartmoor is…
Kennick Reservoir to Lustleigh Walk
Park at Kennick Reservoir to start this walk. If it’s particularly busy, you can always park at Trenchford Reservoir which has considerably more space and do the walk backwards.
The footpath begins on the Tottiford Reservoir side of the road and you’ll quickly turn right to follow it down the west side of Tottiford rather than the east. The turning isn’t particularly obvious, so look for a rhododendron tunnel on your right.
A footpath spurs off to the right and takes you west through an absolutely glorious forest. When you reach a little road, cross straight over to continue along the next section of footpath. Soon you’ll take a left onto a track and then a right down to a little footbridge and into a section of land growing young evergreens. There are several confusing tracks here, so follow the route’s gentle curve around to the right until you reach the boundary line and follow the path left (south west at this point). This will bring you to another road and you’ll follow it steeply downhill until you see Lower Elsford farm signposted on the left.
Now, this is where the route gets challenging. As you walk down the Lower Elsford farm road, leave the main farm buildings to your right and don’t follow the footpath sign that points you directly through their space. This is a footpath, but it’s not the one you want. Stay left and follow the lane curving to the left. Eventually it’ll branch off sharply right to another property and just to the left of that lane, there’s a thicket. In this thicket you’ll find the footpath.
You’ll know you’re in the right place because you’ll immediately be in a steep and stunning patch of woodland, filled with ferns, a rocky path and a chuckling stream. You need to be sure of your footing on this path as there are plenty of loose rocks and stones to catch you out. Follow this pretty path all the way to the bottom, when it’ll spit you out onto a track. Cross over and cross the field ahead until you reach a road.
The footpath continues straight across the road although when I went, the stile was very much overgrown and difficult to see. You’re in the right place if you see this in front of you as you stand on the stile:
Head through this field along the right hand (west) side and exit into the next field through the gate at the back. The path through this next field is open and grassy and you’ll leave it via a tiny and beautiful footbridge. This final field will end with you reaching Brookfield Road in Lustleigh. I came here as lockdown was lifting to allow outdoor adventures anywhere, but as all the shops and cafes were still closed, I didn’t go further into Lustleigh lest I ran into other people.
If you’re exploring under better conditions, Lustleigh is a lovely village with tea rooms and cafes and the perfect spot for a rest.
Back Up to the Top
This is the halfway point of the walk so to carry on, walk left (east) along Brookfield Road and go straight across at the junction. You’ll quickly reach a left turning down a farm lane, follow this through gates and over stiles until you see a footpath sign sending you off to the right. This path leads through multiple sheep fields heading around to the north east until you meet the road you crossed over earlier, albeit further along.
Cross straight over the road onto a bridlepath that, frankly, I wouldn’t want to take a horse or a bike up if you paid me. This too branches but keep right with the gulley on your left. This section is steep but the footing is better than the descent earlier. At the top, you’ll reach Bullaton Farm and follow the lane up to the road. Head right (east) along the road for 200m until you see the Trenchford Reservoir car park on your left.
Head through the car park and onto the trail that will take you all the way up the west side of the reservoir. Cross over at the footbridge and walk back on yourself for 200m until you see a trail off to the left. This trail will lead you to a lane. Turn right along the lane and then left at the first gate/path you get to. Follow this footpath turning left then take the right branch instead of going straight ahead. You’ll now walk through a section of conifer forest that seems to be built on birdsong alone. It sounds like an English woodland birdsong CD, it’s so loud.
This trail will take you across the Tottiford Reservoir footpath and once you’re over, you can turn left and follow the path back to the car, or go straight ahead and through the woods before turning left and crossing a new plantation. This will lead you to the road you might’ve driven in on if you came from the east. Follow the road left until you reach Kennick Reservoir and the car park.
Time Taken: 3 hours
Map Used: OL44 Ordnance Survey