If you’re familiar with the Dartmoor landscape, then when you picture the area you’ll likely imagine open grassy plains and a rugged landscape peppered with rocky outcrops. What you might not expect to see are pine trees galore, as you would in central Dartmoor if you head to Bellever Forest.
Ancient settlements are abundant, hiking trails criss-cross the landscape and a babbling brook wends its way through the whole area. Here’s a quick guide to Bellever Forest, Bellever Tor, the Medieval Clapper Bridge located nearby, and of course, the quaint Bellever Village.
Filled with coniferous trees, winding hiking paths, and more Dartmoor ponies than you could ever imagine, Bellever Forest is a must-visit when travelling to Dartmoor and is well worth your time. The forest here is stunning, and a little eery, particularly in the winter months when the sun is low in the sky.
Walking trails through Bellever Forest:
There are three main walking loops through Bellever Forest, as well as the straight path of Lych way. Each are of varying difficulty and the two longer hikes should be walked in proper walking shoes and equipment (bring plenty of water/ snacks etc.).
Blue Walking Trail: The blue is a fairly easy trail that leads straight down from the carpark to the edges of the water. Head there to find stunning views of the River Dart and an amazing place to enjoy a picnic. Further down the river, you’ll find the Bellever Clapper Bridge, a beautiful relic from medieval times.
Red Walking Trail: The circular walking route takes you up and through Bellever Forest. Consisting of a few gentle climbs and filled with historic settlements to see, it’s the perfect activity to fill an afternoon and is two and a half miles in total.
Yellow Walking Trail: The three-mile trek of the yellow trail takes you to nearby Postbridge, as well as around the highest point in the near area, the granite outcrop of Bellever Tor. Full details of all the hiking trails can be found on a plaque outside the small visitor centre in the Bellever car park. A little visitor centre is open during the summer months and public toilets are open during daylight hours throughout the year.
Bellever Clapper Bridge
If you’ve ever heard of Clapper Bridges, then you will no doubt have heard of Postbridge Clapper Bridge, a medieval passageway that crosses the River Dart and is located just a couple of kilometres from Bellever Clapper Bridge. Clapper Bridges were typically constructed of flat slabs of stone supported by smaller stone piers, and the best example of surviving examples can be found on Exmoor and in Dartmoor National Park.
In the shoulder seasons, the bridge is the perfect place to sit, stop and enjoy a picnic. If you venture to the clapper bridge is the summer, then you might find a few more people than at other times in the year, though obviously there are never as many tourists at the Bellever Clapper Bridge than at the Postbridge one! There’s no clear record of how long the current Clapper Bridge has been in situ, but it has clearly been in place for centuries. A road bridge has since been constructed and is a pretty acommapniment to this ancient structure.
Towering at just over 400 metres above sea level (443 metres to be precise), the granite outcrop of Bellever Tor offers beautiful views of the surrounding landscape. Hike the fairly steep ascent to the top, through the forest, and around a mile away from the village below, and you’ll be rewarded with views onto the coniferous forest below, as well as beyond.
Ancient remains at the top include various cists, hut circles and other Neolithic finds. From the top of the tor, it’s also possible to admire the walkway that is Lych Way. This ancient pathway stretches all the way from Bellever to Lydford, and is also known as Corpse Road (the deceased were once transported along this ancient way for burial in Lydford).
On the edges of the forest and below the granite heights of the tor above, Bellever Village is a quaint hamlet with little by way of attractions. However, you must head to the village in order to access the other points of interest in the area and it’s a great way of experiencing a typically Devonian village with all the trappings of local architecture; rendered houses with granite detailing.
Located just a few kilometres from Postbridge, and along the River Dart (for which the moor is named), the hamlet was first mentioned in the 14th century by the Duchy of Cornwall. Up until WWII, Bellever was just a couple of farms, best-known for introducing cows such as the Aberdeen Angus to Dartmoor.
However, during the 1950s, the farm was sold to the forestry commission and began a tree planting scheme. Further cottages were built during this period. Originally built to house forestry workers, today the houses can be spotted from the forest and just a few dozen people live in the village.
One of the largest budget accommodation in Dartmoor National Park, that of the YHA Dartmoor can be found on the fringes of the village. The youth hostel was started in 1934 and is the longest-running budget accommodation of its kind in Devon.
There is a daily bus service running to Bellever which also heads to Postbridge, Yelverton, Princetown and Tavistock. As a result, this part of the moor is perfect for the budget conscious who wish to explore the area without a car but don’t want to compromise on authentic hiking experiences.