Tavy Cleave is one of Dartmoor's finest landscape photography locations. A beautiful river with numerous rapids and towering tors above. This is not a location to miss!
If there is a Dartmoor Location with almost limitless photographic possibilities, its Tavy Cleave and its surrounding Tors. I have visited the Cleave countless times and I am far from exhausting it’s potential. Throughout the seasons Tavy Cleave is quite simply wonderful
How to get there.
The relative inaccessibility of Tavy Cleave is no doubt the sole reason that it hasn’t been photographed to death! The drive from the A387 will take 20 minutes alone. Then you have a mile to walk along the leapt before you are into Tavy Cleave itself.
If driving north along the A387 from Tavistock take a right turn at the turning for Peter Tavy. Keep on this road for around 15 minutes taking your through Peter Tavy and Cuddliptown. Take a left turn down the valley to Hill Bridge and from this point keep going, taking a left turn at the only junction. You should finish at Lane End, just past Willsworthy, park here. Up in front of you is Ger Tor, to the right (west) of the Tor flows the River Tavy.
There are 2 ways to reach Tavy Cleave, via Ger Tor, or by walking along the leat. The latter is much easier and will also take you passed a section of pools and rapids below Ger Tor which can make excellent images.
Once you have parked follow the rough track towards the farm buildings, the skirt up to the leat and follow the path into the Cleave. The below maps should give you an idea!
Where to start!!! I could write a thousand words on the shots I have taken or have planned, nevermind all the other scenes I have yet to discover! Instead I will pick out a couple of the best locations
Tavy Cleave Waterfall
Just below the Sharp Tor, one of the ‘Tavy Cleave Tors’, lies a small waterfall and rapid at the head of a large pool. The dramatic surroundings of the Cleave combined with this beautiful rapid and overhanging tree creates a lot of photographic potential. You can shoot the rapid from both banks of the river, the eastern bank being the ‘best’. When the water level is low you can stand on platforms of rock almost at the water level and get really close to the water. When the water is high the flow can be quite fearsome. This waterfall in Tavy Cleave is also a fantastic location to illustrate Dartmoor’s changing seasons. In winter snow and ice transform the scene, autumn and spring the golden grasses look stunning in the sunlight. In summer the hillsides and overhanging tree are covered in vivid green and in late August and early September heather carpets the tors above
The view from Sharp Tor is breathtaking, the tor has one of the steepest gradients giving a wonderful sense of height. The view down the winding cleave in both directions is excellent. In the late summer there is a good covering of heather on the tor making it even more photogenic. A word of warning, be extremely careful if you decide to descend or ascend the tor on its steepest face. Not only is it heavy going the gaps between the rocks are potentially lethal and I have had a couple of scares over the years.
Views from the surrounding hillsides
There are many many views to be had of Tavy Cleave, I would encourage you to explore the surroundings thoroughly, almost every aspect provides the potential for a strong composition.
The tors around Tavy Cleave are lower than the surrounding landscape. As such they never get the first or the last of the light. Don’t let it put you off, but bear it in mind! One way around this is to start at Hare Tor for sunrise and then quickly make your way to the Tavy Cleave as the sun gets a little higher. Preparation is key!
Camping at Tavy Cleave
If you want to go camping on Dartmoor, Tavy Cleave is pretty hard to beat. There are 4 excellent grassy pitches along the banks of the river, each of them with enough room for 3 or 4 small tents. All 3 areas have moderately good shelter from varying wind directions, just hope the I have also camped up at Ger Tor and on Sharp Tor. Please remember to be responsible. NO FIRES (I have seen people light fires at Tavy Cleave before, its very damaging). Please take everything with you when you leave, I end up picking up rubbish every single time I visit!
The pitches are at the following locations:
As you round the first corner to get a view of Ger Tor, there is a pitch down at water level on the eastern bank As you reach the structure at the start of the leat there is another pitch at water level on the eastern bank When you reach the main waterfall and pool at Tavy Cleave there is a big pitch area on the eastern bank Below the MOD hut where the rattlebrook meets the Tavy there is another large pitching area with a second smaller pitch nearby.
For the more adventurous you can hike the length of Tavy Cleave all the way up to Fur Tor. There are some excellent pitches up there but it can be waterlogged after heavy rain and the stream and bog that protects the tor can be hard to cross.
Images of Tavy Cleave