Tavy Cleave from Fur Tor

Tavy Cleave – Dartmoor Locations #2

In Articles On Thursday, December 8, 2011

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

Tavy Cleave heather sunrise

Tavy Cleave is fantastic throughout the seasons, but this August sunrise was the highlight of my previous visits

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!

Photographic Opportunities

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

tavy cleave rapid

The main rapid of Tavy Cleave, a magical Dartmoor location

Sharp Tor

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.

Sharp Tor heather t sunrise

Sharp Tor overlooks Tavy Cleave, its steep gradients make it ver photogenic.

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.

Potential Pitfalls

frozen pool Tavy Cleave

The sun rises late at Tavy Cleave, this was taken more than an hour after sunset

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


Tavy Cleave heather

Tavy Cleave as seen from Sharp Tor in the morning.


Tavy Cleave looking south

Looking back on Tavy Cleave from the north. There is an excellent camping spot at the bottom left of the image

Storm clouds over Tavy Cleave

Tavy Cleave seems to have its own microclimate, the weather here is often worse than other areas of the moor but it can be spectacular

Tavy Cleave from Fur Tor

If you fancy a longer walk a trip to Fur Tor reveals a wonderful view of the winding Cleave

Tavy Cleave tree under a stormy sky

Tavy Cleave is a location well suited to stormy skies, if you get a burst of sunshine it can come alive.


  1. Bob Guildford 7th July 2014

    I have yet to visit this location and plan to do so soon, can’t wait.

  2. Jeff Allen 1st April 2015

    On my to do list although I know the roads past Peter Tavy are very very narrow and cars travel in both directions. For those that dont know the area Wheal Betsy is on the A387 fairly close to Peter Tavy and a track runs down to Cholwell Farm riding stables crossing the Cholwell Brook. If you park your car just before the bridge you can walk along the Cholwell and photograph Wheal Betsy from below where you can see the mine spoil heaps better. Beware this ground is often boggy close to the mine area.

    Alex your article has definately wetted my appetite to go the weekend after Easter, Dartmoor definately is a goldmine for photographers.

  3. Michael 15th June 2018

    Wonderful photographs, thank you.
    Memories of crossing Tavy Cleave, which was in full torrent at the time, and ascending the tor. The climb was so steep that we were obliged to ascend on all fours because of our heavy packs. Such a beautiful, and challenging, area of Dartymoor.

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