Walk: Venford Reservoir and Bench Tor, Devon
Climb from the placid waters of Venford Reservoir to a grand vista overlooking the hills and valleys of Dartmoor National Park – it’s the perfect place to spread out your picnic blanket before returning via charming waterfalls
Bench Tor is popular with climbers and walkers. It boasts fantastic 360° views as well as the sights and sounds of the Dart Gorge below, loved by kayakers and wild swimmers for its tumbling waters and still pools.
Beneath the tor to the south, Venford Reservoir, one of Dartmoor’s smaller waters, offers a peaceful 1.5km circular walk though deciduous trees replete with wildlife.This 2.8km walk includes the reservoir, tor and gorge, traversing open moorland and tracks with an optional stream crossing and two short steep sections.
1. Dam to tor
From the car park to the north-west of Venford Reservoir, cross the dam carefully. Walk north-east on to open moorland, heading uphill to the waterworks boundary. Continue for 1km until you reach the first rocks of Bench Tor.
2. Sounds of the gorge
Explore the Bench Tor rocks and walk northwards until you find your perfect picnic spot. Place your picnic rug to get stunning views, either down into beautiful Dart Gorge or back across to Holne Moor.
Look out for rowan trees with their distinctive berries and listen carefully to hear the River Dart – from which Dartmoor gets its name –rushing below. This steep wooded valley runs from Dartmeet down to New Bridge.
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Once you’ve finished your picnic, follow the rocks to their northern end. At the last rock, take the steep path opposite, descending the hill into woodland. Follow this until you meet the clear, flat path that runs above Venford Brook.
3. Secret falls
Turn left on this path and follow it for 1km until you see a grassy area and Venford Brook on your right. You have the option here to explore downstream (north) and find the small but beautiful Venford Falls. To return directly to the western end of the dam and the car park, cross the brook with care.
4. Over the brook
On the far side of the brook, follow the path that leads west and uphill away from the stream. When the footpath flattens out, head along the waterworks boundary back to the car park.
This short walk allows plenty of time for picnicking but is easily extendable with the addition of the 1.5km loop around Venford Reservoir. Clear paths take you around its perimeter and give lovely glimpses of the water and wildlife, including wild trout.
Click on the map below for an interactive version of the route.
Fi is an outdoor instructor and writer. She teaches navigation and expedition skills, and specialises in route finding and location story telling.