The route to Venford Falls, Devon
I spent Saturday clambering on top of Dartmoor to reach Sandy Hole Pass and the beautiful East Dart Waterfall, and on Sunday the weather caused me to drop down off the high moor and after a quick review of the map I decided to pursue my second Dartmoor waterfall of the weekend – Venford Falls. This walk is recommended in autumn when the leaves are turning and the bracken sets the undergrowth ablaze with orange.
If you’ve browsed through Google before coming here you will have realised that it’s an elusive waterfall. People have hunted for it for hours, searching around the reservoir, along the River Dart and up and down every tributary. I was asked twice for directions whilst walking around the valley, but unfortunately for them hadn’t managed to locate it myself yet.
You have two main options when exploring the Dart valley and looking for the waterfall.
The first option is the quick way to the waterfall. You can park at Venford reservoir car park and walk over the dam, head down the path on the left and over the river where there is a makeshift paddling dam. Continue following the river and you will find the waterfall after about half a mile. This route is less than a kilometre and is a lot easier, though still has the challenge of crossing the river and scrambling down a muddy path. See the map at the end of the post for a better idea of where it is and the grid reference.
This route is the one I highly recommend if wanting to see both Venford Falls and the surprise waterfall that doesn’t appear on any map, and also explore the River Dart. There is a small car park further up the road from the reservoir (towards Holne) with room for about 6 cars, you can park there and walk for 20 minutes along the lane towards Holne before dropping down into the woodland and to the river.
This is the best way to go as you get to enjoy the River Dart, a huge river with numerous rapids and swimming spots for adults (it is probably too deep/strong for small children). The woodland is also beautiful in Autumn and it’s worth visiting just to see that alone.
About half way along the riverside path is the surprise waterfall. I had no idea it was there as it wasn’t marked on my map or described in local posts. I personally prefer it to the more publicised Venford Falls.
You can continue to follow the path along the river for a long time, though it gets progressively steeper and harder to navigate as the path pulls away from the riverside due to the valley narrowing. There are plenty of alternative footpaths you can take to avoid that section. After a lot of climbing you will emerge onto a large footpath, take a right on the path to curve around the hillside through the beautiful broad leaf woodland and towards Venford Falls.
The way to the falls is similar whether you go with option 1 or 2. Once you’re on the path that connects to the waterworks, keep walking away from the waterworks for a couple of minutes until you see a turning off down the slope on your left, where the trees are less thick and there are glimpses of the river. Follow the path and carefully cross the river where there is a dam built for paddling. Follow the path down the other side of the river for about five minutes and you will find the waterfall tumbling off a cliff.
Once you have enjoyed the falls you can either walk back to the car or do a quick lap of Venford Reservoir. It only takes 15 minutes or so and you get wonderful reflections of the sky on the water.