Wild swimming any one? Actually, it’s more like wild river pool bathing. This lovely spot is on the edge of Dartmoor National Park, about 15 miles from Wheatland Farm’s eco lodges.
Getting to the wild swimming pools near Meldon
Drive or cycle from Wheatland Farm. The easiest way to find the pools is to put Bardon Aggregates into Google Maps and follow instructions until you spot a no entry sign. About 10m before that there’s a right turn, down a short tarmacked section to the car park. The direct car route is about 15 miles. A quieter, more bicycle friendly route would be out through Winkleigh to Ingleigh Green, then on the back roads to Exbourne, before picking up a slightly bigger road for the last few miles. It comes out as about 16.5 miles total. Ask at the farmhouse for advice on this route.
Finding the pools themselves
Leave the car park at the main entrance and head left, through the gate. Walk past the buildings you see about 100m ahead of you, and a little beyond that you’ll soon come to the river. Basically, it’s a rushing brook that flows down this Dartmoor valley through a series of pools until it joins the West Okement River. Some of the largest pools are just upstream of the buildings you just passed. But if those are already busy with people enjoying the sunshine and water, just walk further, either up or downstream, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to find some space to yourselves.
In summer the pools are a popular sunning and swimming spot for locals and visitors alike. But go early or late, and walk a few metres further, and you’d never know it.
Near the wild swimming spots at Meldon
It’s a short and signposted walk from the car park to the Meldon Viaduct, which spans the valley in impressive style, and now carries the Granite Way trail. The Granite way is a fun family adventure for visitors staying at Wheatland Farm’s eco lodges – there’s a bike hire shop at Okehampton railway station, the start of the trail, and you can cycle to Lydford. Meldon Reservoir itself is also not far away. You can walk up the West Okement River until the reservoir dam wall towers above you. You’ll probably be puffed by the time you’ve climbed the steps to the top (southern side of the river)!
But if you’re feeling seriously energetic, and you’ve got enough time, you can carry on up onto the high moor. If you’re ok with a map and compass, strike out for Yes Tor and the High Willhays. Alternatively, walk along the southern edge of the reservoir until you reach it’s head, then follow the West Okement until you come to the fabulously otherworldly Black a Tor Copse. But we’re talking about proper day walks now, not just a stroll from the car park. As always on Dartmoor, check the weather, check you have appropriate footwear, clothing and a map, and when you get back to Wheatland Farm’s eco lodges just check for ticks. Dartmoor’s long bracken harbours them, and just sometimes they can harbour Lyme Disease – which needs to be caught early. It’s best to be alert.
Other wild swimming spots near Wheatland Farm
There are several good places for river dips near Wheatland Farm. Also on Dartmoor, on the walk between Belstone and Sticklepath there’s a rocky pool that’s big enough for a few strokes. And people sometimes swim in the river at Fingle Bridge. There’s always the Wheatland Farm wildlife pond of course – but if that’s a bit too wild for you in summer there’s an open air Lido at Chagford – with a tea shack too!