“Proceeding a short distance up river we reached a very charming cascade; it is not of great height, but is interesting, and its situation in this wild and deserted spot renders it peculiarly attractive. A ledge of rocks stands in the channel, over which the stream falls, and amid the numerous boulders lying in its way, it winds and twists in its impetuous hast to hurry forward on its course.”, William Crossing, p.92.
Many thanks to Keith Ryan for allowing me the use of this photograph taken from his Dartmoor Cam website.
The above description aptly describes what is simply known as ‘Waterfalls’ only today the, “deserted spot“, is not so deserted. It is a popular spot for walkers, picnickers and wild swimmers and certainly a place where visitors to the National Park Centre at Postbridge are directed to. As Dartmoor waterfalls go it is not the most spectacular but certainly can claim to be one of the more picturesque The head of the East Dart river rises approximately 5 km north of the falls and by the time its waters reach them they have descended around 96 metres in altitude. To the west and roughly 1.5 kilometres away are the infant waters of the sibling West Dart river. Geologically speaking it is here that fine grained granite diagonally meets with a more courser grained rock which the river has over time eroded. I would say that for centuries the Waterfall has been used as a crossing point for travellers going across Winney’s Down to Broadun when the river level is normal.
Going back a few years I can remember visiting the waterfalls on a frigidly cold and icy New Year’s Day on my way to Fur Tor. Just above the falls is a small island which sits in the middle of the river, and when I say small it’s tiny. There is nothing of importance attached to the island except on that occasion letterboxer had hidden a letterbox on it. To say that actually getting on to the islet was interesting would be an understatement. Ice, freezing cold water and slippery rocks made the short crossing a possible candidate for a telephone call to the Dartmoor Search and Rescue folks.
Going back to the days when Cut Hill was THE Mecca for letterboxers I would sometimes pass by the Waterfall and then trundle up Cut Hill Water. One winter’s day I briefly stopped off to pay my respects to the falls and took a few moments to sit and ponder whilst enjoying the solitude. The air was perfectly still and then suddenly a strong icy blast blasted up the valley, it came from nowhere and vanished just as quickly as it had arrived. At that very same moment the water cascade appeared to briefly stop, it was as if somebody had turned the tap off and then back on again. Having never seen the like before and being the sort that needs an explanation for such events I began searching for an answer. Was that icy blast strong enough to briefly hold back the flow of water? Had there been a brief blockage further upstream that had cleared? Where did that lone figure suddenly appear from on the opposite bank? The man, dressed in a tweed jacket, corduroy trousers and a flat cap was sat on a boulder staring intently into the river. Not once did his gaze move from the foaming waters and not once did he stir from his granite seat. I can vividly remember wondering why he had no rucksack with him which meant no waterproof clothing.
I had previously taken off my rucksack and perched it alongside me but as it transpired not safely enough as it slid off the rock. I bent down, recovered the rucksack, looked up and saw to my amazement that the man had simply vanished. It literally took seconds to recover the sack and there was no way anyone could have moved that fast. From my perch there was a wide view of the opposite bank which was good enough to see anyone come and go but apparently not in this case. I crossed over the falls and moved to a higher vantage point but still there was no sign of the mystery man. Just a short distance away was small a group of sheep contentedly grazing the hillside. It was apparent that nothing had disturbed them or they would not be munching away so intently. I crossed back over the falls, gained some high and scanned the horizon which led up to Sadly Hole Pass, still no sign of anybody?
So the catalogue of events consisted of the sudden appearance of a cold, wind followed by a temporary halt to the flow of water. This then culminated in the appearance of a lone figure, dressed in very dated attire who after a few seconds simply vanished. On one hand there probably is a very logical and scientific explanation for these happenings. On the other hand they can be merely be put down to a mysterious Dartmoor moment.
Crossing, W. 1974. Crossing’s Amid Devonia’s Alps. Newton Abbot: David & Charles.