River Dart

River Dart

Geobox River
name = River Dart
native_name =
other_name =
other_name1 =

image_size =
image_caption = The River Dart
country = England
region = Devon
city =
city1 =
region_type = County
length =
watershed =
discharge_location = Austins Bridge, Buckfastleigh
discharge_average = 11.04
discharge_max = 40
discharge_min =
discharge1_location =
discharge1_average =
source_name = West Dart
source_location = Lower White Tor
source_district =
source_region =
source_state =
source_country =
source_lat_d =
source_lat_m =
source_lat_s =
source_lat_NS =
source_long_d =
source_long_m =
source_long_s =
source_long_EW =
source_elevation = 450
source_length =
source1_name = East Dart
source1_location = Kit Rock, Whinney's Down
source1_district =
source1_region =
source1_state =
source1_country =
source1_lat_d =
source1_lat_m =
source1_lat_s =
source1_lat_NS =
source1_long_d =
source1_long_m =
source1_long_s =
source1_long_EW =
source1_elevation = 510
source1_length =
source_confluence_location = Dartmeet
source_confluence_district =
source_confluence_region =
source_confluence_state =
source_confluence_country =
source_confluence_lat_d =
source_confluence_lat_m =
source_confluence_lat_s =
source_confluence_lat_NS =
source_confluence_long_d =
source_confluence_long_m =
source_confluence_long_s =
source_confluence_long_EW =
source_confluence_elevation = 210
mouth_name = English Channel
mouth_location =
mouth_district =
mouth_region =
mouth_state =
mouth_country =
mouth_lat_d = 50
mouth_lat_m = 20
mouth_lat_s = 33
mouth_lat_NS = N
mouth_long_d = 3
mouth_long_m = 33
mouth_long_s = 51
mouth_long_EW = W
mouth_elevation = 0
tributary_left =
tributary_left1 =
tributary_right =
tributary_right1 =
free_name =
free_value =

map_size =
map_caption =

The River Dart is a river in Devon, England which rises high on Dartmoor, and releases to the sea at Dartmouth. Its valley and surrounding area is respected as a place of great natural beauty.


The river begins as two separate branches (the East Dart and West Dart), which join at Dartmeet. The paths along these rivers offer very attractive walking, and there are several small waterfalls. The rivers are crossed by a number of clapper bridges, notably at the hamlet of Postbridge.

After leaving the moor, the Dart flows southwards past Buckfast Abbey and through the towns of Buckfastleigh, Dartington and Totnes. At Totnes, where there is a seventeenth century weir (rebuilt in the 1960s)Fact|date=August 2007, it becomes tidal, and there are no bridges below the town.

A passenger ferry operates across the river from the village of Dittisham to a point adjacent to the Greenway Estate. Formerly the home of the late crime writer Agatha Christie, this has stunning views across the river, and the house and gardens are now owned by the National Trust and are open to the public.cite web | title = Dittisham Departures | publisher = Greenway Ferry Service | url = http://www.greenwayferry.co.uk/dittishamdepartures.htm | accessdate = 2008-09-24 ]

The Dart estuary is a large ria and is popular for sailing. The village of Kingswear and town of Dartmouth are on the east and west sides of the estuary, and are linked by two vehicle ferries and a passenger ferry. The deep water port of Dartmouth is a sheltered haven.

The entrance to the river from the sea is a rocky entrance with cliffs either side. On the East side Kingswear Castle sits very close to the water's edge, and on the west side Dartmouth Castle is built on a rocky promontory at sea level. The castles once operated a defensive chain across the estuary, which was raised at dusk to destroy enemy ships attempting to attack the harbour. The remains of the operating machanisms for the chain are still visible in Dartmouth castle.

The river takes its name from a Celticvague word meaning 'river where oak trees grow' [ISBN 0-19-852-758-6 Oxford Dictionary of British Place Names] due to the banks of the lower Dart being covered in ancient woods of native oak [http://www.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk/aurawprdeco6 Dartmoor National Park Authority press release on restoring ancient woodland in Dartmoor's valleys]


The flooded ria that forms the lower reaches of the Dart, with its deep water and steeply sloping valley sides, is a considerable barrier to crossing traffic. There are no bridges below Totnes.

At the mouth of the river, it separates the communities of Dartmouth and Kingswear. There have been proposals to bridge the river here, but these have come to nothing. Instead the two places are linked by, in order going upstream, the Lower Ferry, Passenger Ferry and Higher Ferry. The Lower and Higher ferries both carry vehicles.

Some convert|2.5|mi upstream of Dartmouth, the Greenway Ferry carries pedestrians across the river from the village of Dittisham to Greenway Quay.cite web | title = Dittisham Departures | publisher = Greenway Ferry Service | url = http://www.greenwayferry.co.uk/dittishamdepartures.htm | accessdate = 2008-09-24 ]

A further convert|5|mi upstream is Totnes, where the river is spanned by two road bridges, a railway bridge and a footbridge over. Totnes Bridge is the nearest bridge to the sea and is a road bridge built in 1826-28 by Charles Fowler. Some convert|1000|ft upstream is Brutus Bridge, constructed in 1982 as part of a road traffic-relief scheme. A further convert|0.5|mi upstream, the railway bridge carries the National Rail London to Penzance Line over the river. Immediately upstream of the railway bridge is a footbridge, built in 1993 to provide access to the Totnes (Littlehempston) terminus of the South Devon Railway.cite book
title=The Buildings of England — Devon
author=Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner
isbn=0 14 071050 7
] Cite book | publisher = Devon Books | isbn = 0-86114-817-7 | last = Hawkins | first = Michael | title = Devon Roads: An illustrated survey of the development and management of Devon's highway network | location = Exeter | date = 1988 | pages = 52 ] cite book | last = Taylor | first = Alan | coauthors = Treglown, Peter | title = South Devon Railway - A Visitors Guide | publisher = South Devon Railway Trust | date = May 1999 | pages = 23-28 ]


The lower section of the River Dart forms Dartmouth Harbour, a deep water natural harbour with a long history of maritime usage. In modern times, the port's commercial activity has declined, but it is still a busy port for local fishing vessels and a wide variety of yachts and other private boats. Several local companies specialise in shipbuilding and repairs to small tonnage craft.cite web | url = http://www.dartharbour.org/commercial-vessels-guide/ | title = Commercial Vessels Guide | publisher = Dart Harbour & Navigation Authority | accessdate = 2008-09-25 ]

Dartmouth is also the home of the Britannia Royal Naval College and as a result is routinely visited by sizeable naval ships. Smaller naval tenders are often seen carrying out training exercises in the harbour and river. Large cruise ships are occasional visitors, with the largest visitor to date being the MV "Royal Princess" (30,277 GRT).cite web | url = http://www.dartharbour.org/commercial-vessels-guide/ | title = Commercial Vessels Guide | publisher = Dart Harbour & Navigation Authority | accessdate = 2008-09-25 ] cite web | url = http://www.dartharbour.org/visiting-ships/ | title = Visiting Ships | publisher = Dart Harbour & Navigation Authority | accessdate = 2008-09-25 ]

Upstream, the Dart is navigable to sea-going vessels as far as the weir in Totnes. The river almost dries out for convert|2|mi below Totnes at spring tide low water, but vessels drawing up to convert|3|foot can proceed to Totnes from one and a half hours after low water. Above the weir, the river is navigable only to small craft such as kayaks and canoes.cite web | url = http://www.dartharbour.org/harbour-river-guide/sailing-directions/ | title = Sailing Directions | publisher = Dart Harbour & Navigation Authority | accessdate = 2008-09-25 ]

Several companies operate trips on the river, including Dart Pleasure Craft Limited, who also trade as "River Link" and operate the Passenger Ferry between Dartmouth and Kingswear. These include cruises from Dartmouth to Totnes, which can be combined with journeys on the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway and an open top bus between Totnes and Paignton to create a circular trip.cite web | url = http://www.dartharbour.org/harbour-river-guide/river-trips/ | title = River Trips | publisher = Dart Harbour & Navigation Authority | accessdate = 2008-09-25 ] cite web | url = http://www.riverlink.co.uk/PDF/TimeTable2008.pdf | title = Time Table 2008 | publisher = Dart Pleasure Craft Limited | accessdate = 2008-09-18 | format = pdf ]

The harbour and port are popular leisure boating locations, and several marinas and boat yards are located on the river. The Port of Dartmouth Royal Regatta takes place annually over three days at the end of August.

Canoeing and Kayaking

The upper reaches of the Dart, and especially those on Dartmoor, are a focal point for whitewater kayakers and canoeists. The best known sections of the river are:
* "Upper Dart" from Dartmeet to Newbridge (Grade 4, advanced run) [http://www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/upperdart.htm] .
* "The Loop" from Newbridge to Holne Bridge (Grade 2/3, beginner/intermediate run) [http://www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/dart.htm] .
* "The Lower" from Holne Bridge to Buckfastleigh (Grade 2, beginner section) [http://www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/lowerdart.htm] .In the past, sections of the East and West Dart above Dartmeet, as well as the Webburn have been paddled, but the access agreement now forbids this.

The lower reaches of the Dart, including the estuary are suitable for flat water touring.


Angling is very popular in the Dart Valley. The West Dart is notable ground for salmon spawning redds.

Literature and Folklore

The River Dart is the source of much folklore on Dartmoor, where it is traditionally respected and feared - the waters have a tendency to rise without notice following heavy rainfall on the moors above, adding to the dangers of its rapids and powerful currents. This gave rise to the couplet: :"River of Dart, Oh River of Dart!:Every year thou claimest a heart."

The 1951 non-fiction book "The River Dart" by Ruth Manning-Sanders centres on the river and its history.

ee also

* Rivers of the United Kingdom


External links

* [http://www.devonwildlifetrust.org/index.php?section=champions:cycleau Devon Wildlife Trust's Dart Catchment Project]

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