I recently went to Canonteign Falls which is in a beautiful part of Devon, north-east of Bovey Tracey. At 220 feet, the falls are the highest manmade falls in England and are an enormous 19th-century landscape folly. Before you get to it, you go through a fernery (never knew the term existed) in a valley in an ancient woodland.
We were very lucky to have been there in the spring to see the ferns ready to explode:
The Devon slate rocky outcrops were stunning:
From the base of the falls, you can go off-piste and see some super natural structures:
From here you go over Devil’s Leap bridge with stunning fused glass plates by artist Elaine Mason who creates fused glass art inspired by nature, here it has wonderful fern designs.
We had hoped to see some of the art work in the centre’s shop but, despite having had many requests for it over the last few years since the bridge was built, the owners have not sourced it. On her website, Elaine writes:
AFTER SIGNIFICANT SOUL SEARCHING WE HAVE DECIDED TO GRADUALLY, OVER THE COMING YEAR, BRING OUR FUSED GLASS BUSINESS TO A CLOSE. WE HAVE BEEN TRADING SINCE EARLY 2009 AND HAVE ENJOYED EVERY MINUTE OF IT. A COMBINATION OF THE EXTRAORDINARY EVENTS OF THE PAST YEAR, OUR INCREASING CREAKINESS AND THE ADVENT OF TWO NEW GRANDCHILDREN HAVE LED US TO FEEL THAT OUR LIVES HAVE NEW PRIORITIES AND WE EAGERLY AWAIT WHATEVER ADVENTURES PRESENT THEMSELVES!
The waterfall is set in 90 acres of ancient woodland, with a signposted circular trail leading through woodland to a viewing platform on top of the falls.
From the falls, you have superb panoramic views of the valleys stretching towards the horizon. Below the falls, there are lakes bordered by an old orchard. At the base of the waterfall trail is a display of historic agricultural machinery once used on the estate.
There are actually two waterfalls at Canonteign, Lady Exmouth Falls, built for Lady Susan Exmouth in 1890, and Clampitt Falls, a natural waterfall. Clampitt Falls is named for two brothers who built a dam to act as a header pool for a water-powered sawmill on the Canonteign Estate around 1930.
The Lady Exmouth Falls are so named because Lady Exmouth employed the workers who had been made redundant with the closure of the lead, silver and gold mine in 1880 on the estate. The miners diverted the leat channel over the large rock formations at the top of the heights overlooking the estate.
Because the whole area is so damp, there are lichens and moss to gladden any heart. I picked some examples off the path and brought them home to photograph:
Although the coffee in the cafe tastes lethal, the brownies are lovely. The shop could be less commercial and more inclusive of the artwork their clients have asked for repeatedly.
A pensioner’s entry fee of £7,50, is worth it considering the amount of work needed to maintain the huge estate, but they could put up better railings. there is a wooden handrail all the way round but you are asked not to lean on it because it’s there for guidance and not support. You can just imagine slipping on the wet forest paths and trying to keep in mind as you are falling, not to hold on to the railings because they are there just for show.