The Dartmoor Preservation Association (DPA) has published a guide to its land at High House Waste, near Cornwood on south-west Dartmoor. Entitled Walk this way to High House Waste … it is an eight-page booklet with illustrations.
This superb corner of Dartmoor is not well known. High House Waste is 145 acres of varied habitat including moor, heath, mire and woodland.
It is rich in archaeology: Bronze Age reaves (land boundaries), abandoned longhouses, a Bronze Age settlement, extensive field-systems and areas of possible mediaeval tin-streaming.
Because of its mosaic of habitats it supports a wide range of flora and fauna.
We are pleased to have good-sized patches of the uncommon White Beak-sedge, Rhynchospora alba, particularly in the southern mire.
The DPA volunteers carry out regular work here to maximise its conservation potential.
The DPA bought the land in 1964 when it was threatened with coniferous afforestation by Economic Foresty Ltd. Time was short and the DPA’s then chairman, Lady (Sylvia) Sayer, put up the necessary £2,000 to buy it. The DPA ran an appeal to recoup the money, and raised more than the required sum, such was the public’s concern for the land.
It is thanks to the foresight of Sylvia Sayer that the DPA bought this magical place and saved it from becoming a dreary blanket of impenetrable conifers. We were also proud that the gates to high House Waste were unique on Dartmoor in welcoming people onto the land.
I remember my first visit there, with Guy and Sylvia Sayer on Remembrance Sunday 1973. By chance we met Bob and Pippa Woods, from Aveton Gifford in south Devon, on the same venture. Pippa was a founder of the Family Farmers’ Association and often appeared with us at public inquiries and meetings. I had heard a great deal about High House Waste and it was thrilling to be there with the Sayers and the Woods, and to sit on the walls of the old farmhouse and look across to Stall Moor and down the valley to Hanger Down and the sea.
In the summer of 1975 a small group of us bashed some of the bracken there.
A week later I camped by the ruined farmstead with my friends Drusilla and Mary from university. But it was not until about 1995, encouraged by Sue Eberle from the Dartmoor National Park Authority, that the DPA seriously began to consider the management of the waste.
Most of the land was mapped as access land under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW), giving people the legal right to walk here (although the DPA had always welcomed walkers). Subsequently the DPA dedicated additional rights to ride horses and camp here, bringing it in line with the adjoining Dartmoor commons. The DPA is one of very few private landowners to have used section 16 of CROW to create additional, permanent rights for the public.
High House Waste is a well-kept secret, with limited car-parking and a two-mile walk in—but it is well worth the effort. It is a site of magnificent beauty and interest with fine views.
The booklet tells you all you need to know to explore this lovely place. It has a page on the history of the DPA’s acquisition of the site (by me), two pages on archaeology and history (by Bob Bruce), two pages on the natural history (by Hil Marshall) and a page about the volunteers’ work (by Val Barns). There are lots of photos and a detailed map.
The booklet can be downloaded from the DPA website or bought from the DPA for £2 including post and packing (Old Duchy Hotel, Princetown, Yelverton PL20 6QF, tel 01822 890646). If you join the DPA you will get a free copy!
The DPA also owns land on Dartmoor at Sharpitor, Swincombe and Pudsham Meadows near Widecombe-in-the-Moor.