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The River Lemon: From Haytor to Lyme Bay, Devon
The river Lemon, a tributary of the Teign, starts on Dartmoor by Haytor, and ends up in Lyme Bay. Its journey takes in some interesting countryside and glides by some historic buildings on the way. Emerging amongst granite, with an exquisite view, it finds a way over clay for potteries, by an ancient tramway, then a canal, a railway, a race course and a malt house. It ends its short journey shortly having passed a Passmore library.
From Dartmoor to the Sea
The river Lemon is derived from the Celtic word meaning 'elm'. It rises near to Haytor on Dartmoor, some 450 metres above sea level. You can see the sea at Teignmouth from the top of Haytor, which is a tor in Devon, and is, in this case, a very striking granite outcrop, near to where the Templer family extracted that same mineral. (The quarry is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest.)
The granite was used to build several parts of London, including London Bridge, the old General Post Office and parts of the British Museum. It was transported down to lower levels on a 16km granite tramway (opened in 1820, and hewn from solid granite), which went to Bovey Tracey, and then to the Stover canal, which later was to become a key route for ball clay from the Bovey basin.
One of the chief destinations for the clay included the Wedgwood potteries. The clay was trans-shipped from the docks at Teignmouth, reached by travelling along the river Teign, into which the river Lemon flows, a little beyond Newton Abbot town centre.
Ball clay is still sent from Teignmouth, from quarries in the Bovey basin, to many parts of the world, for making fine ceramic pottery.
Dartmoor is a very large sponge, or at least, it behaves like one. It also contains more than 600 sq km of granite, the largest outcrop in Britain, mostly hidden under the spongy material (also known as peat bog), which Sherlock Holmes famously had to deal with, along with a fearsome hound. Tors escape the grasp of the bog by being too high, and exposed, for the peat to form.
Bogs store and release much water. This fell as rain, and on the high moor it amounts to about 2m in a typical year. It then flows down to the sea in streams and rivers, across land with a variety of owners including the Duke of Cornwall, the Ministry of Defence, the Dartmoor National Park Authority, the National Trust, various water companies, (which divert some of it to reservoirs for the towns and cities on the edge of Dartmoor), the Forestry Commission and the Dartmoor Commoners. Some of it feeds the river Lemon.
The Templer Family
James Templer was born in Exeter in 1722, ran away to India, reputedly made a fortune from building the Madras docks and returned to buy the Stover Estate in 1765. This he renovated. His son, James II, built the Stover Canal in 1792. James II's son, George, built the granite tramway to link the granite quarries to the sea. The tramway was partially replaced by a steam railway in the latter part of the 19th Century. This went from Newton Abbot to Moretonhamstead, and is now disused, with parts converted to a bridleway on National Trust land next to the river Bovey.
Once the Templers moved on, the Stover Estate was sold and converted, and today is a public school, a golf course, a caravan park and a nature reserve. The nature reserve, run by Devon County Council, is also home to the poetrypoetry trail. The public school is housed in the Templer's original stately home, which has an unusual outbuilding, used for fox-breeding.
The Templers are also remembered by a trail, which starts at Haytor and ends 29km later, after six easy stages, at the Templer's New Quay in Teignmouth, following the path of the tramway, railway, canal and the river Teign. It ends with a relaxing ferry crossing at Shaldon.
The Route of the Lemon
The river Lemon is only 16km long. From Haytor it gallops down to Bradley Manor, through mainly deciduous woodland, passing the once home of Lord and Lady Tebbit, and further downstream, close to the once home of Oliver Heaviside. Then it disappears underneath Newton Abbot, via a 400m tunnel. Newton Abbot was recently blessed with a new supermarket, during the building of which part of the river route was renovated.
The Lemon then joins the river Teign, just before the Teign estuary, passing a racecourse and a malt house on its way. In the past it has flooded the town from time to time, and as part of the flood defences a dam was built at Holbeam, which stores excess water. This has solved the problem.
The Tebbits bought a house on the route of the Lemon, after the Brighton bombing in 1984, in which the IRA set out to kill the members of the UK government at the Conservative Party annual conference. Lady Tebbit was severely injured. Since then she has been confined to a wheelchair. They no longer live there, but the searchlights and evidence of heavy police protection can be seen.
Bradley Manor is one of the few buildings owned by the National Trust that is still lit by candles and doesn't have central heating. Built around 1400, it is one of the most complete medieval manor houses in Devon and has a collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings and its own chapel. The Great Western Railway built a series of steam engines in Swindon, named the Manor Class, including the Bradley Manor, which has been preserved by the Severn Valley Railway. These were light enough to be able to travel across Brunelís Tamar Bridge.
Oliver Heaviside, the eccentric scientist and engineer, lived close to the Lemon. He was nominated for a physics Nobel prize, but it was awarded that year to a man who designed a pump and the Aga cooker. He discovered the Heaviside Layer and reformed Maxwell's equations using modern terminology. He also made important discoveries that made high-speed telegraph communications possible. (Einstein also used some of his ideas in formulating the Theory of Relativity).
John Lethbridge also lived close to the route of the Lemon. He invented a diving device, fed by air via a hand pump, in which to retrieve sunken treasure. He made a fortune from it, collecting three tons of silver from one ship alone. His grave is in Wolborough churchyard nearby.
Next, the river dives under the Passmore Edwards library. John Passmore Edwards bequeathed money to have around 70 major public buildings created, many in London, and one in Devon (in 1904), perhaps the most striking building he was associated with. It was built as a memorial to his mother.
Tucker's Maltings is a traditional malt house and is open to the public. It produces malt for more than 30 breweries and enough for 15 million pints a year. A beer festival is hosted every year, with around 200 real ales.
The final event for the Lemon is the racecourse, which is the leading summer jumping racecourse in the UK. At other times it runs 20 car boot sales.
The Lemon joins the Teign just beyond Newton Abbot railway station, which is on the Paddington to Penzance line. That line is noted for its spectacular scenery between Exeter and Teignmouth. Brunel built the railway line close to the seashore, despite warnings that the sea would inundate it. He went ahead anyway, and it is frequently flooded during winter storms. The Lemon doesn't care; it has reached the open sea where it will start another journey, back to clouds and rain.
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