By Jemima Laing
Fifty leats have been found that are still in use
Drake's Leat is probably the best known of Devon's artificial watercourses but many more of them dot Dartmoor.
And now a new partnership between the Dartmoor Trust and Dartmoor National Park Authority is set to help secure the future of some of them.
A joint-funded project will identify and restore stretches of Dartmoor's leats to their original working state.
The leats have served the people of Dartmoor for centuries by providing power as well as water to drink.
Once their original function ended, and as natural erosion and time took their toll, many leats dried up and are now almost imperceptible in the landscape.
"This makes maintaining the few surviving leats that continue to flow, even more important," said Jane Marchand, DNPA archaeologist.
THE DNPA describes it as an "expensive business" but one that is "crucial" to preserve local heritage.
"For some Dartmoor residents, the decline of the leats is a more immediate concern as they continue to rely on them for fresh water," said Jane.
The work has already begun with a group of Dartmoor Trust volunteers giving up their time to locate and survey leats across the moor.
Fifty have been found that are still in use and, for the moment, continue to flow.
Work has been carried out at Merrivale leat
Once agreements have been made with users and land owners the DNPA will start practical repair work.
The Dartmoor Trust will provide up to 50% of the funding for agreed schemes, committing a total of £10,000 over the next five years.
Those who will benefit most from the repairs will also be encouraged to donate time and money to help.
The first location benefitting from the partnership is Merrivale leat.
The historic watercourse passes by the Fourwinds car park on the Princetown to Tavistock road, close to the Merrivale prehistoric ceremonial complex.
The leat still supplies water to some homes in the area and repairs to the badly eroded banks, close to the car park, have been carried out, ensuring that the leat will continue to flow for many years to come.