Upper Plym Mills

Leader: D. Eeles

A cheerful group, including two new members from the USA, gathered at the designated car park on what turned out to be a surprisingly hot day. David Eeles welcomed us and after a wait the walk began taking us via the outer enclosure of Whittenknowles settlement, a vantage point giving an impressive view of Gutter Mire, it looked like a wide and very large open work. Leaving Whittenknowles we headed towards the river Plym. The Drizzlecombe monuments appeared spread out like a map. Crossing leats and the humps and bumps of streamwork we arrived at the bank of the river. Though very low we somehow had to find a way to cross. It was at a bend we hopped across boulders to arrive at near Coles Mill 1. This ruin has an abundance of mortar stones, some are split but their matching pieces sit together. On the edge of what must be a wheel-pit sits a perfect mortar stone with two shallow cups and, surprisingly, it also has two “axle bearing” marks. We had a heated debate on the possible course of the leat because the visible one is somewhat high above the mill. Coles Mill has been used as a boundary mark and this is described in an early document. One member departed from our group here due to his presence required elsewhere.

Following the trek up river past the remains of a possible mill 2 and a difficult crossing of the Langcombe Brook we arrived at Langcombe Brook mill 3. By now we were half starved so here we sat and ate our lunches. This site holds an impressively deep, double cupped, mortar stone, which is propped up on an exterior wall and faces the river. After a good look around one member was eager to show us an axle-bearing feature sited on the opposite bank. As the river looked easy to cross (it was) we were keen to see it. It consists of the river bank cut into a rectangular shape with possible end walls and on the floor stand a pair of widely separated stones each with an axle-bearing feature, differently worn 4, discovered by Phil Newman. Two members departed and we continued to the “Plym mill” 5 ruin located up river. This one looks the least promising, it being small in size with little structure. After discerning the wheel pit edge we could see that it lined up with a well-defined leat above. It is a very large mortar cup, larger than the previous pair, and a small broken one. We left this mill following its leat to Evil Combe. David led us through mire to a some mounds and a bank. He suggested it might be the site of a mill. One feature is a possible beehive cache 6 but this is open to interpretation.

We now started our journey back and followed an important leat, the Eylesbarrow Engine leat, but soon lost it by becoming distracted in our chatting. Luckily this resulted in a short cut to the Drizzlecombe head and a grand, linear reservoir 7, upon which boating took place. David then led us through part of the Eylesbarrow mine complex 8 showing us a series of seven mills and pointing out numerous features, including tramways, sunken stone-lined cisterns, shallow adit and shafts, all of which were fascinating. Another member now quit taking a shorter track road back. The penultimate mill was the site of a reverberatory furnace 9. Here are the puzzling remains of a horizontal, granite stone, flue, huge, rectangular, dressed granite blocks and a splash of red spilt slag. The last mill had a reck house. Eventually we arrived again at Whittenknowles settlement but on the opposite side. Through it we passed many prehistoric hut circles and three mediaeval houses, one of which is considerably long 10. It was a walk containing a great many interesting features, we warmly thanked David for this.

Grid References to POI
1. SX 59358 667652. SX 59985 671883. SX 60341 672304. SX 60293 672475. SX 60456 67426
6. SX 60542 677347. SX 59696 679778. SX 59595 680569. SX 59180 6765510. SX 58648 67010
Suggested reading, a doctoral thesis which can be found on the University of Edinburgh website: "The Archaeology of the Upper Plym Valley" by Jennifer G. Robertson

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