Emerging from its source in the craggy Dartmoor landscape, the picturesque river winds its way through Devon over 47 miles before opening to the sea at Dartmouth and the Dart Estuary, writes Ben Lerwill.
His guide suggests travelling upriver from the port by boat, steam train or foot, exploring holiday harbours, frothing woodland, jungles hills and wind-whipped moorland along the way.
“With wild woods, rich history and enticing waters, the Dart is a treasure trove for walkers, campers and swimmers,” he writes.
The guide suggests starting the three day walk in Dartmouth, hailing the town “a fine place to linger” on a spring morning, with gulls circling above the rooftops, tugs chugging across the water, and halyards slapping against off-duty masts.
Ben writes: “I’m in town for a journey of my own, but my goal lies inland, 47 sinuous miles upriver, where the Dart first burbles to life among the peaty soils of Dartmoor.
“By literally going against the flow, I’m following the river back to where it begins, and in the process getting to know it that much better, this lovely waterway that tumbles and turns through souther Devon.
“It says plenty that when the makers of 1970s TV drama The Onedin Line needed a river to double on screen as the Amazon, they came here. You don’t see many jaguars, but still.”
He then jumps abroad the Greenway to Dittisham ferry, describing it a “small craft with a cheery skipper,” which putters upstream for 25 minutes, past Kingswear and its “steep jumble of pastel-toned houses.”
From Dittisham he walks to Totnes where he boards the steam train to Buckfastleigh, disembarking to reach the Abbey Inn and a bed for the night.
Day two takes in Buckfast Abbey and the tangled temperate rainforest of the Dart Valley Nature Reserve to Dartmeet and the campsite at Brimpts Farm.
Day three of the walk follows the West Dart to Two Bridges and the magical twisted groves of Wistman’s Wood. He finally finds the lonely nub of Flat Tor where “I pitch my tent in the lea of a rock-shelf, eat, then wander west to find the birthplace of the river,” writes Ben.
“The ground becomes squelchy and clumpy. For miles around I see nothing but slopes and far-off sheep.After 10 minutes, I reach the small, chuckling stream that is the young Dart; it’s slim enough for a child to step over.
“I follow it until it becomes nothing more than a gurgle in the grass, the genesis-point of some-thing wide and powerful, but here just a noise of nature buried away in the strange, susurrating calm of this modern-day wilderness.”
for more information visit www.countryfile.com/go-outdoors/walk-the-river-dart