Standing 220 feet above the ground at the top of England’s highest waterfall certainly gives you a refreshing perspective on life. We really are very small in the grand scheme of things.
I pondered over this for some time while taking in the stunning views from the summit of Canonteign Falls.
The arduous climb to the top of this historic folly was totally worth it just to share this buzzard’s eye view over Dartmoor and the heart of the Teign Valley. What a place to construct a waterfall, just because you felt like it. Those crazy Victorians.
In 1880, the third Lady Exmouth ‘instructed’ that the waterfall from the Canonteign estate’s leat course should cascade over the nearby rock formations.
Today, the sight and sound of the 70-metre high spectacle provides a pretty special backdrop to a walk through this ancient woodland.
We were already excited by the time we reached the car park. Jake, 10, had caught a glimpse of the falls on the approach road and was itching to get out. We didn’t even stop at the playground, instead assuming a strong and steady pace along the path as we headed up and up and up. There are 90 Victorian steps on the ascent, all of varying shapes, sizes and depths, which makes for an interesting climb and a good test for the knees.
We made it to the recently restored fern garden, complete with resident T-Rex and a fairy population.
After a couple of selfies and a video (what would the Victorians have made of it all?) the kids were ready to make the final push to the top.
We bravely crossed Devil’s Leap Bridge, named by the local folk many centuries ago. It’s a natural deep gully, which hosts the original waterfall. A new bridge was made for this section last year by Perkins Engineering and Yellow Hammer Stonemasons and features handmade glass panels by artist Elaine Mason.
It really is a thing of beauty.
We pressed on and made it to another bridge, which crosses the babbling water as it heads through a tunnel and to the waterfall’s peak. Luckily, Jake had brought along his super powerful torch, so we were able to see right into the darkness.
“I’d love to walk through there!” said Alice, eight, slightly unconvincingly.
And then, there it was: that view from the top. Pictures don’t really do it justice. Just miles and miles of lovely Devon…
Brave souls can stand right up against the railings and laugh at the tiny people down below who still have to do the walk up.
Having said that, going down was pretty tricky. It’s an easier path but still tough on the knees. I think I’m getting old. I never used to worry about my knees.
The routes at Canonteign Falls are well mapped out and we quickly found our way to the mini assault course and zip wire. The kids spent a good half-an-hour climbing, jumping and monkey bar-ing before we went for a very civilised stroll down through the orchard, past the beehives and on towards the lower lakes.
It’s very peaceful down there and we were immediately at one with the ducks, dragonflies and fish.
Walking back to the car, we all fell quiet and gazed in wonder at where we had just been – right up there, above the treetops. What a highly enjoyable way to spend the day.
Find out more about Canonteign Falls