Crazywell Pool Credit: David Phillips

Storyteller: The legends of Crazywell Pool

Torbay Weekly

The other week I shared with you details of a group walk I’d undertaken around the Sheepstor area, but not every walk involves my group, most of the time I walk solo, as not everyone is partial to my letterboxing habit!

My most recent ramble took me passed Crazywell Pool, somewhere I’ve visited many times before, but its interesting mythology keeps me fascinated to return.

Having parked up at Norsworthy Bridge, the opposite end of Burrator Reservoir where I parked for Sheepstor, I followed a path into the trees in search of a blowing house, an artefact left behind by the tin miners who used to ply their trade all across Dartmoor.

I found it eventually, and the attached letterbox, which was my main mission.

Leaving the site beside the River Meavy, I exited the trees and continued on through the plantation, passing the ruins of Leather Tor Farm, its associated potato cave, for the storage of what it says on the tin, and across the attractive stone bridge that bears the same name.

Sheep on Dartmoor Credit: David Phillips
Sheep on Dartmoor Credit: David Phillips

Hugging the edge of the plantation, you soon come across a gate leading out on to the open moor, just before which there is a copse of trees that on this occasion was a resting place for my second cuckoo of the year.

Never tiring of that iconic call, I headed off the main gravel path in search of my second, and what turned out to be final, letterbox find of the day.

Having stamped up, I continued on up the slope towards the Devonport Leat, one of the more famous man-made waterways on Dartmoor still in use today.

Before reaching it, I came across the expanse of water in a large hollow known as the infamous Crazywell Pool.

This place doesn’t only hold a fascination for me, at one time all the local villagers were intrigued by it, claiming it was bottomless, even having its own tide with an ebb and flow.

The truth is, it is served by its own spring, and is probably the flooded remains of an old mine working, as illustrated by the other evidence in the nearby deep gullies.

Determined to prove their claim to its hidden depths, the locals went there one day, armed with all the bell ropes from the church tower tied together.

Crazywell Pool Credit: David Phillips
Crazywell Pool Credit: David Phillips

The history books don’t recall whether it was Walkhampton or Sheepstor that came up with this barmy idea, but they do state that when cast into the centre of the pool they didn’t appear to touch bottom…

Apart from this enigma, Crazywell is also associated with death and tragedy, for it is said that on certain stormy nights of the year, the wind, as it blows across the surface of the water, cries out the name of the next person to die in the parish.

More specifically, if you gaze into the waters of the pool on Midsummer’s Eve you will see the image of this ill fated person looking back at you.

One time two local lads, hearing this story over a few pints in the pub, decided to test this theory by riding their motorbikes as close to the pool as they could get. Then walked to gaze into the murky waters… no one knows what they actually saw, for both men were tragically killed in a road accident on the return journey, but it doesn’t take a genius to work out what they probably did see.

More recently, a young army cadet died there during an exercise when he fell from a zip line strung across the pool.

The weight of the kit he was wearing dragged him under, and he sadly drowned before anyone could rescue him.

Crazywell Pool features in the fate of a tragic historical figure, namely Piers Gaveston, one time court favourite of Edward II, and the first Earl of Cornwall.

During a period of banishment, he returned to the West Country, and went to consult with the ‘Witch of Sheepstor’, or maybe it was just the ‘Oracle of Crazywell Pool’, either way the words he heard were ‘his humbled head shall soon be high’.

Taking this as a sign that he would soon be back in favour, he made an attempt to return to court, whereupon he was promptly arrested and executed… his head being raised on high on a stake upon the royal walls of Warwick Castle.

As I spared a thought for all the tragic losses associated with the pool, I started the return journey to my car, my head full of ideas for my next article.

Passing back into the plantation, to my left, in the foothills of Down Tor, I could see the ruins of Kingsett Farm, one of the many homesteads abandoned prior to the construction of the reservoir.

No one wanted fertilisers or pesticides contaminating the water supply.

A bit further on, I came across a young lamb feeding from its mum. Upon seeing me, it didn’t run away, instead it walked towards me, posed for a photograph, then skipped off over a wall to join its mates.

Another sure sign that spring is with us, the delights of summer just around the corner… enjoy!