Dartmoor Explorations

A collection of walks, discoveries, insights and pictures of exploring Dartmoor National Park

Manga (or Mangersford) Rails

At the ancient Mangersford (Manga Ford) on the North Teign River, near the point where Hugh (Hew) Lake joins the river, there are four granite posts which support the Manga ‘Rails’. Historically, the granite posts once supported horizontal timbers as the ‘rails’ which in modern times are now metal. This is well known crossing point of the river, but this wasn’t the original intention for their construction.

The granite posts that support the rails have been in place since around 1780, and were constructed as described by Eric Hemery in High Dartmoor (page 819): “to prevent beasts from wandering downstream from Teignhead Newtake”. Hemery further mentions that this location was once known as ‘Collinsford’, which was marked on the Gidley Map. The name is believed to have originated because of the regular use of the ford by the Collins family of Batworthy who were mentioned in the Tithe Apportionments of 1843.

The ‘Rails’ are extensively used by hikers which ultimately leads to this crossing point needing lots of repair work over the years. In the memory of the author major repairs took place in June 1991 and in June 2014. This post explores the stories behind these repairs and also shows some of the pictures the author has taken over the last 30 years or so.

0. Rails
The Manga Rails (June 2023) with Hew Down in the background
This picture of the ‘rails’ (Hemery – High Dartmoor, page 815) is how the author recalls his first view of the structure. There are only three granite posts (there are now four) and the rails were merely barbed wire strung between the posts. It was a difficult crossing point in those days !!
1. Rail Repairs 1991a
In June 1991, major repairs had to be undertaken. The original rails had rusted out and one of the posts had been removed to be used as a gatepost a short distance away. The repairs included re-instating the original granite post (with a new gatepost provided for a gateway) and replacing the iron rails. The iron rails and fittings were supplied by Mr F. Neve (Blacksmith at Burgess Farm Industries, Tavistock) – Dartmoor Magazine (Winter 1991 edition).
1. Rail Repairs 1991b
The June 1991 repairs were undertaken by Deputy Head Ranger, Eddie Hain and Sector Ranger, Ian Brooker
A combined picture from pre-1991 (Hemery – likely to be early 1980’s) and an authors picture taken in 2000. The ‘new’ granite post is the one on the right hand (east bank), which has been used as a gatepost elsewhere.
2. DNPA 1991 Plaque a
The 1991 repairs are commemorated by a small plaque which is located on the granite post which is on the east bank of the river. The grid reference for the plaque is SX63995 86032. This east bank granite post is the one the author believes was used as a gatepost nearby for several years.
2. DNPA 1991 Plaque b
The plaque reads: “RAILS REPLACED BY DARTMOOR NATIONAL PARK RANGER SERVICE JUNE 1991”
3. Dad on Rails 1994
The authors father crossing the rails in 1994. We were camping near Teignhead Farm.
4. Rails 06082000 a
The rails – taken 6th August 2000
4. Rails 06082000 b
Crossing the rails on 6th August 2000. These folks were work colleagues of the author. We were completing the Forest of Dartmoor Perambulation as part of its 760th anniversary year.
5. Missing Rails March 2014
In March 2014, the bottom rails were missing, no doubt caused by the thousands of hikers ‘crabbing’ along the lower rail to cross the river. DNPA record that two new rails and metal supports were ordered from Conibear Brothers in Crediton and a local blacksmith, Dave Denford was employed to make new and stronger fixings. The rails and stronger fixings were given a fresh coat of paint. The new rails and fixings were installed in June 2014
6. Rails 2020
The rails – taken December 2020. The author was completing the Forest of Dartmoor Perambulation for a fourth time, on this occasion to commemorate the 780th anniversary.
7. Rails 2023
The ‘rails’ looked in good order in June 2023.

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