Dartmoor Explorations

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

Zeal Bridge and environs

This post covers features around Zeal Bridge from Zeal Farmstead in the north to Diamond Lane in the south. The bridge crosses over the Bala Brook near to its junction with the river Avon and carries the Aish – Shipley road. The post includes some of the history relating to Zeal and Diamond Lane plus the date stone on the bridge, a benchmark on the barn and an old trough in the “lane”.

These maps show the features covered in this post.
Zeal Farm
Zeal is believed to date from at least the later 13th century, based on documentary evidence, but the site may possibly date back to the Saxon period. Zeal is ‘recorded as Sele’ in a document dating to 1279. The 1840s Tithe Map depiction at Zeal shows a simple farm with a rectangular dwelling in the centre and farm buildings to the north and south. It is believed that little has changed since later 19th century historic map depictions.
Zeal Barn
The Department of Environment in 1986, (ref: South Brent, 51 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV178295) records the Zeal Farm Barn as being “immediately to the south of Zeal Farmhouse. It is a bank barn over a shippon from circa early 19th century. It is constructed from granite rubble. It has grouted scantle slate roof with gabled ends”. There is a benchmark located next to a drain pipe at SX67929 62591. The benchmark is shown on the HER environment viewer and on OS map from 1949. It doesn’t appear to have a reference number as is the norm.
Zeal Bridge a
Zeal bridge over the Bala Brook (just above its junction with the River Avon) is recorded on the Dartmoor HER as having a Date Stone “1810” on the west or up-river side. The bridge carries the road from Aish to Shipley and has never been a county bridge.
Zeal Bridge Date a
This photograph confirms the date “1810” on Zeal Bridge, which is on a plain square tablet over the arch. The bridge general construction is granite with some slate and it is suggested that it was constructed in 1810. It is known to have been widened in 20th century.
Zeal Bridge Date b
Close up of the “18” part of the date stone
Zeal Bridge Date c
Close up of the “10” part of the date stone
Zeal Bridge b
So how did the date plain square tablet get photographed ? Answer is that you have someone with long arms using a mobile phone on “selfie mode”. The Dartmoor HER records the bridge as having a “Wide single span with shallow segmental arch with recessed arch ring of dressed granite voussoirs. Parapets with roughly squared granite coping stones. Bases of piers reinforced with concrete and widened on downstream east side with concrete beam”. The HER environment viewer suggest the bridge also has a benchmark, which during the visit wasn’t located.
Bala Brook
A relatively property called “Bala Brook” is located between Zeal bridge and Diamond Lane
Diamond Lane a
Diamond lane (top gate) which opens out onto Hickley Ridge and Brent Fore Hill.
Diamond Lane b
Diamond lane is thought to have been part of the ancient track followed by monks from Buckfast Abbey to Plympton (suggested by Crossing). The “lane” extends from SX703638 to SX668601
Diamond Lane c
Diamond lane was part of a route around the periphery of the open moor which passed by the way of Dockwell, Yalland, Shipley, and the fords on the East and West Glaze Brooks, onto Spurrell’s Cross and Harford (Ref: Dartmoor HER)
Diamond Lane d
The bottom gate of Diamond lane next to the Aish – Shipley road.
Diamond Lane Trough
In Diamond lane is an unfinished granite trough which is roughly ‘d’ shaped. The Dartmoor HER records its internal depth as 15cm and its external depth at least 35cm. It is further stated that it is probable that it has never been hollowed to its full depth. It lies on the south side of the lane at a corner close to the field bank at SX67911 62225.

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