It has always been accepted that the River Torridge springs from a boggy corner of the lonely and windswept Woolley Moors, only a few yards from the Morwenstow-Bradworthy border and actually in the former parish. Here also is the county boundary between Devon and Cornwall. One of the paintings of the great artist J.M.W. Turner depicts a scene of this countryside.

Turners Tamar

Source of the Tamar, by Turner

The old topographer, William of Worcester, gave the source of the Torridge as being in Seynt Nichtons, which is Hartland, and indeed it is quite close to the Hartland border. It is also a fact that the longest headwater of the River Torridge is Clifford Water which rises near Slade in Clovelly parish. However, the official source, like that of the River Tamar, is on the highlands about half a mile east of Woolley Cross on the main road from North Devon into Cornwall.


The Torridge, near its source at Meddon

The Tamar and Torridge it has been said, rise one on each side of a clump of rushes. It is not quite like that. If you take the Bradworthy road from Woolley Cross, you arrive shortly at a spot where on the right is a bit of open marshland, adjacent southward to a forest of conifers. There you will see a little channel of water hardly moving from beneath the road. This is the infant Tamar. It is about one hundred yards from the old boundary stone marked Bradworthy-Moorwinstow.

On the left over a low hedge is an uneven stretch of moor, sloping away to the north. It is difficult to walk across it with its large clumps of sedge and rushes. Lower down it becomes wet and soggy, and from this swampy area the rivers seep away in opposite directions. Our Torridge trickles with the water of a hedgebank gutter down into a shallow valley, and by the time it reaches its first bridge at Brimford, forming the Hartland-Bradworthy boundary, it has become a respectable stream.

River Waldon

River Waldon, tributary of the Torridge, near Bradworthy

Thus having risen on the eastern heights of Morwenstow, the Torridge immediately leaves behind this seaboard Cornish parish with its memories of Robert Stephen Hawker. It has but a brief encounter with Hartland as it flows on beneath the little hamlet of Meddon, which was one of the five manors within Hartland parish recorded in the Doomesday Book.

The seaboard parishes have been graphically described in many guide books and other published works and need not detain us.

For a mile or so the river runs north-east; then turns near Biteford Farm and starts on its south-eastern course. It is a good sized stream when beyond Horton Bridge it is joined by Clifford Water and is now shaping the northern boundary of the large parish of Bradworthy with, on its other bank, a parish with one of the longest place names in Devon.

Extract from the writings of local historian Cecil Collacott

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