Lopwell Dam is a beautiful spot at any time of the year; the colours and views on display are simply breathtaking.

Near Plymouth, the Local Nature Reserve is home to a varied range of wildlife, both in and out of the water. Delve into Lopwell’s long history (all the way back to the 13th century!), and learn about how this peaceful haven was once a busy river quay that served Plymouth and London, with a mineshaft used for mining lead and silver.

Explore Lopwell Dam

There are lots of things to do with the family: have a go at pond-dipping, go on a mini-beast hunt, try a spot of bird watching, follow the beautiful woodland trails, or even cycle the Tamar Discovery Trail!

At low tide you can walk across the Tidal Ford and encounter nature face to face by following the beautiful woodland trails in the Local Nature Reserve. Lopwell also lies on the route of the Tamar Valley Discovery Trail between Plymouth and Launceston, and the Lopwell Dam cycle link from the Plym Valley/National Cycle Route 27.

While it is now a peaceful and beautiful spot, Lopwell was initially a busy river quay, serving nearby mines. Explore Lopwell’s nature trail and discover Wheal Maristow, an impressive mineshaft, dating back to the 13th Century. Before the dam was built, a ferry used to run from one side of the estuary to the other. If you walk around the nature reserve you will come across the ruins of the old ferryman’s cottage which used to house the Vivian brothers who ran the ferry in around 1918 (a wooden rowing boat!)

'Where salt and fresh water meet.'

Lopwell is open all year round, although access to the Nature Reserve (via the ford) is restricted by the tide. Tide tables are provided on both sides of the dam.

Wildlife at Lopwell Dam

Lopwell Dam is a haven for wildlife, encompassing several distinct habitats. In 2004, the site was designated as a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) in recognition of its unique environment. Lopwell Dam lies within the Tamar Tavy and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). SSSIs are established to protect the most valuable areas of the country for wildlife and geology. Lopwell Dam is an important saltmarsh habitat site for species such as common saltmarsh-grass, red fescue, sea couch, sea purslane, sea aster, sea arrowgrass, sea club-rush and English scurvygrass.

Explore ancient semi-natural woodlands, and a wildflower and butterfly meadow. Look out for the grey heron, which can sometimes be tricky to spot; they do not migrate, and can be seen at any time of the year, often in shallow water or in vegetation looking for food. Keep an eye out for the little egret, a striking white heron. You are most likely to see these playing and feeding from streams and at the water’s edge. See if you can spot the silver-washed fritillary flying about, and in the water, there are kingfishers, Atlantic salmon…and even an Atlantic grey seal!

Getting to Lopwell Dam

By Road: From the A386 Plymouth – Tavistock road, follow the brown signs to Lopwell Dam, indicated by the duck symbol, passing Buckland Abbey. Take care, this road is narrow in places.

By Bus: Take the 55 service (Mon-Sat) from Yelverton (regular connections from Plymouth/Tavistock) to Milton Combe. There is then a ½ mile walk to Lopwell.

By Rail: Take the Tamar Valley line from Plymouth to Bere Ferrers. Lopwell is a 2 mile walk from the station (N.B. The ford at Lopwell is not passable at high tide – check tide times in advance). 

Address: Lopwell Dam, Plymouth, PL6 7BZ