Photography by Claude Williams


When the Bill to flood the Swincombe Valley for the construction of another reservoir went to parliament, it was Lady Sylvia Sayer who spearheaded a strong opposition movement against the flooding of Swincombe Valley.

In Lady Sayer's words, 'Foxtor Plain is a great natural amphitheatre … a place of immense spaciousness and wildness: it has nothing to do with “prettiness”; its character is one of austere beauty, challenge and inspiration—Dartmoor itself’.

A parliamentary committee, consisting of four Members of Parliament, scrutinised the bill for a total of 17 days. Ultimately, in 1970, and to much joy, the decision was made against the flooding of Swincombe. However, the proposition resurfaced multiple times during the 1970s and early 1980s.

In 1985, the DPA used funds from a bequest to acquire 50 acres of land in the vicinity where the Swincombe reservoir dam was originally planned. This acquisition finally settled the matter once and for all. The site sits free to the elements, as it did 50 years ago.