The picture below marks a moment in history – a gathering on Meavy Green, snapped by a drone with a Hasselblad lens, of some of the hundred locals who packed Meavy Hall to learn how the Devonshire visitor experience is likely to develop, with the help of futuristic technology which can recreate the past.

Professor Bob Stone, a Plymouth man who runs a virtual reality team at Birmingham University, worked with the Dartmoor Society and the Yelverton History Society to put on a presentation called Making The Invisible Visible.

His Human Interface Technologies team has done most of its field work in Devon, partly because Bob Stone loves coming back and partly because the Navy and Marines in Devonport are important customers, for simulations for training. Devon hospitals have also picked up on the potential for outdoor therapy for bed-bound patients.

But the focus of the lecture in Meavy yesterday (Thurs. Feb. 21, 2019) was on the work the team have done in and around Burrator Reservoir, rebuilding its history back to before the mid-Meavy valley was flooded, drowning the Langstone Manor estate, part of the original Drake’s Leat to Plymouth and a network of fields, paths and old buildings – although not a church which sometimes rings its bell in ghostly fashion, contrary to popular belief.

The audience got glimpses of what will eventually be as essential a part of a visit to the lake as a Willie’s ice-cream. So far, it is an unfinished collection of maps, photos, sonar surveys, solid artefacts and computerised reconstructions, which are being layered into a walk-through experience.

The team are also working on various angles in Plymouth Sound. Prof. Stone said he was shocked by the amount of sunken history Plymouth had let slip away – the loss of early submarines, the breaking of The Amethyst (star of the infamous Yangtse Incident), an abandoned project to turn Wembury into a major port, and so on. All could become part of a new wave of visitor experiences. He is also working on a recreation of the Mayflower’s voyage to America 400 years ago, including ship, crew and passengers, although the funding to finish it has not been promised in time for next year’s anniversary events.

Prof. Stone’s team will be back at Burrator in March, looking for more remnants of the torpedo nets which were laid in the reservoir when Plymouth was living in fear of a German attack on the dam. One of his latest discoveries is a letter from the occupant of The Homestead at Dousland to the War Office in 1942, complaining about the Dad’s Army incompetence of the Home Guard watch on Burrator, which depended on everyone obeying polite notices.

For some more details, see previous Horrabridge Times story at

And keep checking in here, every Friday. We will have more pictures and reports as the Burrator project, and the technology involved, make progress.

Prof, Stone said: “Headsets which used to cost thousands and require a quarter-million-quids-worth of computer are now down to a few hundred dollars and they are getting better all the time.”

He is pleased to be contacted with old pictures and memories. Email him at

And the Dartmoor Society would like to point out that it organises a lot of interesting talks and welcomes new members.

      The beast that flew in Meavy

                                Glimpsing the future in Meavy

* For music in Horrabridge this weekend, details of upcoming flood advice meeting, local am-dram productions and more, take a look at our Postboard page …

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1 Comment

  1. It was a brilliant presentation, Bob was so enthusiastic and knew his subject inside out. Didn’t manage to get up the gangplank in the virtual presentation, fell off the quay! The seagull was a surprise.

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