The dam is designed to prevent the River Lemon flooding nearby Newton Abbot. The River Lemon, spanning a length of 9.9 miles, is situated in Devon County. It serves as a tributary to the River Teign, originating from Dartmoor near Haytor and terminating in Newton Abbot. The river emerges on the southeastern side of Dartmoor in close proximity to Haytor, converges with the River Sig and the Langworthy Brook at Sigford, and subsequently passes through the village of Bickington. As it progresses downstream, the River Lemon merges with the Kestor Brook and meanders through the woodlands in Bradley Valley, passing by Bradley Manor House, and eventually flowing through the town of Newton Abbot. In Newton Abbot, the river traverses a tunnel measuring 440 yards in length beneath the town center, the River Lemon joins the River Teign near the head of its estuary.This camera was installed and is maintained by the Environment Agency and can be viewed here.
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A significant stretch of the river has been designated as a Special Area of Conservation known as the South Hams SAC, specifically for the Greater Horseshoe Bat. This designation includes protected flight corridors that extend 500 meters on each side of the river.The name "Lemon" is derived from a Celtic term denoting elm. Over the years, the river has been responsible for major flooding incidents in Newton Abbot, notably on December 19, 1853, November 14, 1894, August 6, 1938, and December 27, 1979. In order to prevent further occurrences, a flood-control reservoir and dam were constructed in 1982, situated just below the confluence with the Kestor Brook at Holbeam.In December 2013, a tragic incident occurred involving Nick Mutton, a local primary school teacher, who lost his life while attempting to rescue his dog from the river. He was carried away by the strong currents and found near Tucker's Maltings, located on the opposite side of the town. The river's high water level, caused by torrential rain, had led to the overflow of the River Lemon.