Give the devil his due*

by chuckofish

clapper bridge

Have you ever heard of this clapper bridge, Tarr Steps, over the River Barle in Exmoor? I first came upon it here. (There are many more good pictures, so check it out.)

clapper 2

This is so cool! I mean the bridge may date to around 1000 BC! (Its age is unknown–several theories claim that Tarr Steps dates from the Bronze Age, but others date it from around 1400 AD.)  A clapper bridge, you will recall, is an ancient form of bridge found on the moors of Devon (Dartmoor and Exmoor) and in other upland areas of the United Kingdom.

The stone slabs weigh up to 1-2 tons apiece. How were they moved? According to local legend, they were placed by the devil to win a bet. The bridge is 180 feet (55 m) long and has 17 spans. Half of this bridge was washed away by the river during heavy rains in December 2012. Thankfully the bridge has now been re-assembled.

The aforementioned myth has it that the Devil built the bridge at Tarr Steps and still has sunbathing rights on its stones. Supposedly the devil swore he would kill anyone who tried to cross his bridge. The terrified locals got the parson to face him. A cat was sent over the Bridge but was vaporised in a puff of smoke. The parson then set off and met the Devil midway. The Devil swore and intimidated him but the parson reciprocated equally and finally the Devil conceded to let people pass except when he wants to sunbathe.

Photo by John Gay, 1953

These photos were taken in 1953 by John Gay. You can see more here.

John Gay 53

car in river

I’ve no doubt that my dual personality has probably been to Tarr Steps, but this provincial girl has not. If I ever get back to merry old England, I will definitely try to check out Exmoor’s National Park!


*English proverb