TARR STEPS SCHEDULED AS AN ANCIENT MONUMENT,

19 May 2020


Tarr-Steps-(2).jpgNo. 30 Fascinating Somerset Facts - Tarr Steps in West Somerset, Exmoor, cross the River Barle in a beautiful wooded valley. The steps are a 17-span clapper bridge (the term coming from the Latin claperius, meaning ‘pile of stones’) that is constructed entirely from large stone slabs and boulders.Although first mentioned in Tudor times, it is probably much older. The river has silted up over the last century and in times of flood the water can completely cover the stones.

The bridge has had to be repaired several times as stones as heavy as two tonnes have been washed up, up to 50 metres downstream. A nearby lodge offers both accommodation and meals.

The name ‘Tarr’ is thought to be derived from the Celtic word tochar meaning ‘causeway’.

It’s only because the local sedimentary rocks form such suitable slabs that it was built at all. At 59 yards (54 metres), Tarr Steps is by far the longest of the 40 or so clapper bridges left in Britain.


 

MYTHS AND LEGENDS

Folklore gives a different origin for the bridge, however, saying the Devil himself built it, and promised to kill anyone who attempted to cross. A cat was sent across and the local people saw it vaporised before their very eyes, so the local parson was sent over. He met with the Devil at the midway point of the bridge, and stood firm before the demon, despite all the Devil’s shouting and foul abuse. The Devil eventually conceded, allowing people to cross his bridge.

He did add one stipulation however — people would still be banned from the bridge in the event of him choosing to sunbathe there — a stipulation that stands to this very day.

TARR STEPS SCHEDULED AS AN ANCIENT MONUMENT,
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