Updated: Sep 9, 2020
Sometimes a trip down memory lane is just what is needed and during a recent visit to Somerset my husband took us on such a trip. Having spent much of his childhood holidaying in the Exmoor National Park, Russell was keen to revisit the ancient clapper bridge known as Tarr Steps.
We had been warned that Tarr Steps was likely to be busy and so decided to leave it until later in the day before heading there. We arrived mid-afternoon and other than a few families, some passing mountain bikers and local dog walkers the bridge was pleasantly quiet.
Tarr Steps is a medieval bridge dating back to around 1000BC and is made up of 17 giant slabs, with some weighing in at more than 2 tonnes. Myth has it that the bridge was built by the Devil which may explain how the slabs were positioned all that time ago without the aid of today’s modern machines.
Designated a National Nature Reserve in 2004, the beautiful wooded valley of the River Barle is abundant with wildlife including otters, spawning salmon and the shy dormouse. The trail path running along the side of the river offers more of an amble than a hike and the surrounding woodland made up largely of ancient oak mixed with beech, ash and hazel provides the perfect cool green canopy for many rare mosses and lichens. The large boulders that are found along this length of the river are perfect for using as stepping-stones and the small pools that they create were the ideal spot for cooling hot feet.
Crossing the beautifully clear and peaceful waters of the river via a footbridge a little more than a mile upstream, we continued the circular walk passing through an idyllic grass meadow before heading back under the trees. Walking through the woodland we came across various fallen trees with coins hammered into many of them; an unusual feature which we later learned is a local tradition. Taking our time to enjoy the tranquillity of the river we eventually returned to the Tarr Steps and made our way back up to the car park at the top of the hill.
It may not have been the longest walk, but it truly was one of the most rewarding and the perfect way to end our day.
We'll see you down the trail