Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Tarr Steps, Exmoor

Late January, and nodding snowdrops greet us in Dulverton, Somerset. We were fortunate, at this time of year the flowers could have been hidden under a layer of snow.  
Dulverton lies on the southern edge of Exmoor's National Park - Europe's first International Dark Skies Reserve. Tucked in at the entrance to a deeply wooded valley Dulverton is known for its close location to a pre-historic clapper bridge called Tarr Steps 

Many are the folk tales surrounding this ancient river crossing some of which talk of the Devil himself
Canoeing is allowed downstream of Tarr Steps only between mid October and the end of March when water levels are high. Upstream it is not allowed at any time to prevent disturbing developing fish eggs. Curiously, as can be observed from these photos, downstream of Tarr Steps the River Barle is rough and fast, whereas upstream it is shallow and calm. 
A sure-foot is required when crossing this ancient scheduled monument, understood to date back as far as 1000 BC
The water eddies around the supporting stones then gurgles merrily on its journey beneath the clapper bridge 

Close by the steps are burial mounds of Bronze Age men - did they use this same crossing point in the river?

The surrounding woodland is mainly Oak, Beech, Ash, Sycamore, and Hazel which was once coppiced to provide charcoal for the local iron smelting industry. It is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest abounding in wildlife - Red Deer, Dormice, the rare Barbastelle Bat along with Otters that feed along this unpolluted fast flowing river
Atlantic salmon that hatch in the River Barle, may journey as far away as Greenland before returning years later to spawn. For rivers to be suitable for salmon they need unpolluted, cool, well oxygenated water along with clean gravel on the riverbed for spawning, these are exactly the conditions that are found in this river.
The steeply banked very narrow country lanes in this area were all impressively maintained. The grassy banks were trimmed and the hedgerows atop were neatly cut ready to greet the forthcoming spring.

70 comments:

  1. What a beautiful, wild and natural place, Rosemary. I have never heard of a clapper bridge, but Tarr Steps is a most amazing construction. So well-made, yet about 3,000 years old! It is hard to believe it has stood the test of time and that swift flowing river all these years. I wonder what sort of people were there who built it, how they lived and what they did. Snow drops are one of the sweetest little flowers, and look beautiful in a church yard. Thank you for another special post.

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    1. Tarr Steps has actually withstood countless storms over the centuries until two years ago when several of the stones in the middle part of the bridge, which incidentally weigh between one and two tons each, were dismantled and swept downstream by a 10ft wall of flood water during a very fierce storm. Fortunately they had all been archeologically plotted and numbered so could be securely reassembled again.
      Trying to imagine what it was like 3,000 years ago and thinking of the people who made this clapper bridge without any of the heavy equipment to hand that we have today is always a mystery. I often think how lovely it would be to be able to visit back then, albeit briefly, just to see.

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  2. Amazing, such an old bridge and still in use!

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    1. It is a wonderful spot, and we had it all to ourselves in January

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  3. It looks just as it could have done all those years ago and quite atmospheric. So much moss. It is back with a vengeance after the autumn rains, here too.

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    1. It does feel as if time has been frozen in this valley.

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  4. Hello Rosemary, This is one of the loveliest and most intriguing spots you have photographed for us yet. The atmosphere just radiates mystery and antiquity. I was surprised that the bridge was almost entirely original. I would have imagined that spring freshets would have been more than equal to dislodging even such large stones. It is an ingenious structure, and ancient people were certainly adept at moving large stones around.

    By coincidence, I was just reading about coppicing and pollarding. These relics here are hauntingly beautiful.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - I do appreciate your kind comment, but I am also delighted that the valleys prehistoric ambience came across to you.
      I am sure that over the centuries the stones have become dislodged from time to time but the most significant moment on record was that of two years ago. Was this an extreme weather event possibly connected with climate change?

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  5. Hi Rosemary. Tarr Steps were featured on A Bit About Britain recently, but I must say that your photographs are much better! It's a beautiful and slightly mysterious spot; good pub nearby.

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    1. We had the valley all to ourselves apart from the odd walker and visitors to the pub - we loved this atmospheric spot.

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  6. The sight of snowdrops always warms my heart, even in the midst of winter!
    Such beautiful sights you captured, so delightful to meander amongst your pictures.
    Cheers,
    Merisi

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    1. Thank you Merisi - and I am pleased you enjoyed having a meander in the valley through the pictures

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  7. A real wonderful place Rosemary, I love and loved it. When I read your post and saw the pictures I rememberd we were there, a very long time ago in 1986......with our daughters during school holidays. I love the snowdrops on the graveyard, so unusual here, but so pretty.

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    1. It was lovely to see the snowdrops amongst the graves, and I am so pleased that this post carried memories of your own visit to Tarr Steps with your daughters many years ago.

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  8. Flowers blooming ...a bit of a surprise. Love the river shots and I am a bit shocked that they will let anyone cross the stone bridge!

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    1. People have been crossing this prehistoric stone bridge fro 3000 years, and no doubt, all being well, they will be still crossing it in another 3000 years!

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  9. Hello Rosemary,

    What an incredible construction this bridge is and to think that this has been a river crossing for so many centuries is incredible. All the feet that have walked across those stones.....it is so intriguing thinking about it.

    Your photographs have really captured the natural beauty of this ancient place. They are very atmospheric, it was almost as if we were walking with you, taking the greatest care not to fall in the water! And, how very special to have enjoyed the site to yourselves. The peace and quiet with just the rush of water is tangible.

    A brilliant post.

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    1. Hello Jane & Lance, and thank you very much for your kind and generous comment.
      I am glad that you took great care crossing over the stones with me, apart from a sure foot it also requires good balance - luckily we all seem to have arrived safely on the other side!!!

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  10. Would be very peaceful there and listen to the river flowing would also be good. I like that bridge but one wouldn't want to slip.

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    1. It was a very peaceful spot, but you are right slipping into the water would be dangerous and very cold

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  11. What a lovely glimpse of "wild" England!

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    1. Exmoor and Dartmoor are quite wild and can be very dramatic during bad weather. There are herds of rare native wild ponies that live on both moors.

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  12. What a fascinating post. I loved reading about those crossing stones. Thank you!

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    1. These ancient crossing routes in remote spots do seem to hold a fascination for us all.

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  13. What a beautiful view of late winter. I only know this area from reading blogs and travel books. The Tarr Steps are so very interesting - I'd love to try them out! I am in the very preliminary stages of planning a walking holiday - there are so many wonderful walks in your country!

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    1. Dear H - that sounds a very exciting prospect, are you going to be walking over here? If so, there are lots of books you can purchase with good walking holidays, and places to stay on route.

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    2. Not wanting to make work or be a bother - but could you suggest some books? Our library has a very limited variety and the book stores only carry the very big-name travel books. If I knew of a title or two I could easily order.

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    3. Can you tell me which areas you are interested in walking so that I can narrow it down for you - I would be more than happy to do that♡

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  14. The Tarr Steps are one of my favourite places, they are a truly magical spot aren't they. If you look at the pictures of my mantel, the picture hanging above the fire is of the Tarr Steps! So wonderful to see your lovely pictures! xx

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    1. I will keep my eyes pinned on your mantle - it is a special place with its own unique atmosphere

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  15. What a beautiful spot and lovely photographs - I do love being by running water - it hypnotises me.

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    1. Running water makes me feel that all's well with the world.

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  16. Aren't snowdrops amazing .........

    Lovely pictures, thank you.

    All the best Jan

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    1. It doesn't matter what weather is thrown at them they always seem to turn up smiling

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  17. What an incredible place, could easily fit into some eery movie , very fascinating though !

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    1. It feels like a hidden secretive world when you are in the valley

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  18. Hi Rosemary....
    So nice to see some green.....
    Cheers!
    Linda :o)

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    1. So far this winter the snow has given us the miss - are you off to Florida soon?

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  19. Such an interesting bridge in the way it has been constructed and survived the test of time. It must have been a strategic spot on the river and it captures the imagination. The wildness of the place is magical.

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    1. It is an atmospheric spot and we were lucky to have it to ourselves.

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  20. Fascinating post Rosemary and as usual some splendid photos. It sounds idyllic with the rushing water and a plethora of wild animals roaming around. P x

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    1. We were so fortunate with the weather - I should imagine it can be pretty wild during a bad winter.

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  21. Dear Rosemary, all of your photographs look so inviting. It does the body good to see so much green. And those snowdrops! What a feast for the eyes and soul.

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    1. Dear Gina - I am wondering if we might escape having any snow this winter, time is ticking on and the longer we can avoid it the better. The north of the country have had some but none around here.

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  22. Tarr Steps look amazing. Just googled them as we're going to Devon in half term. Think they be a little too far away though, we'll be in South Devon. Love reading your blog for the history & ideas for places to visit.

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    1. Perhaps you might enjoy visiting the ford and stepping stones over the River Teign in Devon instead?

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  23. So wonderful place to walk. Lovely. I would like to go with.
    Hugs

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    1. It is a special place which has been frequented by man for thousands of years.

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  24. Hello, Rosemary. This is my first--certainly not my last!--visit to your blog. I found the link through your comment on Ben Pentreath's blog. Your photography is wonderful, what an eye you have. The River Barle and environs look utterly magical. Lots of accumulated vibes from the ancient stones of Tarre Steps, no doubt, as well as the natural spirits of the site. I have a weakness for moss, the furry trees make me want to touch them. I hope the ivy is being (gently) kept from over-running the moss? I look forward to exploring the rest of your blog, I am so pleased I found it! Best wishes from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.

    Diane

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    1. Hello Diane - I am delighted to welcome you here and thank you for your very kind comment. Tarr Steps does have a very special atmosphere and we were fortunate to have it all to ourselves last week. Look forward to hearing from you again sometime.

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  25. Wow, that takes me back in time, I think we went on a school trip here! Lovely post. Suzy x

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    1. Glad it brought back memories from your childhood Suzy, and that you enjoyed the post

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  26. Hello, Rosemary! Beautiful winter-scape around the river. I often feel a river connects the past with the present by its ceaseless flow from the ancient times. The Tarr Steps reminded me of the stepping stones of the Asuka River which is believed to have been there and used by the local people at least 1300 years ago, though the stones were washed away by flooding and new ones were replaced each time. The gnarled moss-covered trees are so impressive and beautiful.

    Yoko

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    1. Hello Yoko - there is something timeless about a river, it makes you feel everything is all right in the world.
      I love the mossy covered trees and hedgerows too, and the beauty of it is that it does no harm whatsoever.

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  27. Dear Rosemary,

    The bridge is so beautifully made, and I'd love to have the experience of crossing it, just to imagine that I was following the footsteps of others from so long ago. I think those supporting stones give the bridge a very modern feel,

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    1. Dear Mark - I must admit that similar thoughts crossed my mind as I cautiously walked across the stones. The bridge is a very pleasing construction to visit and marvel at.

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  28. Lovely pictures again...what a beautiful nature! Your pictures makes me want to move at once!!!! Just love it!
    Warm hug,
    Titti

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    1. It is a lovely place to visit, and feels as if it is lost in a time warp from long ago♡

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  29. The second photo is unbelievable Rosemary! No snowdrops in my area, so this view is absolutely marvelous combined with the English landscape, all this makes me dream of a future visit to this beautiful land...
    Wishing you a happy weekend
    Olympia

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    1. I wonder if snowdrops grow in Greece Olympia? They are certainly a flower which we English all seem to have growing in our gardens, woodlands, and of course churchyards. I think that we particularly like them because they herald the coming spring, and are such tough little flowers the way in which they take whatever nature throws at them. I am pleased that you enjoyed seeing this rather primeval landscape.

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  30. Such beautiful photos Rosemary! I can just imagine ancient mankind crossing through that landscape all those centuries before....

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    1. It was lovely to be in a spot untouched by the trappings of the twenty-first century and yet not so far from civilisation

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  31. Love the muted tones in your photos, the end-of-winter pause before spring. I can only imagine the joyful sounds of the water as it rushes along. It makes me so happy to hear that this waterway is respected and preserved for fish and animals so it can continue to provide for them as it has done throughout history.

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    1. Hello Rosemary - the wildlife on the river, especially the Atlantic salmon is quite extraordinary. I learnt that it can take the fish eggs up to 5 years to develop fully before they go off downstream to the sea, and then they are at sea for another 5 years before returning back to this river again to spawn.

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  32. thanks Rosemary for your visit at the Italian View !
    I will follow you as well, you have a very nice blog and I love you Country very much !

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    1. Thank you for your visit Massimo - delighted that we are following one another, I look forward to seeing many more of your wonderful images.

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  33. Such an enchanted place to visit ! The forest, the river, the old bridge ... You made me dream with my eyes open. Thank you, Rosemary !

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    1. Thank you Dani - I am so happy that you enjoyed visiting this magical spot.

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  34. What a truly magical place, Rosemary, and you convey its magic so beautifully. I confess I've never even heard of Tarr Steps and am very glad to have been introduced to them. The thought of crossing this ancient bridge in the footsteps of our pre-Roman ancestors sends a shiver down my spine. I'm glad to see it and its surroundings are being so well cared-for.

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    1. It was my first visit to Tarr Steps Perpetua and I would recommend that you visit if you have the opportunity. I can image that it is not quite so quiet and idyllic in the summer holidays though.

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