Tarr Steps has to be one of my favourite parts of Exmoor. This Grade 1 listed ancient monument has been a tourist attraction for at least two hundred years, and it comes as no surprise that it’s the most photographed feature on Exmoor.
Whether you have children, a dog, both or neither there’s plenty to love about this place. I love the winding, tree lined drive; the river running alongside the road at Bampton (although this is less visible in summer months when the trees are at their most leaf covered). I love the natural beauty of the area and how much it appeals to so many different types and ages of people, but most of all I love the smiles it brings to my children’s faces.
When the gorse comes into view, I know we have almost arrived at our destination. If you are unfamiliar with gorse, it’s a bright yellow evergreen which generally flowers from January to June, (although sometimes sporadically throughout other times of the year). It’s synonymous with wild landscapes and to me it simply signifies that we have arrived ‘on the moors’.
We park and pay our £2 for the day, before we head down the hill. It’s busy with families, couples and groups of friends.
At 55 meters long this clapper bridge dates back to around 1000 BC. It’s one of the oldest bridges in the world and stands over the Barle, one of the best known rivers in the West Country. Each slab weighs up to 2 tons and yet the bridge is still volatile. It has needed to be rebuilt a few times over the years due to flood damage, most recently in 2012.
Children are playing in the river, jumping from rock to rock and I wonder whether some of them (especially the boys) are really hoping they’ll slip and get wet! Others enjoy a picnic on the grass. We just relax, enjoy the view and soak up the sun!
For the more adventurous there is a circular walk clearly signposted from Tarr Steps taking you through the beautiful wooded valley. This is just 2km so even the ‘I don’t want to walk’ children will survive. As it goes, they’ll probably end up walking upstream for much of it, or darting in and out of the river at different points throughout the walk. Amazing how they can get so much enjoyment out of something so ‘boring’. For the experienced walker or simply the more energetic amongst you, there are longer picturesque walks to be had. Visit Exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk and search ‘Tarr Steps’ for directions.
You can’t leave Tarr Steps without sampling a locally produced ‘Styles’ ice-cream from the ice-cream van. I highly recommend the blackberry and double cream (indulgent I know)!