Albion, ancient sites, Books, Photography, Stuart France and Sue Vincent, travel

A Thousand Miles of History: Twin Bridges…

We were nearing the end of the road across Dartmoor and it was definitely time for refreshments. This was handy, as I wanted to stop anyway… and we could not leave Devon without at least one cream tea, even if we were only passing through and it was only mid-afternoon. Luckily, I knew just the place. Not only would there be scones with jam, cream and a nice pot of tea, but there just happened to be a couple of things I wanted to photograph.

Postbridge is situated where the road across Dartmoor crosses the East Dart River. The water flows dark and golden from the moor where it rises near Whitehorse Hill, tumbling over boulders or smooth as silk in quiet pools. Not all is as tranquil as it seems, though, for it is here that you are most likely to encounter the ghostly Hairy Hands grabbing your wheel as you drive across the moor.

An earthen lane circles a raised grassy area containing a large stone
Image: Fiona Avis,

Not far away too, there is the tragic grave of Kitty Jay, a pregnant mother rejected by her lover around three hundred years ago. In despair, she took her own life and was buried at the crossroads. This was the custom for suicides, so that their ghost would be confused, unable to find their way home and thus unable to trouble the living. Every morning there are fresh flowers to be found on her grave, though no-one knows who puts them there. Locals say it is the piskies…

At Postbridge, there are two bridges by which you can cross the river. The first carries the modern road and its three granite arches have spanned the waters since 1780. Alone, it would be beautiful, with the river tumbling through the stones beneath it, its banks full of wildflowers and sparkling with damselflies, but it is not alone.

A few yards downstream is the famous clapper bridge. This one must have been hair-raising to cross of a dark and moonless night. Clapper bridges were often placed close to a ford where carriages and carts could cross the stream while the feet of men and packhorses could remain dry.

They are built as a series of stone piers upon which huge slabs of stone are set. Some clapper bridges may date back as far as the Stone Age, though most are medieval. This one is only around eight hundred years old and is still in use today. So much so that getting any photo of it without a constant stream of people was nigh on impossible…

Postbridge also houses a Visitor Centre and is a popular place for people wishing to explore Dartmoor and nearby Bellever Forest. The downside of this is that it is unlikely you will be able to sit in quiet contemplation by the river when visitors are arriving by the coachload. We withdrew to the back garden of the pub and watched the bees and dragonflies as we refuelled for the last leg of the day’s journey.

We still had a hundred miles to drive to our hotel for the last night of the trip. We were determined to get a good bit closer to our destination before we stopped again. But I was already missing being close to the sea…

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