WORK to rebuild an iconic clapper bridge on Exmoor after last year’s floods caused extensive damage to it is due to be completed within days.
Now the water has subsided, a £10,000 project has started to rebuild the centuries-old, 50-metre Tarr Steps structure, which attracts thousands of visitors each year.
Somerset County Council is working with contractors Crestmoor to retrieve the bridge’s large stones which were washed away with the force of the floods on December 22 and 23, 2012.
Cllr Frances Nicholson, who represents Dulverton and Exmoor, said: “I am delighted work is now under way to restore Tarr Steps to its former glory.
“The bridge is an enduring and iconic feature of the Exmoor landscape that has been in use since medieval times.
“The team is working extremely hard and is doing a tremendous job, putting in long hours to try to keep to schedule.
“Tarr Steps is very much a honeypot for visitors to Exmoor and is a major contributor to the local economy drawing in people from all over the country to come and stay in the area.
“As an ancient monument the bridge must be put back exactly the way it was, so it is especially pleasing to see how the ancient design lends itself to quick and economical repair.
“The cost of the scheme to rebuild the seven displaced spans is about £10,000. If we were to build a modern bridge instead it would cost about £500,000.”
Damage to the stone bridge was compounded by the force of large trees which came down in the bad weather and floated downstream knocking out several spans of the Tarr Steps.
An upstream ‘tree protection boom’ made of steel wires was also torn down in the flood. This is also being replaced.
Each spanning stone is unique and the county council’s bridge team knows in detail what the stones look like and where they should go in the numbered spans.
It is hoped the work to rebuild the Grade I listed bridge will be completed by early next week.