Landowners' trees blamed for knocking down Tarr Steps

Rebuilding Tarr Steps Image copyright Somerset County Council
Image caption The stones, some weighing up to two tonnes, were put back into place on Thursday

Calls have been made for landowners to manage their woodlands better to help prevent the stones of an ancient bridge in Exmoor being washed away.

The Tarr Steps in Exmoor National Park across the River Barle were knocked out of place during storms in November.

Conservation manager Rob Wilson North said the "big problem" was "the water bringing fallen debris from the woodland".

The bridge has now been rebuilt for the second time in four years.

'Jewel in the crown'

Mr Wilson North, who works for the national park, added landowners must share some of the blame and manage their land better.

Tarr Steps is made up of 17 spans and stretches nearly 164ft (50m) across the river.

Its exact age is unknown, with several theories claiming Tarr Steps date from the Bronze Age, while others date them to about 1400 AD.

The repair work involved putting the pieces together - with some weighing up to two tonnes - much like a jigsaw as each stone is numbered.

Cabinet member for highways at Somerset County Council, David Fothergill, said: "It is an ancient scheduled monument, it's Grade I listed.

"It attracts huge numbers of people to Exmoor in terms of tourism and the local economy, it's the jewel in the crown for Exmoor and we do need to look after it."

Image copyright Somerset County Council
Image caption Somerset County Council is responsible for the upkeep of the ancient bridge

Tarr Steps has been damaged many times throughout its long history, most recently in 2013.

Due to its protected status, the bridge must be put together exactly as before.

The council added that additional work had taken place to repair an upstream "tree protection boom" to prevent trees falling into the river and hitting the bridge.

It also said the Tarr Steps could be better protected if landowners did not stack timber along the river.

Image copyright Somerset County Council
Image caption The bridge has been washed away twice in four years

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