New Year"s Eve forecast: Dry end to the year comes too late for 3,000-year-old bridge as it is washed away by raging river

Wiped out by a raging river: 3,000-year-old bridge known as the Devil's sunbathing spot is washed away as 2012 comes to a very wet close
Bridge swept away by raging river, after trees carried in flood snap cablesAncient construction in Exmoor, Somerset, could date back to 1000 B.C.
It has 17 giant slabs – largest being 8ft long and 5ft wide – spanning 180ft

|

UPDATED:

00:55 GMT, 1 January 2013

A stone bridge reputed to be 3,000 years old was swept away as flooding continued to bring chaos to parts of Britain yesterday.

Downpours over the Christmas break and through New Year’s Eve are likely to ensure 2012 was one of the wettest years on record.

As celebrations began, more than an inch and a quarter of rain was dumped on to already saturated ground and more than 200 flood alerts and 90 flood warnings were in place.

Scroll down for video

The iconic clapper bridge is the latest UK landmark to be hit by of weeks of relentless rain

Now: The iconic clapper bridge is the latest UK landmark to be hit by of weeks of relentless rain. Martin Hesp and his lurcher, Monty, (pictured here) on what remains of Tarr Steps

Then: It has survived thousands of years, but the deluge of water and trees being swept down through the river caused the bridge to collapse

Then: It has survived thousands of years, but the deluge of water and trees being swept down through the river caused the bridge to collapse

The River Barle in Somerset swelled
so much that it destroyed the ‘Tarr Steps’ – a Grade I listed ancient
monument formed of massive stones weighing up to two tons apiece. The
slabs, some measuring 8ft long, were swept away as downed trees crashed
into them.

Local resident Martin Hesp said: ‘I have lived in the area for over 50 years and I have never seen anything like this before.

‘It must have been some mighty trees which were carried downstream and smashed through them.’

The bridge links the Somerset villages of Withypool and Dulverton.

It was last damaged in floods in 1952
when the stone slabs were washed up to 50ft downstream and had to be
recovered by the Army. Since then the slabs have been numbered to aid
reassembly.

Gone: Two men look at the remains of the Tarr Steps clapper bridge which was washed away

Gone: Two men look at the remains of the Tarr Steps clapper bridge which was washed away

So strong was the force of the river that the twin steel hawsers protecting the bridge were snapped by massive trees being swept downstream

So strong was the force of the river that the twin steel hawsers protecting the bridge were snapped by massive trees being swept downstream

Millions are facing a difficult
return to work tomorrow after the Christmas break, with numerous roads
left potholed and damaged by the weather. The only good news is that
forecasters believe the first month of the new year will be considerably
drier – if colder – than November and December.

The South West had been braced for
the worst of the flooding, but there were similar fears elsewhere too.
Mobile flood barriers were set up in cities and towns including Oxford,
Worcester, Shrewsbury and Bewdley.

Larger rivers such as the Thames, Severn and Wye are likely remain high for several days.

3-day forecast

Along Dorset’s Jurassic Coast,
sections of cliff threatened to slide towards the sea at the weekend,
threatening beach chalets and creating a risk for beach-goers and fossil
hunters.

Weymouth coastguard Philip Chappell
said: ‘The amount of rain we’ve had recently is turning parts of the
cliff into a potentially dangerous porridge.’

There were fears that a woman whose
body was pulled from the sea at a ferry terminal in Southampton
yesterday had been a victim of the weather.

Environment Agency flood risk manager
Katharine Evans said: ‘It is as important as ever to be prepared for
flooding, keep up to date with the latest warnings and, if you are at
risk, to move valuable items to safety.’

England has already suffered its wettest year since records began in 1910, with 43.1in falling between January 1 and Boxing Day.

The Met Office said 1.8 inches of
rain on the last day of the year would set a new UK record – although
final confirmation is not expected until next week.

After all the rain, however, the
start to the new year is expected to be relatively calm, with only light
winds and localised showers in the South.

Met Office forecaster Dan Williams
said: ‘As of tomorrow, the weather will get nicer. There will be showers
around here and there, but because of high pressure building from the
South we can expect calmer, drier conditions from tomorrow across the
UK.

'It is sure to provide welcome respite from the unsettled weather we saw throughout December, and indeed the whole of 2012.

‘In January, the temperature will
initially be above average, before getting a little colder and moving
closer the average towards the middle of the month.’

THE ANCIENT STEPS WHICH 'WERE BUILT BY THE DEVIL'

Legend has it that the devil built the bridge at Tarr Steps and had rights over sunbathing on the stones.

Anyone who tried to cross the bridge, it was said, did so at the risk that they would be killed by the devil, who swore an oath to crush anyone who passed from one side to the other.

It is claimed that locals once sent a cat across the bridge to test the myth – and the animal was vaporised. Only after confrontation with the local parson is the devil supposed to have withdrawn the threat.

The first recorded mention of the Tarr Steps was in the 14th century – but some experts believe the bridge could date back to 1000 BC.

It is constructed of stone slabs supported on stone piers, which stick three feet out of the water when the river is at its normal level.

The name ‘Tarr’ is thought to have derived from the Celtic word ‘tochar’ for causeway.

VIDEO: Tarr Steps in Exmoor, Cornwall, a 3,000-year-old iconic clapper bridge

Play Video

Loading video…

DM.has('rcpv33424','BC',
'renderConfig' :

'css' : “videoplayer-large”,
'autoplay' : false,
'muted' : false,
'adUrl' : “http://pubads.g.doubleclick.net/gampad/adssz=8×8&iu=%2F7023%2Fdm.video%2Fdm_video_news&ciu_szs=&impl=s&gdfp_req=1&env=vp&output=xml_vast2&unviewed_position_start=1&url=[referrer_url]&correlator=[timestamp]”,
'playerId' : “1989148206001”,
'playerKey' : “AQ~~,AAAAAFSL1bg~,CmS1EFtcMWELN_eSE9A7gpcGWF5XAVmI”,
'objId' : “rcpv33424”,
'videoPlayer' : “2064725065001”,
'width' : 636,
'height' : 358,
'linkBaseURL' : “http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2255179/New-Years-Eve-forecast-Dry-end-year-comes-late-3-000-year-old-bridge-washed-away-raging-river.html”

});