21 February 2013

Devil's Bridge, Ceredigion

At Pontarfynach are three famous bridges piled atop each other, spanning a tributary of the Rheidol - the Mynach. The lowest bridge is of the twelfth, or possibly even the eleventh, century; and was supposedly built by the Devil, the ravine through which the Mynach passes being too challenging for human builders - the river drops 300 feet in five leaps.

The folk tale has it that Old Nick bargained with an old woman, who needed to get to the other side of the river to recover a cow, that he would build the impossible bridge overnight in exchange for the soul of the first living creature to cross it in the morning. The bridge was built but Beelzebub was outsmarted: the old woman threw a loaf across the river and her dog ran after it, crossing the bridge. The dog presumably became a Hound of Hell.

The middle bridge, of stone, as is the lowest, was built in 1753. The uppermost bridge, which today carries the road over the river, is of iron, built 1901. The footbridge pictured is of 1867. Near one end of the road bridge stands an Automobile Association box. There were once over 1,000 of these on Britain's trunk roads, the first introduced in 1911, in Ashtead, Surrey.

Initially accommodating AA patrolmen, the boxes were later provided with a 'phone, such that an AA member, armed with his or her box key, could call for assistance and shelter from the weather. The boxes were kitted out with maps and a fire extinguisher, and were lit at night. They were phased out through the 1970s and 1980s. The AA closed its private 'phone network in 2002, and no more than a dozen boxes are understood to remain outwith museums.

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