Tuesday, 12 January 2016


It was a major expedition: the bus to Aberystwyth, then out onto the platform of the Vale of Rheidol narrow gauge railway, a wicker picnic basket balanced and lugged all the way, and me uncomfortably dressed in best black shoes and cardigan just in case anyone should notice.
But this fretful process was forgotten in an instant as the engine arrived. There is something magic about narrow gauge steam railways. Some people never understand, but small boys instinctively are drawn to such things and many, mercifully, manage not to grow up.
I was entranced by the engine, a pannier tank called Owain Glyndwr. The coaches were, somehow, my size and I felt blissfully at home. As the train coughed, sneezed and rattled up the Vale of Rheidol I was being transported to another world.
At Devil’s Bridge the fit and wealthy strode off to pay their fee and view the picturesque falls. We sat on a station bench, ate our sandwiches, drank lemon squash and waited for the return train.
“Why is it called Devil’s Bridge?” I asked.
Once there was an old lady who had a little Jack Russell terrier dog. She sold bara brith in the market. One afternoon she and her dog were coming home from market, but she found that a great flood had carried away the bridge over the River Rheidol and she could not get home.
Then Devil appeared. He was always on the lookout to cause mischief.  He offered to build a new bridge in exchange for the first soul to cross it. The old lady agreed and the Devil worked all night to build a new stone bridge.

In the morning the bridge was complete and the Devil waited for the old woman to cross. But then the old lady threw a piece of bara brith over the bridge and her little dog ran across to get it. The Devil was outraged, for he had wanted a human soul, not that of a Jack Russell terrier, that would snap and bite all his imps. But he had been outwitted, and the Devil’s Bridge is there to this very day.

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