The Merthyr Mawr Stepping Stones

St. Telios Church, Merthyr Mawr

Before the little Merthyr Mawr suspension bridge for pedestrians was built there was, at that spot, a series of stepping stones called Stepsau Telio. When the bridge came into use these stones were taken up and placed near the mouth of the river, where they remain today. Along with them went their original name: Stepsau Telio.

These stones, a boon to the walker and a delight to the children, are at the most convenient crossing point of the Ewenny river. They are also on the direct from Merthyr Mawr Church to the public house on the other side of the river; and the speed with which the more thirsty of the congregation crossed the stones after Sunday services was something that became legendary in the village. Lloyd George’s Sunday Opening Act did something to dispel that state of affairs, an event that affected Merthyr Mawr considerably, for no inn is permitted in or near the place. If anything, however, the act increased the speed with which local farm workers managed to cross the stones.

Stepsau Telio

At one period towards the end of the last century a competition developed among the braver souls to see how quickly the crossing could be made without falling into the river. Many tried to take the stones at full speed and, cheered on by hilarious friends, there were several slips and duckings. Fortified by good ale at the inn they would try again and it was said that, if they could cross without mishap whilst drunk, they had the right to demand more sustenance from the landlord.

This, of course, was a custom rather than a legend, but it seems a pity not to include it here for it has died out; and we are short of colourful traditions. Perhaps it could be revived. A competition among the local men from both sides of the river would be an attraction especially if, say, the race could be held on New Year’s Day when the water is at its coldest. The surrounding hills and the ruins of Ogmore Castle would make an attractive background for such an event; and perhaps the landlord of the “Pelican Inn” could dispense libation as of yore.

Pelican Inn, 1977! 

Illustration by Margaret Wooding

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