Long, long ago where Willsworthy Ford (aka Standon Steps) crosses the river Tavy became the meeting place for two young lovers. It was here that a young, beautiful and rich woman would arrive from nearby Lydford, mounted on a magnificent white horse. Here she would find her lover patiently waiting, he too was young, handsome, well to do and he rode a big, jet black stallion. The reason they met at this desolate spot was to avoid prying eyes, the girl’s father was stolidly opposed to the relationship because in his opinion his daughter should marry who he felt fit and this young man was not included in that list. Nobody actually knew the reason why the girl’s father disliked her sweetheart as he seemed to offer everything a father would wish for a daughter. The young man would always wait on the moor side of the ford and then as soon as he saw his love riding down from the Lydford side he would cross the river and ride up to meet her. They had agreed to meet at dimpsey just as the sun started to sink below the western sky and this became the daily routine.
One evening the young man was sat astride his horse by the river and he noticed that the skies over the high fen were becoming black and laden with huge anvil shape clouds which he knew was a sure sign of an approaching storm. The horse had restlessly sensed the same as it began to fidget nervously but still the man kept his vigil as he looked longingly to the west. The girl’s arrival passed from late to overdue to absent and her lover began to get concerned as he looked at the darkness slowly drawing it’s shroud over the moor. A few moments later a loud rumbling sound reverberated down the valley and a livid white streak stabbed across the moorland sky. A few heavy drops of rain plummeted down from the ink black anvil cloud overhead and within seconds the cloud burst and sheets of angry precipitation gushed upon the moor. The storm seemed to last for an eternity but then as suddenly as it had started the deluge abated as if a huge, invisible sponge had sucked the rain into its heart. A wind swept across the night sky and wiped the clouds away leaving a watery moon staring down at the sodden moor. The eerie silence was then broken by a crashing and rolling crescendo coming from high up the Cleave and the man noticed that gradually the river was climbing up the stepping stones of the ford. A few minutes later the tranquil moorland river had became a seething, foaming, peat tinged torrent sweeping aside all in its path. The horse had decided it was not going to be part of the river’s flotsam and had backed itself up the bank to a safe haven. It was from this vantage point that the man saw his sweetheart galloping across the moonlit moor. She galloped down to the ford and only just managed to rein in the horse before it plunged into the torrent. In desperation the man tried to warn the girl of the dangers but the roaring of the Tavy drowned out his voice. The girl’s horse was prancing up and down the river bank when suddenly two more riders galloped down, it was her father and the man he wanted her to marry. The girl spotted them charging towards her, hesitated, turned the white horse and spurred it into the raging river. From one bank her lover helplessly watched the nightmare unveil whilst from the other side the father and suitor stood grimly observing the events. As the horse bravely plunged into the river the booming current swept it downstream, the girl frantically tried to hang on to the saddle but the cruel waters wrenched her hands away and rolled her helpless body down into its brown, swirling depths. She briefly bobbed up to the surface but then was snatched away and hurled downstream never to be seen again. The girl’s lover whipped his horse downstream in search of his sweetheart but all he found was the white horse who had somehow managed to escape the clutches of the vengeful moorland torrent.
Some years later a traveller came to Willsworthy ford and found the river in full spate, he decided discretion was the better part of valour and started to head downstream in search of a safer place to cross. All of a sudden he saw the figure of a man sat astride a big black steed and leading a magnificent white horse. The rider was dressed in fine clothes and was urgently looking into the swollen waters of the Tavy. The traveller soon realised this was no earthly apparition and with cold shivers running down his back he fled in fear. Since that first ghostly sighting it has become common occurrence that on moonlit nights when the Tavy is in flood the spectre of the lover can be seen searching its peaty depths for his sweetheart.