A project to restore an ancient pack horse bridge in the North Pennines has won an award for the sensitive way it was carried out. Formerly facing collapse, the bridge is now once again open to walkers and cyclists.
The centuries-old bridge which spans the Ricker Gill Burn near Hartside pass in Cumbria was once used by drovers and packhorses transporting goods the length and breadth of England. But after hundreds of years exposed to the elements at an elevation of around 400 metres, it wasn't in great shape.
Grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Cumbria County Council made its repair possible, a project completed under the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partership's Living North Pennines programme. More than 75 per cent of the stone used to re-create the structure was reclaimed piece by piece from the river where it had fallen. It was rebuilt in its original form using traditional methods. The reconstruction work was completed 2011 and the bridge has been back in full use since the autumn.
'The bridge crosses a deep ravine and is located in open moorland, almost a mile from the nearest road' said a spokesperson for the engineers contracted to carry out the restoration. 'From a civil engineering point of view, the bridge's isolation, the localised environment and the vastly fluctuating water levels - due to the large but relatively shallow catchment area - made the contract extremely interesting. It was also these elements that gave the project its uniqeness and charm.'
The restoration was commended at a ceremony earlier this month by the judges of the annual Institution of Civil Engineers' Historic Bridge and Infrastucture Awards (who knew?) for the skill and care that were applied to the design and construction of the scheme.
Ricker Gill Bridge is on one of five cycling and horseriding routes that the AONB has developed as part of its Living North Pennines Packhorse Trails project. It will also be used by walkers heading for Hartside pass, and the 10,000 or so people who complete the Coast to Coast (C2C) long distance cycle route each year.