Following an inspection by a Devon County Council Bridge Engineer back in 2010, a well used bridge needed replacing across the West Okement River, downstream of Meldon Reservoir. The engineer classed the bridge as ‘lively’ due to the narrowness of the two railway tracks that had been used for the main beams. Also, the wooden super structure was deteriorating and there were insufficient supports for the handrails. No one is really sure when the bridge was constructed, or by whom, but investigations led us to believe that it had been in place for at least 30 years, so it had lasted well!
The bridge is an important link between an existing bridleway on one side and access land on the other. As the route across the bridge is a permissive footpath, legal responsibility rests with the landowners on either side. It was therefore necessary to obtain agreement with all parties about its replacement, and who would pay for it!
Following several months of discussions with all parties, no agreement could be reached over a number of issues. The only agreement reached at that point was to allow the bridge structure to be replaced but not the two rails supporting it!
No other bridge on Dartmoor has this type of construction but Exmoor National Park have used a similar design for their bridges for many years so with their permission, we borrowed their design. Originally it had been hoped that this could have been a joint project between Dartmoor Rangers and Exmoor’s Field Services team but unfortunately this was not practical.
The cost of replacing the bridge was funded by Dartmoor National Park Authority but as it was close to the end of the financial year we needed to move fast!
Jim White of White Wood Management, a local contractor, came up trumps, supplying all the wood needed and making the cradles to the Exmoor design.
A couple of days were earmarked this September to take down the old bridge and build the new one. It was not an easy job due to the height of the bridge above the river but with the help of two very willing and able volunteers, Dave and John, and the local ranger the task was completed on time and the bridge is now back in service.
All in all, a job well done!
Ian Brooker, Sector Ranger