Like a bridge

The road up to Catton at Five Lane Ends has been blocked, on Monday and Tuesday of this week, for crucial repairs to the Allen Mill Bridge abutments which suffered damage from an accident some weeks ago. The job was described, by the Northumberland County Council works department, which publishes to an interactive roadmap at There you can find all the current and proposed roadworks that are being done by the county, with dates and rationales (thanks Lisa of Baynes Travel for showing me this site!) Work on the Allen Mill bridge abutment was scheduled to be finished by the end of play on Tuesday, but it looks like resurfacing work may take place over the next few months.

So I thought I would make a point for the diary entry today, of mentioning a little-sung feature of our infrastructure, and that is the bridges which are found throughout the landscape. As we know only too well, we usually only think of bridges when they’re restricted or closed due to works, and the recent work on the Sparty Lea bridge, the Sinderhope bridge, the bridge at Bridge End Mill in Allendale, and of course, most recently, the Allen Mill bridge itself (quite apart from the collision damage), have all been renovated recently.

It’s been a delight to see the bridges being repaired, even though I’ve groaned along with every other motorist at the reluctant, sometimes even dysfunctional, traffic lights. What’s amazing to me, looking at the bridge sides, is the supporting structural work underneath the road, and the two images at the top of this entry show the sort of ‘filled-in’ bridge that connects the two sides of the burn it covers. It seems that the bridges are built on footings over a small culvert at the bottom, extending and up along the burn-sides, to reach a level at road height. A bridge, sure enough, but not as you might think, with arches or lengths of steelworks. The way we see motorways built these days, with endless huge lorries trundling loads of earth to bank up and support a road structure flying into the sky before it meets a bridge span, is almost the same sort of approach, though they didn’t have reinforced concrete in the old days, of course.

The funding for the 30 bridges so far repaired in West Northumberland (ie Tynedale as was) (2015-2018), out of a total of 130 bridges county-wide, has come mostly from the Department for Transport (£5.6million) with priming funds of £1.1million from Northumberland County Council. The bid for the so-called Masonry Arch Refurbishment Programme (MARP) was one of only three in the North-East to receive part of the Challenge Fund of some £575million allocated nationwide by the DfT for road maintenance schemes. I know we all love to slag off the county council, but when they do the necessary, and bring funds into the area, and then do the work fairly, they should certainly be applauded, shouldn’t they?

The repaired masonry work should offer an extended useful service of 120 years ahead to the newly renovated bridges, which will see most of us out, I guess.

1 Comment

  1. Just as a matter of interest, I have always understood that Sinderhope Bridge was built from material taken from the bridge that took the flue over the road from the Allen Mill lead works.
    Geoffrey Chaytor

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