BRIDGES ARE often taken for granted until something goes wrong. It is only when they cannot be used that people realise just how intrinsic they are to their way of life.
Ask those in Cumbria who found themselves with 30-mile round trips to get to Workington when a number of their bridges were washed away or left structurally unsound following excessive rainfall and floods a few years ago. Nearer to home our own North York Moors was similarly affected up in Hawnby.
Last week saw the reopening of Wood Hall Bridge between East Keswick and Linton. It is perhaps not in the same league as the aforementioned as it is a footbridge but its closure had nonetheless caused a degree of heartache to those in its parish and to walkers.
The Ebor Way and The White Rose Way both pass across this footbridge and while it has been closed detours have had to be made across the busy A659 Harewood to Collingham road. The reopening brought great satisfaction to retired police divisional commander Paul Brown who came up with the White Rose Way that forms a 104-mile walk from Leeds to Scarborough.
“Wood Hall Bridge had been knocked out of alignment by a floating tree that dislodged the stone buttresses and quite rightly the council had closed it but there was a very real risk that it would be demolished and there would not be a replacement.
“It’s quite a substantial bridge as you can see being 71 metres in length and made from iron and planks. It was constructed in 1868 and I believe it may have originally been built for the Bramham Hunt, but it became an important link between the communities of East Keswick, Linton and Sicklinghall for many years.
“The parish council was very keen on maintaining the route of local circular walks that go over it as well as the Ebor Way and White Rose Way so I lobbied with them for the repairs and North Yorkshire County Council found some funding to enable it to happen.
“Work started on it in November last year and they had awful difficulty with the weather. The problem was that the buttresses had been dislodged in the river bed so they had to replace the concrete bases.
“Their work kept getting washed away but finally they managed to make the headway they needed and make it back safe for use.
“It’s great news for those who are undertaking my walk, and the others, as they can now follow our guides to the letter.”
Paul has been instrumental in the total replacement of another shorter bridge just north of Stamford Bridge near Buttercrambe where a 12-metre walkway had been washed away several years ago.
“Once again I lobbied with the local parish council and a brand new timber bridge was constructed with gates at each end.”
He has been interested in serious walking since he was 13-years-old.
“I found my love of walking through two inspirational teachers at Morley Grammar School, Mr Hardy and Mr Gregson. They ran a Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme and I became involved with a few friends.
“The first hill I ever walked was Beamsley Beacon that looked huge to a city boy like me. Now it’s a half-hour stroll.”
Paul developed his love of walking into more challenging long distance trails and hill walks. Having completed most of those available in the north of England and several Munros - mountains over 3,000 ft - in Scotland, he turned his attention to coming up with his own walk.
“I generally walk with a group of friends, mostly ex-police officers. We had done all the main long distance walks such as Wolds Way, Dales Way, Hadrian’s Wall, Cleveland Way and the Inn Way to the Lake District so then I wondered what we should do next.
“I went to see a chap who is involved with the Long Distance Walkers Association and looked at a map that was a spider’s web of walks and long distance trails but there was a glaring omission as there was nothing going eastwards out of Leeds.
“I started going off on day walks along my proposed route, often changing my mind based on accommodation availability and suitability, supported by my dear wife Sally, and The White Rose Way was produced as a book in 2012. The book itself has sold really well and the website has had over 45,000 unique hits. The walk starts at the Black Prince statue in Leeds city centre and the finish line is at the tourist information office on Scarborough’s South Bay. They’ve had some very happy but weary walkers go into the shop and celebrate.”
Paul’s guide to The White Rose Way is available via his website www.whiteroseway.co.uk or through bookshops in Leeds, York and Scarborough.