Video: Bridge too far for the village cut off from Yorkshire

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IT’S the journey that nightmares are made of - and for villagers in a rural part of Yorkshire, it’s set to rumble on for weeks.

For after a wall on a road bridge was destroyed in an accident a fortnight ago, people living in Fishlake, South Yorkshire, have been faced with diversions of around 15 miles each way just to get to a neighbouring village.

The missing stone parapet  on the Stainforth Bridge, over the River Don near Doncaster

The missing stone parapet on the Stainforth Bridge, over the River Don near Doncaster

On Thursday, September 6 a bridge which connects Fishlake with the neighbouring village of Stainforth - and onwards to the M18 motorway and Doncaster town centre - was closed when an agricultural vehicle struck one of the parapet walls, knocking a section of the stonework into the river.

Since then, those using ordinary cars can get in and out of Fishlake using a road bridge into the village of Thorne, some three miles away.

But, with a population of around 600, Fishlake is home to several agricultural businesses, farmers and a haulage company, which all rely on large vehicles.

These can’t use Jubilee Bridge in Thorne, which has both weight and width restrictions, so have to travel a slow and winding 15 miles around the countryside, through the villages of Bramwith Woodhouse, Kirkhouse Green and Barnby Dun, just to reach Stainforth - which is a mere three miles away.

“We’re stuck”, said Jennifer Parkinson, who runs a farm and haulage company with her family.

“Cars can get out, although they’ve got a fair detour, but any vehicle over three tonnes is completely stuck.

“We run lorries, so it’s affecting us badly. It’s also affecting all the other businesses in Fishlake, from farms to the village butcher.

“Doncaster Council doesn’t seem to care that the village is cut off, because it’s not their business that is affected.

“But, the truth is, it’s going to start affecting jobs. The diversion costs us time, money and diesel - it’s a big problem.”

Mrs Parkinson, 58, said she telephoned the council last week to ask how long the repair works on the bridge would take, by which point the bridge had already been closed for more than a week.

She said: “I asked them to tell me how we could get out. With it being harvest, it’s a bad time for us.

“We’re trying to pick potatoes, and the machine is having to go all the way round just to get backwards and forwards between our farms in Fishlake and Stainforth.

“I was told that there was nobody who could speak to me at ‘that time of night’ - and it was only 3.30pm on a Friday. Then the phone went dead.

“I’m sure that they could temporarily open the Stainforth bridge, but they just don’t care.”

Doncaster Council is currently estimating that it will take “around seven weeks” to reopen the route.

One of the problems with opening the bridge, a spokesman said, is that the repairs “must meet conservation standards because the bridge is a listed structure.”

The spokesman added: “The operation will include recovering as many as possible of the original blocks from the river, and any replacement blocks will be hand-tooled to match the originals.”

Peter Dale, Doncaster Council’s director of regeneration and environment, said: “In order to minimise inconvenience to motorists these works will be combined with additional repairs which were due to take place later in the year.

“In addition, the scheduled resurfacing of the carriageway on the Fishlake side of the bridge has been brought forward to avoid a further closure of this route later in the year.”

The council also said that the cost of replacing the stonework on the bridge “cannot be fully assessed until it is known how many of the original stones can be reused”, but the bill for the repairs will be met by the insurers of the driver who caused the damage.

Meanwhile, businesses in Fishlake are faced with having to spend the entire harvest period adding hours - and gallons more diesel - onto their journeys.

John Hedley, who runs the “Premium Horticulture” compost firm, uses the haulage company run by Mrs Parkinson and her brothers, Andrew and Harvey Goldthorpe, for his business.

The 60-year-old said: “It costs time, it costs diesel, it costs everything. Sat Nav doesn’t show the weight limits on bridges, so everybody gets lost trying to find their way.

“The locals who are trying to get towards Doncaster are affected even if they’re trying to drive their cars, but it affects the commercial people so much more.

“Rather than going the three miles into Stainforth, people are having to go around 18 miles round.”

He added: “The council aren’t being helpful. It could be made accessible as there isn’t any structural damage.”