Thursday, 4 February 2010

A bridge too far

When I came here nearly 3 years ago, one of the first jobs I was shown was the small wooden footbridge, just upstream from Fingle Bridge and on the opposite side of the river from the pub, "that'll need doing soon" I was told.
The problem was that we wanted to produce a new bridge that was larger, longer and most importantly made from our own timber.
Those of you who are familiar with the blog will have read that we have our timber milled by a local sawyer, but a whole bridge some 20feet long contains quite a lot of timber and takes a long time to stockpile!
Thanks to the snow last year we had most, but not all, of the timber we required, so were just waiting for more trees to become available. But plans always change.....
One of the resources we have plenty of on Dartmoor is water, and is was once said to me that at one time there was almost a Mill for every mile of the river Teign, grinding flour and animal feed and driving metal working machinery (examples of which can be seen on the river Taw at Finch Foundry in Sticklepath). We also have history of using the Teign for Hydroelectricity generation, Castle Drogo was once powered by two turbines which still reside in the valley, the hope is that in the next few years these can be reactivated.
In the future, it has been suggested that the old mill at Fingle could play host to a smaller generating system, based on the Archimedes screw principal and drawing it's water from just above Fingle weir and taking it down the old leat which currently runs under the NT carpark opposite the pub. The leat has fallen into disrepair,but water still flows along most of its length in winter, though it now rejoins the river upstream of Fingle bridge using a relatively recently made drainage channel, across which someone had built a small bridge.......
Our reasoning went thus; If the proposed hydroelectric scheme went ahead, there would be no need for the overspill channel which is currently bridged, it could therefore be filled in and our new and expensive bridge would be redundant. while all this was going on the old bridge was losing the battle with nature, so we proposed a quick replacement...a pipe.
And here it is... this photo shows it in the latter stages of construction, as you can see we are already doing our best to make it blend it with the application of Woodrush and granite-faced banks up and downstream. There is now a wide route over the stream suitable for wheelchair/pushchair user, cyclists and possibly even horseriders.

At long last the old bridge is cut in half and removed, the volunteers in the photo, Martin and Rob, were particularly pleased as they had repaired the bridge one time too's certainly due for retirement.
The new structure will act as a stop gap measure allowing good access to the meadows at Fingle over the next few years, until the future of the leat is decided.

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