Hexham and Haltwhistle

There are two interesting bridges in up-country Northumberland.

Not strictly a Millennium Bridge, but the new footbridge at Willowford is of great interest for many reasons. In Roman times, Hadrian's Wall spanned the River Irthing between Gilsland and Birdoswald by means of a bridge and the abutments are still visible. However, the river has changed its course over the centuries and the original structure has long since gone. To anyone attempting to walk the line of Hadrian's Wall, the alternative to fording the River Irthing (not easy!) was an unpleasant bit of walking on a narrow, sinuous and fairly busy road. Proposals for creating a National Trail along the line of the Wall brought the matter to a head and in 1999, a new footbridge was built over the river close to the original bridging point. Access down from Birdoswald is by a very steep path which is unfortunately too steep for cyclist and the bridge construction itself had to cope with an interesting challenge, with the bank on the west (right) bank of the river significantly higher than on the east bank necessitating a bridge with an appreciable gradient.

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An even more recent bridge is the striking bridge which carries the newly completed Lakeside Way over the Lewisburn inlet of Kielder Water. The Lakeside Way is an ambitious recently-completed project (2006-2009) to provide a multi-user track all the way round Kielder Water (42 Km in all). Throughout almost its entire length, it runs on the lakeward side of the public road on the south shore, and of the bridleway on the north shore. The original proposal at Lewisburn was for a footbridge adjoining the road bridge. But it was decided that for the same cost, a much more spectacular bridge could be built at the head of the inlet. So the Way diverts westwards under the road and round the head of the Lewisburn inlet, a hilly diversion which adds nearly a kilometre to the overall length of the Way. It is nevertheless a very attractive diversion, and the spectacular bridge has become a visitor attraction in its own right. The bridge was designed and built by Forestry Civil Engineering at a cost of 170,000 and was opened in May 2008. The bridge  blends well with its rural surroundings with timber being used in  its construction as far as practicable. The bridge has been much acclaimed for its design, and was a finalist in the Prime Minister's Award for Better Public Building, 2009  and was highly commended for the British Construction Industry Best Practice Award 2009.  The bridge is 50 metres long, with the deck suspended from 30 metre high steel masts; the 1.5 metre wide non-slip timber deck is adequate for a rider to lead a horse across.

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