Forest of Dean footbridge set to be restored to former glory
Work will soon start on restoring an historic Victorian footbridge over the Dean Forest Railway that has been closed for over a decade. Bridge specialist Mabey, based locally in Lydney, has been appointed to undertake vital repair and restoration work, which will start on June 18th when the bridge starts to be dismantled. Over six days, sections will be lifted out by the DFR’s own rail crane, transferred to road haulage and taken to a secure workshop for restoration and repair.
The Dean Forest Railway, which runs between Lydney and Parkend in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, recently secured funds to restore the St. Mary’s Footbridge – the last remaining piece of original Severn & Wye Railway infrastructure.
Built over 125 years ago this beautiful, Grade II listed, Victorian Footbridge which crosses over the railway in Lydney was closed for safety reasons in 2007 and has since fallen into further disrepair. Heritage Railway tourists and enthusiasts will recognise the rarity and value of this example of Industrial Heritage: a unique piece of historical Railway Infrastructure in its original location.
A public right of way linking the town and the boating lake with Church Road is routed over the footbridge and so the eleven-year diversion along a short detour via the bypass will at last be lifted after the bridge’s reinstallation. Walkers will therefore welcome the bridge’s restoration: it was originally built to eliminate accidents caused by people scrambling across the tracks!
Cllr. Brian Pearman, Deputy Mayor of Lydney said "The restoration of this bridge which is an asset to both DFR and the community, is welcome on a number of levels. The bridge is a crucial link in connecting different parts of the community, fitting into other non-vehicular routes drafted by the Lydney Neighbourhood Development Plan and the Coastal Communities Team. An added bonus is the involvement of Mabey Bridge Ltd, this being the company's second community bridge project following the successful restoration of the canal swing bridge."
This iconic historic structure in the Lydney Conservation Area will be restored thanks to Rural Development Programme for England: Rural Tourism Infrastructure Growth Programme. Grant Funding for the DFR’s St. Mary’s Pedestrian Bridge Project is channelled through gfirst LEP, and is part funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
Jane Kelly, Project Manager from Dean Forest Railway said: “The St. Mary’s Footbridge is a much-loved heritage asset for Lydney and plays a vital role in connecting the local community. The restoration will also enable free, all year round, heritage railway tourism for the benefit, appreciation and enjoyment of the local community, visitors and future generations. We thank everyone who gave their support to our application for funding. The grant would not have happened without the backing not only from local organisations but many local people and older residents, who used the bridge daily as children, one wrote “As a Lydney born resident of over 80 years I have used the bridge countless times and It would give me great pleasure to see it back to its former glory’.”
Michael Treacy, Mabey Bridge’s chief executive, said: “We are delighted to be involved in this a project very close to our hearts. While we build and maintain bridges across the world, there is something special about restoring a bridge that is so well-loved by the local community and our employees alike and celebrating an important part of Lydney’s history.”
Dean Forest Railway would like to thank the following organisations for support: