A bridge too far

Cleaving some oak for posts

Iron muscle

Charcoal making

So, what on earth have cleft oak posts, sawing oak timber, charcoal and the forge got to do with a bridge? Never one to not utilise unwanted items around the estate we bought an Alaskan chainsaw mill last year and have been producing some very think planks (also extremely heavy!) out of old oak trunks that could only otherwise be sold for firewood. I do not sell oak for firewood point blank-  a total waste of a most excellent durable timber-  at worst it can be used for fencing posts. So, next on the list we made some cleft oak posts of varying lengths to suit (very sturdy and durable especially if cleft). A real bonus is that these posts can be left to rot once finished with unlike the hundreds of treated softwood ones which have to be disposed of properly at a real cost.

Into the forge

So, with the oak parts now made we had to think how to use them in a traditional way. This required some charcoal for the forge  (all the wood used to make charcoal is sourced from the estate). We also needed to raid the metal scrap bin for suitably sized  iron. Everything was in place, just some pins and nails to make in the forge and the job was on…

A bridge too far gone and in need of replacement

The first task was to remove the old elm footbridge which had seen better days, then it was a case of manoeuvring two very heavy oak slabs into place, by no means an easy task as we couldn’t get the crane closer than about ten yards.

Slabs of oak in position

Actually I have forgotten about the two short sweet chestnut beams we had spare from last year’s demonstration up at the Folly. Kept the two beams because I didn’t have the heart to throw them away, sure I would find a use for them eventually…  Well we did, at both ends of the two oak planks we inserted the short beams for the oaks planks to sit on, this would help stop the oak planks from rotting away  so quickly as the planks were then not touching the soil.


Oak slabs pinned with recycled forge pins

The iron pins were made to hold the two planks together, we were going to countersink them but why not leave them proud so they could act as a grip for walkers in wet weather?

In with some robust cleft oak post and rail

To hold the planks in place four oak posts were then knocked in, rails attached and some limestone type one added at each end to fill the holes that had developed over time. This bridge was taking shape and was double the width of the previous one. “Oh” said a walker “the stakes are wonky”.  Blimey! Don’t you hate it when someone criticises before the job’s done?!

With the addition of oak pickets

To finish off the bridge we used up some of the oak cleft pickets. This is a very traditional way of making stock proof fences and would give the bridge a finishing touch. There are references to the use of wrenched picket fences at Wimpole in the nineteenth century with, of course, the handmade nails to fix them with.

When you pass by this bridge you’ll find out why the posts were put in at an angle… It’s so that the way through looks more inviting and open rather than giving you the feeling of being hemmed in.

Ah, a new bridge that cost nothing apart from some blood, sweat and tears

About Sadeik

You may ask why "Sadeik" well it means friend in arabic. Worked in Jordan a lot doing tree surgery you see. I have worked in forestry since I left school with a two years in Telecom. Went back to forestry and tree surgery as it may not have paid as much but was far more interesting and dangerous. Spent a lot of years mountaineering, caving and canoeing too. At 29 I went to Bangor University to study Forestry and soil science then did an MSc in Water engineering all very interesting. By a quirk of fate in 1995 ended up helping sort out the woodland and park at Wimpole, funny thing was then I only intended to stay six months or so, but 18 years later I'm still here learning all the time. That's the best bit, if I wasn't able to learn something new every year I would not have stayed and as you get older you realise that the grass is not so green in the next field after all. In fact my patch is getting greener while much of the rest is getting browner.
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