12 May

Members of East Keswick, Sicklinghall and Collingham Parish Councils attended the official reopening of the Wood Hall Bridge today as the leader of North Yorkshire County Council ceremoniously  cut a ribbon to mark the completion of a quarter of a million pounds worth of repairs to the 147 year old bridge.

Chairman Gaynor Anning, Vice Chair Andrew Batty and retiring councillor Roy Gibbs represented East Keswick and other guests included representatives of ramblers groups and Leeds ward councillor Matthew Robinson.

The bridge was closed for safety reasons two years ago when a tree trunk, carried downstream by flood water, repeatedly struck one of the parapets until it was knocked out of position causing the decking to warp and put the entire bridge at real risk of collapse. North Yorkshire County Council became responsible for the entire cost of the repair under a long standing agreement which saw Leeds City Council and NYCC taking responsibility for each alternate bridge on the Wharfe which forms the border between the two authorities for a section of its length.

Contractors appointed by NYCC faced real and unusual problems. Nearly every other bridge carries a road or railway which can be used to bring in heavy equipment and materials but Wood Hall Bridge only ever carried pedestrians, horses and light tractors despite its substantial structure giving it the appearance of a railway bridge. The bridge was built by the owners of Wood Hall and the Bramham Moor hunt to replace a treacherous ford a few yards upstream.

Engineers working on the bridge were able to find that the damaged support was itself a replacement for the original and put in place in the 1970s. They have now repositioned it on a concrete platform built from the riverbed. Villagers, ramblers, cyclists and equestrians will all be delighted by the bridge reopening which East Keswick Parish Council has lobbied hard for its repair ever since it first closed. Walkers will once again be able to park their cars at Crabtree Lane Car Park and enjoy a gentle stroll across the river meadows to reach the Scotts Arms at Sicklinghall. Another enjoyable walk is across the river to Wood Hall Hotel and then to reach the Windmill Inn at Linton before catching the service bus back to the village. Cyclists may enjoy heading for Sicklinghall then Spofforth before following the disused railway cycle route back to Wetherby.

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