Monday, 16 September 2013

Bridge to nowhere!

Sunday rest day…. Well more of a no cruising day!  I went for a local walk whilst Jan pushed the dust and dirt around the boat.
I did the usual thing of planning a walk which involved some footpaths that are not currently shown on the Open Street Map (OSM).  I didn’t measure the distance walked but it took me just on three hours so it was slightly shorter than my usual walk.  I managed to record six short sections.
The walk started from our mooring on the Shropshire Union Canal and at one point I found myself walking the towpath on the Staff & Worcs Canal.  Actually this canal life is almost like living in a parallel world.  When the footpath brought me out onto the towpath I immediately recognised where I was having cruised this section on two previous occasions.
The footpath led to the Fox & Anchor pub on the Staffs & Worcs Canal
You can drive around England and not realise just how close a canal might be or how different the countryside can look from the canal.  At one point on the walk the footpath seemed to disappear and I found myself walking through high weeds and stinging nettles.
Another section was labelled a bridlepath but it was so overgrown it appeared most unlikely a horse had been this way in years. 
Trees on either side of the path screened me from observation whilst I could look out across the fields.  It was almost as if I was walking along a secret corridor.
There were a number of tractors ploughing a field in the distance and I assumed it was some competition or an exhibition.
I hadn’t realised my route would taken me around the other side of the field.  The first tractor I saw was quite small and my initial though was this was an exhibition of vintage tractors.
Then I realised they were all small and some were actually quite modern.  I must be used to very large Australian tractors working vast acres of farmland!
The last leg of the walk brought me back to the canal.  Yesterday we passed under this bridge and commented on its elegant appearance.
Avenue Bridge
Today I was surprised to discover my footpath ended here
A beautiful bridge to nowhere!
So why is it here and abandoned?  Google brought up a few answers.
Some distance away is Chillington Hall, a Georgian Country House belonging to the Giffard family.  The current building was constructed between 1724 and 1785.  The park and lake were landscaped by Capability Brown.  Around 1725 Peter Giffard planted an avenue of oak trees either side of the road leading to the hall.  Looking on Google Earth it is possible to see the alignment of the original avenue.  Thomas Telford had the bridge built around 1830 as part of the construction of the Shropshire Union Canal.  One assumes the grand bridge design was required by the Giffard family as part of the permission for the canal.  Subsequently a new road was built to the west of the canal bisecting the ‘Avenue” which shortened the lane to Chillington Hall.  The rest of the Avenue and the bridge must have then been abandoned.
Chillington Hall (left arrow)  New road junction (next arrow)  Location of the bridge (3rd arrow)  Original end of the avenue (right arrow)
Some of it is clearer on the following captured section from the Waterway Routes canal map.

1 comment :

Mark and Corinne said...

Very interesting, had to goggle Chillington Hall to find out more.