Collapsed footbridges replaced on popular walking route after six-year battle

Collapsed bridge at Earsham Mill

The removal of the collapsed bridge at Earsham Mill. - Credit: Margaret Stone

Two "eyesore" collapsed footbridges on a popular rural walking route have been rebuilt after six years of tireless work and dedication.

The bridges, at Earsham Mill on the Angles Way route, have finally reopened after being replaced, allowing walkers to cross the River Waveney once again.

For Norfolk county councillor Margaret Stone, the battle to replace the bridge began in 2014, around a year after joining the council.

The new bridge at Earsham Mill.

The new bridge at Earsham Mill. - Credit: Margaret Stone

Ms Stone said: "My rural division, from Haddiscoe to Wortwell, had some of the most outstanding landscapes in the whole of Norfolk.

"With the collapse of two footpath bridges crossing Suffolk to Norfolk, no one would have access to one of the most important sections of Angles Way - absolutely the most important heritage pathway in the Waveney Valley."

Backed by residents and parish councillors, Ms Stone set out to remove the "dangerous" collapsed bridges, with the area taped off until September 2020.

Undeterred by a staggering price estimate of several thousands of pounds, Ms Stone was unwilling to accept defeat.

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She said: "It increasingly seemed out of the question and re-routing was suggested.

"The location was so difficult to access that provisions were made to hire a helicopter to lift out the cast iron and steel bridge and replace it.

"The parish council, some exceptionally determined locals and I were not going to be defeated. I asked for meetings with officers and looked at every detail. 

"After months and then years of pushing, prodding, cajoling and using every bit of influence I could, we eventually got agreement to go ahead, then Covid came."

The new bridge at Earsham Mill.

The new bridge at Earsham Mill. - Credit: Margaret Stone

With a window of opportunity between lockdowns during the summer, a team of engineers and heavy machinery arrived at the scene to remove the "eyesore" old bridges.

Ms Stone said: "I am personally thrilled because I ignored the doom and gloom of being told it can't be done, it was too expensive, or too difficult.

"That is like a red rag to a bull. Tell me I can't do something and I will prove I can.

"We must believe we can achieve things and every effort is worth it to ensure we all enjoy our countryside and, even more so, work together to make our community even stronger and save our heritage for future generations."