Funding plea to restore Victorian 'wobbly' bridge at Allen Banks

The National Trust has launched a cash appeal to help restore a flood damaged historic suspension bridge in Northumberland

The Allen Banks bridge after being damaged by flooding last year
The Allen Banks bridge after being damaged by flooding last year

For 150 years visitors have wobbled their way across the river at a Northumberland beauty spot.

But in May last year, the Victorian suspension bridge at the National Trust’s Allen Banks, near Bardon Mill, was put out of action by flooding.

Yesterday, contractors began the task of dismantling the damaged span, fondly known to the site’s 50,000 annual visitors as the wobbly or bouncy bridge.

It was part of a wilderness garden created over a period of 35 years from around 1850 by Susan Davidson, wife of the owner of adjacent Ridley Hall.

Now the trust has launched a fund raising appeal after visitors asked for the wobbly bridge to be replaced like-for-like.

The conservation charity needs to raise £100,000 to rebuild the bridge and surrounding footpaths laid out by Susan Davidson which were badly damaged by the floods.

She created 65 flower beds in the hall’s formal gardens and organised a network system of paths, rustic bridges and summer house in the river area beyond.

Over £35,000 has already been pledged through public and private donations and the trust is hoping to raise a further £10,000 towards the £100,000 rebuild costs target through a public Crowdfunder appeal.

Crowdfunder is the UK’s largest reward based crowd funding platform but targets must be reached in a short space of time.

Victoria Bullock, the trust’s fundraising consultant, said: “We chose this way of raising funds as we know the Victorian suspension bridge at Allen Banks is close to many people’s hearts and we want to recognise everyone who helps to rebuild it.”

The Victorian wobbly bridge over the River Allen
The Victorian wobbly bridge over the River Allen
 

To donate to the appeal visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk/save-the-wobbly-bridge .

The £10,000 will finance the restoring of the bridge’s wooden planks, and work to the original Victorian metal suspension cables, which will be retained.

It was only because of the anchored cables that the bridge was not swept away.

The trust also wants to install a set of stepping stones to provide another way to cross the river.

The Crowdfunder appeal has until March 6 to reach its target of £10,000. If this fails, the trust cannot accept any of the money pledged and will have to start the fundraising appeal from scratch.

Originally, there were two suspension bridges on the River Allen but the other, at Plankey Mill, was also damaged by flooding and was replaced with a rigid structure some years ago by Northumberland County Council.

Eric Wilton, trust countryside manager at Allen Banks, said: “The bridge is one of the only surviving historic features of Susan Davidson’s Wilderness Garden.

“Children have always loved the excitement of bouncing across the bridge, and it’s a valuable historical feature.

“Many people have asked whether we will be replacing it like for like. They have made it clear they wouldn’t like it replaced with a more modern structure. If we raise the funds needed we can make sure we rebuild it as it was.”

Without the bridge it is now a four mile round walk for visitors from the Bardon Mill entrance to Plankey Mill and back.

Giving £10 or more will entitle donors to nominate a name to be displayed in the pagoda at the entrance to the site’s woodland.

For £50 or more donors can choose a name to be tied to the bridge when it re-opens, hopefully in the autumn.

The trust is commissioning a photographer and artist to record the new bride and people who give £150 or more will receive a signed and limited edition of the image.

The trust’s Allen Banks and Staward Gorge property, which is a site of special scientific interest, is one of the largest areas of ancient woodland in Northumberland, and lies in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

This extensive area of gorge and river scenery has miles of waymarked walks through ornamental and ancient woods.

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