Hardcastle Crags Bridge

Hargreaves Lock Gates were commissioned by the National Trust to design, fabricate and install a new footbridge for Hardcastle Crags, a local beauty spot just outside Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.

The need had arisen as a result of the previous footbridge having been washed away by flooding. Andrew Marsh, the National Trust Ranger for Hardcastle Crags was looking for a long lasting solution that would provide a safe, reliable footbridge and value for money. The new bridge itself is a composite construction of steel with recycled plastic that will last much longer than traditional timber before it needs replacing. He also needed a company who were prepared, and had enough experience, to take on the problems posed by the difficult terrain and access to the site, which is at the bottom of a steep, wooded slope with no vehicular access.

Hargreaves Lock Gates were chosen because they had the experience and the capacity to deliver on all aspects of the project. They enlisted the help of freelance structural engineer Tobias Hinchliffe to design the bridge. The key challenge of the design was to minimise the weight of individual components without compromising structural integrity. The weight reduction was critical due to the problems of access. Having got the designs approved, Hargreaves Lock Gates then manufactured all the metal components and fittings in their own workshop. The entire process took about 10 days. With the delivery of the recycled plastic components everything was ready for the tricky bit...installation.

What was always going to be a difficult task was magnified into a Herculean labour by the weather. Heavy snow and ice on a Monday morning in late March was not what everyone had hoped for, and the ground conditions were made even worse by scores of runners who had competed in an orienteering competition the weekend before. And with no vehicular access there were no cranes, Hiabs, fork lifts or any of the normal aids to installation, leaving only ingenuity, muscle and determination.

Notwithstanding all this the Hargreaves team set to work lowering components down the bank with a series of pullies and pully winches and a sled they had made specifically for the purpose. This would not have been possible without the help of National Trust volunteers. They worked tirelessly alongside the Hargreaves team for a full day to get everything safely down to the valley bottom. That done work could commence to construct the footbridge.

The stream is about 8 metres wide and the total bridge span was 16 metres made up of 4 sets of 4 metre metal beams. A scaffolding trellis was erected mid-stream and the first beam section slid out onto it. The next section was spliced to the first and then the whole thing slid further out to complete the crossing of the stream. This process was repeated for both sides of the bridge and when this was made properly secure the recycled plastic laths and hand rails could be added. It took 3 days to finish construction, after which there was a new, safe crossing that will allow visitors to enjoy one of the areas favourite beauty spots.

Commenting Andrew Marsh of the National Trust said, "Hardcastle Crags is a really popular area and the Trust is dedicated to saving our heritage and open spaces for all our visitors. We needed a safe, reliable footbridge but, as an organisation, we depend on membership fees and donations for income, so we also needed a long lasting solution and value for money. Hargreaves Lock Gates were able to deliver this for us. They were able to take on all aspects of the job themselves and, with the help of the National Trust volunteers, overcome the difficulties of access and come in on time and on budget."