Steppingstone Lane Bridge Restoration Project

The bridge was originally constructed in 1804/5 to carry the road from Shrivenham to Bourton. With the construction of Avenue Road, access to Bourton was improved and this route became less important and has been a simple track and bridleway for many years.Plan of 1947

In the late 1940's the bridge had become unsafe and Oxforshire County Council decided to demolish the bridge and replace it with a culvert to take the bridleway across the canal. OCC kindly sent us their old, original drawing for the scheme.

The project to rebuild this bridge is now nearing completion; it has been rebuilt from the foundations up with a brick arch, similar to the original.

 

 

Planning permission to rebuild the bridge was obtained in March 2000 and two temporary coffer dams,
one either side of the bridge site, were constructed. The western dam to act as a temporary diversion for the bridleway. 

Preparations began on 17 February 2001 with the moving of a storage container to the site to house plant and materials.
Work then had to stop during the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak of that year.

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Work restarted during the winter of 2001/02. We cleared the new temporary bridleway route and made it safe
with fencing and surfacing.

Preliminary excavation of the side walls of the original bridge started in May 2002 but full excavation of the site
only started at end July 2002 after official approval of the diversionary route and the closure of the original bridleway.

 

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 It took until May 2003 to excavate the entire site and first impressions were that the foundations were reusable.

   
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 It took 3 years to fully establish the condition of the remaining foundations, prepare construction plans for the new bridge,
get approval from the County Council and raise funding for the purchase of materials.

Ten large, curved, steel formers, 10,000 facing, 3000 engineering bricks plus quantities of cement, lime and sand
were obtained and moved to the site.

Initially, it was planned that contract bricklayers would be used but volunteers throughout the Trust were eager to be involved
as were volunteers from the Inland Waterways Association - Waterway Recovery Group (WRG).

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WRG were on site for a summer camp in August 2006 - clearing the debris and silt out the bridge invert, cleaning the original brickwork, removing degraded bricks and mortar, rebuilding the foundations, installing scaffolding, raising the steel formers and cladding the arch with wood. 

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WRG teams continued through the autumn of 2006 to construct the arch with 3 courses of bricks. Equal heights had to be build each side to balance the pressure on the formers.

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Work restarted at Easter 2007, with a WRG team returning to build the side walls. Volunteers continued the brickwork through the summer and by October all four walls reached the apex of the arch.

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 During the summer of 2008 the parapet walls were being built.   29a sb  29b sb 29c sb

 

 

2009 saw major works

Over Easter there was tremendous progress through two week-long WRG working parties. A large amount of stone for gabions had been sourced from RAF Welford and the first job was to get it to the site. This involved laying (and removing) track over some boggy land at RAF Welford. An earlier WRG BITM working party had prepared the site for gabions, to extend the bridge parapet walls, and this enabled the Easter working parties to install 17cubic metres of gabions containing about 25 tonnes of stone. On top of this the working parties completed the bricklaying of the parapet walls.

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 Early September saw a long weekend work party. Starting on the Thursday, NPower donated 80 cubic metres of Pulverised Fuel Ash (PFA) from Didcot Power Station for use to create the slopes for the bridge and a band of volunteers from NPower started moving this material to the bridge by wheelbarrow. From the Friday to the Sunday, Trust volunteers plus Essex WRG, helped now with machinery, moved all the PFA from the lane to the bridge and compacted it. For the first time, it was possible to push a wheelbarrow across the bridge!

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The new bridge was opened for public use in July 2012, after the addition of fencing and Oxfordshire County Council had agreed that the bridge was safe. The temporary bridleway diversion was then closed.

 

In July 2013, the Waterway Recovery Group returned for a week-long camp. They repointed some of the brickwork, cut and fitted coping stones, that had been donated by Network rail from a demolished bridge, to the top of the eastern parapet wall and also rebuilt the canal north-east wing-wall that supports the towpath.

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Early in 2014 we were fortunate to get a further supply of reclaimed stone coping from a bridge near Andover that Network Rail was rebuilding and also a grant from the Midcounties Co-operative Community Fund.


Over the summer of 2014 we excavated the remains of the wing-walls to the west of the bridge, a substantial length of the south-west wall was still standing but the north-west wall had totally collapsed or been removed. As this section of the canal is in a cutting, during winter it is full of water and frequently flooded, so work can only proceed in drier summer months.

 

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June 2018: at last we were able to host a work-party to cut and fit the coping stones to the second parapet. London WRG thus had the honour of completing the bridge rebuild.

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Work is still required to rebuild the canal wing-walls. the Branch managed to fully excavate the north-west wall and start to rebuild in 2016, but it became impractical to do work intermittantly as the canal readily fills. So the rebuild of all the wing-walls is planned for a future WRG summer work-camp.45 sb

 

Once work to the wing-walls has been completed, we can look forward to removing the temporary dams and landscaping the site.