Rebuilding Hancock's Water Footbridge, 2019-20
Hancock’s Water is a stream that rises near Stoneover Lane in Royal Wootton Bassett, flowing through Woodshaw Meadows and through a railway culvert before reaching the canal. It was crossed by a wooden footbridge that needed attention in 2019, but before repair work could start, it was badly vandalised and had to be demolished on safety grounds in mid-summer, cutting off the popular northern footpath.
Hancock’s Water is classed as a ‘main river’ by the Environment Agency. It enters the canal from the north via a concrete-lined channel, then flows eastwards to the spill-weir before continuing south-west towards Brinkworth Brook. After heavy rainfall, storm water had eroded the banks where the old footbridge was located.
The foundations of the replacement bridge needed to withstand storm water. It was decided to order a 6-metre-long bridge as a kit – but the problem was how to deliver it to the work site. The northern footpath can get boggy in winter, so even a wheelbarrow would get stuck. In Winter 2019, everything had to be delivered by water, using a modular pontoon towed by a small work-boat.
The boat and pontoon made dozens of trips between the Templar’s Firs slipway and the work-site, delivering several tons of cement, sand and gravel, plus fencing, tools and cement mixer. A security compound was set up near the bridge site.
Over the winter months, the eroded banks and channel of Hancock’s Water were strengthened with concrete blocks made on site, plus sand-bags with dry-mix concrete on the outer bend. Behind these are deep concrete bases. A temporary bridge was built to allow materials to be taken from one side of the channel to the other.
The beams weigh a quarter of a ton each, and so they were slid along the ground rather than being lifted. The work-party made good use of the beams as a table and bench for lunch before they were slid into position across the channel, followed by the rest of the components.