Rebuilding Hancock's Water Footbridge, 2019-20

Hancocks Water old footbridge in March 2019 by John SreevesHancock’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.


20191127 122701 Hancocks Water after heavy rainHancock’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.


20191106 104717 swans leading boat and pontoonThe 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.


20191106 110333 unloading cargoThe 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.



20200205 135705 temporary low and wide bridgeOver 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.


20200212 093009 first beam transported to slipway 20200212 095416 first beam on pontoonIn February 2020, the bridge beams were moved from the security compound at Templar's Firs and taken to the canal, to be  towed along the canal on the pontoon and unloaded near to the work-site.




20200212 132534 first beam slid towards bridge siteJenny Feb lunchtime photo

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.



20200318 141847 completed bridgeBy mid-March, there was just enough time to complete the bridge deck and hand-rails before the Covid-19 lockdown stopped all further work.




20200604 080949 face of Old Man of Hancocks WaterThe canal towpath and northern footpath have played their part in providing circular walks and running tracks during and after lockdown.



20201015 074857 Old Man of Hancocks WaterWhen approaching the footbridge from the west, stand back a bit from the tree and see if you can spot the spooky face of the ‘Old Man of Hancock’s Water’ in the trunk.