Friday, 15 January 2010

Mr County Council, 'Take down that bridge!'

To my 'club' (Swaffham Prior Parish Council) again last evening, where one of the highlights in an otherwise amusing and enjoyable monthly meeting was the strong concern voiced by members about the latest state of the Reach Road railway bridge that carries the road from Swaffham Prior to Reach over the disused and former line of the old Cambridge to Mildenhall railway, the rails long since having been removed as a result of the Beeching cuts of the 1960s.

I have expressed concern for some time because I am convinced that the road over the bridge has sunk in the middle. But the latest state was brought to our collective attention by Mr Jonathan Cook who walks his dogs that way and had taken some photographs of the underside of the bridge during the recent cold 'snap' (some 'snap' it has been, too: global warming comes to mind) showing some enormous icicles hanging from under the bridge arch. A water main is embedded in the structure of the bridge and, evidently, the pipe has been leaking or has partially burst. Anyway, County Councillor David Brown was left with no uncertain impression that the County Council, as Highway Authority, needs urgently to examine the structure and either to take remedial action or to demolish the bridge before the brickwork collapses completely. I said that I believed that the road should be closed immediately to all traffic. Moreover, I said, I would not drive over the bridge in my car unless and until remedial action or demolition takes place, nor would I be keen for heavy traffic or, most worrying of all, buses with children or adults in them, to continue using the bridge. Councillor Brown promised to pursue the matter with the County Council's experts.

I thought of the late President Reagan saying to Mikhail Gorbachev: 'Mr Gorbachev, take down that wall!'

The picture is published by permission of Mr Cook.

The Parish Council had been asked by East Cambridgeshire District Council if it could identify some land that might be appropriate for additional tree planting. My colleague, Mr Peter Hart, immediately suggested an area at the rear of 'Pulpit Corner' (which, incidentally, I have always called 'corner of Heath Road,' but have checked this since with Mrs Jean Day - wife of Mr Eric Day, our longest serving Parish Councillor - and Jean says that Eric says 'it's always been Pulpit Corner.' I live and learn). This seemed to be an excellent idea, especially since those of us with a farming background know that the land in question is 'thin' or 'hungry' (as my colleague, Mr Andrew Camps, put it). I have actually baled straw on the site in question and even the cereal crops (in the days of the late Mr Ken Easy, a County Council Farms tenant), were 'thin.' Some of the land in the long and narrow Parish of Swaffham Prior is like that - 'thin' - but other parts, here in the Fens, are just about as fertile as anywhere in England.

We received a request from Mr Finnbheara ('Finny)' O'Dowd, a former Parish Councillor and, believe it or not, a native of the area, of Fairview Grove, for a grit bin to be sited near his house. This request is to be acceded to. I then remarked that it was a pity that we had no member of the Council resident in Fairview Grove and, to that extent, the area was not 'represented.' My colleague, Mr Steve Kent Phillips, the Council's financial genius, then said that he drinks 'with them all' and that seemed to satisfy everybody - for the time being at any rate.

We concluded by agreeing to send the Council's congratulations to two recipients of awards in the New Year's Honours List, Mrs Marcia Miller, who is to receive an M.B.E., and Mr Michael Marshall, who is soon to be knighted. There must be thousands of parishes in England and a few hundred men and women who receive such honours each year. We in Swaffham Prior have scored much higher than the average this time.

The picture is of the then Mr (now Sir) Michael Marshall handing me a cheque as a contribution towards the re-roofing of The Little Chapel in The Fen in the Spring of last year.

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