Work is progressing well to repair the historic Bickleigh Bridge

Scaffold erected at Bickleigh Bridge Scaffold was in place within 24 hours

Posted on: 21 May 2021

Work is well underway to repair the historic Bickleigh Bridge on the A396 in Mid Devon.

Engineers were called to the scene early Monday, after an articulated lorry hit the wall on the downstream side of the listed bridge.

Kevin Dentith “It appears the driver misjudged his approach, given the length of his vehicle,” said Devon County Council’s Chief Bridge Engineer, Kevin Dentith.

“Whilst the cab got onto the bridge without causing any damage, the driver reversed off the bridge and in doing so caught the downstream parapet wall.”

The road was closed immediately, as engineers assessed the damage.

“The main arches are very strong, capable of taking well in excess of the 40 tonne vehicles permitted on the highway, a testament to the original builders,” said the Chief Bridge Engineer.

The damaged wall on Bickleigh Bridge

The damaged wall

“Whilst the damage looks dramatic it is not serious in terms of the overall integrity of the bridge and will be returned to full use as quickly as possible.

“We have assessed the structure, there is no damage to the main load bearing arch and we are well underway with the repairs.

“Stone has been recovered from the river and is now being cleaned ready for use in the rebuild.

“A scaffold was in place within 24 hours, which will be used by our experienced masons to reconstruct the wall.

“As with all historic bridges we use lime mortar, which takes longer to set than cement but this shouldn’t delay the project by too much.”

Bickleigh Bridge has experienced more than its fair share of knocks over the years and has undergone several repairs. Mitigations to prevent the knocks have been fully considered for their effectiveness – traffic lights at either side, for example, would not have prevented this week’s accident.

Re-aligning the approach with new kerb stones some years ago has improved vehicles’ access onto the bridge, but larger trucks and lorries have occasionally bumped up the kerb and scraped the walls. Double-height kerb stones, used commonly in situations like this, were introduced this year to stop that, and have been very effective.

“This lorry’s tyre marks on the kerb stones, with no damage to the parapet wall on the upstream side of the bridge, shows that the kerbs helped in this situation,” said Kevin Dentith.  “They possibly prevented an even worse event.

“We anticipate repairs will take between two and three weeks. We have made a good start, but with lime mortar the work is rather weather dependent. In the meantime, there is a diversion while the bridge is closed. We apologise for any inconvenience.”

Cllr Margaret Squires, local member for Creedy, Taw and Mid Exe Devon County Councillor Margaret Squires, local member for Creedy, Taw & Mid Exe, said:

“I am pleased that work is underway and realise that it is a huge disruption for local residents and I would like to thank them for their patience and ask them to bear with the situation over the next two to three weeks.”

Cllr Richard Chesterton, local member for Tiverton West

Devon County Councillor Richard Chesterton, local member for Tiverton West, said:

“The A396 and Bickleigh Bridge provide an important link from Tiverton to Exeter, I’m pleased that the bridge will be mended as quickly as is possible. As a newly elected member I look forward to working with officers to make sure that all possible solutions that would protect this historic bridge in the future are considered and traffic is kept moving.”

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