A Bridge Over Troubled Water

As you probably know, wherever possible, as a company we love to do things as environmentally sensitively as possible. This is something that is particularly prevalent in our fantastic Estates team so it was no surprise to us that their latest creation of a new bridge is a great example of a project that utilises woodland products sourced directly from the site.  Read on for more of the details of the process, written beautifully by Estates Manager Rob!

Over the half term Nick and Alex have been beavering away at Bridge House Farm (one of our sites for The Outdoors School) to build a new bridge to create better routes across the site that will have huge benefits in terms of managing learners on a daily basis.

Once the necessary planning and design was complete the practical tasks began with tree felling.  The team selected three semi-mature Norway Spruce for the structural elements of the bridge.  There are many benefits of using materials based on our own site.  These include the obvious ones such as reduced cost and zero transport-miles (we did drag them about 200m).  When selecting the trees we are also considering our wider aims as regards land management of the site.  For example, in this case, the 3 trees selected opened up space in the canopy to allow more light to the ground giving opportunity for a greater diversity of species.  Slowly moving from the present mono-culture of a former Christmas Tree plantation to a diverse landscape supporting native species is part of the wider plan.

Nick and Alex reported other benefits such as, using timber that is untreated, therefore it is not only safer to handle, but also reduces the environmental burden.  They also commented that, “using the on-site materials brought a degree of job satisfaction that does not always exist if you are building from a pack of timber that is pre-processed and delivered on a lorry.  Each aspect of the work was under the direct control of those undertaking it and this allowed the end product to be created to a bespoke design. We enjoyed the problem-solving aspect of having to select and process the correct trees and the added challenge that working with freshly felled roundwood presents over using regularised timber.  Natural unprocessed timber is uneven and difficult to joint, therefore we decided to use a chainsaw to cut squared sections in the logs which we could use to create joints. Although this method was time consuming, we discovered that when measured and marked accurately the process worked surprisingly well. This method also helped create the upright handrail supports. A similar method was used  to even out the undulations in the logs so that we could attach our boardwalk.”  Working with roundwood, while it is more complicated, it is forgiving in many ways as the end product is ‘rustic’.  This suits the team well who are well acustomed to what we call ‘farm joinery’.

Both Nick and Alex feel that the bridge project was a success and are very happy with the end product.  It meets all the requirements of providing a safe passage over the water and looks cool at the same time.  Since our learners and staff have been back on site, we’ve had nothing but positive comments from the School and are glad to see it so gratefully and enthusiastically received!

Author: Rob Kendall, Estates Manager

Date: Wednesday 9th November 2022

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