Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Thirteen Foot Span

The river splashes and gurgles under the temporary gangway as work is being done to add rows of suitcase size/shape voussoirs over the arc of the wooden former. 

There are few things as exciting as being involved with building a dry stone bridge. Watching it being built is fascinating enough to merit making it a televised event.

Matt Smith's talented crew.

Thirteen feet is not an unlucky span because the arc the stones pass over is actually a distance of more like fourteen feet plus.  (I haven't done the calculations).


Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Building dry stone bridges is really cool.

One thing you can be sure of if you take on a bridge project – You're going to be close to water. So even if you decide you might have to schedule one in for June or July or even August you know that if it gets intolerably hot, (and it will) you're always close enough to water to just stagger into the river any time during the build, and let that cool water soak that aching hot body of yours.


Sunday, May 12, 2024

Nature Loves Bridges

While we were in Asheville N C Mary and I went with Matt Smith to visit the Franklin Bridge just outside a place called Sandy Mush . I had not been back there since we’d built the bridge (run as a workshop ) five years earlier, and I was more than curious to find out what, if anything had changed, or if it was indeed as charming a structure as I remembered it. 

It was going to be helpful for Matt to see it too, as he had a somewhat larger dry stone bridge project going on at the time an hour and a half, in the other direction from Asheville. The settings of both bridges are similar. Both beautiful properties in the rolling hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains . Both bridges have smooth ancient bedrock to build off of and both span lovely year round babbling mountain streams. Matt's project would be his first bridge and I’d been called in to give him an experienced hand, not so much a physical hand, as handy bridge building advice.  

Even after five years and a lot of water flowing under it, Franklin Bridge looked as splendid as ever. The moss had crept over much of the walking surface and lichen had started to grow in patches over the craggily granite voussoirs. The span looked convincingly in tact. Except for a few cobbles that looked liked they’d shifted on the top walking surface ( due to a big flood two years prior)  the bridge looked as sturdy as ever. Thankfully it still possessed that pleasing rustic look I associate with some of the old footbridges I’ve seen in England and Scotland. 

Enchanting is the best word I can think of to describe the scene as we approached along the narrow path that led through the woods to the bridge. This was the same winding path we used to carry well over 12 tons of random shaped rock, all by wheelbarrow, to the site of the bridge.

I can’t imagine a more agreeable enhancement to a walk in the woods than coming across a stone footbridge carefully 

integrated into the landscape , spanning the splashing watery path made by the babbling mountain stream.

Matt's new bridge will be (is being) built in a singularly beautiful location which I’m sure will inspire fantasies of magical days of old. A well-shaped and well-weathered collection rocks will be worked into the bridge mix. Hopefully moss will eventually cover everything in a feathery green carpet.

A maiden could step across this future bridge and step into the past. Two people may meet in the middle and find their soul mate . 

Proper footbridges are not to be so wide that mechanized vehicles use them. These dry stone bridges are for hikers and lovers and children.

A bridge is not a dam either. It doesn’t stop the flow of nature. It gently rises over and connects us with the other side without hindering the connections of nature in other directions . 

There is a reason to bridges. And the answer is beautiful. It is the great agreement, a working collaboration between the human ingenuity and the beauty and flow of Mother Nature .