A popular walking route in the Cairngorms National Park near Ballater will once again be available to locals and visitors next week after repairs to an historic bridge were completed.
B-listed Polhollick Suspension Footbridge over the River Dee was extensively damaged during Storm Frank almost three years ago and is part of the Seven Bridges walking route.
The area’s infrastructure was hit hard by severe weather and flooding during the storm, with 288 bridges requiring essential repairs.
Priority was given to bridges carrying motorised transport, before attention turned to damaged footbridges. Of those, Polhollick and Cambus O’May bridges near Ballater in Royal Deeside were among the worst hit.
Both were affected by extremely high river levels and were struck by trees and other debris being swept downriver.
Over the last few months Aberdeenshire Council’s Bridges Section has been working with contractor Moray Blast of Mosstodloch to carry out the essential repairs required to bring Polhollick Bridge back into a serviceable condition.
Bridges manager, Donald Macpherson, said: “Due to the historical significance and listed status of the bridge, all the existing damaged steelwork was straightened as far as practicable, in order to maintain the original character of the bridge.
“The repairs have involved the careful application of heat to distorted bridge members, together with the use of hydraulic jacks and winches to ease them back into alignment.
“Therefore, only very minimal replacement of some missing latticework on the upstream bridge parapet has been necessary.”
This work has now been successfully completed and the bridge will reopen at mid-day on Monday, December 10.
This will allow walkers to once again experience Ballater’s highly popular Seven Bridges Circular Walk. The weight limit on the bridge remains – only four people on the bridge at any one time.
Now only the B-listed Cambus O’May Suspension Footbridge Bridge, downstream of Ballater, remains to be repaired from those bridges which sustained damage during Storm Frank.
Although it is more severely damaged than Polhollick, it is hoped the lessons learned will allow repair plans to be put forward for consideration by Historic Environment Scotland early in 2019.
Chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee, Peter Argyle, also a local councillor (Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside) said: “The fact we are still seeing work to repair damage inflicted by Storm Frank reminds us just how significant an event that was, and the severe impact on Aberdeenshire’s infrastructure.
“I’m glad Polhollick Footbridge can now be brought back into service– it’s important to the local community and gives access to some of the fantastic walking around the area.”
Chair of the Marr Area Committee, Moira Ingleby, said: “Both the Polhollick and Cambus O’May Bridges are important to the local area in many ways – from recreation to tourism.
“They are also part of the history of the area and it was a shock to see how badly both were damaged during Storm Frank, so many people will be pleased to see works progressing to bring both back to their former glory.”
The location of Polhollick Bridge is of historic significance, as it was the point of an important ferry crossing. Erected in 1892 by James Abernethy & Sons of Aberdeen, it was a gift from Alexander Gordon, who had been brought up in the area and had earlier witnessed a drowning tragedy involving a newly married couple.