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As an area filled with agriculture and market towns, the moving of produce has been apart of transporting culture for generations. Shropshire is a County with a juxtaposition of the old and new. Which can only mean visitors to the area will be the first to notice the streets that make this area unique.
Shropshire Council Transport Budget for 2016/17 - £17 Million
image above taken from Shropshire Council revenue budget 2016/17 full copy here
Shropshire Council may have announced a £17 million transport spending budget, but sadly, Shropshire’s older roads are not necessarily reaping the attention they deserve. Preservation of our historical roads is a problem ever-present in Shropshire.
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Ludlow Ludford Bridge.
This is no less obvious when it comes to heavy goods lorries. As covered recently in the Shropshire Star, HGVs have shot to the spotlight as locals called for a lorry ban on Ludlow’s Ludford Bridge.
In the last month, the Grade-I listed bridge has been severely damaged causing road closures and an extensive restoration. In response, residents and Councillor Andy Boddington, have called for action to prevent the 500-year-old bridge from further destruction.
(Image: Ludlow Ludford Bridge)
Yet, one admirer of the bridge told me, “prevention is just as important” — and it's not just for the sake of our history. In fact, Shropshire’s roads are almost always forgotten when it comes to tourism. Instead, naturally, it is linked with Charles Darwin, heroic castles and a break to the smog-free air.
But, Shropshire is nestled with historic market towns and is home to an abundance of transportation heritage. Alongside canals, travelling across the County was revolutionised by Thomas Telford. The local developer encouraged the expansion of Shropshire’s A5, which today attracts a daily average of 31,355 cars.
However, nearing 2000 years earlier, archaeological digs have shown that our roads date back to before the common era. Roman tradesmen travelled through what is now Whitchurch by horse-drawn carts and even by foot.
Similarly, as the UK generally began to become more connected, bridges and over 100 toll houses were placed across Shropshire.
Knowing this as a County, Shropshire believes there should be the preservation of our historic roads. In our poll* 43% of participants believed that there should be a significant effort made to preserve the structures found on these historical roads. A further 54% believed we should preserve Shropshire’s history while striving for new transportation links.
Clun’s single-flow packhorse bridge.
Historical roads are at the brunt of the HGV force. In areas such as Ludlow, the small and narrow features are vulnerable to their size. Like Ludford Bridge, Clun’s single-flow packhorse bridge has been victim to the destruction by HGVs. As the only crossing, the bridge divides the Norman town between its architecture and is an important access point within the town.
(Image : Clun Bridge)
Jack Limond, of Clun Tourism, told JT Hughes, “historical road features like this are very, very important parts of our cultural heritage and tourism. Bridges like Clun’s are beautiful when they are not damaged or disgraced with orange traffic cones. Sadly, it's due to HGVs coming from Europe that they are so regularly damaged and in need of repair. They see Newcastle, instead of Newcastle-on-Clun on the sat-navigation and are turning up unexpected to the area; trying to negotiate these small streets.”
As a historic part of Clun, the packhorse bridge is the centre point to the Green Man Festival. The centre of ‘the battle’, the bridge is host to the community’s traditional May-faring festival which celebrates man and nature. “The bridge is a really lovely, beautiful feature of the town and is the centre point of our yearly celebration so of course it is a large part of our community. But it is a problem for normal traffic let alone lorries,” says Limond. “We have multi-language signs telling them to take alternative routes, but it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference.”
HGVs travelling to Newcastle-on-Clun can avoid the bridge by entering the South of Clun via Kington on the A488. This is an alternative to travelling through Clun on the B436. Additionally, sat navigation devices are available specifically for HGV and large vehicles to help improve awareness of road restrictions.
Recently retired driver, Dave Astley, from Kington, has 44 years experience driving heavy and low goods lorries across the UK. Astley told JT Hughes, "the size of HGVs do hold a lot of responsibility for damaging these bridges, and farm vehicles too. They are too large these days. But, there should be better signage for drivers and transport managers should place more efforts on mapping out appropriate routes for their drivers too."
Bridgnorth’s bridge was rebuilt and repaired in 1812.
In addition to Clun and Ludlow, the historical greats can be located across Shropshire. Particularly with bridges, they have been subject to battering by floods well before the rise in HGVs. Bridgnorth’s bridge was rebuilt and repaired in 1812 by Thomas Simpson following the developments of Thomas Telford. However, as traffic increased again, the bridge was entirely restructured as the bridge was widened in 1824.
(Image: Bridgnorth Bridge)
It's not just bridges - Ryton XI Towns late nineteenth-century cross
Historical features are not just restricted to bridges. Towards the north of Shropshire, Ryton XI Towns can date itself back to Anglo-Saxon times with a number of historical monuments. However, prominently located in the centre of its Church Street Junction, is a late nineteenth-century cross. A prominent feature of this road, in 1881, the cross was erected to house a light. The feature intended to make the junction more visible.
Regardless of its shape or style, Shropshire has shown a united will to preserve these historical features that are characteristic of the area. But as Limmond says, “there needs to be some change. Vehicles are bigger. But, we all have to live sympathetically.”
The Council say they take conservation of historical road features seriously.
Tim Sneddon, Shropshire Council’s operations manager – environmental maintenance said: “We take the preservation of historic features extremely seriously and not just those which are scheduled ancient monuments, listed or in conservation areas, but all of any historic interest. We have a small team of qualified archaeologists and conservation officers who lead on this, but will advise colleagues in other departments such as highways.”
He adds, “we do, however, need to make sure all roads and structures are safe, that we maintain access and make it as convenient for the travelling public as possible. Ludford Bridge [for example] has the capacity to easily carry the vehicles currently permitted to use it. We have reviewed the signage and will increase the warnings given to drivers of HGVs, but we are not intending to place further restrictions on Ludford Bridge”.
* Poll undertaken by 100 participants ages 18 - 54 years old living across Shropshire.