Repairs help bridge the gap to the past

The Old Roar Ghyll bridge has been renovated
The Old Roar Ghyll bridge has been renovated

A HISTORIC bridge which played an unusual part in Hastings’s tourist glory days has been refurbished.

The 13-metre bridge, which overlooks Old Roar Ghyll - the deep cut valley with a waterfall that sits between Ghyllside Avenue and Old Roar Road - was in dire need of repair, particularly as it is used by pupils at William Parker on a daily basis.

And with a spate of vandalism attacks adding to its run-down state, East Sussex County Council (ESCC) decided to completely renovate the bridge, with a new metal deck and reinforced supports.

A spokesman for the county council said: “The rights of way, countryside maintenance and highways structures teams worked together to design and build a robust new deck in steel. Consideration was given to future durability and resistance to vandalism. Ghylls are precious habitats as they have often had continuous tree-cover preserving a damp, shady microclimate for hundreds or thousands of years.”

The old bridge dated back to Victorian times when Old Roar Ghyll was listed - perhaps optimistically - in the first tourist guides to the town. It is said that Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his wife Elizabeth Siddall would walk there, as the gloomy, naturalistic setting was the perfect backdrop for romantics like Rossetti and his pre-Raphaelite friends.

The area is also rich in unusual plants and other wildlife - it is one of only two places in the county where toothwort grows and is also home to bluebells, red campions, yellow archangel and lady’s smock, while a rare cranefly has been found living there too.

Spotted flycatchers, wagtails and kingfishers can also be seen at the site, so-called because after heavy rain the site is said to become a “roaring” waterfall, although records suggest some Victorian sightseers were less than impressed with the reality. The bridge was closed for a month while the ESCC team carried out the repairs.