The Gurkhas moved into West Sussex last week to begin the restoration of the North Stoke footbridge. The bridge was badly damaged last year by a falling oak tree, resulting in the closure of the footpath. The path runs over the old course of the River Arun, between North and South Stoke.
After being contacted by West Sussex County Council and the Amberley Society, the army decided to carry out the repairs as a training exercise, charging only for the cost of the materials.
The 70 Gurkha Field Support Squadron of 36 Engineer Regiment will be restoring the bridge to it’s original design. Leaving the foundation and support towers they will be replacing the timber decking, parapets and anchor points for the main cables.
I visited yesterday to take press photographs of the first stages of the work and was met by Sgt Man Ale and his very friendly staff. His team of about 12 people had already made short work of removing the old structure and starting the construction of the anchor points on either bank. They looked like they knew what they were doing. I’ll be going back to see the finished bridge sometime in July and will post a few more photos then.
The Gurkhas have been in the news a lot recently with their campaign for residency rights and full pensions led by Joanna Lumley. I’m very ignorant about their history but, after meeting these guys, I was interested to find out a bit more about them. There are still over 3,500 Gurkhas on active duty in the British Army, serving all over the world. There’s a good Independent article on the history of the Gurkhas here if anybody is interested.
Royal Engineer veterans Major Trench (L) and Captain John Fitzmaurice (R), who helped negotiate the deal with the army, talking to Sgt Semanta Rai (SSA).
The bridge piers left standing after the removal of the old structure.
The 70 Gurkha Field Support Squadron on site.
Sgt Naresh Limbu on a support tower.
Sgt Naresh (centre) with sappers Ishwar Thapa, Bikram Malla and Kiran Shris (L-R).
Sgt Semanta Rai with Grahame Joseph from the Amberley Society.
The team removing the old anchor points. Cut it into smaller pieces guys!
Site commander Man Ale (R) with Grahame Joseph.
The old bridge before the restoration. Photo courtesy of Charles Drakew.