Friday, 4 December 2009

Mayton Bridges, River Bure, Norfolk

Mayton Bridges
River Bure / Aylsham Navigation
November 2009

The thing about river navigations is the relative scarcity of structures to go and look at. The Bure is a fairly large river in its lower reaches, and the road crossings tend to be both large and infrequent.

The long lonely canalised reachof the River Bure

After looking at the various river bridges built to connect Coltishall with Horstead, the next structure upstream is Mayton Bridge, or more accurately, Mayton Bridges, near the now disused Coltishall RAF airbase.

Modern Mayton Bridge

The widely recognised Mayton Bridge is the flat topped effort with two cylindrical holes cut in the abutments to increase flood water capacity. This bridge was never part of the Aylsham Navigation although an earlier bridge must have stood on the site. The bridge occurs mid way along a long straight canalised section of the river, with the old watercourse winding off to the west as it approaches Buxton. I spent a lot of time swimming around this bridge and the depth of water under the span is rarely anything more than 18 inches, with the bridge itself built on a raft of huge oak logs. 

My guess, and it is only a guess, is that the first bridge either collapsed in the 1912 flood, or was torn down and rebuilt during the second world war to allow heavy lorries to move between the sand quarry on the west bank and the RAF base being built on the east. There current bridge certainly seems to sit on top of a huge pile of rubble. 

Strange alcoves on the old Mayton Bridge

The real interest at Mayton Bridges lies a couple of hundred yards to the west of the main river, where the road rises over a second bridge which comes complete with a couple of very unusual little shelters. This is the old, original 1779 Mayton Bridge, with its two arches spanning the original course of the navigation. The bridge itself is very fine and in an excellent state of repair. It is unusual in that it's two arches are peaked in a manner not seen elsewhere on the river. Maybe this was how they were all built originally, or maybe this was a one off - who knows?

Double arches of the original Mayton Bridge

Today, this second bridge spans a small drainage channel and little else, but it is easy to imagine the wherries being quanted (poled) up against the current, thankful of a second arch to relieve the water pressure against the bows.

Original Mayton Bridge 2009


Anonymous said...

Dear Captain Ahab I have had cause to contact the Environment Agency about a certain problem regarding the Mayton bridges and an environmental problem and have been reliably informed that they are considering opening the water course back to the original to alleviate the problem which would mean the canalised stretch would then become a back water. It is something I would love to see and cannot wait to see it happen. That is about as much as I can say at the moment.

Richy Rich said...

Wow! I love it when I stumble across a blog/site that's as fun as it is informative. Canoeing&walking (while on holiday) around this part of the Bure is what brought me to your blog. My g/f & I, over the last few years, have only ever hired cruisers on the Broads; but we have always love hopping of these beasts to canoe or walk around. And thanks to your site I feel more enriched about these here parts...intimate, or otherwise.
Best regards Chester.