With all this walk-ling in the early hours I have become conscious of the ebb and flow of the River Kent which accompanies me along much of my route. The swift flowing Kent is a mercurial river prone to flooding during heavy rain but exposing it’s rocky bed when the weather is dry.
You can see the old river is quite frisky after recent downpours.
Historically most of Kendal lay on the west bank of the river but to the east lay the castle, farm lands and important arterial roads. To allow guaranteed river crossings – fords were only available in dry weather – bridges were a necessity. They stitched the town together.
The first bridge I encounter as I pedal along is one of Kendal’s oldest, Nether Bridge. The earliest reference is from 1421. Old enough you’d think but it is likely that a bridge has spanned the river at the same point from much earlier.
Peering under Nether Bridge (and getting funny looks as I peered … well I was hanging over the wall) shows the evidence of the bridge being widened twice.
I often wonder at the strength of Nether Bridge as large lorries roll over it taking up both lanes as they navigate the tight turn to travel south toward the motorway.
Reading Andrew White’s description of the bridge in his “A History of Kendal” I find I am right to wonder. The bridge may have been a principal route but it was so narrow that an ordinance of 1582 banned vehicles with more than one horse. Something needed to be done. Fast … ish.
In 1772 – things up here like to take their time – the first widening of the bridge was made on the downstream side. Unfortunately this was washed away (eek) after a few weeks – we do get a lot of rain…I may have mentioned that before – and the widening was moved to upstream. A further widening took place in 1908 and I assume this has left us with the bridge we can see today.
Should you wish to stop and traffic watch (does anyone do that?!) the bridge comes with seating:
All creature comforts don’t you know.
Of course during dry spells the nearby ford could still be used. I tried to capture the location of this ford but am not sure I have because buildings have vanished and the banks are now steeper. Here’s where I think it lay…
But then again it could be …
In any event after the tragic drowning of a chaise driver in 1806 the ford no doubt lost some of it’s allure and was better used as a place to water cattle.
As the temperatures here are set to drop over the next few days looking at the cold waters of the River Kent sent me indoors and to the warm wonderfulness of felting.
Working on my wall hanging I decided to start livening up the sombre dancers by needle felting onto the piece.
Very satisfying. A little like Nether Bridge the additions have been a long time coming but I will get there in the end.
Until next we meet,