As many people will know, the Marple Website was the driving force behind the restoration of the Iron Bridge in Brabyns Park. This lengthy project began in 2001 and was completed in 2008. Those unfamiliar with the story can read more on the old web site: The Iron Bridge Restoration Project.
A late addition to the project was the permanent viewing platform built around the stump of what was once a huge beech tree on the bank near to the bridge. This came about due to the sad demise of that fantastic looking tree, which was estimated to be around 350 years old. Unfortunately it was damaged during a storm over the winter of 2006/7, when a large section of it was blown down. Thankfully it didn't hit the bridge, otherwise the project would have been over before work started.
The storm damage revealed that the whole tree was in a dangerous condition and it was removed for us by local tree surgeon Myers Tree Care. Afterwards we decided to make a feature of the remaining stump - it was carved with wildlife figures for us by tree sculptor Andrew Frost - and the bronze plaque we'd created to explain the story of the bridge was mounted on it. At first a temporary timber viewing platform was built around the stump because we didn't have enough money for the permanent platform and railings we had worked with the council to design.
We eventually managed to raise the £16,391 needed for the permanent platform by reallocating some unspent funds from the original project, adding a £2,500 Community Award we had won for our efforts to restore the bridge, plus a contribution of £1,143 from SMBC and £250 from Marple Civic Society.
The viewing platform was finally completed in December 2011 and it looked great. The final touch was completed almost a year later, in October 2012, when the wind-up listening post was installed.
As with any tree stump that remains in the ground, gradual decay set-in. This was a concern that was considered at the time but we chose to go ahead anyway and were really pleased with the result. However, in the last couple of years the stump has deteriorated badly and in 2018 a dialogue was begun with Friends of Brabyns Park and then the Council about what needs to be done to ensure that the decaying of the stump does not result in the loss of the bronze plaque.
The council removed the plaque in March 2019 and it is now in safe storage at the Brabyns Park depot. In June 2019 the council ground away the remains of the stump for us, which enabled their engineers to specify the ground works needed. This includes the supply and installation of steel lintels to carry new stonework and coping to match original across the gap and to renew the decking. Their contractor has given a price of £2661+VAT for this work.
The other key element of work is to create a new section of railings to span the area between the existing railings, where the stump used to be. This new section of railings will also include brackets for the mounting of the bronze plaque. The railings will be a bespoke mild steel galvanised (and painted white) fabrication that will be made for us by local Metal Artist Wayne Chaisty. Wayne has worked on a number of other projects with the Marple Website and Friends of Memorial Park including the Coronation Bench in the Park, the Jubilee Sculpture in front of the library and the Lock Gates on Oldknow Gardens (known as Lock 17). Wayne also created the Nativity Sculptures that appear on Market Street each Christmas, so his work is well know to most people in the town.
In July there was a visit to the site and to see the plaque in storage with Wayne, and with Jackie Collins from Friends of Brabyns Park. Wayne was able to confirm the provisional price he had already given us of £1,200 to supply and install the railings once the ground works are completed.
So we now need to raise £3,861 (say £4,000 to give a bit of contingency) before we can move forward. Although we could actually do it in two stages - ground works first (£2,661) then the railings later if we raised the best part of £2,600 to begin with.
In June 2019 Friends of Brabyns Park submitted a grant application for £3,000 to the Stockport Local Fund but we have just learned that this was unsuccessful, so we still need to find other ways to fund the full scheme. We have asked the council if they can help with the funding but at this stage they have not been able to commit anything to this project.
Friends of Brabyns Park, the Council and the Marple Website will work together to seek the funds needed to complete the relocation of the plaque.