At our club’s Zoom meeting on Thursday 28th October, Carnforth Rotarian Ivor Davies presented an interesting illustrated talk entitled “Walking on Bridges”.
From ancient times bridges were primitive and put over streams using a tree trunk or stone slabs. Packhorse bridges consist of one or more narrow arches with parapets no higher than 18 inches. Packhorse bridges are often in remote areas and never in the usual routes of our present road systems. Monks often built the bridges to transport their goods.
There is a double arch bridge in Wycoller Country Park and a single arch over Watendlath Beck at Ashness bridge. At Boot in Eskdale the local doctor paid to have the bridge widened to allow him to go over with his pony and trap. This bridge is known locally as the Surgeon’s bridge.
The peak of packhorse transport was in middle of 17th to end of 18th century. Trains of up to 40 horses were used, each carrying up to 2 hundredweight of goods.
Development of canal and railway transport took over from horse transport. The packhorse bridges are not marked on OS Maps and time needs to be spent researching an area to locate these bridges. Ivor has identified and visited 23 bridges in the Lake District and has 8 more to detail.