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New footbridge should complete restoration of River Gipping towpath

PUBLISHED: 11:30 22 October 2020

The abutments at the Baylham footbridge are waiting for the deck to be replaced. Picture: RIVER GIPPING TRUST

The abutments at the Baylham footbridge are waiting for the deck to be replaced. Picture: RIVER GIPPING TRUST

Archant

Volunteers hoping to reinstate a section of the towpath along the River Gipping are hoping to reinstate a bridge that was removed half a century ago by the end of the winter.

The restored footpath will go past Baylham Mill. Picture: BARRY PULLEN/iWitnessThe restored footpath will go past Baylham Mill. Picture: BARRY PULLEN/iWitness

The Gipping River Path goes from Ipswich to Stowmarket, but in the early 1970s a section of it in Baylham was diverted because of security fears of a local landowner.

The land has now changed hands and the new owner is happy to reinstate the path to its original route beside the river. Members of the River Gipping Trust have started clearing the way and are hoping to make this section wide enough for people in wheelchairs to use.

MORE: Plans to restore lost footpath

The site of the new bridge to be installed over the Gipping. Picture: RIVER GIPPING TRUSTThe site of the new bridge to be installed over the Gipping. Picture: RIVER GIPPING TRUST

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However they need to replace a bridge over the river that was removed when the original path was closed. The original abutments are still there and should be reusable after a check by a civil engineer – but a new wooden deck needs to be built and installed.

Les Howard from the RGT said: “The work is expected to cost about £25,000 – £12,000 for the bridge deck and the rest to reinstate the path. We have volunteers working there regularly and we are hoping to get support from funding bodies to help with this project.”

There has already been support from local parish councils and Trust’s own fundraising efforts. It is also looking for support from national bodies in a bid make the river more accessible.

The existing footpath which is frequently flooded. Picture: RIVER GIPPING TRUSTThe existing footpath which is frequently flooded. Picture: RIVER GIPPING TRUST

If the money does come in, the new bridge could be ready to move into position by the end of the year – with work to secure it in place being completed in the first few weeks of the new year before the spring arrives. Mr Howard said: “We need to get it in place before the breed season so we don’t disturb the wildlife and we are aiming for that.”

The ultimate aim of the Trust is to create an accessible path all the way from Ipswich to Stowmarket – at present sections are too wet and narrow for wheelchairs but for now the section from Baylam to Pipps Ford is the priority.

MORE: EADT Suffolk Magazine joined the volunteers on the River Gipping



And they also want to clear the river itself and make it navigable again between Baylham and Needham Lakes. That would allow the introduction of an electric boat operate over the three-miles of the Gipping.

Mr Howard said: “That would link the Baylham Rare Breeds Farm and Needham Lakes – giving a tourist attraction at both ends and would make a good day out for a family.”


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