Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Eddington Bridge, Hungerford hazard to paddlers

For paddlers making the most of the unusually high water levels to explore sections of the River Kennet that are normally too shallow to navigate without risking criticism on the basis of environmental damage, please be aware of the potential danger from the old strands of barbed wire on the upstream side of Eddington Bridge at Hungerford.

The first picture below is a scan of a postcard sent in 1963 (although the date of the actual photograph is not clear).

At the time that this photograph was taken at Eddington Bridge there does not seem to have been a perceived risk of anything passing underneath the arches.

More recent experience of the River Kennet, as it broadens before passing under the A4, has meant that there has often been insufficient water levels to guarantee hull clearance.

In November 2011 the drought then affecting the Kennet meant that you could have walked through the the eastern-most arch whilst barely wetting your feet.

The gauge at Eddington Bridge at that time marked the fact that there was only a few centimetres of water depth across the breadth of the river.  The 2011 images also illustrate that, at some point in time since the '1963' photograph, someone had felt it necessary to install steel stanchions to support twin strands of barbed wire.

The current level of the River Kennet at Hungerford (and elsewhere on the upper and middle reaches) provides a satisfactory depth to avoid contact with the river bed when paddling.  However, should you decide to do so, you may wish to consider rapid disentanglement strategies.

The stanchions and the wire have clearly not been maintained, but should anyone attempt to paddle this section at the current levels, the wire may constitute a serious risk to health and safety.