Keeping three historic Devon structures safe for years to come


14 Feb 2023

Three historical railway bridges in Devon have been given makeovers thanks to a £243,000 investment by the Historical Railways Estate (HRE).

Keeping three historic Devon structures safe for years to come

Wortha Mill Bridge on Dartmoor, Broadpark Road Bridge at Brentor and Castle Bridge Exeter have all received essential attention to ensure they retain their distinct characters while remaining safe for years to come.

An extensive programme of works at the bridges has included masonry repairs, repointing brickwork, removing vegetation and roots that can damage the bridges and the installation of fencing.

Ecology surveys were also undertaken and as a result enhancements such as bat and bird boxes will be installed at the sites later in the year.

Wortha Mill Bridge during works

(Wortha Mill Bridge on Dartmoor during works)

HRE Civil Engineer Matthew Irwin said:

“We are delighted to have completed maintenance work on another three structures in Devon which will help to keep them in good order for years to come.

“All our structures are inspected yearly by a team of skilled examiners and where there are known to be rare species present, they will be accompanied by qualified ecologists.

“These examinations allow us to plan work well in advance and ensure that the most critical tasks are prioritised. They also allows us to programme ecological surveys to ensure that no harm is caused to the wildlife as well as suggesting measures that enhance the local biodiversity.”

Broadpark Road Bridge following vegetation clearance

(Broadpark Road Bridge following vegetation clearance)

Broadpark Road Bridge was part of the former Launceston to Plymouth railway line. A month-long programme included repairing defective areas of stonework, re-pointing the wing-walls at either side of the bridge and extensive vegetation clearance.

The wing of Broadpark Road Bridge before repairs.

(The wing of Broadpark Road Bridge before repairs)

The wing after repairs

(The wing after repairs)

An eight-week schedule of work at Wortha Mill Bridge included masonry repairs, repointing, removing vegetation and root and the installation of anchors, tying together the spandrels (the sides of the bridge) and the arches in order to limit further fracturing and movement between them. The bridge crosses the disused Tavistock to Okehampton railway line, and the River Burn. A well-used footpath runs across the top of the bridge leading to Brent Tor.

At the impressive three-arched Castle Bridge 10 weeks of maintenance and repairs have just been completed including brickwork and repointing. The Budleigh to Exmouth Cycleway runs underneath the structure which previously carried the Exmouth to Tipton St John branch line, which opened in 1897.

Castle Bridge during works

(Castle Bridge during works)

Castle Bridge following repairs

(Castle Bridge following repairs)

The bridges are among 154 structures in Devon and 3,100 across Britain which were once part of the British rail network and are now part of the nation’s HRE, looked after by National Highways on behalf of the Department for Transport.

Although we're only funded to maintain safety on HRE structures, we work closely with a wide variety of organisations to help them take on structures or lease them from us. These organisations often repurpose structures for walking and cycling routes. We're working with Lynton and Barnstaple Railway to reopen a number of structures for use by a heritage railway. We're also working with Holsworthy Town Council to allow Holsworthy viaduct to be opened for active travel.

Get further information on the Historical Railways Estate.