“Bennerley Viaduct – Access to Heritage” represents the first phase of the project which will bring Bennerley Viaduct back into use after 50 years of closure. The project is being led by the owners, Railway Paths Ltd. (RPL) in partnership with the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct. The initiative has four main strands:
- the creation of public access;
- repairs and restoration;
- the creation of environmental enhancements;
- community engagement.
1. Access Arrangements
A new deck will be built across the width and length of the viaduct (see artist’s impression, below). This new deck, constructed from marine plywood sheets, will have an anti-slip finish. As well as making the viaduct accessible, the deck will also help protect the ironwork structure from the elements. From it, all visitors will be able to enjoy magnificent views of the Erewash Valley.
A ramp and 3m wide surfaced path will be constructed at the western end of the viaduct (following the blue route in the image below). The existing embankment will be regraded, to create a zig-zag ramped path to provide a connection between the Erewash Canal Towpath and the viaduct deck, built to a maximum 1:12 gradient to provide access for all abilities.
A flight of timber steps will be built onto the existing eastern embankment. Able bodied people will be able to walk down these steps to the ground level path and the Nottingham Canal towpath. Those unable to navigate the steps will be able to return back across the viaduct, back down the western ramp and back onto the Erewash Canal towpath. Opportunities for future development of a ramped access to the Nottingham Canal are being explored.
A ground level path will provide a permissive walking link across the valley between the Nottingham Canal towpath to the east and the existing public right of way at the Erewash Canal. The path will take people under the viaduct from where the full magnificence of its construction can be appreciated.
2. Critical Repairs
Ironwork: Replace missing ironwork, damaged bolts and rivets in trestle legs.
Drainage: Improve drainage from the deck of the structure and from the pier bases.
Brickwork: Repair the brick pier bases and the abutments, a critical repair, essential to maintain the structural stability of the viaduct.
3. Environmental Enhancements
Creating New Habitats: The project will enhance the landscape under the viaduct by creating new habitats which will promote biodiversity and protect species at risk. Hibernaculae will be constructed to provide underground chambers that amphibians and reptiles such as newts and grass snakes can use for shelter throughout the winter. Our winged friends will not be forgotten as swift and bat boxes will also be installed on the structure. The area under the viaduct will be enhanced, maintained and be cared for by the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct.
4. Community Engagement
Widening Participation: The project aims to engage people with the Bennerley Viaduct Project and extend the range of people who will visit the viaduct and engage with its heritage. The project is committed to working with local schools to enable new generations learn about their “Iron Giant”.
Visitor Economy: It is hoped that the transformation of the viaduct into a community heritage asset will attract visitors locally, nationally and internationally and help boost the local economy. It will make the Erewash Valley a better place to live and work and will create an attractive place for people to visit.