As many people will know, the Marple Website was the driving force behind the restoration of the Iron Bridge in Brabyns Park. This lengthy project began in 2001 and was completed in 2008. Those unfamiliar with the story can read more on the old web site: The Iron Bridge Restoration Project.
A late addition to the project was the permanent viewing platform built around the stump of what was once a huge beech tree on the bank near to the bridge. This came about due to the sad demise of that fantastic looking tree, which was estimated to be around 350 years old. Unfortunately it was damaged during a storm over the winter of 2006/7, when a large section of it was blown down. Thankfully it didn't hit the bridge, otherwise the project would have been over before work started.
The storm damage revealed that the whole tree was in a dangerous condition and it was removed for us by local tree surgeon Myers Tree Care. Afterwards we decided to make a feature of the remaining stump - it was carved with wildlife figures for us by tree sculptor Andrew Frost - and the bronze plaque we'd created to explain the story of the bridge was mounted on it. At first a temporary timber viewing platform was built around the stump because we didn't have enough money for the permanent platform and railings we had worked with the council to design.
We eventually managed to raise the £16,391 needed for the permanent platform by reallocating some unspent funds from the original project, adding a £2,500 Community Award we had won for our efforts to restore the bridge, plus a contribution of £1,143 from SMBC and £250 from Marple Civic Society.
The viewing platform was finally completed in December 2011 and it looked great. The final touch was completed almost a year later, in October 2012, when the wind-up listening post was installed.
As with any tree stump that remains in the ground, gradual decay set-in. This was a concern that was considered at the time but we chose to go ahead anyway and were really pleased with the result. However, in the last couple of years the stump has deteriorated badly and in 2018 a dialogue was begun with Friends of Brabyns Park and then the Council about what needs to be done to ensure that the decaying of the stump does not result in the loss of the bronze plaque.
Discussions with Friends of Brabyns Park and the Council's Greenspace Team have continued and a meeting with Metal Art Sculptor Wayne Chaisty was facilitated by the Marple Website last year. Wayne has provided a provisional design and cost to create a new section of railings to bridge the existing gap where the stump is and to remount the bronze plaque on them.
The council has undertaken to remove the bronze plaque and place it in safe storage - this is due to happen on Monday 25 February. Within the following 5 weeks they will also grind down the stump so it is below the decking level and no longer obstructs the installation of the new section of railings.
After the stump is ground away the platform will be temporarily secured for safety using Herras fencing. Also, once the stump has gone, the council's engineer will finalise a provisional design and costing to add a lintel and new edging details to bridge the gap in the platform base.
Once all designs and costs are finalised Friends of Brabyns Park, the Council and the Marple Website will work together to seek the funds needed to complete the relocation of the plaque.