Sometimes, it’s easy for Londoners to forget that the River Thames actually exists outside central London. It’s not all about fancy bridges and sightseeing. The river actually stretches all the way from Southend on the Thames Estuary, through Oxford, to Reading and along to Kemble, Gloucestershire. Along those 205 miles of river, there are 138 bridges; some of them are shiny and new(ish) like the Millennium Bridge, some can do fancy tricks, like Tower Bridge, while others have been simply left abandoned.
But there’s been some good news for one deserted Victorian railway bridge in Richmond. Barnes Bridge, which crosses the Thames connecting Barnes and Chiswick, could soon be transformed into a pedestrian walkway after being derelict for 125 years.
Plans to redesign Barnes Bridge have been in the pipeline for nine years. It’s now been decided that Mixon Architects will revamp the Grade II-listed crossing into an artsy garden space filled with flowers and shrubs for pedestrians to amble through as they make a transfluvial peregrination. A computer-generated image of what the redesigned bridge may look like shows a separated pedestrian walkway on one side of the structure, decorated with plants, seating, lights and graphics. The firm behind the project has renamed it ‘The View at Barnes Bridge’, in an attempt to give the structure a new lease of life. The local authorities hope that the remodelled bridge will become a hotspot for viewing the famous Oxford-Cambridge boat race, and bring more visitors to the suburban area.
The bridge, which is owned by Network Rail, was opened in 1849 to carry trains, but has not been used since 1895 when another bigger rail bridge with a wider passage – the new Barnes Bridge – was built right next to it.
Emma Robinson, town centre manager for Barnes said: ‘This stunning bridge has been closed for over a century and now we are hoping to turn it into a beautiful space for residents and visitors to come and relax, to enjoy the river and the views from the bridge.’
‘We have the support of the councils on both sides of the river and have put in place a great team of contractors. Now the work starts,’ she said.
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