Deptford Creek Pedestrian Swing Bridge

Above: View of the footbridge from the Greenwich side, looking west towards Deptford. The bridge is in its ‘normal’ position, when in use by pedestrians. When ‘open’, it swings to the left (on this vew) through 110 degrees and rests above the bank beside the Creek. This allows it to be inspected easily and also painted from below when necessary.

Deptford Creek is, of course, the mouth of the River Ravensbourne which joins the Thames on the borders of Deptford and Greenwich. The river is known as Deptford Creek from the point where it is crossed by Deptford Bridge – at the join of Deptford Broadway and Blackheath Road which are part of the A2. The rest of the river, flowing north into the Thames, then forms the Creek. Over a long passage of time, no less than five bridges have been built across the Creek. Working northwards they are:

(1) Deptford Bridge was the first bridge crossing the Ravensbourne. Before that, as the place name implies, there had been a ‘deep ford’ on the river at the same location.

(2) When the London and Greenwich Railway was built, in the 1830s, the Ravensbourne acted as a barrier for the railway’s continuation east. Eventually, the Deptford Creek Lifting Bridge was constructed – allowing trains to pass over it but it was also able to be lifted to allow sailing barges to pass by.

(3) To provide pedestrians with a convenient walk from Deptford to Greenwich, the Deptford Creek Footbridge was constructed across the Creek and opened in 2001. It is immediately south of the railway bridge just mentioned.

(4) When Creek Road was built, in the 19th century, a swing bridge was built to carry the traffic and it has subsequently been replaced by the present lifting bridge called Creek Road Bridge.

(5) This brings us to the subject of today’s blog. The land beside the wide part of the Creek, just before it joins the Thames, has seen rapid development in the last couple of decades. Once used as wharves and for industrial purposes, there are now apartments, shops and a new walkway beside the Thames. A new pedestrian bridge was the next addition and work began in February 2014.

Costing £5 million a cable-stayed swing bridge has been built to enable pedestrians and cyclists to cross the tidal Deptford Creek safely. The crossing will enable those using the Thames Path to remain near the riverbank as they cross the creek rather than venture inland to use Creek Bridge. The new pedestrian crossing at the mouth of the creek is a 44 m long, 3.6 m wide single-mast, cable-stayed swing bridge. It has been positioned so that if it were to remain closed during high tide it would still provide 2.8 m of clearance above mean high water during spring tides, according to figures provided by Flint & Neill. Ramps and stairs will provide access to the deck of the bridge from both sides of the Creek.

The bridge’s superstructure is a sculptural steel box made of painted weathering steel. The front span is 44 m long and 700 mm deep. Counterbalancing the front span is a 9 m long, 1.2 m deep back span containing 120 metric tonnes of steel. There is a 15 m tall mast that extends above the pier and holds three cables that attach to the front span in order to hold up the nose of the bridge as it rotates.

While it is common to light such bridges with floodlights at night – to highlight their form – the Environment Agency is keen to protect fish species in the area by not spilling a lot of artificial light on the river. Functional lighting has been kept to a minimum. The bridge includes discreet handrail lights so that people can use the bridge at night, but there are no floodlights and the soffit of the bridge has been created using a dark colour palette to minimise reflections into the water.

Raymond Brown Construction Ltd, based in Ringwood, served as the main contractor for the project and assembled a project delivery team with Flint & Neill as lead designer. The team also included the Rotherham, UK-based mechanical, structural, control, and hydraulic engineering firm Eadon Consulting. Leeds-based S H Structures carried out the steelwork fabrication, and Barnsley-based Qualter Hall & Company carried out mechanical and electrical fabrication.

Above: Looking north beside Deptford Creek at the footbridge, across the Thames and towards Canary Wharf which can be seen in the distance.

The bridge was completed by the autumn of 2014 and it was opened officially on 19 January 2015. The walkway beside the Thames from Greenland Dock, running SE to where the ‘Cutty Sark’ is situated, at Greenwich, has not been very ‘user-friendly’ since the 1980s, to say the least. Pedestrians sometimes had to make tiresome detours inland with no interesting sights as a reward for their extra steps. Additional new footpaths have been added in recent years and, with the opening of this footbridge near the Thames, the walk is now far more rewarding and, of course, much more relaxing.

-ENDS-

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