Page last updated at 15:10 GMT, Friday, 16 January 2009

New bridge provides castle access

Bridge at Caernarfon Castle
The bridge at Caernarfon Castle was constructed upside down (Photo courtesy of Arfon Access Group)

A bridge providing improved access to Caernarfon Castle for visitors has been officially opened.

The 24-metre bridge, which was built by Wrexham company LM Engineering, is covered in slate from Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd.

It also uses the same steel used to make the Angel of the North statue.

Ancient monuments body Cadw said it had been an "embarrassment" that wheelchair users and people with pushchairs previously could not access the castle.

Opening the bridge, Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones praised the "futuristic" construction.

Gary Davies
I had a few sleepless nights
Gary Davies, L M Engineering
Marilyn Lewis, director of Cadw said: "It has been an embarrassment that in one of the biggest and most visited of our properties, people in wheelchairs, and children in pushchairs were not able to come in.

"It is a tight space, and anything we did had to be respectful of the monument, so it was a major challenge.

"We did not want a pastiche, we wanted something which was obviously not part of the original structure."

Bruce Tebble and Gary Davies from LM Engineering admitted the bridge was a "difficult construction" which was put together upside down like a ship's hull.

"It is an s-shape and made out of plates which were cut from blocks," said Mr Tebble.

It is constructed out of "corten" steel - the same material as the Angel of the North statue - and is designed deliberately to 'rust'.

"The worst bit was on the day the bridge was craned into position," said Mr Davies.

"It was right on the limit of the crane's capabilities because we could not get a bigger crane into the road because of the cellars of nearby buildings.

"The crane job was bending with the 19-ton weight, but it looks nice now it's been dressed," he added.

Alun Ffred Jones (left) with Alan Gibbons
Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones, with Alan Gibbons

Visitor Alan Gibson from Nottingham said he was delighted with the new bridge.

Mr Gibson has visited the castle 116 times over the past 24 years, but was finding it increasingly difficult to gain access because he now depends on a wheelchair.

"As most of my left-hand-side is gone I could just about hop up the 15 steps to the castle entrance as my wife dragged the chair up," he said.

"But it took two days for me to get over it so two years ago I stopped coming.

"Now with the bridge and the chairlift (inside the castle) I can go anywhere," he added.

Caernarfon residents Sian Foulkes and Ann Hughes were also delighted.

"It's brilliant as I got up with no problem," said wheelchair user Ms Foulkes.

"In fact I found it quite an emotional experience when I got on the viewing platform, inside the castle, and could see out over the town."

Ms Hughes, at the castle with her guide dog Odelle, added: "I haven't been here (in the castle) since I was 10 years old. I've really enjoyed it."

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