Save the Cox's Walk Footbridge Oak Trees

Cox’s Walk footbridge is to be shut by Southwark council from Monday (January 27th).

The safety of the structure of the historic footbridge in Sydenham Hill Woods – from where Pissarro painted his Lordship Lane station work and where an escaped elephant named Archie once put a tentative foot on before going off to visit the Horniman museum instead – is now “significantly compromised” says Southwark’s head of highways.

But campaigners fighting to save oaks close to the footbridge want to know why the officer considers the bridge to have “suddenly become so dangerous.”

The following are email exchanges between the campaigners and Mr Foden:

From: Save the Footbridge Oaks Campaign
Date: Fri, 24 Jan 2020

Dear Mr Foden,

Thank you for your email about your intention to close the Cox’s Walk footbridge from Monday 27th January. I would be interested to know why you consider the bridge to have suddenly become so dangerous. I would also question why you think that closing the bridge is the only option. Rot has been evident in the timber frame for some time, with a large piece falling from the North West side last Spring, as you will have noticed in your many site visits last year. It has not deteriorated significantly since, and repairs have been made by the London Wildlife Trust to secure the parapet, which are still in place and firm. If anything needs to be closed until the rotten timber is replaced, surely it is the path underneath the bridge, not the bridge itself.

In terms of the safety of the abutments, as I have raised with you before, the Structural Survey in May 2018 recommended horizontal propping for the bridge in advance of the full repair. Three months ago in an email to me you said that you would “arrange for a response in full to the points you have, most specifically about the propping option.” but I have received nothing. Your own records show that the bridge has been propped for previous repairs, so why is this not possible now? I also note that the timber frame was found to be adequate in the same survey, but that consideration of the use of preservative treatment was recommended. This was not done, and now the frame needs replacement.

We were all very optimistic that a positive dialogue with you had finally started when you put the works on hold at the beginning of November, with promises of the independent consultant review, a fact sheet “in the very near future” and continuing information on the process. But it is now over 2 months since your email of 12th November and we have heard nothing until this bombshell. As I’m sure you realise, the lack of notice without provision of an alternative route will maximise the inconvenience to bridge users, particularly at this time of year when the woods are very muddy. Therefore I urge you to reconsider the decision to close the bridge, and review with all urgency the potential alternative construction options. As we have offered before, we are willing to crowdfund to help with any additional costs that might be involved in works which repair the bridge, retain the oaks and minimise other environmental damage to the nature reserve.

Yours sincerely Pennie Hedge

On Thu, 23 Jan 2020 at 14:25, Highways wrote:

Dear all

I apologise for the delay in sending an update on the latest situation with the proposed works to refurbish Cox’s Walk Footbridge. As you may know, we commissioned an investigation into potential alternative construction options and are currently reviewing the results and will advise everyone as soon as possible on our proposed way forward.

As most will be aware, a report prepared in 2018 demonstrated that the footbridge was in a hazardous condition, due to the potential failure of the abutments (supporting walls). A more recent inspection has also determined a further, significant safety issue with the timber parapets, which were due to be completely refurbished as part of the overall works.

It was considered in 2018 that the risk to the public was relatively minor as works were planned to be carried out within 18 months. However, the deterioration in the condition of the timber parapets, in addition to the potential failure of the abutments, is such that the safety of the structure is now significantly compromised and we have no option but to close the footpath across the bridge until full repair works can be undertaken.

The closure will be put in place on Monday 27th January with full diversion signage in place between Sydenham Hill and Lordship Lane.

If you should have any queries on the above, please contact

Regards Dale Foden Head of Highways

Further reading: TREE NEWS: BIDS TO SAVE OAKS IN DULWICH WOOD – AND A HORSE CHESTNUT OFF WESTOW HILL (and your chance to plant two trees) November 7th 2019 We reported: More than 2,300 people have signed a petition calling on Southwark council to save two trees close to the Cox’s Walk footbridge in Sydenham Hill woods……

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