Cause for Celebration! Application to Historic Scotland completed and submitted

It took a week to put into the right words, a second to submit – on Friday at around 3pm – but this application (and the one to HLF which I will be working on this week) starts a process that restores the bridge by October next year and enables the opening of the castle by late 2018.

It feels onerous on the one hand, but fantastic to be finally moving on the other!

Below is the edited text of the application.

Dunans Bridge will be 200 years old next year and the Dunans Charitable Trust wishes to restore the A-listed, Thomas Telford-designed structure. The Dunans Conservation Plan, produced by Robin Kent Architecture and Conservation (attached), identifies the bridge as the first element of an ongoing restoration programme for the site. The bridge is in need of urgent repair at an overall cost of £898,000, with a grant-funded component of £842,000. The repairs will include repointing the three arches, stabilising the surrounding banks, repair of the carriageway, repair of the stonework and removal of foliage as detailed both in the Conservation Plan and the Initial Structural Appraisal by David Narro Associates.

This project will ensure the bridge remains standing and used both for access purposes to the B-listed Dunans Castle, and also as a visitor attraction in and of itself. The structure’s merit will be enhanced simply by returning it to its original form in the year of its bicentenary. As the attached documentation indicates the works we are applying for funding for are essential to save and then maintain this structure.

The work in view for the bridge will ensure that its longevity is assured and we anticipate only maintenance works within the first 5 years of the project being completed. However, the work on the bridge will enable the restoration of the B-listed Dunans Castle as detailed in the attached Conservation Plan and this work will be implemented as a consequence of the work on the bridge that we applying funding for.

The bridge gives access to Dunans Castle and grounds. It provides a significant heritage value as a visitor attraction, drawing visitors daily. As one of only two A-listed structures in the area, and the only A-listed structure accessible to the public, its presence is a significant draw to the community and has a direct economic impact on the local tourism economy.

The community already benefits from the presence of the bridge. The bridge’s significance as having been (possibly) designed by Telford, its status as the highest bridge in Argyll and its proximity and relationship with Dunans Castle make it, along with the associated castle, one of only three significant heritage attractions in South-west Cowal. Over the last six years over 10,000 visitors from all over the world have visited the bridge and castle for tours of the structures. In each case these visitors have contributed to the local tourism economy, and have been particularly welcomed by the 8-10 accommodation providers in the local villages of Glendaruel and Colintraive. To maximise the profile of the bridge and this benefit to the local community, during the works each stage will be documented in video, photos and via blog, we will engage with local primary schools from Cowal, Bute, Kintyre and the isle of Arran, providing visits and projects for the pupils (in line with the Curriculum for Excellence) as well as ensuring the local Archaeology group associated with the community-owned forest at Stronafian can access the expertise being applied to the bridge. With the completion of the project we will be organising several events around the bridge’s bicentenary, including a Bridge completion party, an outdoor theatre piece about the bridge and interpretation around the whole project. We have already published a book of the Conservation Plan, and will do the same for the restoration of the bridge, and this, like the use of social media during the restoration works, will increase the engagement both of locals, and also of our wider international community of interest. We have letters of support from the Colintraive and Glendaruel Community Council, and the Colintraive and Glendaruel Development Trust which speak to their support of the project to restore bridge and castle.

The bridge is part of a £5-6M investment in Dunans, the castle, the bridge and the grounds, enabled in part by the Charitable Trust through its lease of the bridge. The repair and renovation of the bridge is the first stage in this project, an essential one if the ruined castle is to be restored. Therefore we can with confidence say that after this initial investment is made in the bridge, the project to restore castle will be able to secure the £3.5-£4.5M finance needed. Once both heritage structures have been restored we anticipate that from the present employment of 5 people full-time onsite we will employ between 10 and 15 individuals at Dunans, with economic activity for a myriad of local contractors (events, weddings, conferences, cleaning, catering, marquees etc). The risk of course is that if the bridge isn’t repaired the present employment and visitor numbers will be lost. The Conservation Plan is also supported by the local Community Council and our Development Trust, both of whom see the economic value of what is happening at Dunans. In this way, the project at hand is the foundation for a significant investment locally and ties in with Argyll and Bute Council’s single outcome agreement which prioritises economic regeneration and tourism.

We have two potential audiences for voluntary work, skills acquisition and, professional advancement. The first is an active Archaeology Group in the local community, whose efforts at present are focussed around conserving a chambered cairn in Stronafian Forest. Active conservation and restoration such as that which we are proposing for the bridge is an ideal opportunity to cascade skills and knowledge in project management, archaeology, survey and interpretation to this group, and to others like it across south-west Cowal, in particular bodies like the Strachur and District Local History Society. Given the large international community of interest around the project, we also anticipate strong interest from this worldwide group along the same lines. We will also liaise and encourage our contractors, via the terms of the tendering process we will work within, that the work on the bridge will offer opportunities for skills development among their and other workforces as well as locally among crafts people who work with rubble-built structures.

We presently provide signage around the bridge to introduce the structure and its context to walkers and our visitors. There is significant education benefit in the structure, its renovation and the bicentenary. We anticipate providing interpretation during the works as well as after the works, ensuring every stage is recorded – not only for immediate consumption online and onsite but in the form of a book similar to the one we are publishing for the Conservation Plan Consultation. We will also be inviting local Primary schools (including Kilmodan, Strachur and Tighnabruaich) to visit at appropriate times to understand this work. Furthermore, once the work is complete we will hold a series of celebratory events for locals and visitors alike. Of course once the castle is restored too, there will be permanent exhibitions on the restoration of bridge and castle. We will of course also tie-in with ongoing successful local heritage endeavours like the recent Heritage Lottery Fund project, Glen of the Red River, the first stage of which was completed by the Kilmodan Primary School and which offers an online resource which the work on the bridge can contribute to (see www.glenoftheredriver.com).

Members of the public are able to access the bridge on foot from the main road freely. In 2006 the Trust obtained grant funding from SFGS and Highland Birchwoods to create and recover pathways around the policies, and part of this was the creation of a flattened area to the side of the bridge to enable the full glory of the structure to be visible. Our view is that Dunans Bridge will be a highly visible, highly visitable structure and a boon to the local tourist economy. We also intend to enable virtual access through webcam and video.

 

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