Friday, 19 March 2010

"Hi! I'm Isembard Kingdom Brunel - but you can call me TLH"

I like to think I'm an observant person.  In fact, I'm so observant that I'll be the one bumping into you on the pavement because I'm so busy not looking where I'm going since there's other more important things to be looking at. Like buildings.  Or small dogs. Or someone's appallingly amusing hairstyle.

I notice stuff.

And I've noticed a couple of my most recent commenters remarking on The Bridge. And since The Bridge is quite interesting - and was A Major Project of TLH's a few years back - I thought I'd do a post on it.  There's lots of photos but it is all a bit engineeringy so if you've come here looking for posts about, oh, I dunno, crochet and kittens, you might want to avoid this one - others more to your taste will be along shortly.  Although there are some cats in this one (as you might expect).

Some background then - we bought this house back in the mid-1990s because it had a bridge.  Okay, there were other factors like location (walking distance of main line station to London, 10 mins drive off the A3, 15 mins drive to my then job at University, 20 mins drive from my mum and step-dad, good friends literally just down the road), but it had A BRIDGE!!

The houses in our street are the long, thin, town house type with 3 floors and a garage underneath.  On our side of the road, they're all sort of built into a side of a sloping hill, so the gardens are terraced.  To help you understand the geography of our house try to imagine that you go in the front door, the staircase is right in front of you and a corridor leads down the right hand side to a large-ish downstairs room (can be used for anything - some in the close have a kitchen there, others use it as a bedroom, we use ours as a study/library) and a loo.  There's also a back door leading out to a patio.  Go back to the stairs and go up them.  Immediately in front of you at the top is our teeny-tiny kitchen.  You turn right into the dining room/sitting room area.  This is the room we decorated last year.  Stairs up to the top floor go up from the sitting room to a landing.  The bathroom is at the top of the stairs, at the back of the house.  Next to that is the spare room, our bedroom is at the front of the house and next to that is a small single/box room which is my workshop.  And that's it.  It's not big and it has its faults like most places but, on the whole, it suits our purposes pretty well.

The normal way for people on our side of the street to reach their gardens is to go out through the back door on the ground floor, then climb steps of varying degrees of steepness to get up to whichever level of the garden you want to access. But not us!  At some point in the past, one of the previous owners had the frankly brilliant idea of knocking out the back window and wall of the dining room bit (that overlooks the garden) and installing a door to lead out onto a bridge that will take you over the patio bit and straight out onto the garden, thereby circumventing most of the steep steps - genius! Quite why no-one else in the street has adopted this idea is beyond me.

Standing on the bridge, the view of the neighbours' gardens looking to the right...

...and to the left.

Anyway, the bridge was wooden and, although a brilliant idea, not that pretty to look at.  A couple of long RSJs (or I-beams) had been placed from the wall of the house over to the garden, wooden planks had been nailed onto them lengthways and then ordinary garden fencing panels (of different heights) had been attached along the sides:

View from garden along old bridge towards house (these pictures are a mixture of ones that TLH took on his phone and I took on my old digital camera, so the quality may vary)

This the view of one side of the bridge, taken from halfway down the steps

This is the other side of the bridge

This is under the bridge.  It's about 8 feet above head height here.

Not terribly pretty, I think you'll agree.  But I'd trained honeysuckle to clamber all over one side, and it wasn't too bad.  Except that the planks at the end, where it reached the garden, had started to rot.  This was always going to happen but it was helped by the plants in pots that I'd been putting there - the water was seeping through.  In places they'd rotted right through and it was starting to get a bit dangerous.

Rotten treads.

I don't know if you remember, but the summer of 2007 was atrocious. It barely stopped raining for months.  In April TLH announced that he would make it his project to replace the bridge himself and it took until September before we got 2 weeks together without any rain!  Seriously!

TLH is a very methodical person.  He's neat, he's organised and has a logical brain. He's never built anything this large before - in fact, prior to this, I think the biggest thing he's constructed was the Suki Jones Memorial Garden Shed (the one that now has Additional Pulsating Bulge) but that did come in a kit form and with instructions.  This is something else entirely.  It would need plans and diagrams and lots of measurements and pondering and research on the intertubes. I was happy to let him do this as I was confident he'd make a good job of it.

He did some drawings and came up with a better design than the old one, and then found a nearby timber merchants that had the right kind of wood.  I had no idea wood could be so expensive - but it would have been at least five times more expensive to have someone else come in to design and build the thing.  He was between work contracts so time was not an issue.

It took, I think, the best part of about three weeks to completely remove the old wooden parts of the bridge, make good the metal bits and then build the new bridge on top of it.

The final result is a triumph.  We all love it but the cats love it most and Sylvester loves it most of all.

I'll leave you with a montage of pictures from start to finish:




And finally finished - ta-daa!!

(Yes, there's Sylvester, lying on his side, jamming himself into the gap)


Sometimes I forget just how lucky I am.....

11 comments:

OmegaMom said...

Most excellent! Ah, I recognize those metal brace thingies that you use to connect beams; my own DH used them when he re-did our rundown beat-up former stable into a nifty keen bee-yootiful greenhouse. Anyway, I approve, and thanks for the history and tour.

pinklea said...

That is so cool! I find the whole process of constructing something quite fascinating from start to finish (when the Ex and I had our house built twenty-five years ago, I took photos almost every single day, from the empty lot stage, to the digging, to the framing, and on to the finished house complete with landscaping). But I have never before seen the construction of a small scale bridge. I'm totally impressed!

Mrs Jones said...

Omegamom - I remember reading about your DH doing stuff about the yard, but I don't recall seeing any pictures....hint, hint....

Pinklea - I can't tell you how impressed I was that The Lovely Husband did this. We're big fans of Steve & Norm in 'This Old House' and compared to what they have to do, this didn't seem so difficult. He also didn't want me to help at all (which actually suited me just fine) but he so enjoyed doing it I don't think he actively wanted any help. I shall pass on your comments!

mountainear said...

Bridge envy has now increased 10-fold. Your builder of bridges is a hero. What a star. Your version is certainly the most superior.

I need a bridge over the little stream in the dingle...now the nagging begins.

Mrs Jones said...

Ms Mountainear - he is my hero and a sweetie with a heart of gold. A real treasure. He is currently away looking after his elderly parents and is a complete star. Mind you, he was quite fortunate that the structure of the bridge was already in place and just the wood needed replacing - it would have been a much more difficult prospect to try and build one from scratch, so don't be too harsh with your nagging!!!

Kella said...

That bridge re build is great kudos to your hubby.

Mrs Jones said...

Kella - I know. It's a task he undertook with both aplomb and elan. He's one in a million but he never believes me when I tell him....

katyboo1 said...

I love your bridge. I want you to have a troll who lives underneath it though. I might make you one when I get back from Canada.

Mrs Jones said...

Ms Boo - A Troll! Yes! Must be weatherproof though as it will probably have to live out all year round....

Maureen said...

I absolutely LOVE that bridge, you are indeed lucky. I have missed having time to visit all my fave blogs and hope to do one at least every other day, so I have missed out on a lot of what you have been up to and it all looks good. Your crocheting is brilliant too. M x

watchthatcheese said...

What a handy man to have about the house, it looks heaps better - mine is pretty crap at doing stuff like that, but he does make good curry.