No bridge is too far for League

Parishioners from St Robert's Church, Morpeth, who walked the seven bridges of the town to raise church funds.
Parishioners from St Robert's Church, Morpeth, who walked the seven bridges of the town to raise church funds.

Catholic Women’s League

Morpeth’s St Robert’s RC Church usually honours its patron saint’s feast day by a mini-pilgrimage to Newminster Abbey. Last year it was discovered that the church had sustained severe damage to its spire, and our parish is endeavouring to raise funds towards the £300,000 required for repairs.

Elizabeth Dixon, Chairman of the Catholic Women’s League, came up with an interesting and different project for people to participate in on St Robert’s Feast Day, and also enjoy some fund-raising. Let’s face it, there are only so many coffee mornings and cake stalls you can support without damaging the waistline and getting bored.

Elizabeth’s idea was a walk to take in the Seven Bridges of Morpeth, based on a similar event in Sydney Harbour, Australia. This would combine exercise, friendship and cheerful chat, but also give other parishioners the opportunity to sponsor participants and so be part of the day, (it would also permit indulging in the cakes afterwards without guilt).

Our bridges over the Wansbeck may not be so spectacular as Sydney, but they are special, like the 40 parishioners who set out to complete the walk.

Aged between three years and 94, we set off at 2pm on Sunday, June 7 from the Old Stobsford Bridge, actually the original Oldgate Bridge until it was moved in 1932.

Along the riverside path, our jolly party walked, skipped, and hopped, according to age, to the steps at Telford Bridge, where drivers politely respected the manual-controlling of traffic lights by a friendly marshal to enable us to go over the road.

The next two crossings were both foot bridges: the Chantry and Elliott. Both are rather special. Chantry Bridge dates back to the 13th century and the Elliott Bridge was funded by public subscription almost 100 years ago. In the days of the Morpeth Regatta, a ‘greasy pole’ was affixed to this bridge, which the brave and foolish could try to climb. We settled for a nice saunter — more than halfway now.

On to Oldgate Bridge and ford, where the lovely oak trees planted in recognition of Admiral Lord Collingwood (the original resident of our presbytery at St Robert’s) have been replaced by the flood defence scheme, and on to the little Skinnery Footbridge — now a lovely spot to look up and down the river, with ducks, swans and herons. But the riverbank here had a more sinister purpose: it was used by local tanners in the drying of animal skins for leather.

The final bridge to cross at Low Ford took us back along the lovely, woodland trail called Lady’s Walk, named in honour of the Virgin Mary by the monks of Newminster Abbey.

The walk was a break with tradition, but well worth it. To take part in this delightful walk and share the experience with so many happy people afterwards (yes, we all finished and were rewarded with that cake and scones), was a real treat.

We might not have gone far, but we raised a lot of money and smiles. As the saying goes, ‘quality, not quantity’.