Flood-hit bridge faces closure

James and Emily Cookson from Meldon Park estate.
James and Emily Cookson from Meldon Park estate.

A POPULAR public walk at a country estate may be permanently off-limits because of flood damage.

James and Emily Cookson, who run Meldon Park, face a repair bill of up to £30,000 after a tree trunk crashed into a footbridge when it was swept along by the current as a result of the River Wansbeck bursting its banks seven miles away in Morpeth last September.

The concrete structure was destroyed and the couple are awaiting feedback on what assistance the Environment Agency can offer.

Although the damaged bridge is on private land, the Cooksons allow the public to use the route.

But without external help, they may be forced to close it for good.

Mr Cookson, whose family have owned the 4,000-acre estate since 1832, hopes it can be re-opened by the summer.

“The bridge is not covered by insurance and, through no fault of our own, it has been very badly damaged as a result of the floods,” he said.

“It has been badly knocked out of shape and it is now completely defunct as it is so dangerous. We estimate it will cost in the region of £20,000 to £30,000 to repair.

“Ironically, it was built in 1964 to replace the bridge that was damaged in the 1963 Morpeth floods.

“The walk has been closed and we would have to close it permanently if we can’t have it repaired because it would not be commercially viable for us to re-open it without help from the Environment Agency.”

The route is known as Meg’s Walk, named after the legend of Meg O’Meldon, a witch reputed to live in the village in the 1600s, and helps to attract customers to Meldon Park’s Kitchen Garden Cafe and gardens.