Hands across the water
Source: Steve Loader
Local schoolchildren jumped for joy as they celebrated the opening of the new Peters Bridge between Wouldham and Halling.
They had joined more than 130 people for a ‘sneak preview’ of the new crossing, nearly a week before it opened officially.
Two walks, organised by Peters Village developer Trenport and its contractor Bam Nuttall, invited guests from all generations including 60 children from the village schools of Wouldham, Burham, Eccles and Halling – who crossed in the morning – and the four oldest residents of Wouldham and Halling, who were part of an adults’ walk in the afternoon.
For the latter, the walk was also a trip down memory lane as all four remembered the last time this stretch of the Medway was bridged – albeit temporarily – by a WWII Bailey Bridge erected by the Army.
Wouldham’s oldest residents, Sidney (86) and Mary Cooper (91) said locals used it to get to jobs or just go for new walks.
Mrs Cooper added: “We made new friends and councils fought to keep the bridge after the war, but I think they needed to keep the river open for big boats in those days.”
The couple’s counterparts on the opposite bank, Gladys Parris and Bet Hodkin, both 90, also remembered that other bridge: “They never should have taken it down,” said Mrs Parris, “But we’ve got this super new one now.”
The walk was also marked by a symbolic gesture from the Rectors of the parishes on each bank, who exchanged a fish emblem made by their respective local schools.
The Rev Hugh Broadbent, Rector of Snodland (pictured below right) explained: “Apparently, there was some kind of fishing dispute between the fishermen of both banks, and the then Rector of Burham was responsible for calming things down – oil on troubled waters.”
The Rev Mike Hayes, Rector of Burham and Wouldham, added: “So we thought it would be rather nice to use the new bridge to mark that ‘peace’ and exchange symbolic fish to herald what we expect to be a new era of co-operation between our parishes.”