£1.3m restoration work to 'future-proof' picturesque bridge
Mauldslie Bridge in South Lanarkshire has fallen into disrepair after decades of daily use.
Essential £1.3m restoration work is under way to "future-proof" a 128-year-old bridge once used by Winston Churchill to cross the River Clyde.
Picturesque Mauldslie Bridge, near Carluke, South Lanarkshire, had fallen into disrepair after decades of daily use and years of neglect.
Built in 1861, the A-listed bridge provided access to the now-demolished Mauldslie Castle, which was once frequented by royalty and prominent public figures.
Mauldslie Castle hosted King George V and Queen Mary in July 1914, some three weeks before the outbreak of the First World War.
Sir Winston Churchill's wife Clementine had family connections to the area - her father was Colonel Sir Henry Hozier, a brother of the first Lord Newlands of Mauldslie Castle - and the Churchills were occasional visitors.
Now the bridge is used by pedestrians, dog-walkers and cyclists to access the nearby Mauldslie Estate - and the structure is also home to a large colony of bats.
Stuart Sutherland, Scottish Water's project manager for the site, said the work on the 19th century bridge is "essential".
He said: "Our tankers cross the bridge multiple times each day, transporting sludge waste from Mauldslie Waste Water Treatment Works in the former grounds of Mauldslie Castle to other sites for processing.
"Given its age, the structural integrity of the bridge has diminished over the last few years and it's essential that this improvement work to strengthen the bridge is carried out.
"The stone repairs and replacement of the carriageway will bring the bridge back up to standard and ensure we continue to operate our wastewater asset effectively and efficiently, in turn protecting the environment.
"Not only is this work helping to future-proof one of our key assets and the services we provide for our customers, it's also helping to preserve a much-loved local landmark."
Scottish Water drafted in a team of around a dozen workers, including specialist stonemasons from Mackenzie Construction and Go-Wright Ltd, to respectfully restore the bridge to its former glory.
The team has been replacing all of the bridge's joints and replacing any damaged stonework with new sandstone.
Some of the stones are up to 80 kilos in weight, which makes the work on the five-span, cream sandstone, segmental arched bridge particularly challenging.
Paul Dunne, a site manager with Mackenzie Construction, said: "We genuinely feel privileged to be working in these beautiful surroundings - the place just oozes history.
"We're doing all we can to restore it to how it was once upon a time - how it would have been when Winston Churchill visited all those years ago.
"We did tests to determine which type of stone was used on the original bridge construction.
"The new sandstone we're putting in is close to an exact match and will weather over time to look the same.
"With so many things done nowadays using mechanical tools, it's great to see the stonemasons going back to basics and replicating methods used years ago - they're doing all of the stone dressing by hand."
Restoration work on the bridge began in July and is anticipated to take around 12 months for completion.
But for the team, it's not just about repairing the bridge.
Protection measures to help mitigate any of the work's impact on the resident wildlife have been put in place.
Christopher McPake, a senior ecologist working on the project, said: "Even before work began on site, nesting bird sites within the bridge were protected to allow the young birds to fledge.
"Bat surveys were also carried out and two species of bat were found to be roosting within the bridge - soprano pipistrelle and Daubenton's.
"Advance works included the exclusion of those bats from the bridge so that they weren't harmed, and roost boxes were installed."
Report by Paul Rodger and Jody Harrison