Conwy bridge with medieval origins visibly cracking
Richard Evans, local democracy reporter
An 18th century Conwy Valley bridge with medieval origins is visibly cracking and in need of repair.
The Pont Sarn Ddu in Dolwyddelan is a grade-two listed bridge but has now been branded ‘substandard’ in a Conwy County Council report.
Consequently the bridge is subject to weight restrictions whilst it awaits interim repair work whilst longer-term solutions are considered.
Permanent work can not be carried out until after 15 May 2022, due to environmental restrictions imposed by Natural Resources Wales.
The bridge crosses the Afon Lledr, a tributary of the River Conwy, and exists on maps as far back as 1794, and the structure’s piers (supports) are thought to date back even further.
The bridge provides the only river crossing to Blaenau Dolwyddelan, a small community of residential properties. But the bridge’s stone slabs are now cracking and are so badly damaged that Conwy has had to place a three-ton weight restriction on the bridge, stopping larger vehicles from using it, including some emergency service vehicles.
Conwy has carried out a heritage impact assessment and has applied for permission, due to its location, to the Snowdonia National Park Authority before carrying out the interim work. The council is also in conversation with Welsh heritage guardians CADW, due to the bridge’s listed status.
The impact assessment has determined the interim works won’t harm the bridge’s appearance, although there is some risk to the bridge’s damaged superstructure.
Cllr Liz Roberts commented: “We are waiting now for the application to go through with the national park, so we can start work on the bridge to make it (the weight restriction) 18 tonnes.
“I’m liaising very closely with the council to support the community in Dolwyddelan. I’m pleased with the progress we are making.”
Known locally as ‘The Roman Bridge’, the bridge’s lateral projections on its piers suggest anchoring points for timber struts, suggesting the structure was originally constructed from rubble piers and timber. Consequently, historians believe the bridge dates back to medieval times or even earlier.
Conwy’s report reads: ‘The proposed interim works are required to address issues due to the continuing deterioration of the bridge structure.
“The proposed works are an interim arrangement to allow reasonable vehicular access to Blaenau Dolwyddelan prior to a scheme to repair and strengthen the bridge.”
If permission is granted, Conwy will replace backfill and strengthen the bridge with concrete and steel rods.