Bridging the gap and chewing the fat
Sitting on a bridge, chewing the fat and putting the world to rights has been the favourite pastime of Cornish men for generations.
And for childhood friends Robert Eddy and Roger Green there will be plenty to discuss as they dangle their boots over the side of one particular granite slab in West Cornwall from now on.
Twenty feet in length and weighing some five tons, the clapper bridge the men have just finished constructing spans a stream that is no more than a trickle for most of the year but can be transformed into a terrifying torrent after heavy rain.
Several large stones that previously spanned the valley have been washed away in recent year. So the National Trust, which owns the land and coast path at Porthmeor Cove, between Gurnard's Head and Morvah, decided it was time for a permanent solution.
Robert, who works Trenuggo Farm at St Buryan, was called in to move the great stone into place. Using a vintage Field Marshall tractor, he and Roger completed the task by employing a combination of winches, tackle, 20mm-thick ropes, old-fashioned Cornish ingenuity and a lot of patience.
"That old tractor's older than me but she performed well," said Robert. "The job was something of a learning curve for everyone involved but we're happy with the result and hoping this one is big enough to withstand the water and won't get washed away.
"You have to be very safety conscious with a job like this, particularly as the coast path stayed open while we were doing it. It's amazing how many people use the coast path and most walkers were very interested to see what we were doing and wanted stop for a chat about it."
Robert, who sometimes employs the services of his shire horses to haul large stones, said the Porthmeor project had been "a joy".
"It's such a beautiful place to be working, watching seals in the cove below and buzzards wheeling overhead – nothing better," he said.
Jon Brookes, who co-ordinated the work on behalf of the National Trust, said it had been carried out as part of the Unlocking Our Coastal Heritage programme and involved the support of several agencies.
He explained that after the old clapper bridge had suffered two collapses in recent years it was decided to raise its height and remove a central stone leg. The great granite slab came from Tim Marsh of Trenoweth Quarry at Mabe Burnthouse, near Penryn.
"The success of the project was down to the skill of Robert and his team," said Jon. "It was a complicated operation, with numerous checks and re-checks, tests and re-tests. But the result is that it will hopefully be used and enjoyed by several generations to come."