One of the first things I noticed when we acquired the site for the Turnditch Orchard is that the main gate at the roadside is broken. The old sandstone hinge post is fractured and the gate no longer swings from it. The latch post, again old sandstone, has a substantial lean from the vertical. The latch post was probably displaced when the river bank collapsed near the bridge and was rebuilt by the local authority. The iron tube gate itself is heavily rusted and the bottom bar corroded through. Steel chains attached to an elm tree stump currently provide hinges for the gate.
We've decided the best way of repairing the gate is to install new posts behind the the old original posts. This approach will preserve the historical stone posts, but it does present some problems. The latch post is at the top of a relatively unstable river bank and also close to the historic stile "gate" for the public footpath. If we are careful in positioning the new post we can avoid blocking the footpath stile, as required by law. However the new gate would effectively block the route to dogs accompanying people using the footpath as we need to be able to lock the new main gate.
We also need to be sure the installation of a post does not create long term potential for damaging the riverbank close to a public road bridge. It is inevitable that walkers will swing on the new gate post as they pass through the stile. Some form of reinforcement will be required to prevent damage to the river bank. We are already planning a hidden steel reinforced concrete beam to support the fence post for the riverside stock fence. We'll extend that beam to provide support for the gate post on the river bank. Once the works are complete the concrete beam will be buried and unobtrusive, but it will prevent the gate post and fence post from toppling and damaging the riverbank.
We'll design the concrete reinforced beam with post sockets so that the gate and fence posts can be replaced in future without disturbing the beam.
There's no legal requirement to provide access for dogs on the public footpath at the end of the orchard by the river, but it is a popular route for local dog walkers. Currently dog owners just lift the old rotten metal gate to get their dogs through. So we are planning to introduce a dog gate which will allow passage to dogs. We've looked at various configurations because near the footpath stile space is quite cramped. There's not enough space at the top of the river bank to safely install a swinging stile gate. We can't reduce the width of the gateway, it has to be wide enough to allow the passage of farm machinery. Our current plans are to build a bespoke main gate which will have an integral dog gate built into the design. Dog owners will be able to open/close the dog gate without the need to unlock the main gate.