Saturday, 16 April 2016

The Langstrath Beck Rigby Memorial bridge at Low Ghyll Pot

The head of The Langstrath Valley, Looking to Esk Pike

 Near the head of the Langstrath (Long Broad) Valley there is a bridge used by many walkers to cross Langstrath Beck at (what used to be known as) Low Ghyll Pot, or as marked on the OS maps, Tray Dub. Nothing is marked on the bridge, nothing denotes it as anything other than a crossing on a public footpath on the Stake Pass route from Langdale to Stonethwaite, yet the bridge is a memorial bridge to a man who passed away, not by some ill-fated error on the fells, but in service to his country.
I first became aware of the bridge's significance through a discussion with Tanya Oliver of the Fix The Fells Project and writer of the lovely book 'From High Heels to High Hills' and blogger . The discussion started me off researching this to try and find other details and to that end I will try and give as full an account here for the bridge, though full acknowledgement has to be attributed to Tanya.
On 31 July 1942 a Lockheed Hudson took off from RAF Stornoway taking a route over North Minch near North Harris. It appears that the conditions were misty, the aircraft descended too low and flew into the mountain at Fiar-Chreag at roughly map reference NB364075, south of Loch Sealg on the east of the island. There were three crew members and the pilot was a F/O John Derek (Derry) Brearley Rigby, aged 22yrs, of 500 Squadron, RAFVR. I remember reading an account where the plane was not immediately located but after requests for other aircraft to keep observations, the plane was eventually spotted, but due to the isolated location and poor weather, the bodies remained at the scene of the impact for a period of weeks and it was only the protests of local people that finally led to their recovery for a humane burial. I add caution in that this information I cannot now locate, but recall reading it.
Rigby and P/O Frank Richard Hancock are buried at Sandwick Cemetery and Sgt Bernard Frederick Charles Rixon is buried at Hoddesdon Cemetery, Hertfordshire.
The remote crash site
Returning back to the Langstrath bridge, John Rigby's home was at Croston Towers, Cheshire, the family house. In January 1945 John's father, Mr J. Kay Rigby erected the bridge at Low Ghyll Pot in memory of his son who loved the lake district, spending whatever time he could among the fells. This bridge acted as a replacement for one recently washed away from Blackmoor Pot, or what is now referred to as Black Moss Pot, further down Langstrath Beck.

Blackmoor or Black Moss Pot, the site of the original bridge, looking into the Langstrath Valley.
View of the bridge on the approach from Stake Pass and The Langdale Valley
The bridge was sited and the work arranged by Ashley Abraham of Keswick; it was erected in the face of great transport and weather difficulties, by Harvey Usher a joiner from Keswick, himself a keen climber and fell walker who had roamed the hills with his brother Dunbar Usher. In a very fitting and symbolic ceremony the first to cross it was a young Flying Officer. Mr and Mrs Rigby then presented the bridge to the English Lake District Association.

Many walk this beautiful valley, either directly along the Stake Pass or as a circular valley route from Stonethwaite. They virtually all cross the bridge, yet very few, if any, know of its story. If they read this, any crossing can in future be a tribute to John 'Derry' Rigby's memory.

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