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Rufford’s ‘hidden’ tunnel bridge

Posted onPosted on 7th May
Rufford’s ‘hidden’ tunnel bridge

This picture is sure to stir the thoughts and memories of visitors to Rufford Abbey country park over the years.

It shows an image of the Tunnel Bridge which has been a much loved feature within the lake at Rufford Abbey since the 1750s. It was captured by Alex Morley, the trainee ranger at Rufford between 1990-1992 for Nottinghamshire County Council which manages the country park.

The top of the bridge today is clearly visible to today’s visitors out in the middle of the lake. It is understood that it was purpose built at the time as a ‘landscape folly’ to provide a feature of interest within the lake.

But this image was taken when the lake was drained in 1991, due to subsidence issues. Staff took advantage of the unique opportunity to take the picture of the Tunnel Bridge without water obscuring the view. The water was drained for several months and a pair of little ringed plovers actually nested on the exposed gravel beds.

Paul Norton, interpretation officer at Rufford Abbey said: “This image is fascinating and will spark the memories of a lot of people who know and love Rufford Abbey country park.

“It captured a time when the lake was drained for a short time for important works. The staff and volunteers also used the opportunity to carry out a conservation survey in this area which would otherwise only be accessible by boat.”

The lake itself was introduced by Sir George Savile, 8th Baronet, in 1750 as a decorative lake using water which came into the park in a stream from what was called Rainworth Water.

The Tunnel Bridge has also featured in a children’s book called ‘The Secret World of Polly Flint’ and was written by local author Helen Cresswell in 1984. The book was made into a children’s TV film in 1987 and was filmed around Rufford and the county.

The story is of a young girl from Wellow who met some time gypsies who travelled through the ‘time tunnel’ (the Tunnel Bridge) to and from an old village called Grimstone. Several other parts of Rufford are also mentioned – the water ford, ice house, animal graves, the abbey, the garden ornaments, the silver pool (bird sanctuary) and the woods.

The council’s country park team at Rufford have helped many people find out more about relatives who worked as part of the Savile household when it owned the country house in the 1800s and 1900s.

The popular television drama Downton Abbey has played a part in encouraging people to get in touch with Nottinghamshire’s Rufford Abbey and find out more about their family history.

Paul Norton has had correspondence from people across the UK whose past relatives worked as footmen, maids and even a gamekeeper at the famous country estate.

Though most of the country house has vanished, over 400,000 visitors a year enjoy the historic Abbey ruins, its gardens, lake, woodland walks and contemporary Craft Centre.

And on May 2st1, Rufford hosts the latest in its Upstairs, Downstairs Tours of Rufford at 1.30pm and 2.30pm depicting life in this area which fascinates so many people. The event is free and visitors will be transported back in time to when Rufford was a country house owned by the Savile family. Experience a fascinating costumed tour conducted by BTEC Travel and Tourism students from North Nottinghamshire College.

Tours last approximately 45 minutes. People should meet on the steps at the front of the Abbey, and it is a free event, but donations welcome. Please note, parts of the Abbey are not suitable for wheelchair users.

The council is always interested in seeing and receiving old photographs of Rufford and Sherwood from the general public and is able to scan them and return them. Contact Paul Norton on 01623 821342 or email: [email protected]