Iterative bridge-building

It’s tempting to sometimes think that the world neatly fits into things that are inherently knowable, and those that aren’t. A world of things to which “proper” planning can be applied, and of others to which an agile approach needs to be applied in its slapdash, scruffy way. A world of clocks and a world of clouds.

At the weekend we went for a family cycle ride on the Downs Link, a pretty Sussex bridleway that is built upon a pair of disused railway lines sacrificed in the 1960s as a result of the Beeching Report. Just south of the village of Rudgwick, there is an industrial age architectural oddity, and proof of the “agile” approaches that the Victorians deployed in heavy engineering.

The Double Bridge is a brick-built arch over the River Arun, topped by a cast iron span. The brick bridge was built, but before the line could be finished it was realised that its height left too steep a gradient on the run up to Rudgwick. As a result, the Board of Trade stipulated that it needed to be raised, as as a result the brickwork was extended and then the cast iron span added.

You could put it down to bad planning. And I’m sure these days with modern GPS and CAD such “errors” would be far less likely. But anyone who has experienced house renovations will know that until work starts you never quite know what you will find. And ultimately, the entire exploratory rail experiment built by the Brighton and South Coast Line proved to be not viable enough to be sustained.

Maybe the thing that the Double Bridge should tell us is that everything is probably a bit Cloud-like. A bit in need of an agile approach.

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