Derry Burn footbridge washed away – and other flood damage

The Derry Burn footbridge in drier times

The Derry Burn footbridge in drier times

As of the morning of August 11th the footbridge across the Derry Burn beside Derry Lodge is no more. Torrential rain through the night and into the morning lifted the wooden bridge from its foundations and washed the remains a distance downstream. This was a small but important bridge in the network of walking routes through the Cairngorms. It was an essential link in the most commonly used version of the famous Lairig Ghru route and also gave access to all the Munros west of Derry Lodge. Access to them, and to the Lairig path, can still (as far as I know) be gained via Glen Dee, but this gives a substantially longer route on poorer paths for some of that way. Monday’s rain was both sudden and copious, raising river levels to spectacular levels. A video from Braemar Mountain Rescue Team showed the Linn of Dee almost bursting its banks – something I’ve never seen in almost 50 years of walking there – and the levees protecting Mar Lodge were within a foot of being overwhelmed. The Braemar MRT guys were also in action with the Fire and Rescue Service, rescuing three folk who had spent the night in Bob Scott’s Bothy and woke to find themselves surrounded by fast moving water. The rescued trio reported that water was starting to come up through the floorboards of the bothy by the time they left. It’s probably that the stone footings of the bothy will have prevented any structural damage, but at time of writing on Monday evening the exact state of the bothy is unknown. Damage elsewhere in the area includes the upper bridge across the River Quoich and, closer to Derry again, some damage – the extent of which isn’t yet clear – to the landrover track up to Derry Lodge. I spoke to Mar Lodge Estate Head Ranger Peter Holden earlier today and he said it was too early to properly assess all the damage or how it would be repaired. Checks still have to be made on several other bridges, including Luibeg Bridge at the foot of Carn a Mhaim, the metal bridge at the Derry Dam, and the wooden plank bridge on the way in to Coire Etchachan. Even gaining access to the Luibeg Bridge (without a walk the long way round) could be problematic until the river levels drop. I’ll be updating this blogpost as more information becomes available but the message for the moment is to ca’ canny with any plans involving the Cairngorms just now. River crossings may be dangerous or downright impossible, sometimes involving long and arduous alternative routes if you’re caught on the wrong side, so check the latest position before you go and keep your plans as flexible as possible. UPDATE: 13.08.14 Mar Lodge Estate has announced that the Landrover track up the west side of the River Quoich is affected by a change in the course of the river, which totally cuts off the track. It will probably be possible to detour up round the hill, but care should be taken. The exact location of the cut-off isn’t clear, but you can see a photo here.

UPDATE: 6.9.14 If crossing the Derry Burn is an essential part of your journey and wading doesn’t seem desirable or sensible, there is a large tree which has fallen across the burn about 200 yards up from the ex-bridge. You have to clamber over the root disc on the east side and fight through the branches on the west, not to mention taking care not to cowp on the main trunk, but a dryshod crossing is possible.

Tree bridge across the Derry Burn, Glen Derry, Cairngorms

The tree across the Derry Burn. Care is required and, until someone thins the branches, it’s a bit of a faff, but a dry crossing is possible.

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16 Responses to Derry Burn footbridge washed away – and other flood damage

  1. alanfmackay says:

    Just glad nobody was hurt :-/
    That’s another chapter to my proposed opus ‘Cairngorm Bridges That Are No More.’

  2. andy says:

    Thanks for the update, Neil. Oddly enough, I was thinking about the flash floods of the 1800s that I think you were reporting in earlier posts. Not sure if today’s flooding is on that scale, but it must have been frightening for anyone camping out there, especially tourists. And I’d be surprised if the plank bridge to the Hutchie has survived. The other odd thing, from my perspective is that last summer I waded the Derry instead of using the bridge, I was wearing trail shoes and it was hot so it was fun to get my feet wet. I wonder how long it’ll be before the bridge is reinstated. Fingers crossed no-one got hurt anywhere today.

    • Suspect the Hutchie bridge will be okay, Andy. Water was pretty high when we fled from Fords of Avon, but the bridge was well above the water then. As long as the foundations stand. And yes, just two weekends ago I walked across the Derry Burn without getting my feet wet. Doubt I’d try that now!

      • andy says:

        Well, yes, I suppose you’re right, Neil. The Hutchie bridge should be all right because it hasn’t got a parapet so even if the water rises to that level it may just go over it without taking it down.

  3. Ricky M says:

    Thanks Neil, Dropped your link off to my D of E chums

    Spoke to Atholl Estates re levels at the Tarf and Tilt…… well high.

    Looks like the water level will again cause issues at the “Hotel”…… Will get up and have a look

    Ricky

    • Let me know if there’s anything needs to go on the site, Ricky. Just heard about rockfall on the Goat Track in Coire an t-Sneachda. Will get something on about that when I have time. That was some bloody rain!

  4. scottishsnow says:

    You can see the previous three days river level data on the SEPA website: http://www.sepa.org.uk/water/river_levels/river_level_data.aspx . In this case Mar Lodge on the River Dee is probably most applicable, it looks like they recorded a record level (data since 1982) yesterday, subject to confirmation.

    If the 3 m level shown is accurate it would equate to roughly a 400 cumecs (cubic metres per second) flow. That’s 400 tonnes of water every second, in oft used parlance it would take 6.25 seconds to fill an olympic sized swimming pool. No wonder bridges didn’t survive!

    You can read more about the Mar Lodge gauge here: http://www.ceh.ac.uk/data/nrfa/data/station.html?12007 including a graph of the rating curve I used to estimate the 400 cumec flow.

    From my point of view it’s interesting that the only other times Mar Lodge has recorded a stage over 2.7 m was during Feb 1990 and Jan 1993. The latter of these was a very large snowmelt event that also affected the Tay (see http://www.ceh.ac.uk/data/nrfa/nhmp/annual_review/feature_articles/The_Great_Tay_Flood_of_January_1993.pdf), I don’t know about the former, but given the time of year it’s hard to imagine snow not being involved!

  5. Pingback: Rockfall puts Goat Track path in Coire an t-Sneachda out of bounds | cairngormwanderer

  6. Dave says:

    Fascinating. What was the 1800s data and dates? I am researching an 1877 event that a Caused huge damage in Tillicoultry and Dollar killing 3 people in the passing when a bridge was washed away.
    I had cause to deal with another similar incident in Menstrie in 2012.
    And the month? 1877 flood, 2012 flood and Derry flood? – all in August.

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