Signs of the times tell a great story

VISITORS to Kangaroo Valley can now enjoy an innovative education experience while learning about the history of the magnificent Hampden Bridge.

The Hampden Bridge Experience, launched on Monday in front of a large gathering of local residents by the Kangaroo Valley Tourist Association, tells the story of the bridge’s history.

From the start of work in 1895, through the official opening in 1898 to the recently completed $4.8 million restoration by Roads and Maritime Services – visitors are able to read new interpretative signs on Australia’s last surviving wooden suspension bridge and undertake a self-guided walk from the bridge to the village.

A short film about the bridge restoration and its history has been produced, along with a folk song.

And you can check it all out online or on your smartphone. 

The walk features seven benches, each made from the remaining timber from the bridge restoration, and features an interpretive sign that explains seven key features of Kangaroo Valley and with the use of a QR (quick response) code and your smartphone you can get all the information in the palm of your hand.

The $20,000 project for the Hampden Bridge Experience has been funded by the local community and Kangaroo Valley Tourist Association, with donations from Roads and Maritime Services and the Shoalhaven Tourism Board. 

Local residents, president of the Kangaroo Valley Historical Society Garth Chittick and Peter Stanton from the Kangaroo Valley Environmental Group were given the honour of officially unveiling one of the interpretive signs.

President of the Kangaroo Valley Tourist Association Chris Warren said the project was a great example of the community and government working together.

“It demonstrates community and government respecting the past, so that future generations can admire Australia’s heritage,” he said.

“The bridge is the last surviving wooden suspension bridge from the Victorian era in Australia.

“It symbolises the hope of Australia just before federation and demonstrates a great deal of investment into the sandstone towers. It was not just a simple construction – it was the lead of presenting of how Australia could be in the future.

“It’s a major statement for this whole region and all those generations who have struggled here to build what we have today.

“Ernest De Burgh designed the bridge and he built a number of bridges in the state but this is the only one that looks like this.

“It was the vision of how he saw the future.”

One of the more remarkable aspects at the time of construction, the total cost of the bridge was £1896, which was three and a half times the annual revenue of the council at the time.

The recent restoration by RMS cost $4.8 million.

“Today the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb is a major economic driver for Sydney. This small suspension bridge is equally as important for us,” Mr Warren said.

“We have visitors from all over who stop to take photographs all the time.

“This whole project allows people to see and understand the community’s feelings about the restoration and explains how the suspension bridge works.

“The signs provide various information; one even has a message from engineer Ernest De Burgh about its construction.”

The experience also includes Aboriginal culture and heritage, early settlers’ history and the community’s vision to become more sustainable.

“A number of children’s activities have also been developed to create a full tourist attraction.”

Shoalhaven Mayor Jo Gash said Hampden Bridge was one of the city’s iconic structures.

“I have previously been a tourism officer and apart from cemeteries the biggest inquiry we had, has always been about Hampden Bridge at Kangaroo Valley. It has always brought people and will continue to bring people to the area,” she said.

“I congratulate the Kangaroo Valley Tourism Association and Chris Warren in particular on this project, bringing everything together and the RMS for contributing funding for it.

“It just shows how close the community did work together on this project.

“Local history is extremely important, you live here, you need to know about it and you want to promote it.

“This is a chance to see and live 

history.”

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