In November 1997 our two parish councils held a series of open meetings to decide how the village should commemorate the New Millennium. Initially the intention was to build a footbridge which would link the two communities and provide a permanent celebration of the Millennium. The footbridge would not only symbolize the link between the two halves of the village of Bures which is separated by parish, district and county borders, but also have significant environmental and cultural benefits. The Bures Project Association was established to carry out the project on behalf of the two parish councils and the village as a whole.

As the project grew so did its aims. The river is a wonderful feature of Bures and it was felt that it had been under-valued and under used, not least, as a safe and convenient access to Bures School. The Bures Project Association committee therefore decided to make the footbridge part of a riverside recreational amenity. With this in mind, plans were initiated for a picnic area with tables and seats; a landing stage for easier access for boats; interpretation boards to make people aware of the riverside environment and its history; an avenue of native oak trees alongside the footpath; and a book of walks all starting and ending in Bures.

Village events were held and the formidable task of raising the money was begun. There were setbacks, as the cost of the project appeared to soar beyond reach but also there were many acts of great generosity by members of our community.

The Bures Project Association had promised that the project would not cost the people of Bures any more money than they wanted to give and after contacting many, many organisations payment for the footbridge and all the associated amenities was met and Suffolk County Council accepted the ongoing cost of footbridge maintenance.

The total cost of the project, including access and hard surfaced pathways was approximately £140,000. The parishes of Bures St Mary and Bures Hamlet raised £12,000, through the organised events and from individual donations, and the rest of the sum was generously donated by the organisations listed below.

Anglian Water Environmental Partnership Essex County Council
Carnegie UK Trust - Parish Paths Partnership
Colne and Stour Countryside Association - Transport and Operational Services
Dedham Vale and Stour Valley Project Suffolk County Council
Environment Agency - Environment and Transport
Essex Environment Trust - Parish Paths Partnership
Suffolk Environment Trust - Safely to School Project

The avenue of native oak trees was planted in December 2000 by adults and children of the village, the picnic area was completed by July 2001 and the walks guide was published in November 2001.

The main construction work on the bridge and footpaths began on 11th March 2002.
A temporary road had to be built to support the bridge when it arrived and for the crane that would lift it in to place. Once the bridge abutments had been constructed the 32 metre long bridge was delivered in two sections on two very long articulated lorries whose progress from Huddersfield was quite newsworthy. Two weeks later, after the two bridge sections had been welded, together an enormous (600t) crane arrived and lifted the assembled bridge into place across the river - there was quite a crowd there to see this! Then the footpaths, fences and the landing stage were constructed and everything was completed by the end of June 2002.

The New Millennium Bridge and Riverside Amenities were officially opened on 7th July 2002 by Enid and Gordon Webber - nearly 5 years after the project started! The opening ceremony took place as part of the Steam Boat Regatta in which over 15 steam powered boats took part.

Since its completion the project has been awarded a Certificate of Merit by the Essex Environment Trust (one of the major donors) in the Access and Amenities Category. Only 9 out of over 200 projects were given this award. The Trustees "were particularly impressed with the benefits of the new pedestrian link provided by the bridge, which not only opened up the river, its water meadows and recreation ground, but also provided a convenient and safe route for children walking to school".

Photo Album of Bridge Construction
Day One
Bridge Arrives by road
Unloading Bridge
The Big Lift
Footpath Construction
The Big Day
Regatta 2

Credits - all material (text & photographs) for these pages was supplied by Francesco Bassi, Millennium Committee.
Thanks also to Elaine Page who kept a photographic record of events.