Utsi Bridge builder says farewell
One of the people that helped build Cairngorm’s landmark, Utsi’s Bridge (nr Altmore), has made a special trip to the area to be one of the last people to cross it before it is replaced.
Bryan Chalmers, a partner with farm consultancy business, Allathan Associates, got in touch with Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) after reading about plans to replace the bridge, which has come to the end of its working life.
As a student in the late 1970s, Bryan had joined the Edinburgh and Heriot Watt Universities Officer Training Corps (OTC), which got him involved in a summer ‘engineers project’ to build the bridge.
Image courtesy of Bryan Chalmers
“I joined the Royal Engineers section of the OTC in fresher’s week and while a lot of our training involved blowing things up, we were just as involved in building things.
“Over the course of my four years I was involved in work on Ladies Bridge at Cruden Bay, a suspension bridge on the Speyside Way at Ballindalloch and a footbridge at Glen Rosa on Arran.
“However, one of the most memorable activities – not least because of the location - was the summer exercise to build Utsi’s bridge, which involved most of the Engineers’ section as well as a few recruits from Infantry, Signals, Transport and Pipers lending a hand.
“I’ve revisited many of those projects on several occasions over the last 35+ years and while it is a little sad that ‘our bridge’ is having to be replaced, it’s great to know that it has served so many tens of thousands of visitors so well over the years.”
Image courtesy of Bryan Chalmers
Having been exposed to the best and worst Cairngorms weather for almost 40 years, several elements of the bridge have deteriorated to the point where they might soon become unsafe.
Laura McNally, Area Visitor Services Manager for FLS, which is behind the project said;
“This bridge is a pretty well-known landmark for Cairngorms walkers and visitors, as well as to local businesses. Being so well used and dealing with so much traffic, it’s important that the crossing is kept in tip-top condition – but after 40 years, I’m afraid Utsi’s Bridge has reached the end of the road and needs to be replaced.
“It’s great that Bryan got in touch and came to visit. It was great to hear some of the stories about his experiences building it and I’m sure it brought back some poignant memories.”
ACT Heritage will carry out the replacement work over five weeks and hope to be finished, weather permitting, before Christmas.
The new bridge will be constructed before the old bridge is removed to minimise disruption to businesses and visitors.
Bryan meets Alan Smith (Cairngorm Reindeer Centre) who was a herder at the time the bridge was built.
The bridge’s namesake, Mikel Utsi, was a Sami reindeer herder who reintroduced reindeer to Scotland in 1952. There is now a herd of around 150 in the Cairngorms looked after by Alan and Tillie Smith and the team at the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre.
Notes to editors
Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) manages forests and land owned by Scottish Ministers in a way that supports and enables economically sustainable forestry; conserves and enhances the environment; delivers benefits for people and nature; and supports Scottish Ministers in their stewardship of Scotland's national forests and land.