A new linear park inspired by New York City’s High Line could be set for the western gateway to the Forth & Clyde Canal following the restoration of an iconic 120-year-old swing bridge at Bowling Harbour in West Dunbartonshire, according to Scottish Canals.
Bowling Harbour’s viaduct swing bridge was constructed in 1896 to carry the Caledonian and Dunbartonshire Railway over the Forth & Clyde Canal. After the railway was abandoned in 1960, the bridge fell into disrepair. Thanks to funding support from Sustrans and Historic Environment Scotland, Scottish Canals has undertaken vital repairs to the structure’s badly corroded metalwork and repainted the entire span.
The latest stage of a £3.2 million transformation of the area, the completion of the bridge, together with the recent refurbishment of the bridge’s railway arches into commercial units, has ensured the structure will continue to play an important role in the area for years to come.
The transformational work at Bowling Harbour, undertaken in partnership with the local community, has brought new businesses, activity, vibrancy and economic benefits to the canal and celebrated Bowling’s important role in Scotland’s industrial past.
Helena Huws, design and development manager at Scottish Canals, said: “Over the past few years, we’ve been working with our partners and the local community to breathe new life into Bowling Harbour, investing more than £3.2m in the area. The restoration of the area’s iconic railway bridge to its former glory is the next step in that story and we’re delighted to see the project completed.
“Now we’re looking to deliver the next stages of the masterplan we’ve helped shape with the local community – bringing further investment, employment opportunities and vibrancy to Bowling, and developing a fantastic tourism and leisure destination fitting of the western gateway to the Forth & Clyde Canal.”
Fundraising is now underway for the next stage of development of the viaduct structure – transforming the former railway line into a fully accessible linear park and pathway inspired by New York City’s iconic High Line. This new route will form a direct link between the Forth & Clyde Canal towpath and the National Cycle Network route towards Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. Detailed proposals have been submitted for planning approval and feature new viewpoints which will offer visitors the chance to enjoy the vistas over the canal and River Clyde.
Tom Bishop, community links manager at Sustrans Scotland, said: “This is an exciting project to work in partnership with Scottish Canals for further regeneration in Bowling.
“It has great potential to further attract cyclists and visitors, whilst connecting the corridor as a more direct and enjoyable traffic free route. We hope this will encourage people to walk and cycle for more of the journeys they make every day.”
A short summary video of the transformation of Bowling Harbour so far and a look at its future
The masterplan for the area was shaped by the award-winning Bowling Basin Charrette – a collaborative design programme which saw the local community work with other stakeholders, agencies and industry experts to develop a shared plan for its future. The village is identified by West Dunbartonshire Council as a key regeneration and development priority.
Councillor Iain McLaren, West Dunbartonshire Council’s convener of infrastructure, regeneration & economic development, said: “The Bowling swing bridge is of real historical importance and it is wonderful to see it restored to its former glory as part of this ambitious project. The work already carried out Bowling Harbour has made it a destination well worth visiting and the plans for further regeneration of the area are extremely exciting.”
Bowling, which sits on the northern bank of the Firth of Clyde and near the western terminus of the ancient Antonine Wall, was a major transport hub during the Industrial Revolution and was vital to the success of the River Clyde, the Forth & Clyde Canal and the Caledonian and Dunbartonshire Railway.
Michael Easson, grants manager at Historic Environment Scotland, said: “We are really pleased to see the successful completion of this first phase of work at Bowling Harbour and hope the restoration of the swing bridge is a catalyst for a wider scheme to conserve and repair the surrounding area.”