Record breaking mountaineer backs Exmoor’s Great Bradley bridge appeal

Fundraising efforts towards a new bridge crossing the River Barle on Exmoor have taken a significant step forward with a generous donation of £10,000 pledged from The Graham Keene Foundation.

The new bridge at Great Bradley between Tarr Steps and Withypool, in the heart of Exmoor National Park, will not only create new access opportunities for walkers and riders, but also help to protect high value conservation areas and secure the popular Two Moors Way walking route.

Last year Devon based Graham Keene became the oldest British person to summit the World’s highest mountain, Mount Everest, aged 68. Previously the record was held by Exmoor based Sir Ranulph Fiennes who was 65 at the time. Graham’s foundation supports young entrepreneurs in the South West by investing in their businesses, with the dividends received from those successful businesses providing the Foundation with the funds to support good causes.

“I was eager to support the Great Bradley bridge appeal through my Foundation given the access and wildlife benefits it will bring.” Commented Mr Keene. “I have a deep love of Exmoor and like to encourage as many people as possible to explore and benefit from our wonderful National Parks. You don’t have to go to the Himalayas or The South Pole to be an explorer and I did a lot of my training for Everest on Exmoor, including walking the Two Moors Way several times. Crossing the River Barle in spate was harder than negotiating the notorious Everest Khumbu Icefall with ladders!”

“The new bridge will be very well received by walkers and I hope that the benefits it brings will have a lasting and positive impact, not only on the place of Exmoor but in the lives of those that live on and visit the moor.”

The National Park Authority is hoping that this latest donation will help inspire others to donate, matching the Foundations generous donation, in order to help bridge the gap.

Speaking on behalf of Exmoor National Park Authority, Rural Enterprise Manager Dan James said: “We are incredibly grateful for the support of the Graham Keene Foundation. This generous support takes us much closer to our goal of getting a new structure in place for many years to come. We really hope that Graham’s support will inspire others to donate to this CareMoor appeal, with any amount taking us closer to the overall goal and realisation of this ambitious project. We also hope that Graham’s story will inspire young and old alike to explore our wonderful landscapes”

The Great Bradley Appeal was launched in July and seeks to raise at least £20,000 towards the overall costs of putting the bridge in place. A bridge structure sourced from a Devon County Council temporary road scheme is being refurbished and upcycled.

Exmoor National Park Recreation and Access Manager Dan Barnett said “This is a challenging project. It is a remote location, and while we have the bridge already, the costs of refurbishing and adapting the structure for this location, and installing it, are significant. However, it is great to be able to repurpose an existing structure; The benefits will be great and long lasting, fulfilling a long-term ambition of the National Park Authority to support walkers, riders, local businesses and wildlife, which will all benefit from this project.”

“The current footpath makes up part of the long-distance walking route the Two Moors Way, but has always followed a permitted path in this location generously granted by the landowners. Unfortunately, however, the current path here is deteriorating due to heavy erosion caused by flooding over the last 10 years. The new bridge will allow this route to use an existing Bridleway which will secure a public route for people to enjoy for years to come. If the public fundraiser is successful, we are on track to complete works next spring.”

Others wishing to support the initiative can do so by making a donation, buying a raffle ticket with some great prizes donated by the Exmoor business community, or purchasing a dedication plaque to remember or celebrate a significant person or event on the new bridge. Full details can be found here.