Much more than just a bridge the Hampden Bridge, in Kangaroo Valley, is considered a major engineering feat of the Victorian era and second only in importance in Australia to Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Hampden Bridge is in fact Australia’s last surviving wooden suspension bridge, built in 1898.
The Hampden Bridge forms part of the Historic Walk through the Kangaroo Valley Village where you can watch a film (see link below) about the bridge; hear its folk song on your smart phone (activated by QR codes) and there’s a fun activity sheet for kids (free copy available in reception at Crystal Creek Meadows accommodation).
The bridge symbolises Hope & Respect for the Kangaroo Village community as it was recently restored and reopened to match its original glory - after much anxiety that it would be inappropriately 'modernised'.
The same wood used in the restoration for the decking was also used to create seven benches which are raised on sandstone blocks to match the style of Hampden Bridge with its gothic Victoria style towers. Each bench carries a different sign about the special features of Kangaroo Valley.
First you have to slow down and stop before you can even cross, as Hampden Bridge’s width only caters for a single lane of traffic. You need to check for others. This gives you time to take a look at its sandstone towers which resemble the entrance to a medieval castle.
Next you are acknowledged, by the oncoming drivers, with a little gesture to say “thanks for waiting while I cross”. A social courtesy life doesn’t always offer.
Going forward you trundle over the deck, hearing your wheels rumble over the bolts that hold the hard wood decking.
Peer down to swimmers and canoes playing in the water and hear their joyful calls. After heavy rain you can listen to the river rushing past. Notice how the pedestrians on the bridge can feel the bridge move as it takes your car’s weight. Being a suspension bridge it is supposed to brace itself and calmly carry you over.
Looking forward you travel through the hand crafted smooth stone gateway that announces your arrival to the other side.
Now it’s your turn to give a little wave to those who have patiently waited for you to cross. Hampden Bridge is part of your journey and in the words of the Rev J Graves, ‘to journey (can be) better than to arrive’.
Heavy trucks must also wait until other trucks have moved off the bridge at the other side - only one truck at a time is allowed on the bridge.
A round trip from your Kangaroo Valley accommodation at Crystal Creek Meadows takes 45 minutes (walking) or 15 minutes (cycling) or just a few minutes by car.
You can stop at the Hampden Bridge for a small tour, have a picnic, go swimming or spend the day.
Kangaroo Valley Safaris offer canoe hire by the Hampden Bridge.
Crystal Creek Meadows managed the 'experience project' taking two years to design and arrange installation of the seven benches, write and produce the 7 minute film, website and nine signs; using grants from the RMS, Shoalhaven Tourism Board, the Kangaroo Valley Tourist Association and Friends of Hampden Bridge.