Margaret’s Bridge in Maidenhead opened by PM
October 14, 2018
Theresa May, as MP for Maidenhead, took a break from the day job on 14 September to open the bridge in honour of Margaret Bowdery, the tireless Ramblers’ campaigner in East Berkshire, who died in 2016.
The bridge crosses The Cut and links Braywick Park and the Green Way with Bray Road, creating a safe and pleasant route for walkers, cyclists and riders. The low angle ramps at each end mean the bridge is accessible to all. The bridge was funded by developers in mitigation for nearby building and is constructed from sustainable, low maintenance materials.
The opening ceremony was organised by the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead in conjunction with East Berks Ramblers. Margaret’s husband Bernard and son Nigel were there, and East Berks Ramblers were well-represented by a number of former Chairmen and others. The Mayor, Paul Lion, introduced the speakers. Kate Ashbrook, speaking as Chair of Ramblers GB, talked about Margaret’s drive and determination to improve the sorry state of the paths network she found when she moved to Maidenhead in 1964. The County Council told her that the paths were not needed and should be extinguished. Margaret’s response was to call a public meeting and form the East Berks Ramblers group to clear, waymark and sort out the paths. The good state of the network today stands as testament to her work over a period of over 40 years. Margaret strongly believed in completing missing links in the network, which it is why it is particularly appropriate that she should be honoured with a bridge.
Simon Dudley, Leader of the Council, talked of the difference that Margaret had made in the Borough and Theresa May then spoke of her persistence and determination, saying that she was the most frequent visitor to her surgery. ‘Margaret Bowdery’s tenacity meant something to me because she ensured that spaces were opened up for people to be able to enjoy the countryside and their local environment; I think Margaret’s Bridge is a fine addition to Maidenhead,’ she said.
She then cut the ribbon and declared the Bridge open to all: a fitting memorial to a great campaigner.
After the official ceremony a reception was held at Oldfield School.
The above is the text of an article to appear in South East Walker. Steve Gillions, as the present Footpath Secretary for EBR, adds a personal note
It is all to easy to take the present excellent network of Public Rights of Way in and around Maidenhead for granted. The fact that it exists at all is significantly due to Margaret and the other founders of East Berks Ramblers who inspired those who followed them. Margaret led campaigns to build the footbridge over the Thames at Temple and successfully campaigned for a footpath under the A404 Marlow bypass: the Bowdery Archway was opened in 2005. She was a prime mover of the Green Way in Maidenhead which runs from Bray to Cookham via Maidenhead Town Centre. These campaigns were not easily won, and often took years of effort to bring home.
Margaret’s persistence and attention to detail were always evident. If she was a frequent visitor to her MP’s surgery she was certainly no less well-known to the Royal Borough’s Rights of Way team. Former East Berks Chairmen have told me of ‘long into the night’ committee meetings on footpath matters and of Footpath Survey reports being returned to authors with an instruction to ‘get them right’. I well recall her making my responsibilities as Footpath Secretary very clear to me, but also remember a most enjoyable stroll with her along part of the Green Way in the course of which we talked about many things from music to mountains. She did not, of course, miss out on the opportunity to tell me about the iniquities of local landowners.
There is one outstanding battle of Margaret’s: to get the Thames Path to run beside the river north of Maidenhead Bridge. One day, that too will be won.