Monet’s garden in Giverny has probably given us the most recognisable garden bridges – gently arching in form and painted. While originally Japanese in inspiration, Monet gets all the credit these days.
Around the world, there must be thousands of Monet-inspired bridges adorning private gardens, though I am not 100% sure that starting with a flat bridge structure and adjusting the decking angles in the second bridge above is totally successful. These two at least have a purpose in traversing a ditch and a stream respectively.
These two bridges are pure, unabashed ornamentation. There is no functional need for bridges in either situation. The blue one is in Yorkshire, the green version was in my local town of Waitara. I use the past tense because it has now been removed because it became structurally unsound.
Paloma Garden near Wanganui has a major bridge crossing a large body of water but I do not appear to have photographed it in its full span of glory. In this situation, the bridge not only provides access, but also makes a large visual statement.
And our own bridge in our park, wreathed in wisterias, has been compared by others to Monet’s bridges, though that was not in our minds at the time it was constructed. Its framework was built using an old truck chassis, for those who are interested in engineering details. While we have to replace the odd decking board from time to time, the galvanised, underpinning structure has remained sound over the past 20 years. We have never painted it and never intend to paint it. I couldn’t help but notice the immaculate paintwork on Monet’s bridges but that is in a drier climate and in a garden maintained by a small army of staff. We have so much moss and lichen growth in our conditions that paint is problematic. We prefer the natural look to tatty paintwork.
Away from the domesticity of Monet-style, I photographed this handsome, apparently disused bridge at Castle Howard in Yorkshire. What a handsome landscape feature it is, though I failed to find out the story behind its construction.
Gresgarth Hall, the garden of Arabella Lennox-Boyd, takes a practical, level bridge construction across a stream and gives it flair with curved stone steps and ramparts. There is nothing like stone as a building material to give solidity, permanence and grace to a garden.
We have a small stone bridge in our park, modest in scale though perfectly functional and gently permanent in its visual appeal.
Some folk face more challenges than others when it comes to bridges. This swing bridge is in Te Popo Garden near Stratford where it spans a deep gorge. This is a situation where safety and functionality are paramount but I also like the unadorned honesty and lack of pretension of this bridge in the large woodland garden.
At the simplest end of the spectrum, we have also used board bridges in our park. That is my photo-bombing Dudley dog on a bridge which exists solely to get the lawnmower from one side of the stream to the other. These crossings are perfectly sound and stable for foot traffic, but they do not pretend to be anything other than utility in purpose.
In the area we call the North Garden, or the wild North Garden, there will eventually be log bridges across the ponds. Maybe. When clearing the area and creating the ponds, Mark had two dead trees relocated to bridge the water. The plan has always been to chainsaw the top of the logs reasonably level to get an easier walking surface and to add side rails. It just hasn’t happened yet because we have not yet opened this area to the public. It is another naturalistic- style of bridging water which is pleasing to our eyes while also being an inexpensive option.
Finally, when it comes to bridges, I would not want this in my own garden but what a beautiful bridge it is on the walkway in New Plymouth. Evoking the breakers of the adjacent ocean, it frames our iconic mountain.