TODAY'S Object of the Week is a bridge - a very wobbly bridge, but also a very special bridge.

The Wynch Bridge, in Upper Teesdale, is perhaps the most exciting way to cross the roaring River Tees by foot.

It hangs from a couple of wires which have been fired across a sheer-sided rocky channel.

The Northern Echo: The Wynch Bridge looking beautiful on a winter's dayThe Wynch Bridge looking beautiful on a winter's day

It swings and sways with every step, the dangling planks which support your weight hanging by a thread.

The stucture, near Bowlees to the west of Middleton-in- Teesdale, is Britain’s first suspension bridge of any kind.

Read more: What's the story behind this haunting structure, and how has County Durham landscape been transformed?

It was first built in 1741 so that leadminers living at Holwick, on the Yorkshire side of the river, could cross over the Low Force waterfall and reach Bowlees.

That bridge was very rudimentary. It had just a single handrail to cling on to, and the chains holding it up were handmade. It was 60ft across and about 20ft above the rock-filled water, which was more than 8ft deep.

Thirty years later, the Great Flood of 1771 washed it away.

So it was rebuilt - this time with two handrails.

However, it was still precarious. Barnard Castle solicitor and historian William Hutchinson wrote of it in his 1776 book about Teesdale.

He was so concerned that he didn’t dare venture across, remarking that the bridge “is planked in such a manner that the traveller experiences all the tremulous motion of the chain and sees himself suspended over a roaring gulf on an agitated, restless gangway, to which few strangers dare trust themselves”.

And he was right. The second Wynch Bridge collapsed in 1802 under the weight of a party of nine men and two women.

The Northern Echo: A drawing, published in 1823, showing an earlier Wynch Bridge, which collapsedA drawing, published in 1823, showing an earlier Wynch Bridge, which collapsed

Three men were thrown into the Tees. Two splashed safely into the water, but a third named Bainbridge was “dashed to pieces” on a rock.

In about 1830, with the financial assistance of the Duke of Cleveland, of Raby Castle, near Staindrop, the bridge was rebuilt once more.

The Earl moved the anchors ten metres upstream – away from the cascades which form Low Force – and erected metal pillars from which to suspend the chains.

It is this bridge, a Grade II* Listed Building, which still carries people over the river.

The Northern Echo: A display board shows the history of the siteA display board shows the history of the site

A sign advises that no more than two people at a time should be on it, and even then it shivers and shakes in an unsettling manner.

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