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Why a bale of straw is hanging from a bridge in London

todayOctober 18, 2023 3

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Why a bale of straw is hanging from a bridge in London

A bale of straw is hanging from London’s Millennium Bridge as part of a “quirky tradition” to warn river traffic of maintenance and repair work.

The bridge will be closed until 5 November so it can be cleaned and for the replacement of a layer of membrane on the structure.

Work is expected underneath the bridge, triggering a London byelaw to hang the bale of straw to alert traffic on the Thames to the reduction in headroom.

A bale of hay hangs from Millennium Bridge in accordance with an ancient by-law requiring workers to warn river traffic of reduced head room below as it undergoes repairs, in London, Britain, October 18, 2023. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

City Bridge Foundation, a charity which looks after the Thames crossings in London, said a “practical purpose” was being served by the straw.

“This is one of those quirky traditions London is famous for, but it also does serve a practical purpose, to warn shipping when the headroom under a bridge span is reduced,” the charity told City AM.

“The bundle of straw is lowered by our contractor when they’re doing work under the bridge, in this case to install netting ahead of work to replace the separation layer between the aluminium bridge deck and the steel structure underneath.”

In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, City Bridge Foundation added: “In accordance with ancient tradition (and the Port of London Thames Byelaws) a bundle of straw is dangled from Millennium Bridge to warn shipping of work under the bridge (we’re not making this up, honest).”

The suspension of the straw by day and a “white light” at night is mentioned in the Port Of London Thames Byelaws, clause 36.2.

It states: “When the headroom of an arch or span of a bridge is reduced from its usual limits, but that arch or span is not closed to navigation, the person in control of the bridge must suspend from the centre of that arch or span by day a bundle of straw large enough to be conspicuous and by night a white light.”

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A straw bale is suspended from London's Millennium Bridge as part of an ancient byelaw to warn passing boats of work on the capital's Thames crossing. The bridge was closed on Saturday 14 October for three weeks to allow urgent repairs and cleaning. Issue date: Wednesday October 18, 2023. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Jordan Pettitt/PA Wire

Other strange legislative clauses which still apply to London include a possible fine for people who “fly any kite or play at any game” which causes “annoyance” to others, under section 54 of the Metropolitan Police Act 1839.

Section 60 of the same act prohibits the beating of any rug, carpet or mat in the “thoroughfare” – although door mats are allowed before 8am.

Written by: Newsroom

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