THE warmest weekend of the year saw families from Eastham out and about enjoying the sunshine.

Work has started on demolishing the village hall to make way for a modern replacement so that was not on the agenda and because of Covid-19 gatherings in the 98 year-old building would not have been possible.

But there is plenty of green space in the village not far from the River Teme upstream of Tenbury.

Some families may well have walked to the new bridge and perhaps played Poohsticks.

For most it would have been a pleasant break from all the bad news that is swamping the world.

However, villagers will know that but for fortune the story could be very different and Eastham could have been a village blighted by tragedy.

It was a warm late spring afternoon just over four years ago.

Two buses bringing children back to the village from school were approaching the bridge built in 1793.

Some people were fishing and heard a noise.

They looked in horror as part of the bridge collapsed into the river below as would have the buses carrying the school children if they had been a few seconds earlier.

Some people believe that heavy lorries carrying aggregate that had used the bridge around that time were responsible. But they had been doing nothing wrong.

Amazingly, a bridge built more than 200 years ago to carry nothing more than a heavily laden horse drawn farm cart had no weight restriction.

There were meetings with council officers and officials. For a time a temporary pontoon bridge like the one that had been built by the army in the Second World War was suggested but ruled out.

Villagers and people visiting Eastham, not to mention emergency services were stuck with a 10 mile detour.

What happened on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 was eventually put down to erosion by the river of the bridge foundations. How the bridge had been given the okay when inspected just a few months before the collapse has never been explained.

The old bridge was a listed monument and in the first place the plan was for a repair to reinstate it as before.

But it was decided that this would be too expensive and take too long. It might also have involved infringing on the bed of the river that is designated a site of special scientific interest.

So a more modest and utilitarian structure was chosen but still only able to take single file traffic over the bridge and to and from the village.

It is new but not an improvement on the old.

It was opened in 2017 and the village celebrated but local people know all too well just how close this story came to not having a happy ending them years ago.