Liberty Dube Tourism Correspondent
THE Birchenough Bridge is a breathtaking piece of engineering excellence built over the mighty Save River, about eight kilometres south of the Save and Odzi rivers’ confluence in Manicaland Province.
Its construction was completed in 1935 at a length of 329 meters, thereby making it the third longest single arch suspension bridge after the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia and the Bayonne Bridge in the United States of America.
Engineer Ralph Freeman designed the Sydney Harbor Bridge, which is regarded as the iconic image of Australia, Birchenough Bridge and Limpopo River’s Beitbridge.
It took 20 months to complete the construction, which was done by an English company.
Indeed, the bridge is a valuable heritage site that once appeared on Zimbabwe’s 20-cent coin.
With the Save River flowing below it as it meanders to the Indian Ocean, the view from the bridge creates memories that can be cherished for a lifetime.
“Whether it offers you passage to the Great Zimbabwe palace or you want to enjoy the Hot Springs of Nyanyadzi, Birchenough Bridge should be part of any traveller’s package.
“It is a marvel and it is everyone’s duty to preserve it,” said a tourism player, Mr Tendai Chakanyuka.
The bridge provides vital economic linkage between Manicaland and Masvingo. It also provides passage to the South African border.
A vendor at Birchenough Bridge business centre said, “The bridge plays a critical role in boosting domestic tourism as people tour the area and buy farm produce from us, among other things.”
The bridge, which was constructed at a cost of £145 000, was named after the late Sir Henry Birchenough, chairman of the Beit Railway Trustees.
His ashes and that of his wife are buried beneath the structure of the bridge.
Sinking the Birchenough Bridge’s foundations commenced in April 1934, before steelwork began in November of the same year.
The bridge’s arch span was completed on June 17, 1935, while the concrete roadway was completed in September 1935.
The bridge was then opened to traffic on December 20, 1935.
Material was delivered to the western bank of the river by road, while the steel for the eastern side was carried across the river by a cableway.
The anchorage ropes on the bridge are the same as those used at the Sydney Harbor Bridge.