opinion

Out of the Woods with Grant Woodhams: A bridge and a walk (away) through history

Grant WoodhamsGeraldton Guardian
The Nangetty Walkaway Bridge.
Camera IconThe Nangetty Walkaway Bridge.

I rumbled my car over the Walkaway Bridge twice earlier this week. I was on my way to and from Mingenew and Morawa.

For those of you who have never crossed the Greenough River at Walkaway it is no big deal, nothing to write home about.

However, at the moment the Walkaway Bridge (sometimes referred to as the Walkaway Nangetty Bridge) is under repair, speed restrictions in place and only one lane open to traffic. Those of us who have spent any time on regional roads lately will know there are a lot of upgrades going on.

All good, really, and the bridge work at Walkaway is necessary given the amount of heavy traffic that regularly travels the road.

How did the place get its name?

The most accurate story is that the name is a corruption of the local Indigenous word “waggawah”, meaning bend in the river.

But back to the bridge. As far as I know, the bridge was built in the early 1960s but I’m unsure as to whether it replaced an existing structure. I’m pretty sure it would have had to. For those of you familiar with the small Walkaway community, several buildings including an Anglican church sit on the eastern side of the bridge.

I doubt they would be there if no bridge had existed.

Walkaway is an old Mid West community that developed as a farming centre on the rich soils of the Greenough Flats in the second half of the 19th century. It was the original endpoint of the Midland railway line that started in Perth.

From Walkaway, a separate line brought passengers and goods to Geraldton. Incidentally, the railway line crosses the Greenough River south of town.

For the vast majority of the year, very little water flows under the Walkaway Bridge. The only time it really gets to do its job is when heavy rain falls in pastoral country, in the headwaters of the Greenough, which sends a big river or even floodwaters down.

So tell me, dear reader, did the current bridge replace an existing one? Or like the large bridge further down stream, that straddles the Brand Highway, did it take the place of a much lower construction, or perhaps even a floodway that dealt with the occasional “banker” that might visit every few years?

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