Taking its toll
By Lisa Crawford
What is 236 years old, costs 40p to cross and was once hit by an iceberg? It’s the Aldwark Toll Bridge, of course! We take a trip across the bridge to meet Colin Dobson, the cheery Chief Toll Bridge Keeper...
Ex-insurance man Colin began working at the toll bridge seven years ago, when he spotted an advertisement for the job in the local paper. He previously worked for Provincial Insurance, joining the company after leaving grammar school at 16 years old.
Unfortunately, Colin wouldn’t tell me how long he had worked for Provincial, in case I worked out how old he was! All he would say was, “It was for a very long time!”
The Aldwark Toll Bridge
Travelling around the country selling insurance soon took its toll (no pun intended) & Colin decided it was time for a change.
The Aldwark Toll Bridge is situated over the River Ure and links the villages of Little Ouseburn and Aldwark.
Of course, if you didn't want to pay the 40p toll, you could always take the long way round, a 25-mile round trip.
Not only do you need a cheery disposition to do this job, you also need to be fit, as Colin explained, “Each one of the shifts can last for up to eight hours and you can travel something like five miles during that period!”
Aldwark Tool Bridge
Colin’s enthusiasm for his job is admirable, after all, not many people would like working in all types of weather, with sometimes a less than cheery response from drivers. But he loves his job and knows the whole history of the bridge.
The bridge was built in 1772 by John Thomson who, before he built the bridge, ferried passengers in his rowing boat from one side of the river to the other. But during bad weather the ferry could not operate, so Thomson decided to build a bridge.
Colin explains, "He (Thomson) decided that he would ride to London, on a horse, through Sherwood Forest. It's a wonder he didn't get mugged!
When he got there, he had a special act of parliament passed so that if he built the bridge, he could collect the money. This act was passed and then presumably the poor bloke had to ride back and start building the bridge."
Colin takes the toll from a bridge user
That act of parliament is still in force, although the bridge has changed hands on a number of occasions.
Somehow Colin manages to keep himself busy outside of work; until recently he played table tennis for two local leagues. He recently resigned from the Selby & York Table Tennis leagues. An experienced player, Colin began playing the sport when he was just eight years old. He continued to play through his National Service at RAF Thorney Island and in to his later years.
He acted as chairman, match press secretary and development officer for Selby, but he explained, "At York I was just a player."
But the pastimes don’t stop there. Colin has also been showing dogs professionally for over 40 years with great success. He attended this year's Crufts, where he achieved two second place positions with a Smooth Fox Terrier. His success this year ensures automatic qualification for next year's Crufts competition.
Colin isn't thinking of giving it up just yet
So, after seven years service at the bridge, has Colin thought about giving it up?
"No! Various people have enquired how long I was going to continue and as long as the employers are happy, I'm actually delighted. As long as you can keep fit and well and enjoying it, why pack it up yet?"
last updated: 12/06/2008 at 15:43