The Council is to replace the set of wooden steps leading onto the City Walls from the recently landscaped King Charles Tower Green and the Iceland car park.
The current structure has been propped for several years because the wood is slowly rotting away. This dark and damp north-eastern corner of the City Wall receives very little sunlight even in high summer, which has provided perfect conditions for rot-causing fungi to flourish year-round.
The steps have been carefully dismantled and they will be replaced with a new set which will conform more closely to current design and accessibility regulations to make them easier to use for people with reduced mobility or vision.
As always with any work on the City Walls, which is a legally protected Scheduled Monument, it is vital to consider the effect on the historic structure both above and below ground.
Very little archaeological work has been done in this area, but a study carried out in 2014 before the recent landscaping works found that there is a 2.5m wide zone at the foot of the City Wall, where there is significant and sensitive archaeology relating to the defensive ditches that originally surrounded the Roman city. Because of this, the new steps will sit on the existing steps’ foundations to avoid damaging the archaeology which lies just under the surface.
The Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment, Highways and Strategic Transport, Councillor Karen Shore said: “This is an exciting project for our City Walls. It is said King Charles II stood in this area to watch his troops in battle and this is one of first projects on the City Walls during the reign of our new monarch, King Charles III.
“The wood previously used, in this case oak, is a naturally beautiful material which blends well with the masonry of the City Walls but it is prone to rot in locations like this, particularly in the structural joints which are difficult to make waterproof.
“In the search for an alternative durable material with the visual appeal of wood, our engineers decided on a material called fibre reinforced polymer, which has been successfully used by our colleagues in the Public Rights of Way team to build small footbridges to replace old wooden bridges.
“It looks almost identical to wood but it is made from recycled plastic bottles – approximately 140 x 500ml plastic bottles per square metre of material – surrounded by a glass fibre outer skin. It has a design life of 60 years plus, requires little to no maintenance, is resistant to vandalism and will blend in well with the historic backdrop of our historic City Walls.”
It is anticipated the replacement work will be completed by Spring 2023. There are no updates yet on repairs to the section of the walls which collapsed in early 2020.