A couple of weeks ago my wife, Marilyn, and I enjoyed a glamping weekend in the Peak District. We called at Bakewell and stocked up with some local produce – Hartington cheese, bottles of Peak ales and, of course, Bakewell Tart.
Returning to the car park we crossed the Weir Bridge, affectionately known as Love Lock Bridge because of the thousands of padlocks that decorate its railings. The locks started to appear there in 2012 and the bridge has become quite a tourist attraction with many visitors stopping to photograph it. Apparently, a love lock (or love padlock) is a padlock that couples lock to a bridge, fence, gate, monument, or similar public fixture to symbolize their love. Typically, the couple’s names or initials, and sometimes the date, are inscribed on the padlock, and its key is thrown away (often into a nearby river) to symbolize unbreakable love.
In 2017, Marilyn and I added our own lock to celebrate our Ruby Wedding, but on our recent visit we couldn’t find it because there are so many to sift through. Ours was a very ordinary padlock but is engraved with the nicknames that our kids gave us some years ago (K-Dog & Goose). We don’t know either - you’ll have to ask them!
The tradition of love locks fastened to bridges is believed to have begun in Serbia during World War I, after a woman named Nada fell in love with a Serbian officer named Relja but died of heartbreak when her lover deserted her for another woman he met at war in Greece. As young women from the region wanted to protect their own loves, they started writing down their names, with the names of their loved ones, on padlocks and affixing them to the railings of the bridge where Nada and Relja used to meet.
Since the 2000’s, the tradition has evolved and there are now many cities across the world which have bridges adorned by lovelocks, and locals either love or hate them.
In Bakewell, it became controversial in 2021 when the Council wanted to remove them in order to carry out non-urgent maintenance to the bridge. However, local opposition to the removal resulted in the Council putting it on hold until 2023. Although many of the locks are to celebrate couples’ love or marriage, there are those that have been put on in memory of loved ones who have passed away. So, the issue of there removal is an emotive one.
Then there’s the impact on local business too - Curtis Shoe Repairs have been selling and engraving many of the locks on the bridge for years, and obviously they will be affected following removal. But other businesses might be affected too.
So, when you’re walking the Peak Way long distance walk, why not call by the Weir Bridge and perhaps take a photo yourself. And maybe even see if you can find our padlock.
Then on the last mile or so of the walk, when you cross the Jim Fearnley Bridge over the River Goyt in Stockport, look carefully and you might see just four padlocks attached. It seems that someone has tried to start the tradition here in Stockport too but it’s not taken off. Ah well, at least Stockport Council won’t face the same dilemma that Derbyshire Council will in 2023!