image captionThe locks are set to be removed for routine maintenance
Over the past decade, hundreds of people have added padlocks to a bridge in the picturesque Peak District town of Bakewell to celebrate their love or remember someone they have lost.
It mirrors a tradition seen at tourist spots across the globe.
However, the Derbyshire locks may soon be gone as the county council is set to remove them to carry out maintenance work on the bridge over the River Wye.
The news has left some of those who have left the “love locks” there feeling disappointed and emotional.
‘We added a lock on our wedding day’
Gee Atkin, 26, said she was “absolutely gutted” to hear the locks may be removed.
She and her husband Alan, 69, added their lock to the bridge on their wedding day in 2017.
“We went straight to the bridge after the ceremony,” she said.
“We just thought it would be something nice to do because my husband is into fish and he used to like going to the bridge to feed them.
“We noticed a lot of people had put locks on and we started reading them and thought, ‘this is really nice, something special and a bit different’.
“We thought it would be quite nice to put a lock on, just symbolic really.”
image captionGee Atkin and her husband Alan put a lock on the bridge after their wedding ceremony
The couple, who live in Darley Dale, have been unable to visit their lock recently due to Covid travel restrictions but Mrs Atkin said it was something they would make an event of.
“We’d think, ‘we’ll go see the lock, have a walk around Bakewell and maybe get some fish and chips’ – just make a bit of a day of it,” she said.
Mrs Atkin said it was “sad” but she understands they need to be removed so work can be done to the bridge.
“It would be nice if they could find somewhere else for them nearby,” she said.
‘It’s where we come to remember our father’
For Frances Bell, from Tinsley, South Yorkshire, the love lock represents a different sort of love story.
It was put on the bridge in Bakewell on the first anniversary of her father Neville’s death.
The 63-year-old died suddenly from an aneurysm in 2017 and Bakewell was somewhere they used to visit together.
“It was that special place, when we were kids,” she said.
image captionA lock was added in memory of Neville Bell following his sudden death in 2017
Since his death, it remains a sentimental place for his family.
Ms Bell, 35, said: “He didn’t want a grave, he wanted to be cremated so we’ve got nowhere really to go and remember him.
“My daughter came up with the idea of the lock and that’s where we go.”
She said she feels “devastated” it could be removed.
“My daughter, she’s 13, and he was like a dad to her because I’m a single mum,” she said.
“It was the only solid male figure she had in her life and for her not to even have that place to go and remember him – it just feels really sad.”
‘We need to respect people who have put locks here’
Richard Young has set up a Facebook page calling on local authorities to save Bakewell’s love locks.
“I’ve always supported love locks because I always thought it was a good thing for the town – Bakewell pudding is good for the town, now it’s love locks,” he said.
image captionThousands of padlocks are now thought to be attached to the bridge over the River Wye
Mr Young, who ran a business in Bakewell before retiring in 2015, said the love locks started appearing in 2012 and had benefitted the local economy by attracting more tourists.
“Bakewell needs to respect the people that have actually visited our town, placed the love locks there,” he said.
“I think we need to treat those love locks with sympathy.
“I would like to see another structure and those padlocks slid off in their entirety and placed on another structure, in an ideal world,” he said.
‘Lock tradition has been great for business’
Shaun Curtis has run a shoe repair shop in Bakewell for 22 years but also sells and engraves padlocks.
He thinks about 90% of the love locks on the bridge have come from his shop, making it a “great boost” for business.
“The amount of sad stories I have heard, I could write a book,” he said.
“But these customers went away after putting a lock on the bridge feeling a little better.”
image captionShaun Curtis thinks about 90% of the love locks in Bakewell have come from his shop
He thinks removing the locks is disrespectful to the people that put them there.
“I’ve seen their faces when I’ve been engraving them – especially the memory ones,” he said.
“If they decide not to carry on with the tradition, there’s been talk of making a sculpture out of the padlocks or melting them down and making a plaque.
“As long as there’s just something to remember them if they come back.”
When are the locks being removed?
A spokesperson for Derbyshire County Council said: “We need to carry out some routine maintenance on the bridge and would need to remove the locks to do this work.
“However while the work is needed, it is not urgent, so we are in discussions with Bakewell Town Council and Derbyshire Dales District Council about the work, and what to do with the padlocks after they have been removed.
“No decisions have been taken yet and we will do all we can to promote the work to give people a chance to collect their locks.”
Are love locks bad news for bridges?
They can be – with the sheer weight of hundreds and thousands of metal locks putting considerable strain on structures that are often centuries old.
In 2015, love locks caused part of the Pont Des Arts Bridge in Paris to collapse.
And in this country, locks have been removed from bridges in Cornwall, Lincolnshire, Chester and Leeds in recent years due to safety concerns.
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