Monday, June 29, 2009

severn wonders

We went for a bike ride yesterday: not particularly remarkable in itself, just an 8-mile round trip with a cheeky pint in a pub halfway, but interesting in that the route was from Chepstow to Aust and back, and thus involved cycling over the Severn Bridge, which I'd never done before.

If you're starting from the Chepstow side then the cycle track heads down the side of the eastbound slip road onto the M48 before splitting in two; at this point you get to decide which side of the bridge you want to go over. I suggest going one way and coming back the other, just for the hell of it. On the English side the crossover point is via a track which crosses over the top of the toll booths; you then have to loop round down the access road to Severn View services and back up the slip road to get back onto the bridge.

The Second Severn Crossing has a nice reassuring chunky solidity to it, but there's something very aesthetically pleasing about suspension bridges. This one has special significance for me as it was always one of the landmarks on our regular trips from Newbury to Cardiff (to visit my grandmother) that indicated we were nearly there (the Brynglas tunnels being the other). Prior to the bridge's construction and opening in 1966, the only way of avoiding a lengthy detour via Gloucester was to take the Aust ferry, the slipways for which can still be found near Aust here and at Beachley here. The picture on the front of Martin Scorsese's Bob Dylan film No Direction Home was taken on the slipway waiting for the Aust ferry in what looks like typically wet and miserable weather. I expect it was only being out of his mind on drugs that kept him so cheerful.

I must just also speak up in defence of the M48 - yes, the M4 route is a bit quicker, but if you're heading west, once 95% of the traffic has got off at the Chepstow junction you're left with 5 or 6 miles of sweeping curves and generally almost zero traffic before rejoining the M4 near Magor. If one were to desire a stretch of motorway on which to put one's foot down and indulge one's Michael Schumacher tendencies for a few minutes, this might well be it. Note that Electric Halibut cannot be held responsible for anyone getting nicked for speeding.

Anyway, some photos can be found here.

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