Friday, September 25, 2020

transports of delight

Nia and I fulfilled a long-held ambition last weekend when we went down to the Transporter Bridge and did the high-level traverse of the bridge via the walkway at the top, rather than via the gondola at the bottom. Obviously this is only an option for foot passengers, as you'd struggle to get a motor vehicle up the steps, and you will have to pay a couple of quid extra for the privilege of climbing the 200-odd steps to the top and walking across.

Anyone thinking of doing it should be armed with the knowledge that it's pretty airy and exposed up there and the walkway is not some solid structure made out of stout timber planks (although old photos show it used to have some) or sheet steel but instead some flimsy looking mesh that you can see straight through down to the river below, and which flexes slightly worryingly under your feet as you walk on it. The top of the gondola mechanism which basically just clanks back and forth on rails passes disconcertingly close below your feet as well. I would say if you're in any doubt whether you'll like it or not, chances are you probably won't. Nia was fine, and I'm pretty much OK with heights (though the significant traces of rust and corrosion around some of the bolts in the superstructure gave me pause for thought); my main worry was that while I wanted to get some photographs I was acutely aware of the catastrophic consequences of dropping my mobile phone.

Blog readers with long memories may recall that I'd been across the bridge before back in late 2010 with Hazel, Doug and Anna as part of a general mooch around Newport involving several pubs, back in the pre-kids, pre-pandemic days when you could just do that sort of thing. Photos from last weekend's walk can be found here

Like I say, we'd been planning to do it for a while, as Nia shares my predilection for climbing on top of stuff - what finally prompted us to do it was the news that the bridge is due (as of this coming weekend, in fact) to shut down for a 2-year programme of repairs and maintenance, and that this would therefore be our last chance to do the walk before early 2023. I was half-expecting that we'd be thwarted at the eleventh hour by some draconian pandemic lockdown measures being imposed, but luckily we managed to dodge those by a few days. 

Blog readers who follow me on Twitter may be aware that the bridge has its own Twitter profile; one of the great joys of this is seeing the exchange of tweets between it and various other historic bridges, including the nearby Clifton Suspension Bridge but also an entertainingly banterous rivalry with the only other working transporter bridge in the UK (and one of only six worldwide), the Tees Transporter Bridge in Middlesbrough. It sounds terribly disloyal to say it, but I think the Middlesbrough bridge (also currently closed for maintenance, as it happens) is prettier, as it's slightly chunkier owing to its self-supported construction (the Newport one is cable-supported, a bit like a suspension bridge, complete with chunky cable anchorages on either side) and moreover is currently painted a rather fetching shade of blue. There is, as it happens, a bridge just upriver of the transporter bridge called the Tees-Newport Bridge, and much of the steel for the construction of the Newport transporter bridge (it opened in 1906, five years before the Middlesbrough bridge) came from the Dorman Long steelworks in, you've guessed it, Middlesbrough. Coincidence? or IS IT??!!!? As always, yes: yes it is.

There is a third, smaller, non-operational transporter bridge in Warrington which a band of stalwart enthusiasts are conducting a surely doomed attempt to secure some funding to renovate, and, as you'll recall from this earlier post from our trip to Liverpool for the Open Championship in 2014, there used to be another one, larger than either of the two surviving ones, crossing the Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal between Widnes and Runcorn. There is actually some footage of this on YouTube - this longer clip from the 1930s and this one dating from just before the completion of the replacement fixed bridge in 1961, which was quickly followed by the old bridge's demolition. Newer transporter bridges, and there aren't many, are generally somewhat smaller, including this rather charming miniature hand-operated one in Germany

1 comment:

The black rabbit said...

Sweet baby Moses, bate.

You and Nia may have been fine, but I don't think I could have stomached a walk across the TOP of that bridge. Unless I was paid handsomely.

Despite me having jumped out of a perfectly good aeroplane (high above Silverstone race track) a couple of times in my twenties, I seem to have developed a (n un)healthy fear of heights these days.

This somewhat unexpected fear was brought home to me on honeymoon when Anna and I tottered across a rickety rope bridge spanning the Kelani Ganga river in deepest, darkest Sri Lanka.

Interrrrestingly enough, this was the actual filming location for not only the Bridge Over The River Kwai movie, but also very, very close to where the rope bridge scene at the end of Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom was shot. Same area of the same river I think.

Yes. Despite me NOT having 'Mola Ram' screaming "KALI MA SHAKTI DE!" at me, as he tore my heart from my chest and bunging a load of burning-hot Sankara stones about, despite there being no writhing crocodiles in the gorge below (ready to "death-roll" me should I fall into their clutches) and even despite there NOT being 'Short Round' there, telling me "HA! HA! VELLY FUNNY! VELLY FUNNY!" I almost lidddderallly cacked my khakis, crossing that bridge in 2008.

So no... these days I'll leave the heights to you and your own, ta very much.

The other thing that shocked me on reading your blog, or more specifically, looking at the photos from 2010, is how different I look now.
I've lost over five stone this year after finally deciding to get back to the shape I was before I started to sit down for a living (in 2007 as it happens).

Looking at those photos has just made me realise how much all the work this year was/is worth it... and also that I really don't want to return to the place I was.

Being that weight and out of shape I mean, not returning to the wonderful Newport transporter bridge!