Posts Tagged ‘bridge’

Taking on water

July 20, 2016

It shocks me to realise that this photo, taken almost inevitably on my little Canon Demi, is now 42 years old. A group of us – mostly in what now might get called the ‘Dual income, no kids yet’ group had hired this narrow boat for a week. It was the week before Easter – a week chosen to keep the price down and (hopefully) make sure there was plenty of water for canals in the Midlands. The boat was hired from Penkridge in Staffordshire. I do remember it cost us £47 for the week.

By present day standards it was primitive. We could start with the loo which was just a chemical toilet which needed emptying fairly frequently at designated points along the canal. The motor control was not just the one lever pushed forwards for forwards and backwards for reverse. Instead there was a thumping great forward/reverse gear lever in the middle of the rear deck and a separate throttle. Crises, where a boat suddenly appeared in the opposite direction on a narrow stretch  could be a bit fraught. You had to throttle right back, pull that gear lever into reverse and then throttle up again – travelling forwards all the time. The heat insulation was limited – non existent really – as well. On chilly March nights condensation formed on the ceiling and top bunk dwellers could find bedding frozen to the roof! But it was all great fun.

Let’s see the scene as we moored up to fill the drinking water tank.


The real interest is the bridge. It’s a bit of a problem for all. You can’t see through it to know what might be coming the other way. That crisis might occur. Well actually, in this case one of the team would have walked up to the bridge to give an all-clear signal before we set off so that wouldn’t have been a problem. But now consider the original motive power for canal boats – the towpath based horse.

There is no towpath through the canal bridge. Instead the horse has a separate little bridge hole to go through. But it can’t haul the boat from there. So the horse has to be unhitched and the boat then has to be man powered in some way as it passes under the road. Under these circumstances, there is no real reverse gear should a crisis occur!

Three years later we had lefty the ‘DINKY’ group and canal holidays faded away. Canals are not the best place for children. Bigger boats were now needed and incomes had halved.

Morfa Mawddach

November 17, 2014

Morfa Mawddach is a railway station in west Wales.


Let’s try to get the pronunciation first. Morfa is pronounced ‘more var’ Mawddach starts off as mou as in mouse. Then has a th sound as in ‘the’ and ends ack.

English speakers can find Welsh hard! But being able to pronounce it properly matters. The station is a request stop. If you are on a train and wish to alight at this station you have to ask the guard. I remember our first attempt when we asked the guard if he’d make sure the train stopped for us at ‘More fur more datch’. He claimed not to know the place. I suspect he was teasing us but taught us how to say it.

We took our children camping close by this station three times in the 1980s. Back then it still had something of the former grandeur of an important junction station. Once upon a time it had been known as Barmouth Junction and looked like this.


By 2006 when we revisited it was a single, rather windswept and desolate platform.


Scenically this is a marvellous place. It is just south of the Mawddach estuary and Barmouth lies across the other side. A long bridge enables trains to cross and it has a footpath alongside it.


In 2006 we walked across.


The estuary is fantastic and the southern side is dominated by the brooding hulk of Cader Idris.


The bridge itself is a wonderful bit of engineering.


That looks towards Barmouth.

And this shows the view to Morfa Mawddach.


There’s a view out to sea as well.


It’s a great train journey, of course. There are miles and miles of spectacular scenery from, say Machynlleth in the Dovey valley right through to Pwllheli on the Lleyn peninsula.








Connel Bridge

March 14, 2014

Connel Bridge

We are on the west coast of Scotland here, near the mouth of Loch Etive which is one of the sea lochs. It is a few miles north east of Oban.

How I would have loved to have seen it pre 1966 for then it was a railway bridge carrying a branch line to Ballachulish. Ancient locos from the old Caledonian Railway clanked along the line which opened, like the bridge, in 1903.


My view of the bridge was in 2009. The bridge still stands and it looks like a railway bridge but now it carries road traffic.

When built, back in 1903, this bridge had the second longest clear span in Europe at around 500 feet. It was built on the cantilever principle.

Road traffic was able to cross the bridge from the day of opening, but at first vehicles were loaded on trailers to go across. People were allowed to drive their own vehicles over the bridge from 1912 – when trains weren’t using it.

It is still single file traffic, controlled by lights but without this bridge, the journey to the other side is enormous. A walk around Loch Etive from one side of the bridge to the other is a good 35 miles.


The bridge, perhaps, is not pretty, but it is elegant. It has served the locals and tourists well for over 100 years.

Maud Heath’s Causeway

March 6, 2014

Maud Heath is known to us because of a bequest she made in 1474. She lived at Tyhtherton Kellaways about three miles from Chippenham and took produce to sell at Chippenham Market each week.. The River Avon valley was prone to flooding (which, according to Maud accounted for the very fertile lands) and this made the journey difficult in winter months. Maud left money to construct a causeway, raised above the level of the floods.

It still stands and, I believe, is still maintained out of Maud’s legacy.


Regular readers will know I rather like bridges, whether simple arch structures like this one or the soaring, audacious Milau Viaduct.

Maud is commemorated on a memorial which overlooks her raised way.


Another stone commemorates her near the start of her route.


What a wonderful gift from the 15th century – still in use today.



Acton Moat Bridge

November 21, 2013

Back in 1974 I was by no means a canal ‘virgin’. My wife and I crewed a trip boat on our local Kennet and Avon Canal and we knew parts of that quite well. But the K and A was derelict at the time. The locks were out of use so I really only had theoretical knowledge of how to manage them as we set off for our first canal holiday. Five of us had hired a 47 foot long boat from Penkridge in Staffordshire. There was a lock nearby so we were helped through that and then we were on our own. I don’t think we experienced any particular problems as we made our way northwards (roughly) up the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal. I was straight away taken by the way the bridges on this canal had names as well as numbers, and within a couple of miles I had a photo of the bridge name plate at Acton Moat.


The photo was taken with my little Canon Demi camera using Agfachrome film.

Back in 1974 people didn’t paint these signs but there it was in all its glory, just above the arch and on the rather battered brickwork of the parapet.

The bridge is what I call an accommodation bridge. It takes a track or footpath over the canal. It leads from the village of Acton Trussell, over the canal, then over the River Penk and under the M6 motorway before dumping walkers on the A449 road.

You can find pictures of the bridge by searching on the web. They show a scene which looks very rural – but with a neatly painted black and white bridge sign.

It was a great week – still fondly remembered.

Tower Bridge (2)

October 14, 2013

Yesterday we looked at Tower Bridge in Meccano form. Today we’ll take a sideways glance at the real thing.

Tower Bridge is one of the iconic sights of Britain. We all recognise it and love it. We all really rather hope and imagine that when the folks of Lake Havasu City in Arizona bought London Bridge, they thought they were getting Tower Bridge.

By UK standards Tower Bridge isn’t old for it was opened in 1894. But it is a wonder of engineering and very much loved.

When it was built it was felt that walkers wouldn’t wait when the roadway was raised for river traffic to pass under, so the girders at high level were made into walkways. In fact, pedestrians found the climb up, across and down, made it worth waiting and the walkways were closed in 1910.

I was able to cross on an ‘educational’ visit in the 1970s. In fact the walkways re-opened in 1982. My photos date from 1975 (ish).


The old sign looked Victorian and clearly no love was granted to it with more modern electric conduits placed over the top.


Don’t expect me to understand this magnificent array of dials, pipework and valves. I just thought then, and still do, that they are things of beauty.

Let’s get up the top.


I’m not enough of a Londoner to know just where I was looking to take that photo, but clearly it was dockland. The docks were there then. The shipping was not. I’m going to guess that it was St Katharine’s Dock and here’s hoping somebody in Blogville will put me right if it’s somewhere else.

But I know where this is.


I was on the east side walkway and through the West walkway, we see St Paul’s Cathedral.

It was a real experience back then. I wonder what it is like in much more sanitised today.

The Royal Albert Bridge

September 10, 2013

Whether or not you love the old Great Western Railway, its original engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, commands respect. In the BBC’s poll to pick the top 100 Britons, IKB came second with just Winston Churchill rated as a greater figure.

Today I’m going to admire his bridge across the River Tamar near Plymouth which is known as the Royal Albert Bridge or more often, by its location, as Saltash Bridge.

Since 1961 it has been overshadowed by the neighbouring road bridge but that’s 100 plus years newer than Brunel’s old masterpiece, built to carry a single rail track across into Cornwall and opened in 1859.

The story of its construction is an epic one but I shall just admire its beauty and grace as seen in my photo from 1st November 2005.



What a glorious and innovative solution at a time when tall masted sailing ships had to be able to pass under the bridge.

Yet it might have been better. For starters, it only carries the single track – trains in both directions have to use it. And secondly, the bridge was never deemed strong enough for the Great Western’s most powerful locos – the King class. But Brunel wasn’t to know that engines of such a weight would be built 70 years after he died. And actually, and quite bizarrely the bridge has now been strengthened and so special steam hauled trains with a King class in charge can now cross the bridge and enter Cornwall.

There were none of them on 1st November 2005. But there was one of the ubiquitous ‘High Speed Trains’.


For any non-UK readers, these trains have been running services throughout Britain since the 1970s at speeds of up to 125 MPH. They are well past middle age now (being polite) but they continue to trundle up and down the West of England line.

Tarr Steps

June 17, 2013

Every now and again I feature a bridge on this blog. I love bridges. They are obviously designed to be functional – to get people across a gap or a river, but I also think they can be structures of enormous beauty.

I’m not sure that Tarr Steps is truly beautiful, but it is in origin and style a truly ancient structure and somehow age lends added interest for we can think of the vision, skill and sheer strength of the people who designed and built it. Tarr Steps can be found in Exmoor, Somerset about four miles from Withypool


It’s of the style known as a clapper bridge. Large flat stones are laid across simple stone pillars. It crosses the River Barle.

Being low and reliant on gravity to keep it in place, the bridge can be damaged quite severely by floods. The last occasion was as recently as December 2012 when half of it was washed away. These days, the bridge authorities are able to identify every stone and the requisite slabs were recovered and replaced very quickly.

It will come as no surprise that Tarr Steps is a grade 1 listed monument. It is a fantastic structure. And it could well be 1000 years old.

Interestingly, footpaths that lead to the bridge have been paved too. This one is alongside the River Barle.


These photos were taken in the summer of 2008.

Coalport Bridge

May 27, 2013

Some folks say that Shropshire was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. It was in Coalbrookdale that Abraham Darby first smelted iron using coke as fuel. He built the first ever iron bridge which crossed the River Severn at a place we now call Ironbridge.

Just upstream, a second bridge was built at Coalport. The year was 1818.


The bridge is made of cast iron and is topped off with the neat sign I photographed back in 1972.

This was at least the third bridge built here. A wooden bridge with a central pier was washed away in 1795 and a hybrid wood and iron bridge replaced it, opening in 1799. But the bridge proved inadequate and it was completely replaced by the present iron bridge. It was ‘renewed’ and strengthened in 2004/5 and still carries road traffic.

It is rather an unsung neighbour of THE Ironbridge but it is a very elegant structure in its own right.

If you happen to be in the area, then it is near the tar tunnel and a pottery works. They are all well worth a visit.

The Clifton Suspension Bridge

May 11, 2013

Hands up all those who think that the Clifton Suspension Bridge was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Hands up or not, you could claim to be right. The bridge is undoubtedly based on designs by good old IKB, but circumstances forced changes to be made to his designs, after he had died. What we see is not what Isambard originally envisaged.

But it is still magnificent.


This wonderful structure owes its origins to a competition to build a bridge across the river Avon, linking Bristol with Somerset.

After various retrials, the competition was won by young Brunel, aged 24. Work began in 1831 but Brunel never saw it completed. He died in 1859, aged 53 and others completed it, after some redesign, as a monument to Isambard. What we see was completed in 1864 and it still serves well today, with some 12000 vehicles passing over the bridge each day.

What the photo above doesn’t show is the depth of the Avon Gorge here.


This rather hazy photo of half a bridge gives an idea of just how high up, above the River Avon, the bridge is.

By the way – it looks as though nasty little creatures have got into some of my old colour slides. My advice is to digitise your slides as soon as possible. My pictures date from 1972.