musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: bridge

Shipshape and Bristol Fashion (3) The Harbour

The Harbour Festival at Bristol was the clincher when I was making plans for a visit, although I had done quite a bit of sniffing around in it before.  My agenda had two points in it: I wanted to get images of the Great Britain from opposite where she was berthed, and I wanted to go as far as I could towards the exit channel. I entered the harbour from behind the cathedral and that put me in Millennium Square. It was very crowded and noisy and I was not really interested in much that was going on there, although the huge silver ball was kind of fascinating..

However, as they say in the classics.. “It’s all very well, but what does it do?” I do not know, but it does seem to have an exit from the building it is attached to. Parts of the square were fenced off so I headed to the water, having to make a large detour to get there. When I got there I discovered that they had blocked off the waterside path too, which was extremely irritating because they had also cut off access to the bridge that crosses the harbour. I thought that Balmoral was berthed near the bridge which is why I wanted to go there, but it turns out she was not, and was berthed opposite the Great Britain. With access cut off to the bridge I decided to try for my Great Britain shots so headed towards Balmoral in the distance.

Great Britain on the left, Balmoral on the right

The right bank was relatively quiet, but I could not find the spot to catch the ferry that runs from behind Temple Meads station to the opposite end of the harbour. I was prepared to grab that ferry and to travel with it to my destination but could not find a berth to do it from. The one area had a lot of small craft in it, including some lovely steam pinnaces.

I would have loved to have gone on one, but as a solo traveller you really end up filling in odd spaces, and besides no matter how hard I looked nowhere was there a sign that said where they were going or how often they ran.

I continued my walk… and spotted the John King approaching.  She is a steel hulled tug built in 1935 by Charles Hill & Sons Ltd. of Bristol for Kings Tugs Ltd. She was purchased in 1995 by the Bristol Industrial Museum and is kept in working condition and will continue to be part of the new Museum of Bristol.  She is a handsome old lady, and it was nice to see her still running up and down.

I finally reached Balmoral, I had last visited her in 2015, and was hoping to get onboard to have a look at the wheelhouse that I had been unable to see then because it was so crowded and it appears as if it was still crowded! 

However, the little old lady at the gangplank was doing her best to not let me see the wheelhouse, insisting that I needed to go with the guide (who was leaning on the opposite rail studiously ignoring us). Nothing I said could persuade her to let me go have a look so I left very disappointed and without reaching that goal. This has really ended my interest in this vessel, and as much as they are looking for funds frankly it is no way to treat somebody that would be a potential future passenger. 

Berthed in front of the Balmoral was “Bee”, which is  a 1970’s built supply tender, and between the two ships I could see the Great Britain in her drydock. I had achieved my one aim, everything from here on was a bonus.

I was starting to get peckish though and fortunately I spotted a nearby crepe seller. I had had my first crepe in Bristol and was chuffed that I could have my second in the same harbour. 

Bee and Balmoral

Suitably supplied I continued my walk, but was still not sure of how far away the bridge over the harbour was. I spotted a ferry stop and decided to catch it and see where it goes. The boat was crowded and lots of space was taken up by one guy who was sitting on the bench with his legs taking up 3 seats while he took selfies and filmed randomly. I was at least able to catch up on my crepe while we continued towards the bridge over the harbour. Behind us the Matthew was rapidly approaching in that sneaky way that sailing ships seem to have. She is a reconstruction of John Cabot’s ship.

And while we turned Matthew continued her voyage and you can see the bridge across the harbour in front of her. That was the spot I was aiming for originally. 

I decided to bail out at the Great Britain as the area in front of it was a large boatyard and I would have had to make another detour around it to access the Great Britain. I had visited her before, in fact I even used to have a ticket that allowed me free visits for a year, but it expired a long time ago. I really just wanted that bow shot of her which I now had.

I walked around the shop before heading back to the other bridge across the harbour. This place got more crowded as I got closer, and somewhere in that mass of humanity was a steam engine with wagons and a brake van. 

I had heard the engine while on the opposite bank so was curious to see what was providing motive power.

As I approached the Fairbairn Steam Crane there was no sight of the train, but sooner or later though I would be bound to see her. Unfortunately the crane was not in steam and I did not get to have a look around her interior. The sailing ship is Pelican of London, a reasonably new vessel built in 1948 in France as a double-beam Arctic fishing trawler. She was rebuilt as a main mast barquentine, and as of 2012, operated as a sail training vessel by the charity Adventure Under Sail

Close to the crane was a modern vessel: Graham Robertson,  a multi-role Damen Shoalbuster 2308S tug. She is quite an adaptable ship, as she was modified to undertake a multifunctional role that includes towing, pilotage, plough dredging and survey duties.

And then, over the cacophony of noise I heard a steam whistle.. I had to make a decision quickly. Would I watch John King coming alongside? or would I see what the steam engine was? John King temporarily won.

but it was a close won race

The loco turned out to be an Avonside 0-6-0ST, of 1917, works number 1764. Operating as S3 “Portbury”

It was quite an experience seeing this train safely pass through the throngs, although she was helped by men with flags and high vis vests! Given that many people are much too busy on their phones this can be a decidedly difficult operation. 

By the time I had finished with the museum the “Carboard Boat Race” was in full swing, and this part of the harbour was jammed packed. There were 3 small naval craft berthed up close to the bridge and I threaded my way towards them. The more modern ships were HMS Ranger (outboard) and HMS Smiter (inboard). Both are Archer Class patrol ships, and are used to provide sea training to members of  University Royal Naval Units.

Astern of them was “Pride of Bristol”, the former Royal Naval Tender RMAS Loyal Supporter (A107). She is operated by the Pride of Bristol Trust, and was built in 1982 by Richard Dunston Ltd. Yard T1370. 

I was fortunate enough to get on board her but she is reasonably cramped and one person could really cause a spanner in the works by standing in the wrong spot. I did manage to get in her wheelhouse!

From her decks I could see the other ships berthed across from us, and there were two sailing ships amongst them. The ship below is the Etoile Molene, a 1954 built vessel that was initially used to fish for tuna in the Bay of Biscay and then for trawling in Ireland. 

Astern of her was Iris, a 1916 traditional Dutch herring-lugger.

Unfortunately I did not take specific images of her, but as you can see the sky was clouding up and I was starting to consider raising anchor and heading home. I really just want to look at one more oddity I saw in 2015.

She was still where I saw her last, although I do not know whether she had deteriorated since then or not, or even whether she was in use.

Some digging provided me with more info: she is the former John Sebastian “Light Vessel 55” (LV55) and was purchased by the Cabot Cruising Club in 1954. She was built in 1885  by Charles Hill & Sons, Albion Yard, Bristol, for Trinity House and has a double skinned iron hull with wooden beams. She 31.39 metres long, 7.37 metres wide and has a draft of 3.66 metres.  She would have been manned by a crew of 11 men (master and six ratings on board and a master and three ratings ashore). The lantern is not the original one though, it is just a facsimile, although it does work.

The building in the background is the former General Hospital which is now yuppie pads by the looks of it. 

That more or less concluded my Bristol expedition of 2018, I returned via St Mary Redcliffe, and popped in for a visit.

On my way back I paused at the original Brunel station, it was being used as a car park at the time, but I believe there are plans for this space.

I then went to have a look at the bridge where the ferry starts from. It is quite a quirky bridge and one day I may walk to the other side and see what lies there.

At the station I saw one of the new smarmy Class 800 electro-diesel intercity trains that were being  built by Hitachi, but could not investigate further as my own train arrived at the same time.

My day was done. I have 700 images to process and it has taken me longer to do these 3 blog posts that it took to do the trip! I may have to relook that. 

I will probably revisit Bristol again, there is a lot that I would like to relook, in December CWGC will be unveiling replacement headstones for the men buried in Soldier’s Corner in Arnos Vale, so may go down for that although the days are way too short for an extended trip. I will see how it goes. 

There are a number of drawcards for a return trip, I would really like to photograph more of the Wallace and Gromit statues and visit the Quaker Burial Ground which is opposite St Mary Redcliffe. I would also like to try look around the area where the cenotaph is, and of course the Wills Tower is a drawcard, it is just a pity there is that hill….  

DRW © 2018 – 2019. Created 22/07/2018

Updated: 04/01/2019 — 06:55

The Mythe Bridge

It is true; I am a bridge fan, and I have probably mentioned that bit of useless information on a number of occasions. My newest bridge to admire is known as the Mythe Bridge,  and it spans the Severn River very close to Tewkesbury. I had been looking for the bridge since arriving here, but have always headed off on a tangent without doing any serious homework. 
A chance remark by a co-worker led me to place where the bridge was, and this morning, while I had a few hours off work I headed off to confirm the theory.  
I had originally thought that the trestle bridge in this image was what I was looking for, it spans the marina but is not really accessible to gawkers like me as you need to have the requisite permit to get into the marina. 
My bridge was a bit further up the road, and surprisingly is not signposted all that well. The road that crosses the bridge is the A438, but I have no idea where it finally ends up.  It wasn’t too long a slog to get to either, and when I did arrive could not really see the bridge, just the road over it. I would need to access the river bank somehow.
On the approach to the bridge is the old toll house, with a plaque proclaiming it’s age.
Thomas Telford:  yet another of those famous engineers who left their mark on Britain. His legacy has remained with us, and this particular one was opened in April 1826.  I love reading about these bold engineers, they seem to see any obstacle as a mere challenge to overcome, and they do it with style and beauty. 
My attempt at photography could only be done from the other side of the bridge as waterfront access was almost impossible due to private property on either side. I crossed the bridge, noting how the pillars were looking somewhat weather worn. 
And then I found a public footpath leading down to the river bank. There were cowpats galore and trees and mud, and the view was lousy because the sun was in the wrong place. I abandoned that spot and headed for the other side of the road.where the view technically would be better.
And I was right.
Unfortunately the bridge is slightly wider than the camera could handle comfortably (I was using my phone and not my camera).  But I fired off shots as quick as I could because I am still not sure whether I was allowed in this area. (Some of these images have now been replaced with some that I took on 27 September). 
Six cast iron ribs span the the river without interfering with the water borne traffic, and while the river was empty on this morning, you can bet that 150 years ago it was a totally different story altogether. These rivers were the way freight was moved and a network of canals fed into them. Thomas Telford even building a few along the way.


Unfortunately the bridge does have a sign that reads “Weak Bridge”, and that really has to do more with the heavier traffic that it carries now compared to when it was built. Trucks vs horses and carts? fortunately the traffic is controlled by robots that allow cars to use the single lane that the bridge has, everybody gets a turn, and there are no minibus taxi’s pushing in.

The bridge is sagging in the middle though, and that is probably as a result of the increased traffic and weight. You can see  the sag in the image below.


With hindsight I probably could have done a better job with this pic, but then I was not on a full blown photography trip, just a quick jaunt to find the bridge while I had time. I will come back with a camera one day, the other fork in the road looks very interesting, and I believe there is a railway tunnel close by.
(Update 27/09. The railway tunnel is blocked off and fenced off too, so I could not get close to it. However, the other side I may still go hunt down. ) 
I returned to the road and recrossed again, pausing at the toll booth. If buildings could talk, what would this one tell us about the impact that this structure had on the people of the city?
And then it was time to head off to work. 
© DRW 2015-2018 Images migrated 17/09/2015
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 16:25

Bridges not too far.

When I did my original trip to Bristol in January 2014,  I decided that on my next trip (whenever that was) would take in the Clifton Suspension Bridge, assuming I could find it and get to it from where I was on that particular day. However, my plans did not happen and I have still not gotten back to Bristol.

Yesterday, while on a trip to Lymington I mentioned that I would really like to see this bridge, and seeing as we had to go past Bristol could we stop by on the way? and having some time to kill we did so on the way back. And what a score it was.
Naturally finding it was troublesome, I only know Bristol from the area around the station, the cemetery and the SS Great Britain, so we really had to rely on the GPS to get us close, and then work at it from there. Eventually, after traversing the town we spotted the bridge in the distance.
And now for the weather: as you can see above it was cloudy and gloomy and not really photography weather, but we still had to find the route to the bridge, and by the time we did the weather was clearing and the view turned out so much better. The odd thing is, that for such a landmark structure it is really very poorly signposted, so we struggled to get up there. 
Eventually we found our way and we were soon on the approaches of the bridge. Please deposit £1 in the slot!
The tower that we now approached was sheathed in plastic as it was being restored, so it did detract from the approach.  We parked close by and walked down to the bridge, although you could not really see it from where we had parked. And then we were there. And what a beautiful bridge she is. This is the Leigh Woods Tower. 
At first I thought that it was a Brunel built bridge, but in reality it is based on his design, Brunel never saw the completion of the structure.  
The view from the bridge is stunning, and it depends on whichever lane or side you are on at the time.
This image is taken towards the Avon Gorge from the Leigh Woods Tower. Out of frame on the right hand side of the image is what I assume is a lookout tower, or possibly a guard tower (aka The Observatory), and that was the destination we had in mind as we headed across the bridge.
It was from that point where we would get our best views of the bridge. The purpose of the tower still puzzles me and I will have to do some reading about it. Oddly enough there was no information board on the tower.
The wrapped tower is the Clifton Tower, and it is not identical to the Leigh Woods Tower. 
This view is of the Avon Gorge, and is taken from the park on the Clifton Tower side. 
The park is dominated by the Observatory, and the small blue oddity at the foot of it is a Shaun the Sheep figurine.   
And the best views of the bridge are from here.
The major difference between the Leigh Wood Tower above and the Clifton Tower are cutouts on the Clifton Tower, although that tower is wrapped in plastic and cannot be seen in any detail. 
A travelling gantry is used to perform maintenance on the roadway, and the guard rails now include a anti suicide precautions because the bridge does have a high suicide rate. Only recently an elderly lady jumped from the bridge area after being hounded by “charities”.
And then it was time to recross and head for the car.
The view from this side is of the approaches to Bristol along the Avon. This used to be a very active waterway, and one of the stipulations around the bridge was that it had to be high enough for tall masted ships to pass under it. Sadly, only two yachts transited while we were there.
The Leigh Wood Tower has the Latin motto “Suspensa Vix Via Fit” which translates as ““A suspended way made with difficulty”

The bridge is a testament to the Victorian Engineer and those who have vision. It was completed in 1864, and sadly Brunel never got to see the end result.

Leaving Bristol we headed North, and then West towards Wales and the two bridges that span the Severn Estuary. It was really one of those whim moments and I am glad that we did do this slightly expensive detour.

The first bridge we crossed over the Severn on was the Second Severn crossing, and it was inaugurated in 1996.  Unfortunately time was marching so we did not go looking for a vantage point, and the images taken here are from the car and through the windscreen. It is a toll bridge (Deposit £6.50 in the slot please).


This bridge is a cable stay bridge and links South Wales and England at the Severn Estuary.

Our return trip after our brief sojourn in Wales was over the M48 Wye Bridge and Viaduct, The Wye Bridge is of a stayed girder construction and is located between Beachley in Gloucestershire and Chepstow in Monmouthshire.


These are relatively modern bridges and have an attraction all of their own. They are functional and have the modern lack of aesthetics so beloved of the Victorians. Would Brunel have approved? I don’t know, he would have probably lined them with brick and added a lion or a sphinx or two.

Bridges are structures that are with us for a long time. The Clifton Suspension Bridge has been around over a century and hopefully will still be there in another 100 years time. These two will probably be with us for a long time too. They become part of the scenery, and as far as I am concerned enhance the view, because they are still amongst the most beautiful structures that mankind erects. 

© DRW 2015-2018. Created 02/08/2015, images migrated 01/05/2016 
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 16:31

Photo Essay: Tower Bridge

When I first saw Tower Bridge up close and personal in 2008 my first thought was “Wedding Cake!” Because the bridge is literally an explosion of beauty and functionality at the same time.

Our hotel was next to the bridge, although the sun did rule out any photography from the late afternoon, and I was never much good with “night shots”.

I visited “The Engine Room” at the time and it was one of those glorious cathedrals of huge silent machines and polished brass. The bridge is a combined bascule and suspension bridge and was built in 1886–1894. It is now owned and maintained by the Bridge House Estates, a charitable trust overseen by the City of London Corporation. 


There are 4 boilers of which two were fired up at any one time to supply steam to the pumping engines. Two steam engines provided enough power to operate the bridge. The ram sucked water from the storage tank and and pumped it into the hydraulic pump system. There were 6 hydraulic accumulators: two in the pumphouse and  two in each pier, maintaining a constant pressure in the pipe system. Two out of the 8 bascule drive engines were capable of raising the bascules. Horizontal cylinders and single acting pistons rotated the crankshaft which moved the rack pinions (or cogs). Expanded water went back into the storage tank by way of the return pipe. The 2 bascules weigh 1200 tonnes each and are supported in pivots and balanced by counterweights. Above the counterweight is a quadrant with gear teeth on the outer edge. The rack pinion engages the teeth and its rotation causes the bascule to move up or down through a maxim arc of 83 degrees. (information board at the engine room)

(Information board in the engine room)

At the time It was too late in the afternoon to visit the bridge itself so it was added to my long list of things to see/do in London if/when I ever got there again.

In 2013 I got there again, and this time I went on the bridge tour. I cannot give an exact date when this happened but I think it was on the same day that I did the mammoth walk. I covered a lot of ground on these excursions though, but this one was very early in March 2013.

The tour takes you up the southern tower by lift, across the walkway and down the other tower. The surprising thing is that instead of the towers being solid structures they are really hollow spaces with girders and stairs and nothing more substantial than that. Granted, the building was a product of the Victorian age so even the inside was spectacular. 

The biggest design consideration was that sailing ships must be able to pass underneath it, ruling a normal flat bridge out.  The design that was approved was submitted by Sir Horace Jones, the City Architect. He was also one of the judges of potential designs. His engineer, Sir John Wolfe Barry, devised the idea of a bascule bridge with two towers built on piers. The central span would consist of two bascules of the same length which could be raised to allow ships to pass underneath. The two side-spans were suspension bridges, with the suspension rods anchored both at the abutments and through rods contained within the bridge’s upper walkways. (

Looking up inside the one tower


As far as I know the walkway between the towers was a popular place for the Victorians to promenade, in fact it is a pity that they don’t open them up once again for regular use, although the “‘ealth ‘n safety” implications would be onerous. 


The view from the walkways is stunning. (the images below are 1500 pixels long and open in a new tab)

Looking East (1500×803)

Information sheet by City of London (1500×580)

HMS Belfast and the Shard. River Thames looking West (1500×1050)

Information sheet by City of London (1500×602)

St Paul’s Cathedral and “the Monument” (1497×796)

And then it was time to go. The walkways were altered slightly not too long ago and I believe that there is a clear glass panel that allows you to view the street below. No thanks, I may give that a miss.  

I have seen the bascules raised a number of times, and in June 2016 saw it from a different angle.

I also was close and personal when a ship went through the raised bascules.

This is the raised roadway, and the bascules were raised at least 10 minutes before the ship went through and the traffic stacked up very quickly behind the barricades. At least when it was built the traffic jams would have been much smaller than they are now, although the bascules would have been raised more often because of the amount of shipping passing beneath to access the Pool of London.

The underside of a bascule

Whichever way you look at it, Tower Bridge epitomises London and is probably one of the most easily recognised bridges in the world. It comes from an era when aesthetics were as equally important as good engineering. It has been with us over a century, and if properly maintained could be around for another.  I am fortunate to have seen it up close and personal, and I still think it looks like a wedding cake, and a glorious wedding cake it is indeed. 

© DRW 2013-2018. Created retrospectively 05/03/2017 

Updated: 18/03/2018 — 16:13

A Bridge Too Far. Rangeview. 13-10-2011

I am a sucker for a bridge. I am always fascinated by these structures and their beauty. I am fortunate in having seen quite a few famous ones oversees, including Tower Bridge in London, The Brooklyn Bridge in New York, The Rhoebling Bridge in Cincinnati,  Tsing Ma Bridge in Hong Kong, The Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol,  The Mythe Bridge in Tewkesbury and a few others which, while not important, are just as beautiful. Suspension bridges are my favourite though, but in JHB we don’t really have a lot of them. The most famous bridge in Johannesburg is probably the Nelson Mandela Bridge that spans the railway yards in Braamfontein. 
Nelson Mandela Bridge.

Nelson Mandela Bridge.

A relative newcomer is the pedestrian bridge up in Fairlands that crosses the highway, it’s a glorious structure that sticks out from very far, and its almost art deco styling just makes it a beaut in my eyes. It is one of those structures that many motorists pass under on their way between Beyers Naude and 14th Ave, but how many have actually walked on that bridge?

I made discovery number 3 this morning while out at Sterkfontein Cemetery in Krugersdorp. I spotted it at the extreme of my zoom and was instantly hooked. I just had to see this bridge up close!

Of course finding it was another story altogether, because its really a pipe bridge and not a pedestrian bridge it doesn’t really show up on maps, and no real roads actually go out that way. But I drove around as close to it as I could get before I spotted a sign that advertised bungee jumping! Then it was just a matter of following the arrows.

After a long walk in some amazing scenery I finally reached my target, and realistically it is really just two pipes in a triangular frame suspended and supported by an upright on either side. However, its got an appealing industrial look about that I liked. I took a tentative walk up to its central gangway, but I am afraid I did not really feel too comfortable there. The ground below has a stream running through it as well as the bungee platform, but I am not really bungee material so didn’t venture out all the way. Besides, I was here to see the bridge, not jump off it! 

Then it was time to head off home once again, my mind taking me to events that became known as the Jameson Raid. I do not know whether Jameson and his party passed through this area, or even whether any ABW action took place around here, but the it is pretty rough terrain on the Sterkfontein side of that bridge, and probably very unchanged from 1900. All I know is, it is not the sort of place I would like to tackle, it was hard enough walking up the hill to get back to my car!  
DRW © 2011-2019. Images recreated and new images added 19/03/2016
Updated: 08/04/2019 — 19:21
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