Held in suspension


I’m no lover of heights and the thought of constructing or maintaining this thing fill me with fear… my respect to those who built it and look after it is immense.

Last Tuesday, I took time out to do something I’ve been meaning to for a while – cross the Severn bridge by bike, so while in Bristol, I chose to take a look at the Clifton Bridge while i was there too.

It was a beautiful day and I had a wonderful time.

As readers will know, I love architecture and engineering and the chance to see three suspension bridges was not to be missed – and in fact, it was four really, if one includes the Wye bridge, directly joined to the Severn.

Clifton Suspension Bridge is a tour de force of Victorian Engineering hubris by Brunel – a structure constructed less for utility and more as a demonstration of prowess; sadly construction halted midway due to Brunel’s lack of money and wasn’t completed until five years after his death. But what an epitaph.

The Severn Bridge is a classically elegant 1966 work that’s actually four bridges in one – the Aust Viaduct, the Severn Bridge, Beachey Viaduct and Wye Bridge. The viaducts are pier structures, while the river crossings themselves are two different designs of suspension.

Visible from the surrounding landscape is the Second Severn Crossing, built in 1996, and motorway only. This Ronald Weeks designed structure is, to me, timeless and a classic illustration of great British engineering.

All in all a great day, and a 30 mile ride from Bristol to Chepstow, on great cycle trails and generally quiet urban roads. I commend it to anyone.

For more of this kind of thing, 365daysofbiking is still running and coming up to four uninterrupted years of daily pedal-pounding.

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7 Responses to Held in suspension

  1. Graham says:

    Great post Bob,

    You must come & see some of the Scottish bridges. The new Forth crossing is nearing completion so you will be able to see three marvels of bridge construction in one view – the new crossing, the 1960’s road bridge and the Victorian rail bridge. A sight probably unequalled anywhere in the world.
    Nearby you could take in a visit to the Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies – both breathtaking.
    Let me know if you do come & I’ll be your guide!

  2. Dave (Eddy) Edwards says:

    What a great set of pictures Bob, you sure did have a great day. It reminds me of the days I made regular trips between South Wales and Bristol…..More memories from the blog

  3. Great pictures Bobby, I’ve only ever driven over these and never had time to look at them. Thanks.

  4. Andy Dennis says:

    Great pictures, Bob, and thanks for the memories.
    This reminds me of a similar journey I made as a young man. My log tells me that on Monday 15 August 1983 I pedalled from St Briavel’s, high above the Wye Valley, to Cheddar, crossing both bridges along the way. I was in the company of some lads from Taunton, who I had met on the climb out of the Wye Valley.
    The Severn Bridge is quite a spectacular crossing, but I had not bargained for how steep and relentless is the climb up to the centre of the main suspended span. Much easier on the English side!
    I crossed the Clifton Bridge on many occasions, en route for Penzance, where my uncle lived. As you say it is more a statement of prowess than mere functionality and the views of the gorge are splendid, too. It seems a fitting epitaph for such a great engineer, in some ways similar to Wren and St Paul’s: “if you seek his memorial, look around you”.
    There used to be a fine inn at Flax Bourton, which I visited that day. Sadly, I didn’t record its name, but I think it might have been the Jubilee Inn.
    52 miles. Not a long ride, but it was day 4 of a longer tour, which, for me, was when I was most fatigued. After that I became accustomed to the work and had adjusted my calorie intake. I see that, eventually, I took the train home from Dorchester; in all 843 miles. Not bad for a desk jockey.

  5. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    Super photos, much appreciated. i only crossed the Severn bridge once..by mistake..having missed the turn coming back from Cardiff. .. Also..appreciate the fine photos of Bristol, a town I have never visited…Cheers!
    Kind regards…and happy new year.

  6. stuart says:

    Morning Bob,
    Happy New Year to you and all your followers. Nice photos again. I used to enjoy that crossing in the days when I was out on the road travelling between appointments. The sister in law and brother in law have not long moved from Cannock to the Severn Beach area so you can see the suspension bridge from the rear of their house, a nice part of the world.


    Stuart Cowley

  7. Denis Jones says:

    I cycled from Norton Canes to Bridlington, went via the Humber Bridge, the highlight of a long ride.

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