Almost by accident, I appear to have become a bit of a bridge enthusiast. Not that I have much more than a passing interest in engineering, but circumstance has put me in close contact with some of world’s most recognisable bridges.
Many years ago I lived in Sydney, home to possibly the most famous bridge on earth. I went back a few years ago for a holiday and challenged my fear of heights by climbing to the top of it. This is also, bar me joining an Abba tribute group, the only time you will see me in a jump suit.
Also in Australia, on a visit to Kings Canyon, I crossed a bridge made entirely from dried eucalyptus branches. I’ve just had to Google it as it I thought it may have just been part of a terrible nightmare but it exists or at least it used to. I can only find one reference and photo of it . It was over twenty years ago and I suspect that health and safety may have decided it a little unsafe now.
I’ve walked over the Brooklyn Bridge in New York and in capturing the view, I inadvertently snapped someone wearing what could only be described as a banana whilst sunbathing.
In a similar vein, the Wearmouth Bridge featured on the now infamous original cover of my first novel Leg It.
One of the most dramatic bridges I have crossed, was the Millau Viaduct in France and that came about in the most unlikely of circumstances. After spending a pleasant week in Barcelona in 2010, I was stranded due to the Volcanic Ash Crisis that engulfed Europe. There are worse places to be stranded than Barcelona and I was enjoying the extended stay until it dawned on me that I wouldn’t get home for my 40th birthday weekend away with the lads. I exhausted every avenue until I finally paid a random Spaniard to drive me to Paris where I managed to blag a ticket on the Eurostar.
Crossing the Millau Viaduct in the middle of the night was an unexpected bonus to my forty hour expedition without sleeping or showering.
That brings us to today where I have crossed The Northern Spire, the first bridge to be built over the River Wear in forty years, for the first time. It opens officially to traffic tomorrow but today was a chance for pedestrians to get their first glimpse of the view from the bridge.
As a landmark it is impressive. Whatever direction you approach it from, even from miles away, it stands out. I was taken by surprise the first time I saw it after the central pylon was raised so I was quite excited to get to cross it today.
It didn’t disappoint.
It opened to pedestrians at twelve but I didn’t want to appear needy by queuing so had a wander down and got there about ten past. There were already hundreds of people milling about taking photos and recording themselves on what was an historic day. A couple of runners passed me and I was already working out routes for when my foot injury heals, although the bank up to Pallion will be a killer.
There were views out to the Queen Alexandra Bridge with the Stadium of Light and Holy Trinity church in the background.
The views to the west were possibly even more impressive with the tide being out as Cretehawser, the concrete ship at Claxheugh Rock was clearly visible.
This brought back childhood memories as it was visible from my parent’s bedroom window when I grew up in Southwick. My childhood home will have quite a different view now.
It was probably the one and only time I could stand in the middle of a dual carriageway and take photos of the magnificent feat of engineering.
It’s open until 8pm today but there are footpaths in both directions if you wish to visit at your leisure. Next time, I may consider getting someone else to take the photo of me rather than attempting selfies.
The Northern Spire is a very welcome addition to the Sunderland skyline.