22 May 2015

Walk to the old bridge

On Friday afternoon I was in the lab, taking pictures of potential radiocarbon samples. My office mate Juan was there too, but he was leaving. Before he went he mentioned he intended to go for a walk with some others; did I care to join? That is exactly the kind of thing I need more of. Nice people and fresh air! And I would have Jaco and Marjan over for dinner that night, so I was restricted in how long I could scamper around outside, but I could always go back earlier. He said he'd text me what time they would pick. Spiffing!

I knew he and at least one more of the potential walkers would go to the pub that night, but I was knackered after a late Thursday trip, and I had some cats to feed and plants to water (more about that later) so I decided to not go and pursue a pint. I was in bed very early. 

The next morning I saw Juan's text. He had actually sent it at half past nine! That gives you an idea of how knackered I was, not seeing that the previous night. But the walk would be 2PM; plenty of time to first go for a run.

When I came back from my run I decided to keep the kit on. If we would start walking at 2, we would probably not be back in time, so I may have to bolt midway. And so I did! At 2 I met up with two visiting PhD students from Bremen (one of which originally from Latin America), and waited for the others with them. Some ten minutes later Juan arrived. The waiting was for Stella and her Colombian boyfriend! It was a good opportunity for the venting of some prejudice about Germanics and Latinos. 

By 2:30 we were complete, and we crossed the bridge, to wander through the woods on the other side, part of which was a botanical garden. It was a nice wander! After a while we got to Britannia Bridge. Everybody was quite interested in the information about this bridge's history there displayed, including a piece of the old construction. Originally, the bridge consisted of two rectangular metal tubes lying on two stone towers. That was all! The train went through these tubes. Robert Stephenson, the designer, seemed to have had a lot of trouble convincing people this would work, and indeed, it seems such a vulnerable design. But it worked for a very long time! Unfortunately, some of the construction was made of wood, and thus the bridge was vulnerable to fire. In the seventies it burned down.

Juan, Sebastian, Sonja, Camilo and Stella with the old bridge section

When the bridge needed to be rebuilt anyway, it was decided to make major changes. By then road traffic was a lot heavier than in the nineteenth century, and the old bridge must have been struggling. Where the road comes through the towers that keep the construction up, it is so narrow most bus drivers go at walking pace. So Britannia Bridge, which had been only a rail bridge, was to become two-tier; the original, lower level for the trains (but not enclosed in a tube anymore), and above that the road. This would be a lot heavier, though, and the bridge acquired an additional arch structure. So although it still says "Erected anno domini MDCCCL", most of it was erected later. And it may change more; it seems the regional authorities have realised that even this bridge is too narrow for the amount of traffic that wants to come across (including the lorries that come by ferry from Ireland!), and some alteration or addition is desirable. Who knows what it will look like in another few decades!

Anyway, enough now about the bridge. We went on. And time was passing. Not much further than I'd ever been I decided I had to head back. So I put on my running shoes, waved everybody goodbye, and scampered back to Menai Bridge. Sad to leave them; it was all rather spiffing. But I had been booked! So once home I cooked frantically until about five minutes before I heard a knock on the door! A busy day, but exactly the kind of day I sometimes need!

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