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Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Underneath the Arches

This week's prompt shows the Taft Bridge in Washington DC. I've been to Washington a couple of times and could well have driven over this bridge, but here's the thing with bridges: you can drive or otherwise travel over them and be totally unaware of the magnificently engineered structure that you are crossing. If you don't have the chance to stop and admire them from a vantage point, you can miss them completely.

 I particularly remember the following two bridges because I was able to view and photograph them from below. The first two photos come from slides that were taken by my 17 year old self in 1969 and show the Mungstener Brucke, a steel rail bridge in the countryside known as the Bergische Land near the town of Solingen in the German state of North Rheine -Westphalia. I was lucky enough to win a 3 month scholarship to travel there and attend school while staying with a local family from December 1969 to March 1970. One day my hostess Frau Felix very kindly took me on a tour of the local sights, including this bridge, which spans the valley of the River Wupper. It was completed in 1897 and at 107 metres is still the highest rail bridge in Germany.


Like the half-timbered black and white houses in England, the romantic old fachwerk houses like the one you can see here in the snowy, frozen landscape framed by the bridge are very common in the Bergische Land. The name of the area comes from the former duchy of Berg. We also visited the reconstructed Burg Castle and the Altenberger Dom, a former medieval abbey. When the time came for me to leave, my hosts held a farewell party and I was presented with a great book of primarily black and white photographs of the Bergische Land, signed by everyone at the party. 

Below is a postcard I brought back and posted in my scrapbook, but of couse I didn't get to see the bridge on a sunny summer's day like this!

The other bridge I can distinctly remember visiting is the Iron Bridge near the town of of Coalbrookdale in Shropshire or Salop as it is sometimes called. This bridge crosses the River Severn and was completed a hundred years earlier in 1771. According to Wikipedia, it was the first major bridge of its kind in the world to be constructed from cast iron. This photograph dates from 1976, and was taken when we were being shown around the district by another lovely lady, Mrs Janet McTaggart. Janet was a third cousin to my grandfather on the Cruickshank side of the family. My parents had met Janet previously and she was only too happy for us to come and renew the family acquaintance. That evening she entertained us at great length with talk of numerous mutual cousins. I wasn't into family history at that stage and had no idea who all these people were, but it did not matter. We enjoyed a very pleasant overnight stay with Janet and her husband Ian in their Telford home and we also met their son Andrew and his wife, with whom we are still in contact.

      A black and white house can be seen through the Iron Bridge too.  We re-visited and walked over this bridge in 2012 but unfortunately I don't seem to have taken another photograph. In 1934 it was designated for pedestrian traffic only, after being declared a National Ancient Monument.  You can read about the interesting history of the Iron Bridge here in Wikipedia.

I'm currently in the city of Brisbane for a few days so to finish, here's a photo I took this morning of the attractive William Jolly Bridge, the second of several bridges that now cross the Brisbane River. It was completed in 1932, just a few days after the Sydney Harbour Bridge and was originally named the Grey Street Bridge, but was renamed in 1955 after the death of Mr William Jolly, who was the Mayor of the city at the time it was built. It was said that Mr Jolly was offered a knighthood but declined because he thought it would interfere too much with his gardening.  The State Library of Queensland web site includes historic photographs of its construction and an excellent essay written by the granddaughter of its builder, Manuel Hornibrook, describing the history and unusual features of the bridge.

This morning at 7 a.m. I participated in Parkrun Southbank, which is a 5 km run crossing a couple of bridges over the Brisbane river and passing by several others. Parkrun is a movement first established in the UK and now has events on many places around the world. You don't have to run, jogging and walking are fine too and it's not a race. I am basically a plodder but I get there in the end!  Recovered now and off to catch the River Cat and see the river and its surrounds  in a more leisurely fashion.

Postscript: Another bridge across the Brisbane river. This is the Story Bridge, lit up at night. It was opened eight years after the William Jolly Bridge.

For more blogs bridging gaps in space and time, go to Sepia Saturday #378

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