Salford Quays

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Despite being about 40 miles from the sea, at one time Manchester was the third buiest port in England. This was due to the Manchester ship canal, opened in 1894, which allowed ships to sail almost into the city centre. However, their heyday didn’t last long. With the move to containerisation in the 1970’s the Port of Manchester began to decline as larger vessels couldn’t get up the canal, and they finally closed in 1982.

The biggest docks on the ship canal were in actually in Salford, covering 120 acres of water and 1,000 acres of land.  After their closure a substantial proportion of the docks were purchased by Salford Council and redevelopment began in 1985 under the Salford Quays Development Plan. Improvements were made to infrastructure and water quality and the derelict docks were developed for leisure, cultural and commercial use.

The first landmark building – the Lowry, which contains theatres and art galleries – opened on 28 April 2000 followed by the Imperial War Museum North, designed by Daniel Libeskind, in July 2002 (although that’s actually over the water in Trafford).

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Residential property has been constructed on the waterside

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and the most recent development is “Media City”, which spans both sides of the canal and it’s tenants include the BBC and ITV

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After we’d had a look round the Lowry we had a mooch around the quays, looking at the buildings and bridges and snapping some photos.

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“My first child, my darling”

This is how Isambard Kingdom Brunel described the Clifton Suspension Bridge that has spanned the Avon Gorge on the outskirts of the city of Bristol for close on 150 years. However he never saw it completed. Although construction started in 1829, delays caused by political upheavals and financial problems meant that it was only completed in 1864, five years after his death in 1859.

Today it’s still a functioning bridge used by thousands of vehicles every day and a major tourist attraction, and was a “must see” during our recent trip to Bristol.

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412 metres long, the deck, which is 75 metres above the river is supported by six massive wrought iron chains which run over two 26 metre tall towers and are anchored in the rock. When it was completed it was the longest suspension bridge in the world.

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There are good viewpoints from both sides. The picture above was taken fro the western side, standing on the hill that overlooks it.

This one was taken just prior to sunset from the eastern side

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There’s an information board at a viewpoint below the bridge on the eastern side,

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The bridge appeals to me in different ways. The design is simple, but effective. It does the job. Aesthetically I like the curve of the chains that support the deck, the simplicity of the structure, the colour of the stone from which the towers and abutments are constructed, the parabolic arches in the towers and the setting above the dramatic gorge.

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If it had been constructed 100% true to Brunel’s design there would have been some significant differences. The towers would probably be clad with smoother stone and there would have been embellished with hieroglyphic decoration and sphinxes standing on top of them. In fact there are a number of alterations to his engineering aspects of his design too by  William Barlow and Sir John Hawkshaw and there’s a school of thought that the bridge should be attributed to them rather than Brunel.

Whatever! The simple design and the setting combine to create a fantastic sight. I’ve been to see it several times and never tire of looking at it.

Le Pont du Gard

P1040970 You wouldn’t stay in Paris and not go to look at the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe. So while I was staying in Nîmes I was very keen to visit the Roman aqueduct, the Pont du Gard which is only 20 km away from the city and is one of the most popular historic attractions in France Technically, an aqueduct is an artificial channel that transports water from one place to another. The Pont du Gard is, strictly speaking, a bridge that carries an aqueduct over the River Gardon. Although Nîmes has it’s own spring the Romans decided that they would bring even more water into their regional capital to supply fountains, baths and private homes. Having plentiful water that could be used lavishly was a demonstration of the power and wealth of the city. 2012-06-10 12.03.12 The aqueduct took water from the springs of the Fontaine d’Eure near Uzès  along a winding route, 50 kilometres long, into Nîmes (Nemausus). To achieve this they had to build a string of bridges, tunnels and other constructions of which the Pont du Gard was the largest and grandest. There are remnants of the aqueduct at other locations along its route, although none are as complete as the Pont. It was a remarkable feat of engineering, descending only 17 m vertically from start to finish and delivering 20,000 cubic meters to Nîmes every day. The following map (source – Wikipedia) shows the route of the aqueduct. File:Carte geographique Pont du Gard.gif To get to the site I took the B21 bus from Nîmes. The service runs two or three times of day from the bus station behind the train station and terminates in the car park near the visitor centre. The bus left at 11:30 and arrived about 45 minutes later just after 12. The bus back didn’t leave until just after 4 in the afternoon and I thought that with 4 hours to spend there I might end up kicking my heels. That wasn’t the case – I could have stayed longer. P1040958 There’s a visitor centre on the left bank with an excellent museum which provided information on the history and context of the aqueduct and explained how it was constructed. They also showed a film on a loop that was shot by someone flying a micro-light over the aqueduct from start to finish. So as well as getting an aerial view of the Pont du Gard the other remains could be seen. I enjoyed looking round the museum, but it was the bridge itself that was the main purpose, and highlight of the visit. 2012-06-10 11.38.02 It’s a remarkable construction with 3 levels of arches, all designed to support the water channel that crowns the top level. It’s still in remarkably good condition given that it’s almost 2000 years old . Although it has been renovated several times over the centuries. Until relatively recently it was possible to walk along the water channel itself, which must be a hair raising experience. I believe it’s still possible to do this once a month by booking on a special guided tour. It’s in a stunning location with the river running along a wooded valley. P1040964 Both sides of the river are accessible by road and once they’ve parked up visitors can cross from one side to the other over a bridge that was tacked onto the side of the Roman structure in 1743. The builders did quite a good job as they made it so that it matched the structure. It’s the same level as the lowest level of the Pont du Gard itself and  the arches match exactly – this can be seen in the picture below which I took underneath one of the arches – the Roman arch is to the left, the later “extension” to the right. P1040955 Crossing the bridge you get a close look at the the stonework and can see where past visitors have carved their names or marks into the stone. In many cases these were carved by journeymen masons visiting the bridge during their traditional tour around the country. P1040944 There are trails along the river banks and in the wooded hills on both sides of the river. I climbed up to a couple of viewpoints above the bridge. It was worth the climb to get a view of the bridge and valley. P1040963 Like on many other French rivers, it’s possible to hire canoes upstream and paddle along with the flow down to and under the bridge. P1040969 The river isn’t too deep for most of the year and there are stony beaches where it’s possible to dip your feet in the river or have a swim. 2012-06-10 11.52.52 There’s plenty of information about the Pont du Gard on the Internet. There’e Wikipedia, of course, and I found this site which provided a good brief summary about the history of the bridge.