View From A Bridge

Posted on 31st August 2010

When is a bridge not a bridge? Apparently when it's a viaduct. Though having said that, it seems some are more insignificant than others.

About 20 years ago, I was told a fact that didn't seem that far fetched, and every so often I've tried to verify whether it was true. This weekend I found a page on the web that seemed to give a definite answer, except every other web page relating to the question seems to completely ignore this particular structure.

The fact I was told was that at the time the longest bridge in the UK was the M6 over Birmingham. Now having driven over that particular section on several occasions, I was intrigued to find out how long it was. My amateur attempts of measuring the rough distance from Junction 5 (Castle Bromich) to just past Spaghetti Junction (Gravelly Hill), aka Junction 6, found the distance to be just under 4 miles. However, as I was on top of the bridge deck I wasn't able to tell exactly where the bridge begins and ends. Until now I've never seen a reference to the exact distance.

This weekend I came across a page on the Motorway Archive, which states "The section between Gravelly Hill and Castle Bromwich is 3½ miles, which was then the longest continuous viaduct in Great Britain". Okay so it's not classed as a bridge, but a viaduct, although at 3.5 miles it does re-enforce the belief that it was the longest when I was told the fact.

So what is the longest bridge/viaduct in the UK? According to the Wikipedia page for the longest bridges, the longest in the UK is The Second Severn Crossing. However, that is only recorded as 3.2 miles long, and the M6 viaduct over Birmingham isn't mentioned. On someone else also asked the same question. The answer there states the Humber Estuary Bridge has the longest single span in the UK, but again The Second Severn Crossing is the longest in distance. On Flickr someone else wanted to know the longest viaduct in the UK, and again the M6 viaduct doesn't get a mention, as they only mention rail bridges.

Aside from the links above, I can't find anything that relates specifically to UK bridges, and many of the pages listing longest bridges in the world rarely list more than a small selection. So what is the longest bridge in the UK? I still think it's the M6 over Birmingham, but may be the reason it doesn't get mentioned is that it doesn't appear to have an official name. I'd suggest the Spaghetti Viaduct, seeing as it's one of the strands as part of Spaghetti Junction. If anyone has a definite answer, I'd be delighted to know.

File Under: birmingham / bridges / structures

Set the Fire to the Third Bar

Posted on 5th February 2009

The snow has been thick everyday of the week so far, and this morning looked particular uninviting for travelling the 45 miles to work. We had a new blanket overnight and while the kids are currently enjoying the snowball fights, I'd rather be here in the warm. If it stays like this at the weekend, I might have to take Dan up to the Waseley Hills for some sledging. I can't see Dan's football match being on, even though they managed to play in a blizzard on Sunday.

File Under: birmingham / weather

Castles and Dreams

Posted on 29th September 2008

Discovering local history can be quite fun at times. I've lived in and around Birmingham for the past 12 years, and there is certainly a lot history I've discovered already. However, there has been one part I never knew existed until recently. While planning the trip to Ludlow Castle and Richards Castle last weekend with DanDan, I came across a page listing Weoley Castle. Now Weoley Castle is an area of South Birmingham, that is slightly North of where I live now, and slightly south of where I used to live when I first moved to Birmingham. I've driven through the area many times between Northfield and Harborne, but never knew that the remains of the castle ruins still existed. Although to be fair it isn't a castle in the grand sense, but a fortified manor house. Not that that should deter you from visiting it.

So on Saturday, DanDan and I took a drive over to the Weoley Castle Ruins. Having read the web page, we were prepared to only see the ruins from the viewing area. But seeing as it's a bit of local history I wasn't too bothered about that. As it turned out, our arrival at the site couldn't have been better timed. We'd just started taking pictures, when a woman walked passed the other side of fence, in medieval attire befitting of the lady of the house. She and the guy walking with her, walked up on to the ruins, where she posed for a photo. As they walked back, the woman paused and told us that if we wanted to come back later at either 2pm or 3pm, there would be a storytelling and we would be allowed into the ruins to have a look round. Not wanting to miss a golden opportunity, DanDan and I headed home for lunch and picked up Nicole and Ethne.

We arrived in time for the 3pm event, and walked with about 40 others up into the ruins by the last surviving apple tree, of those that had originally stood there. Then the show began. The woman we had seen earlier announced herself as Joan de Botetourt, lady of the castle. Over the course of about half an hour or more, she took us around the rooms of the castle, telling us about each room, the history of the castle and the de Botetourt family history. All completely in character. The show and storytelling were fantastic and I was so glad we had happened to come and visit the ruins in the morning. The storyteller turned out to be Anna O'Brien of Annamation, one of a troupe who frequently do this kind of storytelling, particularly at the Barber Institute by Birmingham University, where they re-enact paintings.

I took the opportunity to take LOTS of photos, and it was a wonderful day to take them too. I spoke with one of the organisers, who had come over to ask if I was a professional photographer or did it as a hobby. Reassuring her I was most definbitely an amateur, she told me about their plans for the site. Unfortunately they had been turned down to open a visitors centre, but they now have plans to open a school room. Although some local schools do take advantage of the opportunities to have the children taken around the ruins, not too many do, and occasionally rain means tours get cancelled. A dedicated school room means more schools can plan visits regardless of the weather, and much more planned activities.

It was a brilliant afternoon, and I'm so glad that Birmingham Museums And Galleries put on these sorts of events every so often. If you ever spot the chance to go and tour the ruins, especially if Annamation are doing the storytelling, then go. You will be thoroughly entertained.

File Under: birmingham / castles / museum / photography / sightseeing

Not Fade Away

Posted on 17th May 2008

The Cadbury Cricket Pavilion (as it is often referred to these days), is quite a grand building. It was originally opened in June 1902, and was a gift to the Bournville Cricket Club to commemorate the coronation of King Edward VII, hence its other name of The Coronation Cricket Pavilion. The black & white photo shown here is taken from The Food of the Gods, by Brandon Head (available thanks to Project Gutenberg), although alas it doesn't recall when it was taken.

Earlier this year, Dan's team Callowbrook Swifts, played a match against Cadbury Athletic on the Sports Field, so I took the opportunity to take a few photos of the Pavilion as it is today. I assume it is still used by the Bournville Cricket Club, as they still hold cricket matches here during the summer months. One of many Bournville treasures.

File Under: birmingham / photography / sightseeing

So Glad 2B Alive

Posted on 12th May 2008

Back in February we went to see Bleeding Hearts as The Adam & Eve in Digbeth, Birmingham. It was also Gel's 40th birthday, and a great gig to celebrate it. It was also great to see Paul Rogers at the gig too, who I hadn't seen since my days with Ark, in fact since 1994. There were quite a few old faces in the audience, as well as plenty of new ones too. The was a complete mixture of old and new songs, with more emphasis on the newer songs. I did mean to make a note of the setlist, but got complete caught up in taking photos.

The Adam & Eve is quite a small pub, though long, so although you can't necessarily see well at the back, you could definitely hear the band. In fact most of Digbeth could probably hear them, and undoubtly would have said they deserved all the encores asked of them. After the live album I was quite eager to see the band again, but unfortunately it ended up being a little longer than intended. Since The Adam & Eve gig, they've done a couple of German tours now, and are set up to do a few UK gigs around the Midlands, so hopefully we'll be catching up with them soon. Expect more photos then, and hopefully a setlist next time around.

File Under: birmingham / bleedinghearts / gigs / music / photography

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