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08 Nov 2018

There were nerves, but much excitement as I drove my daughter to University a few weeks ago. A long journey up the A1 and suddenly there was the Angel of the North, then before we knew it, we were driving over the Tyne Bridge. With daughter squealing excitedly and me trying to follow the satnav, we had arrived in Newcastle.

Visiting her this week we walked down to the river where the enormous structure of the bridge towered above us. The view up and down the river made for a breath-taking sight – I hadn’t realised what a ‘City of Bridges’ this is, with no less than 7 linking Newcastle and Gateshead over a distance of less than a mile.

The Bridges vary greatly in age and design, but all are civil and structural engineering feats of their time. From the 1849 High Level Bridge that still carries rail and road transport to the Millennium Bridge, a Tilt Bridge built to link newly re-generated areas on both sides of the river, they all have their own unique features. This creates quite a spectacle when seen all together in one long vista. The Swing Bridge sits, quirky red, looking up towards its bigger neighbours. The Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, carrying the Metro out and then back into its tunnel, is atmospherically lit at night by an installation called ‘Nocturne’ which creates patterns of light which ripple across the water, matching the ebb and flow of the tide.

From the Victorian Age to the Millennium, countless Engineers have worked on the design of these bridges - among them Dorothy Buchanan, the first female member of the Institution of Civil Engineers who worked on the Tyne Bridge in the 1920’s. The designs may vary, but the bridges all serve their common purpose in enabling us to cross the River Tyne whether it be in a car, on public transport, by bike or on foot. They are more than this though - they have also created an iconic statement for a city.