I seldom write about things in the news, but seeing that the Severn Bridge tolls are to cease tomorrow, it seems a good opportunity to get out a whole collection of photographs I’ve taken of the River over the last few years.
I used to travel back and forth between London and South Wales fairly regularly by road and was very familiar with the queues at the toll booths on the old bridge. Then there was a period when I travelled from Bristol airport late at night and, again, I’d have gone over the old bridge.
In fact, although I watched it being built and, since its completion, have spent many sleepless nights watching the traffic go to and fro, I’m beginning to wonder if I have ever crossed the new bridge – known as the Second Severn Crossing despite the fact that the Severn Tunnel also crosses the River, even if it goes underneath rather than over, not to mention the old Severn Railway Bridge, which collapsed in 1960, and all the ferries that have plied their way between the two shores of the Estuary over the centuries.
Now when I travel down from the Midlands, the line follows a stretch of the Severn closely, but it comes down the northern bank and the railway bridge that takes me into Wales crosses the River Wye, not the Severn.
I’m not sure whether it’s ever actually possible to walk across the Estuary at low tide – I have a vague memory of a story of marauders attempting to do so and all being drowned – but there are certainly times when the River looks harmlessly shallow and sandy.
It reminds me of paddling on the beach as a little girl on seaside holidays.
Of course the Severn doesn’t always look quite so appealing even at low tide.
As I remember one holiday when the whole family all wore hand-knitted fairisle jerseys, I suspect my memory of summer sunshine on those shallow tide pools is inaccurate. Perhaps it was more like this.
They say still waters run deep; when the River is in a calm, reflecting mood, there is no sign of the rocks and sandbars, and no hint of the fact that the Severn has the second highest tidal range in the world.
At times when the whole view seems to be in black and white.
At other times there is more colour.
The colours are usually blue and green, of course.
Occasionally there’s even a clear sky.
Though the clouds probably offer as much visual variety the River does.
Depending on the season, the time of day, and the state of the tide, the River looks more or less attractive, more or less magical.
You can of course see more in winter than when the trees are in full leaf.
But it seems that the train slows at the same places whatever the season.
And whatever the state of the tide, the view isn’t very different.
Although most of those pictures were taken with a phone camera from the train travelling down from Gloucester to Chepstow, it was talk of the bridge tolls that prompted this post, as I’ve spent a lot of time in the area just between the two bridges.
I have surprisingly few pictures of the bridges themselves, but here, way in the distance, is the old bridge.
And here, similarly relegated to the background, is the new bridge.
The very top photograph of the post is the new bridge at dawn. This final picture was taken from the same location, looking towards the old bridge, although I realise you’ll have to take my word for it.