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Tyne Bridges (Gateshead)

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The bridges over the River Tyne are a familiar landmark to many people in Newcastle and Gateshead.The first bridges were built by the Romans. Pons Elii in Newcastle, the Stone Bridge at Corbridge and a bridge close to Chesters fort near Chollerford. There are 22 main bridges that span the River Tyne, the newest of which is the Gateshead Millennium Bridge.

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      23.02.2006 15:57
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      Newcastle's Quayside is a stunning location and you shouldn't miss it for the world.

      Febuary 2006.

      The Quayside.

      I have now lived in Newcastle for the last 2 and a half years and I can assure you that within this wonderful City there is no nicer place then the Quayside. Spectacular because of the seven bridges (some more famous than others) which span the river Tyne from Newcastle on the North side to Gateshead on the South side and for a whole host of other attractions.

      The quayside is within easy walking distance (ten mins) of the City Centre, but be warned it is a steap uphill walk on the way back! There are many routes by foot and if you are willing to explore I suggest you try some of the steep windings stairways that run down from the City at various points. There are also buses which run from Newcastle City Centre to the Quayside. The nearest metro station is in the City (Momument or Central Station) so you'll have to walk or jump on a bus from there.

      The quayside has undergone considerable regeneration work in the last decade and it has paid off. What was once a busy industrial port is now a stylish and funky part of the city, adorned by a number of great bars, restaurants and hotels. These include the Pictcher and Piano, Heart Break Soup (I have written reviews on both of these exceptional places to eat), the Mal Maison hotel, the Hilton hotel, Lloyds Bar and the Slug and Lettuce, amongst many others.

      Additionally, on the Gateshead side there is The Baltic. An old flour mill which holds the largest permanent (but always changing), collection contemporary art in Europe. Entry is free and even if art isn't your thing, it is worth taking a trip to the top floor to take in the fabulous view of the quayside. It is one of my favourite ever views and I try to head up there as often as possible.

      Also on the Gateshead side is the recently built (Dec 2004) SAGE music centre. This glass encased armadillo shaped architectural masterpiece stands proud on the quayside, it is a spectacular sight.

      On Sundays there is a market held along the waterside and the quayside is host to many special, although occasional events, such as the Tall Ships Race.

      Now that I have sold the virtues of the quayside in general here is a little bit about each of the bridges:

      The Tyne Bridge.

      The green steal arch of the Tyne bridge is the most prominent of all the bridges that span the Tyne and also the most famous. It is a classic symbol of Newcastle and of the North East.
      The bridge was finished in 1928 and opened by their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary on the 9th October. It was designed by Mott, Hay and Anderson, M.M.Inst.C.E. of London and built by Dorman, Long and Co., Ltd of Middlesbrough.
      At the time of its completion it was the largest single span in the world and the Sydney Harbour bridge was modelled on the Tyne Bridge.
      The bridge carries traffic along the City Central Motorway and can also be walked across. The views from up here are wonderful and an additional feature are the old style lamp lights which span the lenght and add a lovely traditional touch.
      Check out http://www.tynebridgewebcam.com/history.htm for some fascinating old pictures taken during the bridges construction.

      The Swing Bridge.

      Built by Armstrong and opened in 1876 this hydraulically-operated swivel mechanism was built to allow taller fixed-mast vessels to reach further upstream.

      The High Level Bridge.

      The High Level Bridge was bridge was built in 1849 in conjunction with the opening of the Central railway Station in Newcastle, and for the first time linked Newcastle with London by rail (previously, trains stopped at Gateshead).
      In addition to the railway, the lower deck of this bridge carries a roadway - another innovation of its day.
      This bridge is currently undergoing constructions works.

      The Millennium Bridge.

      The millennium bridge is my personal favourite but it's a close call against the Tyne Bridge. This The 130ft long bridge is the worlds first rotating bridge which can swing upwards on huge hinges to allow boats to pass underneath on ocassion. I have only seen the bridges rotation a couple of times. The best time to catch it is on a Sunday afternoon.
      Because of the unique shape of the bridge it has become known as the 'blinking eye' to the locals. It is a foot and cycle bridge which leads directly from the Pitcher and Piano to the Baltic Gallery.
      The bridge was designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects and engineers Gifford and Partners, it cost 22million pounds and was partially funded by money raised by the National Lottery for the Millennium Commission. The bridge was finally lifted into place on November 20th 2000.
      The bridge best feature is the amazing lighting system. In the evening the top arch gradually changes colour from reds, blues, purples, greens, yellows etc. It is this feature which is what everyone loves and makes the bridge unique.

      The remaining bridges are more functional affairs.

      The King Edward VII bridge.

      Provided more capacity for the expanding railway system.

      The Queen Elizabeth II bridge.

      Marked the transition from goods to passenger traffic on the rail system. Today this is the main metro bridge, the service which connects Newcastle to the surrounding locality.

      The Redheugh road bridge.

      Replaced an earlier bridge and is intended to distribute traffic away from the city centre.

      Check out http://www.tynebridgewebcam.com/ or http://www.14theweb.co.uk/webcam/webcam2.html for webcam footage of the briges in all their glory!

      There are also a further 15 bridges which cross the river Tyne upstream, but I only thought it relevant to discuss those which make up the Quayside.


      When I first visited Newcastle it was the quayside which sold the City to me and led to our eventual relocation 'Up North'. Newcastle is a wonderful up and coming City and the recent regeneration of the quayside stands in testiment to this. If you ever get a chance to visit I recommend that you jump at the chance!


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