Detroit Bridge in Salford Quays

Detroit Bridge, a former railway bridge, was moved from its orginal location to between Huron & Erie Basins in the early 1990s.

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Like a motorway: the Trans-Pennine express

The M62 is the great trans-Pennine highway which bisects northern England, running from Mersyside in the west to Humberside on the east coast. Opened in the early 1970s, the M62 cuts across the spine of the southern Pennines, and provides the main route for transporting goods between the two halves of the north. Millions of people (and millions of tons of commercial traffic) travel along this route every year, but probably few spare much thought for the work needed to create this stretch of asphalt across the moors, linking Manchester and Leeds together in less than an hour’s drive.

A fascinating three part BBC4 documentary, ‘The Secret Life of the Motorway’ aired last year, shining a light on the technological prowess, social changes and romance which surrounded the development of the motorway network in the UK. The second episode concentrated on the massive engineering challenges faced by the teams constructing this stretch of the M62, from west of Huddersfield through to the Lancashire/Yorkshire border. You can read more about the construction here.

I’ve always loved this section of the motorway as it climbs up past Blackstone Edge and Windy Hill and opens out onto the vast expanse of Moss Moor, but until I watched the BBC documentary didn’t know much about it, except for the sign near Junction 22 which proclaims that this is England’s highest motorway. I’ve travelled along here hundreds, perhaps even thousands of times in the last decade for business and pleasure, and I love the soft rawness of the moorland against the giant expanse of sky. When you use this road regularly you start to appreciate the subtleties of the seasons and weather conditions: the cottongrass blooming in early summer, the brief flashes of colour as the heather flowers in August, the monochromatic undulations when snow and ice coats the hillsides in winter.

At the eastern end of Moss Moor lies Scammonden Bridge, carrying the Saddleworth Road across the vast cutting at Deanhead. Nowadays the landscaped sides of the cutting help to disguise its man-made origins, where the six lane motorway cuts straight through the hillside. Millions of tons of rock were removed, and became the basis of the 2100ft long Scammonden Dam on the approach. You don’t appreciate just how massive this bridge is when you drive along the motorway – at the time of opening it was the longest single span concrete bridge in the world – but it’s in such an enormous cutting, and at the crest of the hill, that its elegant structure seems understated. This view, from the top of the cutting, provides a clearer view of the scale of the bridge and the landscape beyond.


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At the other end of the upper moorland stretch, just past the Rockingstones junction, the motorway starts to drop down towards Greater Manchester. Another massive cutting sweeps between Windy Hill and the climb towards Blackstone Edge, spanned by the Pennine Way footbridge. Walkers on this 200 mile long distance footpath are uninterrupted by the constant flow of traffic below, and can look west towards the Yorkshire/Lancashire county border (now the West Yorkshire/Greater Manchester boundary to be precise) a hundred or so metres away.

I originally tried to shoot this same scene over 4 years ago for a WWP submission, but the homebrew pano kit I then used, combined with the savage winds, conspired to produce a thoroughly unsuccessful result. This time I was more fortunate: the dying seconds of the setting sun vividly lit up the tops behind me, and created a glorious focal point for the long exposures light-trails of the traffic zooming off into the distance. A minute later it was gone.


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The viaduct over Baitings Reservoir near Ripponden

Soft pastel shades from urban sprawl in the distance, still cold water in the foreground.

I previously shot the other end of this reservoir during the wet summer of 2007: the contrast between the two occasions was striking.

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The footbridge to Ráðhús Reykjavíkur

Ráðhús Reykjavíkur (Reykjavik City Hall) sits by the Tjörnin (pond) in Reykjavík. An elegant building, supposedly over 200 years of discussion preceded its commission in 1987. Municipal and national government work on a smaller scale than most other countries in Europe, and I think the footbridge entrance to the City Hall somehow reflects this. A very down-to-earth, practical and harmonious approach, like many Icelandic solutions.

A storm gathers over the harbour, and the ducks gather around the bridge, thinking they’re going to get fed. They know they’re on to a good thing: everybody with kids seems to come down to feed the wildfowl on the city pond.

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Tees Barrage, View 4

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