WHERE TO NEXT I WONDER ................?

This story happened on: 04/05/2012

Interesting stuff this caravanning lark you know. All sorts of things happen which suggest destinations that you probably would never have thought about.

One such idea sprang into my mind on one of those cold tea-time evenings just after Christmas when all you want to do is snuggle down in front of the fire and watch something entertaining and interesting on the telly. It wasn't quite tea and crumpets but that does set the scene wonderfully doesn't it? It was just a welcome cuppa as I remember it but still very nice as it was accompanied with an episode of the excellent Great British Railway Journeys with Michael Portillo. The one where Michael sets off on a train for the day with nothing more than a Bradshaw's Guide with him knowing that minions are taking care of his bags and have booked him into something grand for the night! 

Anyway, whatever the secrets are to its filming it is very entertaining and on a cold, wintery evening it is all too easy to get lost in the train journey along with Michael.

On this particular evening the journey was from Lydney in the wonderful Forest of Dean towards Chepstow and the castle and then onwards to the city of Newport. In Newport Michael visited one of those "almost" Wonders of the World. One of those things that, as soon as you see them, you know that you just must go and visit and see it for yourself! And so it was on this particular evening when Michael set off from the newly modernised Newport Station towards the Newport Transporter Bridge.

In case you don't know a Transporter Bridge is an odd piece of engineering where a gondola suspended by steel cables or rods transports passengers and vehicles across a river. They date from the late 1890's and came about when a conventional bridge would not be high enough to allow the free movement of shipping beneath a conventional bridge.

The Newport Transporter Bridge crosses the River Usk on what was once a very busy road crossing. Lifting and Swing bridges were not suitable because of the length of the span. A tunnel was not practicable. The solution was a fascinating and elegant mechanical transporter bridge. The Newport Bridge has the longest span of any Transporter Bridge and is regarded as one of the most beautiful.

As soon as I saw Michael start his journey across the Usk in the gently swinging gondola I knew that Newport would be our next camping trip! 

As soon as the programme finished out came the club handbook to research where we would head to. A few minutes was all that was needed to see that the Tredegar House Country Park Caravan Club Site in Newport itself was ringing all the bells. It was conveniently located just a few minutes from the M4 motorway and was open all year. Within minutes the booking was made!

Okay, so we did go in February and the weather was, how shall I put this, a bit wet. But the site and the pitches are nice and spacious. In the dark, wintery months you will need to unlock padlock and chain to gain access to Tredegar House grounds where the site is located but this just adds to the adventure. Tredegar House looks very interesting and whilst I was there I was told that the National Trust are in the process of acquiring the premises from the city council. It is a certainly a popular walking venue for locals. There is also a very talented craft woodworker who plies his trade from a small workshop as you drive into the site where I was tempted to purchase a very stylish mirror.

So there you go. The joy of caravanning summed up in a few paragraphs. I never ever thought that I'd be camping in Newport, in a very wet February let alone taking a trip on the fascinating Newport Transporter Bridge. It is the nature of caravanning though that encourages you to do this impulsive sort of thing.

Anyway, I hope I have given you a idea or two!  If you fancy a trip on the Transporter Bridge you can discover a lot more about it on the FRIENDS OF NEWPORT TRANSPORTER BRIDGE (FONTB) website which is very informative. The staff who run the bridge are all brilliantly helpful. Passenger crossings are free and vehicles cost £1-00 each way. Best to check operating times as there was some talk about extending these when I was there earlier in the year. There is a small visitor centre and gift shop for souvenirs. 

You are probably eager to experience a crossing for yourself now!  With the magic of video and YouTube you can experience this in the comfort of your own armchair right now  ..............................