Blog: Why this bridge brings back all my yesterdays

Even though it was getting dark and objects were turning into dim and hazy shapes, the light would remain switched off because "you wouldn't want to waste electricity, would you?"

The builders' cast-iron plate on the bridge near Kemp's Field
The builders' cast-iron plate on the bridge near Kemp's Field

On the other hand, it was seemingly still plenty light enough to continue with the ironing, the comforting smell of which filled the room, a balm for troubled minds.

Not that we carefree children knew anything about troubled minds, but the talk between the grown-ups could be agitated from time to time, betraying the disappointments and frustrations of adult life.

This was our nan's house in Belle Vue in the 1960s, a house which had a walk-in pantry which was like having your own personal little shop in the corner of the kitchen.

Whenever the conversation between mum and nan dried up, all you could hear in the stillness of the living room was the steady, dependable tick-tock, tick-tock of the handsome highly-polished dark-wood clock up on the wall; a clock crowned with a carved stallion up on its hind legs.

While they went on with their boring talk of husbands' wages, street gossip and the cost of bus fares, we little ones - my brother and I - would climb into the space under the piano, the space where the pianist's legs would go, and turn it into our secret camp.

Occasionally, nan would use her wireless (which had a gorgeously deep tone), but I only ever remember hearing 'The Archers' - a programme that seemed to we children every bit as dull as the conversation between mum and nan.

As we grew older, my brother and I were - on these visits to nan's - allowed to play outside. At first we would go only as far as the large back garden with its rotting wooden bench which contrasted sharply with the well-kept lawn and lovely flower beds.

But eventually we were given permission to go down the nearby footpath, over stiles, and across the fields by the railway line.

Ah, the railway line - where real adventures could happen.

To this day, the old iron footbridge which crosses the Hereford line and takes you into Kemp's Field is my favourite footbridge.

I was stood on it the other day, waiting for a train to pass underneath.

It's impossible for me to stand on this bridge without thinking about Nan and Grandad who lived in Links Road.

The bridge has a builders' cast-iron plate on it which tells us it was built in 1914 by E. Finch & Co Ltd, Engineers and Ironfounders of Chepstow.

From an early age this set my imagination running. I would try to picture what this scene might have looked like in 1914.

There would have been open countryside on the Kemp's Field side in those days and only a smattering of Victorian housing on the Belle Vue side.

Links Road and Kemp's Eye Avenue would have come later.

Mighty steam locomotives would have hauled goods and passengers on those lines below. What a magnificent sight they would have been!

And there was something else about the year 1914. This too played on my mind as a youngster beginning to learn a little about the world. It was the year in which the First World War began, a conflict of the most terrible carnage, and a conflict in which our Grandad was involved.


Holding on to the weather-beaten iron of this bridge gave me a connection to all this. It was like being able to touch history.

Generations of children, generations of trainspotters, would have held on to this iron bridge as trains rattled by below; generations of youngsters stretching all the way back to the First World War.

This would make me think about why Grandad would go and sit on the stairs in the darkness whenever there was a thunderstorm. Mum and d ad told us it was a result of shellshock.

The footbridge looms large in my history.

To begin with it was a fantastic place for trainspotting, especially on long summer afternoons.

And then, later, around, I think, 1969, there was the UFO incident.

My best friend Paul Rogers and I had founded an organisation - the Unidentified Flying Objects Observation Corps - or UFOOC. A little later we renamed it the APIU - Aerial Phenomena Investigation Unit - because we thought this sounded much more professional.

We would write letters to Jodrell Bank Observatory and NASA, and (what was more remarkable) we received replies as if these people were taking us seriously.

One night (when it was really dark), Paul and I went off to the Kemp's Field bridge to look out for flying saucers. It seemed like a really good place to spot them.

We had a transistor radio with us and whenever there was an interruption to the signal, we reckoned it was due to an alien spacecraft being nearby.

We also took torches, a notebook, and sandwiches. It was very well organised.

Did we spot a flying saucer that night? Well, we're pretty sure we did.

Sadly, we have no evidence to back up our claims. But the old upright piano from Nan's house was definitely real, and is still in the family to this day, in the Kidderminster home of my younger brother. It's just that nowadays we're a bit too big to climb underneath it.

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