Day 306 Mile 306: Totemic Lions Stole My Trousers. The Britannia Bridge links the Isle Of Anglesey/Ynys Môn to mainland Wales and was designed and built by Robert Stephenson (of ‘Rocket’ fame) to carry the railway that linked London to Holyhead and hence by ferry to Dublin. It was originally a tubular bridge of wrought iron rectangular box-section spans, but during the evening of 23 May 1970 the bridge was badly damaged when boys playing inside the bridge dropped a piece of burning paper, setting alight the tar-coated wooden roof of the tubes. Due to the difficulties of fighting the fire, all that was left was the stone structure which was eventually rebuilt with two decks; the railway underneath and an upper deck carrying road traffic.
The result of this is that only by going on the train can you appreciate the views as Stephenson intended. This includes four 80 ton limestone lions, a pair either side of the bridge which flash past so quickly on the train I have never really seen them, so for this morning’s run I took myself across the fields towards the base of the bridge and the straits to satisfy my curiosity.
Pedwar llew tew
Heb ddim blew
Dau ‘ochr yma
A dau ‘ochr drew
Four fat lions
Without any hair
Two on this side
And two over there
Welsh Poem by John Evans
Menai Bridge (1826–1888)
I had been going on a mission of very amateurish industrial archaeology but what struck me was the amazing power and symbolism the lions and their situation have. Yes, the lions sitting there were created at a moment when Britain was confident as a nation, and had an Empire, and lead technical innovation but what struck me was how oddly reverential these beasts still remain.
Coming through the trees and undergrowth to find them, the carvings would not look out of place in any ancient temple in the world. Once you have got past the British Lion symbolism there seems to be something oddly primal about going to so much trouble to put such guardians around such an important corridor. They seem to be totemic watchers of this line over the water, where travelers literally pass suspended in the air from one land to another. Whether they are defending the passage against invasion or . It certainly seems to have more to do with the Palaeolithic Löwenmensch (Lion-man) of the Hohlenstein-Stadel than it does with the era of the steam engine.
These musings made I carried on my journey following the line of the bridge towards the sea between the road-rail and the powerlines. In the occasional gaps between the traffic this morning it is possible to hear the crackle of the power through the pylons. With the potentially ancient concept of the lions in my mind the transport of people, ideas and literally power through these modern lay-lines of least resistance seemed completely plausible. So, it was at this point I decided that looping back around and uphill was a good idea.
My legs feel tired today, so uphill is a good thing for keeping one’s mind from wandering! This said I had gone for this run before work and realised as I got back to the car that I had no other shoes to get changed into. This isn’t too much of a problem as fortunately no one really notices if you wander around a university in your socks. However it wasn’t until I got to the toilet to get changed I realised that not only had I forgotten my other shoes, I had forgotten my other trousers too…. BOTHER!
I’m running a mile each day everyday for 2017. If you feel you can sponsor me please do, as all the money raised will go to the Cleft Lip & Palate Association (CLAPA) who provide services all across the UK to support people affected by it.
Distance: 1657.7 meters recorded
(1 mile = 1609.34 m.)
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Thanks as ever for all the support!
Today’s earworm is so predictable that I almost feel sullied by writing it up… almost!