Normally we prefer our woodland and coastal path walks but this week we also went on a different sort of stroll – a roadside walk across the Cleddau Bridge. Mum hadn’t been across the bridge on foot before and has always wanted to. We’ve been across before, most recently when we stood here in solidarity with other Pembrokeshire Women, celebrating International Women’s Day and always enjoy the views and that feeling of walking towards the sky, that you just can’t appreciate as much while in the car, especially while driving.
Parking Near the Cleddau Bridge
There are free car parks on both sides of the bridge so if you’re only planning to walk the bridge you can start from either side. During our previous visit, we parked in Neyland Marina and walked to the bridge which meant a longer amble. This time we parked in the Cleddau Bridge South Car Park (Sat Nav: SA72 6FD), so we could take advantage of the viewing point after our wander. I think we’ll park and walk the other side next time for a change.
Before setting off on our walk across the bridge I reminded the kids to not lean over the safety barrier (I know it seems obvious but they are natural climbers- something that always worries me when heights and water are involved), to keep in from the roadside (there are bumpers to protect pedestrians from the traffic), to look and listen out for cyclists as they share the path with pedestrians and to keep in and let other walkers pass as the 2m social distancing rule is still in place.
Walking across the bridge we spotted a familiar site- the ferry! We used to see this every day on the school run and from our local beach. Recently on every day out we’ve had, we’ve happened to see it from different places as we’ve been keeping it so local. This is Irish Ferries Pembroke to Rosslare crossing. It leaves Pembroke at 02.45 and 14.45 each day. It’s a lovely walk for young children to point out the things they see. You could make a bingo card to encourage them to look out for certain things too.
On the Cleddau Bridge
A walk across the Cleddau Bridge could inspire some perspective sketches and great artwork- imagine trying to capture that sky.
As you’d expect, it’s also very windy on the bridge. Thankfully it was a warm day on our visit so we didn’t need to wrap up. When the wind picks up, the Cleddau Bridge is closed to high sided vehicles and in strong winds, it’s closed to all vehicles and pedestrians. You can check if the Cleddau bridge is open or closed here.
It’s lovely to see all the boats enjoying the waterway. We spotted a group of divers from their boat too.
The girls- you can tell how windy it is from Izzy’s ponytail!
From here you can see Burton Ferry and Neyland. We’ll have to walk the other side next time and we’ll be able to see The Jolly Sailor.
The older girls enjoyed listening to music (only in one ear) on a shared phone while walking across the bridge. I was the same at their age- couldn’t go anywhere without my Sony Walkman!
Learning on the Cleddau Bridge
Izzy enjoyed learning about how long the Cleddau Bridge is- 820m and doubled this to work out how far we’d walked going across and back- 1640m. She then kept doubling to work out how many metres if we walked back and for again and again etc. She loves doubling at the moment, so as we walked back we played “the doubling game”, pick a number to start from and double it, then the next player doubles that and keeps on going until a player makes a mistake, passes or times out. Other days we do this but with going as high as we can into the times tables.
As we walked back we saw the ferry leave. We did think we might have caught a glance of it from the Rath or Gelliswick, but we didn’t get back in time- the ferry beat us!
As we came to the end of the bridge we appreciated how quiet it went with no traffic and wind in our ears- the lorries can be quite alarming as they pass. We came to the viewing point to enjoy the view before going home. We wished we’d bought a flask of tea. I’m no longer prepared for days out- it all feels so new to us still! Of course, I don’t want to drink too much in case we need the toilet and we can’t go indoors to one yet!
The kids did want to go to the cannon as they usually do, but there were too many people around there so we’ll do that another quieter day. It’s not easy, this people avoiding business, is it? It’s so nice to get out and about again though!
The Cleddau Bridge
My mum, and many locals of a certain age, remember the ferry that used to take passengers from Neyland to Pembroke Docks from the 1950s to 70s. The towns are only 1.6 km apart across the waterway but 28 miles (45 km) to travel by road (which still happens when the bridge is closed).
In the 1960s, a decision was taken to replace the ferry service: two bridges would be built, one crossing the Cleddau and a smaller bridge to the north of Neyland crossing Westfield Pill.
Collapse of the Cleddau Bridge
The project was expected to be completed by March 1971 but on the 2nd June 1970, a 230 feet (70 m) cantilever being used to put one of the 150-tonne sections into position collapsed on the south side of the estuary. Tragically, four workers died and five were injured. Construction was halted until October 1972.
An inquiry concluded that the cause of the collapse was the inadequacy of the design of a pier support diaphragm. As a result of this new rules were developed for bridge design. These rules laid the groundwork for a new British Standard covering box girder bridge design. Eventually, the bridge was completed. The final cost of construction was £11.83 million and the bridge was opened to traffic on 20 March 1975, and the ferry service ceased (I actually think boat or ferry crossing here would make a great tourist attraction).
The Cleddau Bridge was a toll bridge and vehicles were charged every day except on Christmas Day.
Stories About the Cleddau Bridge
Like all locals, I have some stories about the toll bridge. As a teenager, I worked nights in Tenby, once night a coworker was giving me a lift home and we pulled up to the toll booth and the toll collector was fast asleep. We were in hysterics. We didn’t want to just drive past in case we got into trouble for not paying so we shouted “Excuse me! Excuse me!” and woke the poor fella up with a shock, bless him. Later on, barriers were put into place to prevent less honest drivers from just driving through.
One day I had to take my car to the garage because the driver’s side window wasn’t opening, so that was fun having to open the door and get out of the car to pay!
On another occasion, as I was about to pay the toll collector, a police car with lights and sirens came behind me and the collector shouted “Just go, pay later!” and urged me to move on and pull over to let the police car pass. I went to Tesco, did my shopping and on my way back attempted to pay the toll collector (a different person on duty now) double. The collector didn’t quite get the gist of my story as I shouted hastily through the open window but took the double payment, thanked me and urged me on.
As I pulled away, the car behind flashed to me, honked a few times and lastly, the driver shouted, “Thanks, Love!” as the collector must have told him that I’d paid for his ticket too! That always made me smile thinking of that passenger wondering why I’d paid for him. Sadly, it wasn’t an intentional “act of kindness” on my part, but at least he got across the bridge for free as a result of my actions.
A Toll Free Bridge
Since 28 March 2019, the bridge has been toll-free. On Facebook, I tried to make a joke that this meant every day would be like “Christmas Day” because as I said above, that was the only day it used to be free. Unfortunately, people took this to mean I was happy about the tolls ending and people losing jobs etc, which wasn’t the case at all (memo to self: never attempt to make a joke on Facebook! 😉 ). It was sad to see people lose jobs and it was the end of an era. It still feels strange going across without paying and I do miss the friendly greetings from the staff there, but it has of course made getting across the bridge cheaper and also surprisingly quicker.
Have you walked across the Cleddau Bridge?