I face my ever-growing fear of heights by climbing the Transporter Bridge in Newport, which stands at 54 metres above the River Usk.
For me, lockdown has been a time to explore the local area, so back in July we went up the Transporter Bridge in Newport. Here I share my experience of climbing up this monster structure as someone who is quite scared of heights!
"Wait, what happened to the dance?" Yeah, I hear you! For those of you who have been visiting footSTEPS specifically for the short dance films we produce, think of this post as the interval in a full-length show. It's an opportunity for you to grab the beverage of your choice and have a think about things other than the main event. I will offer posts like these from time to time, taking the opportunity to post content which focuses on travel, cultural tourism and occasionally a bit of behind-the-scenes look at my other work in the performing arts industry. Enjoy!
The Transporter Bridge
The Newport Transporter Bridge opened in 1906 and is one of only six (still operational) transporter bridges in the world. Wondering what a transporter bridge is? (I did too!) Basically, it's a structure that allows a sort-of ferry to cross from one side of the river to the other. This particular bridge supports a gondola that takes foot passengers and vehicles from one side of the River Usk to the other.
Transporter bridges were popular at busy ports back in the day, but these days, the Newport Transporter Bridge is more of a tourist attraction. It is kindly supported by the "Friends of Newport Transporter Bridge", a charity which aims to raise funds to promote and preserve the bridge, and it is a Grade I listed structure run by Newport City Council. We had been meaning to climb it for a couple of years, but it was the COVID-19 pandemic that somehow seemed to finally inspired us to do so as we looked to explore our local area during the easing of the lockdown in Wales.
In addition to being 54 metres high, the transporter bridge has 270 steps to climb up - and let me tell you, that's a long way when you've developed an issue with heights!
My fear of heights hasn't always been there. In fact, it's only really developed as I've got older - the fear began in my later twenties and I honestly think it's just getting worse! It's a particular kind of height which frightens me - heights that go straight up. Basically, if a ladder goes up really high, but it's leaning on an angle against a wall, I tend to be alright. However, if the ladder in question is shorter but completely vertical - that's when I start to panic.
Although climbing up the Newport Transporter Bridge doesn't involve any ladders, it still set me off. Let's be clear - stairs don't usually do this to me, but the thing about most of the stairs and pathways on the bridge is that you can see straight through them to the ground below. They're basically grills of metal; of course, they're perfectly safe to walk on, but you can see just how high up you are, and that was what scared me.
Whilst this post is not about dancing (I certainly wasn't going to try and create a dance film up there!) you could say that it is about my body moving in space - because I definitely had a bodily response to this experience. Heading up the stairs on one side of the bridge, it wasn't long before my palms became sweaty and I noticed my breathing change. But I took it slowly, and my partner (who is completely fearless) was really supportive all the way up.
I felt a huge sense of achievement when I got to the top, but then there was the issue of crossing the bridge, this time with the world below me even more visible through the grilled metal floor. I just kept looking straight ahead of me, instead of looking down, and I was so proud of myself when I reached the other side.
I thought that the bridge might sway in the wind, but it doesn't - it's completely rock solid, which really helps!
A family followed just behind us on our way across the bridge. When the mum got to the other side she celebrated, before loudly proclaiming "Right! I'm never doing that again!" I'm with you love, I'm with you! Needless to say, we hitched a ride on the gondola back to the other side!
Despite my fears, I think it's a really great thing to do, walking across a transporter bridge. If you're looking to experience a historic structure, and to conquer your fear of heights, then a trip to Newport might be in order.
Looking for more things to do in South Wales? The following posts might be for you: