And so, after years of planning and fundraising, a £200m plan to build a bridge covered with trees over the River Thames has been abandoned. It was to be a unique place, a stunning green space in the heart of urban London. The vision was a fine one: an aspiration to merge technology and ecology across an iconic stretch of water in a world-renowned city for tourists and Londoners alike. It was a statement of a national future with the progress and the environment at its heart. Beyond the inevitable finger pointing and short-lived political angst, my mind was drawn to the wider implication; that of the impact that bridges have had and continue to have in our world. They are a physical presence for sure, but also one rich in analogy and steeped in tradition and heritage. It also provided a mandate to re-watch “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (remember the rope bridge scene?) with my kids…
Without wanting to turn this into a Geography lesson, nor confessing to being a bridge spotter, bridges are integral to life; they draw people and places closer together and help communities combine. They are a gateway to opportunity and a reassuring comfort about the fast-moving waters below. The iconic nature of Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge, The Rialto Bridge, Ironbridge, the Firth of Forth Bridge (and no, it no longer needs painting constantly thanks to advancements in Dulux technology…) are etched into a place’s psyche and being. The likes of Monet, Canaletto, Rembrandt, Van Gogh all drew inspiration from their work with this form (“Waterloo Bridge, Sunlight in the Fog” is my personal favourite).
For those of you who enjoy the dulcet and reassuring tones of the Shipping Forecast, ‘Tyne, Forth, Dogger’ takes you to a part of the North Sea that is arguably Britain’s most important bridge (a land bridge to be precise). Dogger Bank, which sits just below sea level some 100 km off the coast of Newcastle is not only a key UK fishing ground but is also awash with evidence of human settlements, ancient technologies and remains of civilisations, for this ridge sat above the waves as part of the land bridge to mainland Europe some 5000 years ago, before a catastrophic rising of sea levels inundated life here. Dogger Bank and Doggerland was the way in and out for woolly mammoths, sabre-tooth tigers and all other sub-arctic species. Humans naturally followed too before being cut off from their mainland cousins years later. It was the first Brexit… In fact, such land bridges allowed the spread of human population cross the planet before sea levels rose by over 100m worldwide.
But what of it? As a new term starts, the crossing of personal bridges into LWC begins (whether for the first time or simply moving into the year ahead). The journey across these bridges brings forth differing emotions for each individual and family but the arrival is one, which (like the first humans to enter what would become modern-day Britain,) was filled with courage, curiosity and undoubted trepidation (fortunately, there are less sabre-tooth tigers around these days…). And unlike the Garden Bridge, our vision for LWC in the years ahead is fortunate enough to have clear backing and funding to support the aspirations of all our pupils here.