To kick off our live brief based around the River Usk, we second years went on a field trip on October 24th. This trip included several stops in and around Newport, and we began by meeting on Caerleon campus before heading off in our cosy minivan. It proved to be a fun and inspiring trip, despite the typical Welsh weather that we had for most of the day.
We began with a short drive and a brief stop in Goldcliff along the Wales Coastal Path where the Usk flows into the Severn Estuary, before returning to Newport to visit the Transporter Bridge. The Bridge is a remarkable landmark and arguably the most recognised symbol of Newport. It was built in 1906 and is one of the few remaining transporter bridges in use in the world.
Despite being closed over the winter months, the Bridge was opened especially for us. We had an informative talk about the history and construction of the Bridge, along with an explanation of how it works, and a few of us even had the opportunity to drive the gondola across the river.
Unfortunately, due to the inclement weather, we weren’t able to climb up the bridge, so that’s 73.6m of stair climbing we’ll have to do another day! We did, however, cross the bridge on the gondola before getting back into the minivan to continue our day.
Our next stop was the West Usk Lighthouse – an eccentric and picturesque bed and breakfast (with a Tardis on the roof!) that sits south of Newport at the mouth of the Usk. After a wander around the grounds, we had a quick group photo before it was time to break for lunch.
Once we had eaten and were feeling re-energised, we visited the facility that is currently restoring the Newport Medieval Ship – a fifteen century ship that was discovered when Newport’s Riverfront Theatre was being constructed in 2002. Since then, archeologists have been studying and preserving the ship parts with the aim to reassemble it and put it on public display in a purpose built building. We were given a fascinating talk by Toby Jones, the archeologist and curator of the Ship, and shown some of the artefacts from the ship. We were also able to see some of the timber of the ship – giving us an idea of how huge this ship was and how much effort goes into restoring and preserving it.
Despite it raining for most of the day so far, the skies had by now cleared and the sun had come out by the time we reached the Fourteen Locks. We took a guided walk along several of the locks, learning about the history and work that has been put into restoring the locks and the canal from our passionate and informative tourguide. The Fourteen Locks has one of the steepest change in water levels in the UK, and for many of us, we’d never even heard of it before our visit. Along with the Transporter Bridge and the Medieval Ship, the Locks gave us another chance to learn about and appreciate Newport’s rich history and heritage.
Finally, to finish off the day, we had a quick drink to refresh us at the St. Julian Inn – a pub that sits right on the River Usk and gives some very very nice views of the surrounding area. The weather had thankfully remained nice, so we could enjoy our drink outside and appreciate the view.
We’d like to thank everyone who made the day possible, and especially to those who took the time out of our day to speak to us about their work. The passion that goes into working on projects such as these was obvious to us all, and hopefully some of that will come across in our own work on this brief.