Saturday, 19 September 2009

Walking on Water

This ferrous vision of loveliness is Clevedon Pier, advancing nimbly into the silvery waters of the Bristol Channel. It’s a splendidly anachronistic structure that has survived into the present thanks to the efforts of dedicated preservationists over several decades. Commercial activity is confined to a compact souvenir shop through which visitors must enter the pier and a diminutive café on the upper level of the pagoda that operates in peak-season. The rest is pure architectural and engineering escapism. Like transporter bridges, piers can insinuate themselves into our affections by the simple business of elevating us into a place from where we can look down without fear on the chill and hostile waters below. The boardwalk on Clevedon Pier offers clear and frequent glimpses of the turbulence beneath our feet. The pagoda at the pier-head is a delight, resembling the kind of Victorian ornamental fantasy that seems to haunt the collective imagination of the Japanese animation fraternity. In the hands of these artists the pier would be instantly extended into the upper atmosphere in a rising sequence of baroque swirls, there to engage in mortal combat with a platinum plated super-sized puffer fish. Despite the engineering excellence, a pier is no match for the power of the sea on a long-term basis. Piers also seem suspiciously susceptible to fire damage. So visit and explore while you can – it won’t be here for ever.

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