For those unfamiliar with the term "urban exploration", it refers to the practice of treating the urban environment as if it were a wilderness, full of spectacular and interesting things which lie undiscovered, or at least not yet experienced, many of them hazardous and difficult to access. It often involves going places that are expressly off-limits to the public: sewer tunnels, derelict industrial sites, catacombs, and the normally inaccessible parts of occupied buildings.
The Happy Pontist has in the past indulged in the activity, although only in a very minor way. My work has also often given me access to places that would clearly interest urban explorers - underground rivers, derelict structures, and, of course, numerous bridges.
Serious urban explorers post details of their exploits online (anonymously, of course), and they are often highly skilled photographers, as can be seen from a few examples I've located which relate to bridges. I'm not sure why all these are in the north of England and Wales, these are just what I've found from some quick searches of the online urban exploration forums.
I'm not reproducing any of the photos here, as I suspect none of the participants are looking for wider publicity, but it really is worth visiting the websites for some spectacular and unusual views.
Lowry Footbridge, Salford
This is a lifting pedestrian bridge which I've reported on previously. This report gives a good impression of the view from the top, but this one combines stunning photography with images of people clearly totally bereft of fear.
Warrington Transporter Bridge
One of only three transporter bridges in the UK, the Warrington structure is the only one no longer in use, and has become sufficiently derelict to make it onto English Heritage's "buildings at risk" register. Although no longer officially in use, it's good to see it has had at least one daytime visitor, and one at night. The reporters are commendably concerned to warn others about the perilous state of the rotten wooden walkways. It's a real shame the bridge no longer has any obvious use which might justify investing in refurbishment.
Britannia Bridge, Anglesey
The present Britannia Bridge, a 1970s reconstruction following fire damage to Stephenson's original bridge, is one of the less "precarious" bridges here. Indeed the arches seem well equipped with maintenance walkways, making the photographs of an unauthorised site visit noticeably less terrifying than some of the others.
Tees Transporter Bridge, Middlesbrough
Another transporter bridge, again offering high and dramatic viewpoints. The different perspective from what the public sees restores a sense of wonder to this bridge.
Wearmouth Bridge, Sunderland
These pictures are almost too terrifying to look at, but also quite stunning. Unlike the other bridges above, the steel arch Wearmouth Bridge doesn't have dedicated maintenance ladders and walkways. I've been up one or two vertigo-inducing structures in my time, and on occasion been on parts of a bridge which don't feel particularly safe, but nothing like this. The intrepid correspondent walked up the top surface of the arches, which are unprotected by any form of railings or guide cable (or indeed any measures to deter the foolhardy).