So we left the charming East Yorkshire town of Beverley and made our way back south for the return journey to Lincolnshire on the opposite side of the Humber but before crossing the bridge we called in at the visitor centre on the north side.
At a little over 2,220 metres long the Humber Suspension Bridge is the seventh largest of its type in the World. This statistic used to be even more impressive because when it was first opened in 1981 it was the longest single-span suspension bridge in the World for the next sixteen years and the distance by road between Hull and Grimsby was reduced by nearly fifty miles as a consequence of the construction.
The longest single span suspension bridge is currently the Akashi Kaikyō Bridge in Japan.
A sad fact about the bridge is that it is a favourite jumping place for people committing or attempting suicide. More than two hundred incidents of people jumping or falling from the bridge have taken place since it was opened and only five have survived so it is a fairly reliable way of doing yourself in! And it is surprisingly easy. There is a footpath across the bridge, there is no barrier, the railings are no more than a metre high and there is no net to catch jumpers*.
As a result, plans were announced in December 2009 to construct a suicide barrier along the walkways of the bridge but this was never implemented with design constraints being cited as the reason but it probably had something to do with cost and now there is talk of installing a Samaritan’s Hot line on the bridge instead.
In 2010 a Samaritan’s Counsellor committed suicide by jumping off the bridge.
There is a visitor centre at the bridge but it is in urgent need of a bit of updating. It is built in the Communist Brutalist style, aggressive and concrete but there are big plans and The Humber Bridge Board has submitted a planning notice to East Riding Council outlining details of the proposed new visitor attraction for the iconic landmark.
It includes a glass elevator and viewing platform designed to take tourists to the top of the bridge’s north tower, as well as a new visitor centre and hotel in the viewing area car parks. Whether it will come to anything we will have to wait and see.
There was a pleasant walk from the car park down steep steps made muddy and slippery following a few days of rain so we carefully followed the well worn track down to the foreshore where we could fully appreciate the majesty of the bridge spanning the river. Actually, the Humber isn’t really a river at all because for its entire length of only forty miles or so after it originates at the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Trent it is technically an estuary (I only mention this in case someone challenges me on this important point of detail).
It may be one of the shortest rivers in England but it is also one of the most important as it deals with natural drainage from everything on the east side of the Pennines, the North Midlands and the Yorkshire Moors. That is a lot of water and the reason why if you jump off the bridge then you are going to die!
Eventually we left the visitor area and made for the toll booths and crossed the river for the second time and then made our way back to Grimsby past the port of Immingham to the north which handles the largest quantity of goods by weight in the UK and by day is an untidy, grimy place dominated by ugly petro-chemical works and soulless grey industrial buildings but by night is transformed into a glittering Manhattan skyline of tall buildings and bright lights and occasional dancing plumes of flames burning off excess gases which actually makes it all look rather attractive.
*According to Wikipedia the three biggest suicide black spots in the World are:
- Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge, Nanjing, China
- Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California
- Prince Edward Viaduct, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The three most popular suicide spots in England are the two hundred and fifty miles of London Underground, the one hundred and sixty metre high cliffs at Beachy Head in Sussex and the Humber Bridge.