The 5ft Bridge

February 27, 2011

You can see quite clearly that this is a low bridge. But in case you’re unable to gauge this, there’s a big triangle sign that warns you:


 Overhead the trains rumble from Clapton to Chingford. There’s a works entrance to the train line next to the bridge. Often you hear male voices above you, shouting, probably about trains or electricity or football. I can never make it out. A sign on the gate says “BEWARE OF TRAINS.” Pretty obvious advice for train maintenance workers.

Regular marsh users tend to develop a fixed style of locomotion beneath the 5ft bridge. I tilt my head to the left as I go under the first section. There’s a gap in the middle between the two train lines. Here I switch the angle and tilt to the right.  I feel it gives my neck a nice stretch both ways.

This seems a strange thing to do, so let me explain.

A few years ago I developed repetitive strain injury. Too much time hunched at my desk writing. I took up Pilates to repair my posture. If you’ve not tried it before, Pilates is a sweatless form of exercise. You like on your back the lift your legs up and down slowly. You turn your head from side to side. You clench a buttock. Then unclench it. Not much else happens for 90 minutes, but eventually you end up with a leaner, meaner physique and less pain.

On the marsh I’ve developed my own form of action pilates. When I walk up a hill, I pull in my stomach and use the climb to stretch my hamstrings. When bending down to pick up one of Hendrix’s shits, I try and roll down through my spine, stretching my back. And when I see a 5ft Bridge, I pull down my shoulders and crank my head to one side.

It helps that I am 5ft 6. Any taller and I’d have to fold my head at right angles. Taller folk either go for The Stoop (top of the body bent towards the floor, face down) or The Groucho (walking with legs and body bent, face forward).

Once I saw a man who approached the bridge like a limbo dancer: back arched, face turned upwards, inches from the ceiling. When he came upright and saw me staring, there was  no embarrassment on his face. No regrets. It was as if he’d picked the most obvious way to come through.

5 Responses to The 5ft Bridge

  1. si on April 8, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    those are the trains to Stansted / Tottenham Hale / Cambridge not Chingford…. just fyi!

    • admin on April 8, 2011 at 3:04 pm

      Aha, you spotted my deliberate mistake. (He coughs, grappling for the gun in his drawer, holding back the tears).

      Thanks for this. I always assumed they were the Chingford trains for some reason. Maybe I should attempt to ride one of these steel horses instead of ambling about in the marsh below.

      • si on April 8, 2011 at 3:19 pm

        Wow – impressive speed of correction! I’m liucky to have to cross the marshes/parks twice a day by bike to and from work – will keep an eye out for you and Hendrix. Good blog/site by the way. I agree the marshes (etc) are a fascinating place.

        • admin on April 8, 2011 at 3:30 pm

          Cheers for the comments. Most appreciated.

  2. admin on July 15, 2011 at 8:59 am

    No problem at all – please go ahead!

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