Hearing somebody talking on the radio recently about the ancient practice of Swan Upping, I recalled Stanley Spencer's painting of the same name and this blue cast-iron bridge over the Thames at Cookham. It features very strongly in the background. Spencer's viewpoint was almost exactly the one I had taken to photograph the rest of the bridge one cold January afternoon, waiting for at least a single ray of wintry sunlight to coincide with one of the very occasional holes in the cloud cover. The water lapped around my feet on the towpath, my only companion a dog barking away behind a delapidated fence. I fretted for about half-an-hour, thinking that when the light did come my luck would mean that a cabin cruiser would churn by with somebody waving either a gin and tonic or two fingers at me.
The 1867 bridge was cast by Pease Hutchinson in the Skerne Iron Works in Darlington, which seems an extraordinarily long way away. With all the features of a seaside pier, it was once a toll bridge between Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, with the red pepperbox toll house on the Bucks embankment.