hidden europe 11

In a class of its own: the puente de Vizcaya

by Nicky Gardner


Europe's industrial quarters are as much part of our continent's heritage as are our great galleries and museums. hidden europe visits a remarkable bridge in the Basque Country.

The unsung quarters of industrial cities often reveal untold wonders. The canalside warehouses that lie amid a maze of railway viaducts just east of the centre of Birmingham in England are gentle reminders of the time when the Grand Union Canal was the link between the Midlands and a distant Empire. Each tattered shell of a long abandoned factory in one of Europe's once prosperous industrial landscapes, be it in Manchester, Liège or Katowice, tells a particular tale of entrepreneurial spirit and innovation - and eventual decline. The silent pithead, the streak of oil on a forgotten canal that catches the evening sun and the empty railway siding are as evocative of Europe's culture as are our continent's great galleries and museums, our pristine piazzas and a hundred perfectly preserved mediaeval houses.

So it is good to see that UNESCO's World Heritage List is expanding to include some fine examples of European industrial heritage. Two new additions to the list are especially welcome. In England, the mining landscape of west Devon and Cornwall has been added, recalling the time when the hills around the Tamar valley produced well over half the world's copper. Nowadays, the remains of old foundries and engine houses dot this lush landscape and it is hard to believe that once the seaports of south Cornwall bristled with the masts of ships taking the precious copper ore to all parts of the globe.

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