Spring 2020 saw us locked down in beautiful north Devon (One Hundred Days in Devon). Our return in Autumn 2020 was to house sit for our lock down saviours, Rose and Jim, to look after their Alfie.
Alfie, apart from being an intelligent stick loving part of the family, could run, run and run some more. He had completed more than one run up and down Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales and countless miles for triathlon training with Jim. Sadly back in September after short illness Rose and Jim had to say goodbye to him. So for them difficult because after only relatively short encounters with him, he stole our hearts with his huge personality and loyalty.
To cut a long story short we went from looking after two houses, two dogs and an Airbnb lodge to just the houses and the lodge but at least we still felt useful. Throw in a bit of chutney production, crimble crumble making and long walks and it was a lovely homely few days.
When our time back in Devon had been arranged we made the decision to tack on a few days in a city we have always wanted to visit, Bristol. Or Brizzle to Bristolians. Would 48 hours be enough? Would there be drizzle? Would one post be enough? No and No are the truthful answers. I can’t do anything about extending the hours we spent there but I have split the content into a City and a more river based day. They aren’t strictly in the order we saw them but go with it.
Getting our Bearings
I couldn’t resist using this term which I use boringly frequently (poor Jonno!). I have this need to know where I am both geographically and in relation to other things in the vicinity. The term stems from the bearings on a compass although I haven’t quite yet descended to the need to carry one just yet.
After a socially distanced, sanitised (ummm tasty) breakfast we headed towards the city centre. We crossed over the River Frome to head for the Castle ruins in Castle Park.
Before we crossed the really cool wavy bridge at Finzel’s Reach, we passed some repurposed warehouses, one of which was a large brewery called the Left Handed Giant. Serving their own brew and stone-fire pizza’s it looked a great place to spend an evening.
There is not much to be seen of the Norman Castle but St Peter’s Church makes it a scenic park.
With a few city sights pencilled in, we headed towards St Nicholas Market. Our short stroll from Castle Park towards the market took us past a memorial to Merchant Navy ships lost from their home port of Bristol. With my Dad having been a merchant seaman, I always need to stop and have a read. I had never realised that the port of Bristol is roughly 10 km from the mouth of the River Avon and the Bristol Channel. That is a fair way inland for a large port and very dependent on the tides, during pre lock days, for shipping to get through the Avon Gorge. See it’s all to do with “getting my bearings” shipmates!!
We entered St Nicholas Market through the Corn Exchange Building which was adorned with dinosaur tails for some reason. They were quite impressive and children would love it but we were looking out for the unusual old market buildings clock. It is unusual in the sense that it has two minute hands just over 10 minutes part. This is to show both Greenwich Mean Time and Bristol local time. Intriguing! Bristol has to thank the railway for this dilemma.
Trains had to work to a standardised time so Greenwich Mean Time was adopted but many towns wanted to hang onto their own history. So Bristol only officially fully adopted the standard time in 1852, 5 years after it was decided, so for those 5 years when it was 1pm in Bristol it was 1.10pm by the railway clock.
This Church of England cathedral sitting on the surrounding Cathedral Green was originally St Augustine’s Abbey which fell foul of the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII so in 1542 it became to the newly created Bishop of Bristol. We managed a very quick walk around before it closed in preparation for Evensong. I did manage to read a couple of information boards, one of which said that it is the first place that women were ordained as Church of England priests. Go Bristol for equality!
Heading back down towards the waterfront, we stumbled across Millennium Square. This large area is home to a BBC Big Screen which is probably fired up for big events and used as some sort of fanzone. There was a silver sphere which I think is a mini planetarium but this was closed – probably because of it’s size, but it gave us the chance to take a few silly photos.
Wandering around the square there were statues of a few famous people with links to Bristol. Cary Grant was born before leaving our shores for Hollywood stardom and one of Jonno’s favourites William Tyndale.
Tyndale produced the first translation of the Bible from the Greek and Hebrew texts and formed the basis for the later, most commonly used Bible, the King James Bible. Tyndale was banned from working in England then condemned as a heretic, strangled then burnt at the stake in Belgium. Not sure of why his statue is here, although he was born not far away in Gloucestershire but it was another photo opportunity.
I learnt a lot about this area of Bristol through watching the series “A House Through Time” on BBC2 (House through Time). I missed the first two series about a house in Liverpool then one in Newcastle-upon-Tyne but was fascinated by the one on 10 Guinea Street, Bristol. The documentary followed the lives of the owners, servants and how they lived. I got totally hooked.
The amount of research must have been phenomenal but the stories of each household member felt so personal. Unsavoury beginnings having been built by a sea captain with wealth from the slave trade through to the family currently living there who feel they have the role of custodians, it made we want to see it person as we were so close. You will see the For Sale sign so if you fancy an 18th century city centre pad steeped in history – you could do worse. Although I wouldn’t want the heating or maintenance bill.
Brandon Hill & onward to Clifton
Our final part of the day was a walk up onto Brandon Hill to see the Cabot Tower. It is quite a landmark and was built to commemorate the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s voyage from Bristol. More on that in the next post…….
It was at this point that he himself needed to consult his phone for some directions to see the Georgian townhouses on Victoria Square and Clifton.
Clifton Village is full of lots of boutiques, bars and restaurants. It seemed a very affluent area but seemingly well loved by affluent students too. The arcade tucked away on Boyce’s Avenue was a real treasure.
I dread to think to think how many steps we took around the city but it was time to unlace the walking shoes, eat and sleep as there was still so much we had planned for Day 2. Bridges, Brunel and Banksy among them, Bristol still had so much to offer and we couldn’t get enough.
05/10 – 18/10/2020