Sunday, July 31, 2016

Getting lost in Bristol

My house sit in Bristol for three weeks in August is a tiny flat in a northern suburb about 4.5 miles from the city centre (except Bristol doesn't really have a centre as such - it lacks focus, is drowning in commercial development that doesn't seem to have any coherence). I have a talking cat to care for. She wakes me at sparrow fart to go outside, tells me when it's mealtime and likes to just say hello every now and again. Really, she clearly says "hello".

I arrived in the rain which seemed appropriate for this mid-war dreary suburban sprawl with strip development comprising off-licenses, indian take-aways, sex shops and the like.

The first day I rode into the city, had coffee in the Bristol University precinct, visited the Museum cafe but not the Museum (typical) and spent the afternoon having coffee in Waterstones and reading books from the travel section.
Bristol has a big initiative to be a Green Capital with the aim of reducing carbon emissions.
This is the Cathedral on Green Square.

It is ironic in a way that this green city is built on nine hills. Cycling here will certainly keep me fit. Bristol was the European Green Capital in 2015, an award won for cross-sector efforts to make Bristol a healthier, happier city. They project and image of a circular economy based in recycling and waste prevention. Instead of putting my food scraps into the tiny yard behind the flat, they go into a food collection bin that council empties once a week.

So I picked up all these maps showing the cycle routes and studied them carefully. Next day was Saturday so I set off to see one of the major landmarks, the Clifton Suspension Bridge (lured by promises of pleasant cafes in the oh-so-genteel Clifton Village). It didn't take long to get side-tracked - how could I resist a bakery with this name with a table outside in the sun?

From then on it went seriously wrong. Yes I picked up the now-familiar National Cycle Route 4 which was meant to take me towards Clifton. Except I happily headed off going the other way, didn't I.

Call it a day of exploration. Blaise Castle Estate was my first discovery. The Castle itself is a folly and anyway there was some children's fair happening. But then there was a road sign saying Blaise Hamlet. Whip out the phone, dear google, what is it? What a treasure. Nine rustic cottages around a small village green with a pump.

Blaise Hamlet was given to the National Trust in 1943. The cottages, which are still lived in, have been modernised inside, but keeping the tall chimneys, thatches and seats. They were designed by John Nash (who also did Buckingham Palace and Brighton Pavilion) in the 1790's, his commission being to provide housing for the servants of Blaise Estate when they retired. If only there were more people like the Quaker owner of Blaise who had these houses built.

Then I came across another vast historic estate, Kings Weston. It used to be a royal manor in medieval times. The mansion is mostly used for weddings now and surprise - has a lovely cafe with a terrace looking out over the Severn. The wind turbines being one of the best features of the view - anyway, the pea and spinach soup was really good and it was a good spot to sit a while with the Guardian. In the sun!

Another cycle path goes 9 miles along the River Avon into the city centre. Passing under Clifton Bridge. Yay. The tide was out so the river didn't look so great, but it has a 13 metre tidal fall so would be quite different at high tide.

Getting to the bridge was a really good ride, but then I had to push the bike a long way up to the park at the top of the bridge, which is the site of an Iron Age settlement, 2000 years ago.

I was going to say the bridge was designed by Brunel, but it turns out that his original design didn't actually get built at all because of the Bristol Riots.

In 1794 the populace of Bristol were said to be "apt to collect in mobs on the slightest occasions; but have been seldom so spirited as in the late transactions on Bristol-bridge." The Bristol Bridge Riot of 30 September 1793 began as a protest at renewal of an act levying tolls on Bristol Bridge, which included the proposal to demolish several houses near the bridge in order to create a new access road, and controversy about the date for removal of gates. 11 people were killed and 45 injured, making it one of the worst massacres of the 18th century in England.  (from wikipedia)

Apparently the first bungee jump was off this bridge. Did that have anything to do with A J Hackett?

I was going to ride home across The Downs, but meandered down a quiet residential street called College Road. So here's Clifton College. Isn't that where Harry Potter went to school? I rode through a wedding party, which seemed to include about 20 bridesmaids in royal blue gowns.

Yep, I did make it home, past this lovely little cottage sitting splendidly among the boring stucco row houses along Henleaze Road. It's The Old Lodge, and it is the only privately-owned thatched house in Bristol. How about that for a discovery? It has spy windows so the Coach House man could keep an eye on passing coaches while he was having his lunch.

No comments:

Post a Comment