As we walked back towards the docks in Bristol after going up to see the Clifton Suspension bridge, we crossed over to the other side of the locks that are at the end of the harbor. There we came across another artifact of the industrial history of the city which I knew nothing of previously. Since it is Bristol, no great shock that it was something that Brunel created.
This was an old swing bridge that would span the locks. Apparently, it was in use for many years before being withdrawn when a modern bridge was built to supersede it in 1968. It was close to being scrapped at that point but thankfully wasn’t. Now it is sitting on the side of the lock while waiting to undergo restoration. It certainly needs some work at this point, and it is strange to think that it was the main route across the locks for decades.
There are many aircraft that the British aircraft industry produced in the middle to late 20th century that did not end up being terribly successful. There was the occasional commercial product in there but a lot that did not have large production numbers, even by the standards of the day. It was not unusual for the Royal Air Force to end up operating a few of these as the government of the day found a way to prop up an ailing manufacturer. One type like this was the Bristol Britannia.
A turboprop airliner, it was too large given that jets had taken over the market by the time it was coming into service. The Royal Air Force was the “willing” recipient of some of these airframes and, for transporting troops that didn’t have a choice in the matter, they were probably just fine. One of these airframes, Regulus, is not preserved at Cotswold Airport at Kemble in Gloucestershire. I didn’t know it was there until I was driving around the airport killing some time. It looks to be in great condition. I don’t know how well it is handling the corrosion risk that damp UK airfields offer but I hope it lasts a long time. There are a few of these around but not many.
As you walk along the banks of the Avon heading towards the gorge, you are outside the locks that keep the water level up in the docks and in the tidal area. This used to be a popular location for boat to unload passengers and there are a number a jetties that have been built there. However, the traffic for these locations dried up a long time ago and they have fallen into disrepair over the years. The larger timber members are more resilient so you end up with these skeletal structures that are gradually collapsing. I wonder how many more years they shall survive or whether they will be deemed too dangerous and taken down before they can collapse.
When you look around harbors, you will often come across some unusual boats that have found a second life. Just the other day, I saw a trimaran that had been modified with a new cabin which looked very out of keeping with the rest of the hull! Walking around the docks in Bristol, I was surprised to see a variety of boats that had clearly started life somewhere different.
One of them bore all the hallmarks of an Amsterdam tour boat. I don’t know whether the boats there still look like this, but they certainly did in years gone by. Plenty of window space for the tourists to get a good look at the city as they went along the canals. Another one fits into the category of what I remember things looking like but no idea whether they still do! That was an ex-Hoseasons boat from the Norfolk Broads. I remember having a boat just like this one for a vacation there when I was a teenager.
The type of boat that regularly finds a second life is a lifeboat. The ex-RNLI boats are popular, presumably because they are built very tough so will provide years of service and it probably doesn’t hurt that they are seaworthy in the worst of conditions. Modifying them to live on might change some of their characteristics but I suspect they are still better than average. There were a couple of these in the docks too. Keep your eyes peeled when walking amongst boats and see if you can spot anything unusual. When I was a small boy, Bembridge Harbour had a houseboat that was a converted Motor Torpedo Boat from the Second World War!
Banksy is an artist with international recognition, but it all started in Bristol and there are a few of his works around the center of the city. I have always liked his work and so was quite interested to see an original. Down in the harbour is his version of Girl With the Pearl Earring – with a fire alarm box being the earring. It is on the side of a building and there is a fence restricting access so it is reasonably well protected. The fence is a small obstacle to getting a photo of it but not a huge one. Photographing an artwork seems a little redundant!
The area of Bristol known as Clifton sits on the top of the hill overlooking the Avon. To get from the water to Clifton is quite a climb. These days you would drive up there but, in the days, when vessels would be bringing passengers in by boat along the river, an alternative was required. The Clifton Rocks Railway was the solution. This was a funicular railway that ran in a tunnel from alongside the river up to near the suspension bridge.
Built in the 1890s, it operated until the 1930s when the decline in passenger numbers meant it was no longer viable. The tunnels were used as office space during the Second World War with the BBC being one of the tenants and they continued to use the space into the 1960s. There is now an effort to restore aspects of the tunnels although the railway will never operate again given the usage the tunnels have had since service ended. The station at the bottom is still visible but is now alongside a busy roadway so might easily be missed as you drive past.
As we were walking through Brandon Park, we saw this gull on the grass by the path. I don’t know for sure what it was up to, but I wondered whether its steps were designed to sound like rain falling to worms beneath the surface to encourage them to come up and then get eaten. Maybe it is something else but, whatever it is, it was pretty funny to watch. Needless to say, I thought it was worth getting some video.
I posted about Cabot Tower in a previous post about our Bristol visit. When there is a high point to try, it is likely I will head up there. Nancy is less enthusiastic about this sort of thing than me so I left her below and headed up. There is a narrow stone spiral staircase to get to the upper levels and I was rather glad that it wasn’t a busy day because the stairs would not be ideal to pass on. It would work but it was better to not have to!
The view from the top was great. You are already high when up on the hill but the extra 30m gives you a great view of the city in all directions. You can see the various buildings within the city center, you have a great view over the harbour area, and you can see the stadium further out as well as the Ashton estate. The stadium is Ashton Gate which is the home of Bristol City football club but from my perspective is more importantly the home ground for Bristol Bears rugby team. Since Nancy was waiting below, I didn’t hang around too long up the tower but I did take in the views. Shame it wasn’t a slightly nicer day but at least we got down and back to the car before the rain started.
I previously posted some shots of Brandon Park in Bristol. At the top of the hill in the park is Cabot Tower. Cabot was an explorer of Italian heritage and is tied to the exploration of Canada. His voyage set forth from Bristol – hence the association. It is on the high point of the park, but it adds some height to the views of the surrounding city. That will be the subject of another post. For now, I shall focus on the views of the tower itself.
The grounds surrounding the tower are ornamental and provide a nice setting for the tower. It is a cool stone structure and provides a focal point for the park. It is about 30m tall, which gives you an enhanced vantage point to view the surroundings. It was recently restored after having suffered some degradation and hopefully will be in good shape for a while before requiring any further work.
Our day in Bristol had a rough plan but not a terribly fixed itinerary. I did want to check out Brandon Park since it appeared to have a nice view over the rest of the city. That proved to be the case but that was because of the sizable hill climb involved in getting there. At the end of our walk, this was a bit of an effort but it was worth it. The park has a commanding position above the harbor and it provided a relaxing spot in the middle of the city (if you ignore the exertion to get there).
It has Cabot Tower at the top but that will have its own post. In the surrounding areas, there are some gardens laid out with water features which caught me quite by surprise. I wasn’t expecting something so structured up at the top of the hill and was very taken with how nice it was. It was not the best of weather when we were there but I imagine on a sunny afternoon, the place would be heaving with people taking it easy.