21 Nov 2020
A rather more wide-ranging weekend wander with Sarah and Vik, taking in some mock Tudor bits of Bedmo (I should note that I've subsequently been corrected to "Bemmie", but I'm an outsider and have been calling it "Bedmo" for short for decades...), a chunk of Ashton, a path up Rownham Hill called Dead Badger's Bottom(!), The Ashton Court estate, a bit of the UWE campus at Bower Ashton, and some of the Festival Way path.
14 Mar 2021
An enormous walk today, or at least it felt enormous. My feet are sore, anyway. I started off recreating a couple of local historical photos in Hotwells, but then headed for my traditional walk along the towpath in the Avon Gorge to the far extreme of Leigh Woods, up and through the woods to the height of the Suspension Bridge, finally crossing into Clifton Village for a well-deserved vanilla latte.
I say "traditional" because this used to be a very regular route for me, first walking, years and years ago, and later jogging—this route combined with a circuit of the Downs on the other side used to be my way of making sure I was fit to do a half-marathon (I did six of them in total, between 2010 and 2014).
I miss the routine of this walk, even though it's a long way and it used to pretty much wipe me out when I did it—I'd come back home and collapse and do very little for the rest of the day. But perhaps that's what Sundays are for, and I should try to remember that.
Doing this walk regularly was quite a meditative experience. Not so much of that today, but once I got to the further extreme of the towpath, where the roar of the Portway traffic on the other side of the river dwindles and I turned into Leigh Woods to climb ever closer to birdsong and further from rushing cars, I did seem to recapture a little of the feeling of previous walks. (I would say my mind cleared, but I was mentally singing along to Life Without Buildings' The Leanover for most of the wander. There are worse songs to have stuck in one's head, though; it's a great track...)
Anyway. Apparently the walk made me more likely to ramble in words, too. I'll stop now :)
The more I research it, the more I find that Hotwells had far better transport links back in Victorian and Edwardian times than it has today. Along with buses that went to more useful places than the City Centre, there were trams, the funicular up to Clifton, the landing stage for paddle steamer services and two railway stations all within easy walking distance of me.
Today I took a day off work as preparation for doing the bookkeeping for my tax return1, and took a wander along to the site of what would have been my nearest station, Hotwells (or Clifton, as it started out in life), nestled in the shadow of the suspension bridge, the Bristol terminus of the Bristol Port Railway and Pier.
From there I wandered down the Portway, following the original line, until I got to the area around Sneyd Park Junction, where the tunnel from the slightly later Clifton Extension Railway joined up with this originally-isolated BPR line. Then I headed up to Clifton through the "goat gully" at Walcombe Slade, seeing the few above-ground bits of evidence of the tunnel (which is still in regular use) along the way.
It was a lovely day, and a good walk, and it was interesting to daydream of the times when I could have walked a few minutes from my flat down to Dowry Parade, caught a short tram ride to Hotwells Stations, and then headed from there to Avonmouth, perhaps even to board a transatlantic passenger service. The completion of the Clifton Extension Railway that linked the Avonmouth station with Temple Meads made relatively direct transatlantic travel from London via Bristol possible, with passengers travelling up from Paddington to Temple Meads, on to Avonmouth on the Clifton Extension Railway and Port Railway and Pier line, then perhaps catching a Cambpell's paddle steamer—which sometimes acted as tenders for large steamers—to a larger ship that was headed out for Canada, say.
1 I've learned that the best approach is to take two days off and deliberately do something that's not my bookkeeping on the first day, as otherwise I just inevitably end up procrastinating and feeling guilty on the first day no matter what. I have an odd brain, but at least I'm learning strategies for dealing with its strange ways as I get older...
2 Information mostly gleaned from Colin Maggs' The Bristol Port Railway & Pier and the Clifton Extension Railway, The Oakwood Press, 1975.
It doesn't look quite contemporary to the 1870s railway tunnel, does it? That's because it was rebuilt with concrete blocks in 1950. I do like the top cover, though. I'm sure it could've been just a boring flat grille.
21 Dec 2021
The recent lack of posts here is mostly due to my feeling very run down following having a couple of wisdom teeth extracted. Having had an emergency appointment yesterday1, hopefully I'll be on the mend now, though it does mean I'm on the kind of antibiotics where you can't touch alcohol for the whole of the Christmas period. I have tried to keep myself a little distracted from the pain by working on the nuts and bolts of this website—you should notice that the front page loads rather faster now than it used to, and that there's a shiny new statistics page that I'll probably be continuing to work on. Oh, and you should find that the tags below the photos are now clickable and will take you to a page of all other wanders that have photos with the same tag.
Today I felt like I needed to drag myself out of the house, but I didn't want to go too far, and I needed to get to the Post Office up in Clifton Village to post a Christmas card (spoiler for my parents: it's going to be late. Sorry.) As luck would have it, idly looking at the map I spotted that I'd missed off a section of Burwalls Road in the past, and that's basically one of the long-ways-round to Clifton Village, crossing the river to Rownham and walking up the hill on the Somerset side before coming back across the Suspension Bridge.
As I was heading for Burwalls Road I decided to make Burwalls itself the focal point of the walk, but unfortunately the mansion grounds are private and the place is hard to snap. Still, at least it gave me a destination. Burwalls was the mansion built by Bristol press magnate Joseph Leech, who I've mentioned before after buying a vintage book he wrote on a previous wander. There's a good article about the house on House and Heritage which has some photos from angles I couldn't ever get to. (Well, maybe with a drone, but it seems like the kind of area where they may be kitted out for clay pigeon shooting, so I probably wouldn't risk it.)
1 My dentist admitted that she probably needed to keep her internal monologue a bit more internal after we started the appointment with her staring into my mouth and immediately saying, "oh, that's weird." These are words one doesn't want to hear from a medical professional.
With Ghyston's Cave and the Observatory for good measure.
12 Mar 2022
There's a few tracks in Leigh Woods that lie within my mile and show up on my map but that I've not walked yet, so I decided to take one of my traditional big long walks through the woods on this nice crisp sunny morning.
For years—decades, even—I've been doing a similar route from my place, along the towpath to the far woods entrance, up the hill for a varied walk on one of the marked tracks and then across the Suspension Bridge to Clifton Village for a coffee-based reward. It's my default "long walk", really, and I almost always enjoy it. Today, at last, spring actually seemed to be springing, which made for some extra positivity...
There are several ways into Leigh Woods along the towpath, all underneath bridges of the Portishead branch line that runs above.
At the one before this, which is normally locked and leads into a disused police shooting range, a woman beckoned me over to where she was standing with her bike, looking through the gates. "I think I've found your best shot today," she said Sadly, the very wide lens on the camera would have made any picture of the young deer that was standing in the sunlit distance a bit rubbish, so I contented myself with a few moments just looking at the scene.
One of the things you learn as you improve as a photographer is when not to bother trying to take a photo because you can't do it justice, and to just be in the moment and enjoy it instead.
Bower Ashton is an interesting little area just south of the river from me—in fact, the Rownham Ferry used to take people over from Hotwells to Bower Ashton, operating from at least the twelfth century to around the 1930s.
It's a strangely contradictory little area, with a cluster of old and new houses sandwiched in between the busy A-roads and significantly more industrial area of Ashton and the bucolic country estate of Ashton court roughly east to west, and also between Somerset and Bristol, north to south.
I've been around here before, mostly poking around Bower Ashton's arguably most well-known bit, the Arts faculty campus of the University of the West of England, but I'd missed at least Parklands Road and Blackmoors Lane, so I initially planned just to nip across briefly and wander down each in turn. On a whim, though, I texted my friends Sarah and Vik in case they were out and about, and ended up diverting to the Tobacco Factory Sunday market first, to grab a quick flat white with them, extending my journey a fair bit.
To start with, though, I nipped to a much more local destination, to see something that you can't actually see at all, the Gridiron...
(I also used this wander as a test of the cameras in my new phone. I finally upgraded after a few years, and the new one has extra, separate wide and telephoto lenses compared to the paltry single lens on my old phone. Gawd. I remember when speed-dial was the latest innovation in phones...)
I decided to try out the three lenses on my new iPhone camera. This is the "telephoto" lens. It does a reasonably creditable job, though the phone is oversharpening things a bit and I'm not sure I like the colours much.