A long ramble, starting with trying to find the Hot Well of Hotwells and leading up the side of the Avon Gorge to the Downs and then through Clifton for coffee.
28 Dec 2020
Fractionally outside my one-mile zone, but I got curious about Saint Vincent's spring, whose last remnants you can see in a defunct drinking fountain on the Portway. Along the way I passed Gyston's cave, sometimes called St Vincent's cave, in the sheer wall of the gorge. It's now accessible by a tunnel from the observatory—I tried it about twenty years ago, I think, and still recall the vertiginous moment of looking down from the protruding balcony and realising that you could see straight through the grille floor to the drop below—but from what I can work out the tunnel is relatively recent. Before the tunnel was dug it was accessible only by access across the cliff face, which must have been even more terrifying.
This cave was first mentioned as being a chapel in the year AD 305 and excavations, in which Romano-British pottery has been found, have revealed that it has been both a holy place and a place of refuge at various times in its history.
A few different sources say that the cave became a hermitage and chapel to St Vincent following Bristol's early trading in Iberian wines; St Vincent of Saragossa is Lisbon's patron saint, and a lot of nearby things bear the name.
I'm not sure where the crossover of Vincent and Ghyston happens, though. On the giants Goram and Vincent (or Ghyston), Wikipedia says:
The name Vincent for one of the giants rests on the fact that at Clifton, at the narrowest point of the Avon Gorge, there was formerly an ancient hermitage and chapel dedicated to St Vincent, at or near the present cave in the cliff-face which bears his name. Another (apparently modern) version of the story calls the Clifton giant Ghyston, which is in fact the name, of obscure origin, for the whole of the cliff-face of the Avon Gorge at least as early as the mid-fifteenth century, in the detailed description of the Bristol area by William Worcestre. The place-name was personified to produce the giant's name. Vincent's Cave is called Ghyston cave or The Giant’s Hole in an article in the July 1837 issue of Felix Farley’s Bristol Journal.
In my research on the original Hot Well House, I've seen quite a few contemporary paintings which state their viewpoint as "from St. Vincent's Rock", so in the 16th century it seems the cliff-face name was typically St Vincent Rock rather than Ghyston's Rock, perhaps.
I am, as you can tell, no historian!
On the way, I also wandered around the base of the popular climbing area, which I think is the site of the old Black Rock quarry.
The interesting-looking modern block at the top of the cliff on the left is Seawalls, on Seawalls Road, built in 1977. Zoopla's estimated price for a two-bedroom flat there looks to be around half a million pounds.
My historical research took a wander underground recently, partly inspired by the Canynge Square sinkhole, partly by St Vincent's (Ghyston's) cave and its tunnel to the Observatory, and I was surprised to find that there might be an intact tunnel from the Bristol Port Railway and Pier still just sitting there under Bridge Valley Road. A quick search turned up this recent video by an intrepid explorer, so it's definitely still there.
I went looking for the entrances today, and definitely found the south entrance, at the start of the Bridge Valley Path, the footpath that starts with steps at the bottom of Bridge Valley Road. It's easy to miss if you're not looking for it. I think I've figured out where the north entrance is, too, but it was getting dark at that stage and the Portway was still busy enough that crossing the road was still the normal nuisance, so I thought I'd leave further explorations for another day.
05 Jan 2021
I didn't really intend to record my walk today, but once I was out and about I couldn't really resist taking some pictures. The sun was lovely, but it was cold...
"He liked to take a walk on a Saturday afternoon with Flora for his companion, across the bridge, pausing there to look leftwards at the spreading city far below, the tangled waterways, the warehouses, the ships, the medley of houses and trees lifted to the heights of Upper Radstowe, and on the right where the gorge narrowed, to see the river sluggishly making for the Channel between banks of glistening mud on which was reflected, now and then, the white swoop of the gulls; or, at high tide, to hear the hooting of a siren and watch the ship coming slowly round the bend. It was a scene of which he did not tire for it was never twice alike. The form, the opaqueness, the colour or absence of clouds had their way with it, darkening or lightening the trees on the farther cliff and the splashes of red and yellow rock on the nearer one." — E.H. Young, Chatterton Square, 1949
Since setting up a search for Hotwells on eBay I've mostly managed to restrain myself from buying much (or in one case, was outbid, luckily for my finances.) However, I couldn't resist a 1902 flyer for a singalong at the Terrett Memorial Hall, which would have stood five minutes' walk from my flat, overlooking Howard's Lock.
I've found out a fair bit about this non-denominational seaman's mission, including tracking down both a Loxton drawing and an aerial photo of it. The main thing that's eluded me, ironically enough, is finding out who Terrett was, so as a Memorial Hall it didn't do a very good job 😀.
EDIT: Ah! Did a little more digging and found that the Bristol Archives has a Bristol Dock Company document on file called "William Terrett, Esq.; corresp. etc. re proposed erection of a Mission Hall at Cumberland Basin, 1892", so that might be worth a look once the Archives are properly open again. Given that:
Sarah Terrett died suddenly on 25 November 1889, aged 53, after speaking at a meeting of the White Ribbon Army, the temperance organization she had founded in 1878. Following her death many people sent letters of sympathy to her bereaved husband, William. One of these, from the Rev. W. F. James, a minister of the Bible Christians, makes for especially interesting reading. The Bible Christian denomination, to which Sarah and William belonged, was one of the smaller Methodist connexions, and had its heartland in rural Devon, the area where she had grown up. James recalled the hospitality he enjoyed when visiting the Terretts’ home, Church House, in Bedminster, south Bristol...
...I wonder if William Terrett built the hall in memory of his late wife. They were clearly just the kind of temperance movement people who would've founded a seaman's mission to get people together to have a nice non-alcoholic singsong rather than a night out on the tiles.
Anyway. This walk to grab a coffee from Hopper Coffee in Greville Smyth Park was mostly an excuse to post the leaflet, a few other things I found related to it, and some pictures of how the site looks now. I would suggest that the present day is not an improvement.
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 :)
11 Apr 2021
My friend Lisa joined me again, this time for a long wander through "Bemmie". In fact, I tweeted recently using "Bedmo" as my abbreviation for Bedminster, and apparently there's something of a culture war going on. From what I can glean, the longer-term residents call it "Bemmie" and consider "Bedmo" a name made up by hipster gentrifiers.
I had no idea, but then I didn't grow up around here, and I don't live in Bedminster, and I'm not a hipster. I'm not sure I've ever gentrified anywhere, either; Hotwells was already quite gentrified by the time I arrived. I probably just lowered the tone a bit.
Anyway. Lisa and I entered Bemmie by the traditional toll gate (though actually you'd only have paid if you were coming from the Long Ashton direction, not merely nipping across from Hotwells) and then almost literally combed the streets to knock several new roads off my list of targets. Along the way we saw lots of street art, as you'd expect, and admired the area's panoply of gorgeous knockers.
27 Apr 2021
Bits of Entrance Lock have been coned off for ages, mostly the area with the lockkeepers' house on it. My friends Sarah and Vik mentioned at the weekend that it had recently been un-coned, so I wandered that way to cross the outermost lockgates for the first time this year. I don't know whether it's just my mood today or the weather, but it seemed a day for pushing a couple of photos in a more experimental direction in the post-processing...