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.
01 Jan 2021
I wandered along the gorge today and found the entrance to the disused Portnalls Number 1 railway tunnel of the Bristol Port Railway and Pier. The door was unlocked, but as soon as I opened it I felt a sense of current habitation and decided discretion was the best option. There's a lot of people homeless in Bristol at the moment, and they don't need disturbing. For the same reason, I've omitted posting some pictures of a little encampment somewhat off the beaten track of the new Zig Zag, where I reversed direction as soon as I realised I'd come across a current habitation of some sort.
Up in Clifton it took me a little while to work out that the picture of the Promenade I was trying to reproduce was taken from the viewpoint I'd thought, it was just that the Alderman's fountain was moved from the top of Bridge Valley Road to the other side of the promenade in 1987, so trying to use it as my initial landmark wasn't very helpful!
Finally I swung past the Society of Merchant Venturers, who presumably still own most of Clifton, having bought the entire manor, including Clifton Down, in 1676, and I imagine aren't in much danger of running out of money. That's true to their motto: indocilis pauperiem pati is apparently from the Odes of Horace, and translates as "will not learn to endure poverty"...
This postcard is from somewhere between 1900 and 1920, courtesy of the Historic England archive.
This is the view I was trying to recreate -- note that the Alderman Proctor's Drinking Fountain is now on the other side of the promenade (see my photo, next), having been re-sited in 1988 after apparently causing problems for the traffic at the top of Bridge Valley Road.
04 Mar 2021
A trip to Imagine That coffee, so no fresh roads knocked off my list, but I stopped off to snap a couple of the engineering-related bits of the docks: the Campbell Buoy (used by P&A Campbell for mooring their paddle steamers) and Brunel's "other" bridge, the foot/horse swing bridge that now sits sadly disused in the shadow of the Plimsoll Bridge at Howard's Lock.
I bumped into my friend Lisa in town during yesterday's wander, and we decided to have a wander today, too. We managed quite a long ramble, starting up through Clifton and nipping down Park Row to investigate the two tower blocks I'd noticed popping up behind Park Street yesterday, then took in a few roads I'd not managed to get to before, including cutting through the grounds of Bristol Grammar School.
10 Apr 2021
There's a bit of Southville that I've been meaning to get to for some time, where the streets seem to take some strong inspiration from London. There's a Camden Road that crosses with an Islington Road, and a Dalston Road, even an Edgeware Road. For me these names are more evocative than the rather more exotic names I passed by to get there—Sydney Row or Hanover Place, say, because I've actually been to the places in London. The last time I was in Islington I saw Monkey Swallows the Universe play at The Angel, and I can't think of Camden without remembering a gondola trip with my friend Tara where a cheery youth played Beatles music for us on a saz...
I really liked this little area, with its mostly well-kept pretty houses and hints here and there of the creative side of the residents. It's arty and down-to-earth at the same time, and I wouldn't mind living there, I think.
On the way there I got the chance to walk through Underfall Yard for the first time in a while, and on the way back I had my first take-away hot food for many months, grabbing some crispy fried squid from the excellent Woky Ko at Wapping Wharf.
I should probably have visited, but it's not very "public street"-ey and there were people milling about out front who might have objected.
10 Jul 2021
Lisa had a couple of hours to spare before going up in a hot air balloon (exciting!) so we went for a quick local walk, revisiting a bit of Cliftonwood we've seen before, exploring the secret garden I'd visited before that I thought she'd enjoy (I didn't take any new photos there) and then pushing on to another garden, Cherry Garden. Last time we passed this way, I'd noticed the gate, but we hadn't gone in as I'd assumed it was private. I'd since found it on CHIS's list of communal gardens in Clifton, so I wanted to have a look inside this time, and try to figure out whether it was private-communal or public, and possibly Council-owned, like several of the other gardens in Clifton.
Photo taken from the book Bygone Bristol: Hotwells and the City Docks, by Janet and Derek Fisher.
You can see the gate from the previous photo at the start of Narrow Quay. Plenty of other changes in the area, too: the statue of Neptune stands at the head of the water; there are no Cascade Steps yet; cranes still stand on Broad Quay, and you can just about tell that there's still a main road running right across the middle of Queen Square in the distance.
The gate stands half-closed; presumably before the E and W sheds were converted into the cinemas, bars and restaurants of the Watershed and other publically-accessible attractions there was still some need to keep the (working) dockside a little more secure, and I'm guessing it might have been locked at night.
The gates are listed and have apparently been there since 1894.
31 Oct 2021
There were only a few streets left to wander in the more residential bit of Bedminster, so I thought I should target those today. The streets themselves weren't that notable, though Balfour Road has a contrasting mix of old and new housing. I tried to snap a few more interesting things along the way there and back, snapping all three of the familiar bond warehouses, nipping onto North Street to find some new street art, and finding a few pumpkins for good measure. It is hallowe'en, after all...
There were quite a few signs that Frobisher Road is a sanctuary for hedgehogs. We've actually seen a similar sign at the far end, on an earlier wander that went past the end of the road.
I was just about starting to feel better—the antibiotics seemed to have kicked in for my dental issues, and it had been some days since I'd left the house, and I was at last starting to get itchy feet. So, a wander. But where? Well, there were a few industrial bits near Winterstoke Road in the Ashton/Ashton Vale areas of Bristol that needed walking. I knew they were likely to be quite, well, unattractive, frankly. So why not do them while I wasn't feeling exactly 100% myself? Maybe it would fit my mood. Hopefully you're also in the mood for a bit of post-industrial wasteland, for that's what some of this feels like...
Then, at the last minute, I thought again about the Bristol International Exhibition—I've got a book about it on the way now—and that gave me another goal, which could just about be said to be in the same direction, and I decided to walk significantly further than my normal 1-mile limit and try recreating another historical photo...
Sadly I don't know much about the Ashton area; it's just on the edges of my mile and I rarely have cause to go there. It's brimming with history, I'm sure: the whole South Bristol area rapidly developed from farmland to coal mines to factories to its current interesting mixture of suburbs and industrial work over the last few hundred years. As a more working class area less attention was paid to it by historians, at least historically-speaking, than the Georgian heights of Clifton, and much of it has been knocked down and reinvented rather than listed and preserved. I see here and there some of this lack is being addressed, but I'm afraid I'll be very light on the history myself on this wander, as most of my usual sources aren't throwing up their normal reams of information as when I point them at Clifton, Hotwells or the old city.
We're now through BS3 and into BS13, which the Bedminster Down district falls into. This sign's certainly seen better days.
06 Jun 2021
The track on the map doesn't tell the whole story of this walk with Lisa around and about Clifton, Berkeley Square, Brandon Hill and the harbourside, because the batteries on my GPS ran out while we were on the roof of Trenchard Street car park, it seems. Oh well. I think I did most of the area I was interested in finishing off around the University; there were only a few new bits around Brandon Hill that won't be on the track, and I can easily do them again.
Still, technology woes aside it was a nice walk, albeit a bit warm for climbing all those hills, and sat on the harbourside watching the world go by for a while, too. It was good to see the Bristol Ferry Boats carrying people around again, especially.
Advice from a giant anchor.
I mostly went out to hang out with my friends Sarah and Vik in Bedminster, but along the way I thought I'd take a closer look at something a little nearer home: the last crossing point of the Rownham Ferry.
And here's the picture that inspired this little local visit today. A week or so back I was browsing the boxes of books at Rachel's and Michael's Antiques on Princess VIctoria Street, and flipping through their collection of Reece Winstone books. Winstone's famous Bristol As It Was series are an amazing documentary source created by a man who loved both photography and Bristol and effectively became Bristol's foremost documentary photographer for decades. A lot more of Bristol's history is visible today because of him.
In the Bristol As It Was 1939 - 1914 book I saw this picture of the Rownham Ferry. Unfortunately the book was a first edition and priced at £20, so I ordered a cheaper edition from an independent dealer in Stockport when I got home! (Let's consider that as me leaving the rare first edition for the true connoisseurs, rather than just being cheap.)
Here we see the ferry just five days before its closure on the last day of 1932.
Photo © Reece Winstone Archive. (I recommend buying the books if you like old photos of Bristol. They're amazing!)