25 Sep 2021
I needed to pop to the library, as they'd kindly dug a book out of the reserve store at the B Bond warehouse for me and emailed me to let me know it was ready. So, I took a little trip to town, straight down the Hotwell Road, and spent a few hours reading before stretching my legs with a walk to a new cafe in the actual castle (or remnants thereof, anyway) of Castle Park, before heading back home down the other side of the harbour. As well as books and coffee, I bumped into a remote-controlled pirate ship, which isn't something you see every day, even in Bristol.
What is it..?
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"...
Was, apparently, a blue Ford Fiesta. It passed its last MOT on 24 October 2019, and hasn't been through one since. Can't think why that might have been.
I noticed I'd missed a bit of Circular Road and Ladies Mile, and it was a nice evening for a sunset wander up to Clifton. There was something I recorded along the way, not photographically but in video.
Bristol Zoo, the world's oldest provincial zoo, has recently decided to close its Clifton site after 185 years of occupation, which means that the sounds of wild animals will no longer drift incongruously through this leafy Georgian area. They're moving everything up to their existing second site, The Wild Place Project near Cribbs Causeway. As I was wandering the Downs, I heard some fierce roaring noises, so I decided to see if I could get a little closer while they were still going on and record a sound that's soon to disappear.
I don't have a way yet to put video directly on this site, so here's a link to the video of my attempt to catch a bit of the zoo noises that I just popped on YouTube. It's sad that this might be the last time I hear such noises in Clifton.
Nitrous oxide is a common recreational drug. It was Thomas Beddoes and Humphrey Davy who pioneered its use, at the Pneumatic Institute on Dowry Square, coining the name "laughing gas" and inviting friends like Samuel Taylor Coleridge to give it a go, so I don't suppose we can criticise the local youth too much...
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.
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.
Looks like someone threw away an entire primary school.
10 Feb 2021
I actually dashed up to Clifton to take a look at Arlington Villas, just around the back of St Paul's Road, one of those slightly odd little enclaves of overlooked housing that you know is there, but you never have a reason to visit or travel down. As it turned out, interesting though the (public) garden is, I actually took far more pictures of the now-completely-demolished site bounded by King's Road, Boyce's Avenue and Clifton Down Road where WH Smith and other places used to stand.
It's interesting to imagine how nice this little area would be if turned into a permanent public square, but of course the developers already have their planning permission to build it right back up again.
06 Jul 2021
I really only took the GPS and camera on a "just in case" basis, as I knew I was only going for a coffee in Greville Smyth Park along a well-trodden path this lunchtime. Still, I saw a few new things along the way, so I figured it was worth uploading the handful of photos I took...
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.
People know this as the "goat gully" these days, but the official name is Walcombe Slade. (So valleyish they named it twice, perhaps, as both "combe" and "slade" mean "valley".)