06 Dec 2020
I wasn't really feeling it when I set out today, on my first car-assisted wander. By the time I'd parked on Alma Vale Road in Clifton it was just starting to rain and I picked my way about in quite a desultory way. It felt strange, as I was very familiar with the area because I'd walked through it hundreds of times when I worked at the top of Whiteladies Road, and used to walk up the hill from Hotwells and through Clifton to get there, and back again, every day.
Then a complete coincidence seemed to make the change I'd been hoping for. I was standing taking a photo of Christ in the front garden of All Saints church when a couple of people walked out of the front door. I got talking with a lady I took to be part of the ministerial team, who invited me to come in and look around—something I'd always wanted to do on the morning commute. (I think we connected a bit when I recognised the name John Piper, who did the amazing windows—I learned about him while I was at Warwick, through his connections to Coventry Cathedral.
I left with much more of a spring in my step, wandered around the area a bit more, finally working out that the tennis courts I used to pass every morning are those of Clifton Lawn Tennis Club, and finally grabbing an excellent Hungarian sausage hot dog from the Budapest Cafe. I feel a lot better now than I did before I went out.
Not sure about the what-looks-like-blood on the ball.
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"...
26 Feb 2021
I'm on the first day of a long weekend, and I certainly picked the right one for it. This may be the first proper spring-like day of the year in Bristol; it was glorious.
I headed up to Clifton, around the area where I got my Covid vaccine jab the other day, to knock off a few remaining roads in that area and because it would be good exercise for an extended lunchtime walk.
Along the way I saw some very Clifton sights, including an Aston Martin, some Jacobethan architecture, and some private college sports grounds. Mostly, though, I just enjoyed the sunshine, and took every opportunity I could to snap views across the city.
These are Clifton College's Prep School's fields, for rugby and cricket, of course. Not far away, adjacent to the main College, lies the seniors' Clifton College Close ground, which "witnessed 13 of W G Grace's first-class hundreds for Gloucestershire."
I wasn't going to take a very long walk on this nice spring evening; it just happened. I was going to knock off a path or two on Brandon Hill, home over centuries to hermits and windmills, cannons and Chartists, and then just wander home, stopping only to fill up my milk bottle at the vending machine in the Pump House car park.
However, when I heard a distant gas burner I stayed on the hill long enough to see if I could get a decent photo of both the hot air balloon drifting over with Cabot Tower in the same frame (spoiler: I couldn't. And only having the fixed-focal-length Fuji with me didn't help) and then, on the way home, bumped into my "support bubble", Sarah and Vik, and extended my walk even further do creep carefully down the slipway next to the old paddle steamer landing stage and get some photos from its furthest extreme during a very low tide...
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.
This was about halfway between being on the Downs and hearing the roaring of zoo animals and actually reaching the zoo.
19 Jun 2021
I hadn't really planned to go out for a wander yesterday; I just got the urge and thought "why not?" (Well, the weather forecast was one possible reason, but I managed to avoid the rain, luckily.)
I wanted to finish off the A369—as it turns out I may still have a small section to go, but I've now walked the bulk of it out to my one-mile radius—and also a few random tracks in Leigh Woods. I'm still not really sure that I'm going to walk them all, especially after discovering today that "the map is not the territory" applies even more in the woods, where one of the marked tracks on the map wasn't really that recognisable as a track in real life... I'm glad I'd programmed the route into the GPS in advance!
Anyway. A pleasant enough walk, oddly bookended, photographically at least, by unusual vehicles. Leigh Woods was fairly busy, especially the section I'd chosen, which was positively dripping with teenage schoolkids with rah accents muttering opprobrium about the Duke of Edinburgh. I'm presuming the harsh remarks were more about taking part in his award scheme than the late Consort himself, but I didn't eavesdrop enough to be certain...
At some point I should dig back through my photos and see if I snapped this frame when it was first left locked to these railings as a full, complete bike.
I'm afraid that this is a bit of a badly-curated wander, where I mostly just popped out to find out a little of the history of Underfall Yard and poke around the various open workshops, and, in hindsight, really didn't take pictures in any kind of coherent order. So there's a lot of pictures, but they don't really tell the story that, in hindsight, I seem to have been trying to tell, of the unusual electrical substation in Avon Crescent, the Bristol Electricity that predates the National Grid but is still in use, the history of the hydraulic power house... It's a bit of a mess.
But I suppose sometimes these wanders—always chronologically presented in the order I walked and took photos—simply will sometimes be a bit of a mess. Let's hope you still get something out of it, anyway...
But the winch is safely caged in a dark shed and not very photograhpable. Here you can just about make out the chain fitting into the gypsy wheel. (In America, apparently, a windlass that receives a chain is called a "wildcat" rather than a "gypsy". I don't see a good strong etymology anwhere in the OED. Someone on t'internet suggests that gypsy winches were originally portable and thus moved around like the Romany people, but I don't see any real evidence for that.)
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.
But both unlocked, and standing open. I chanced it, on the basis that I wasn't going to do any harm to the place, and there weren't any signs telling me to keep out.
I don't know for sure if I was even trespassing, but for goodness' sake don't trespass on actual railways, kids. I'd carefully done my research and there haven't even been tracks here since 1921.
05 Mar 2022
I had a lot to get done around the house, so as soon as I heard there might be a shiny new piece of street art near me, under the Cumberland Basin flyovers, I immediately decided that was all the excuse I needed to set off on a round-the-harbour lunchtime walk to get some fresh air and see if I could spot it. So, here's a circular wander that takes in graffiti, boats, wildlife and graffiti again...