Hastings Battleaxe visits Bristol

Battled our way across the country to see step-daughter Anna and her partner Gareth, who have just moved to Bristol.  Decided not to face the traumas of the M25 but to go by train, which should have been straightforward… Enjoyed a sunny day wandering round Clifton, and along the waterfront, admiring the works of Mr I K Brunel…


     Battleaxe and Philosopher know Bristol pretty well. When we lived in Birmingham we used to go there for many weekends – it was a quick drive down the M5.  In addition, Battleaxe lived in Stroud in Gloucestershire with her first husband – Bristol was the nearest big metropolis.
     Getting there from Hastings is a different matter. It should be easy by train, and I hope it will be in future. Straight up to Charing Cross, tube straight to Paddington, and whoosh there we are. At the moment though, trains in our bit of the country are terrible. The unbelievably, ridiculously bad Southern Region dispute seems to have knackered up everything else, and on Saturday morning our grossly overloaded, hot, sweaty South-East train crawled up to London, arriving twenty minutes late. We then found the entrance to the underground closed when we arrived at Charing Cross.
     Fearing we’d miss our connection at Paddington we got a taxi, which crept alarmingly slowly through the West End shopping traffic. We had horrible deja vu about a previous taxi journey to Paddington where the cab’s exhaust pipe fell off, but this time we did arrive safely – at a cost of £20….
     Once we got on the GWR train to Bristol, it was indeed whoosh. That line (aka ‘Brunel’s billiard table’) Between Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads, is one of the flattest and straightest in the country. Brunel is going to feature prominently in this post.
      Anna and Gareth are renting a house in Clifton, just down the hill from the highly desirable and touristy Clifton Village.  It is very convenient for Anna, who is doing a Master’s at Bristol University, but less so for Gareth, who has just started a new job in Bath. The house is in a terrace built into the rocky hillside. Talking of hills, believe me, Hastings is just a beginner when it comes to steepness – some of those in Bristol, especially round Clifton, are absolute killers….
      We visited a funny little pub called The Bag O’ Nails, which is notable for being full of cats – about five of them were asleep in cardboard boxes along the bar.  Bristol has many funny, pretty little pubs tucked away in odd corners.

The cat pub

       The next day was bright and sunny so we walked, firstly up to the top of Clifton to admire the beautiful houses and the views.  Many of those places must cost millions. We were wondering who all the people are who can afford these things.

    We walked across to the wonderful Clifton Suspension Bridge, which of course, is another of Brunel’s little numbers, opened in 1864.  An amazing, and beautiful, piece of engineering, built for pedestrians and horses, but which now conveys up to four million cars a year over the Avon gorge without undue stress.

Clifton Suspension Bridge
Looking down at the gorge – home to many rare plants
Amazing mud
Looking down…..
Another view

        It is interesting to get up close to the chain cables. You can see them move and feel them vibrate as cars cross the bridge.
        Battleaxe seems to specialise in visiting notable suicide spots – this bridge rates third in the UK, after the London Underground and Beachy Head.
        Down on the waterfront we visited the newly restored and opened Underfall Yard – a complex of pumps, locks sluices etc designed by Brunel to keep Bristol old docks – the Floating Harbour, viable and free of silt. (Battleaxe learned that the Floating Harbour just means a body of water kept deep enough and free of tides by locks etc so large ships can float all the time – not a harbout that floats…).

This small swing bridge is looking a bit sad,,,,

     We walked along the waterfront as far as the ‘Great Britain’ – Brunel yet again, of course.  We had visited it many years before.  It was an interesting walk because on our previous visits to Bristol we have only visited the end of the waterways nearest the city centre – we used to stay at a hotel right  opposite the Watershed.

The ‘Great Britain’

Had Sunday lunch in a Marston’s Pub/Restaurant, the Pump House.  It was much classier than our own new Hastings Marston’s eaterie, the Conqueror’s March on the Ridge.  But having said that, our local place is excellent – half a rotisserie chicken and three veg for £7.95? Good food and excellent service. I should say so.  The Bristol place was very good indeed, but several times more expensive.

       It’ll be nice to be able to visit Bristol again – lots to see and do…

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