Thursday, 2 June 2016

A weekend in Bristol - the Harbour Walk

We were lucky enough to spend two days of the glorious
Banksy -
Girl with an Alarm Earring 
Bank Holiday weekend just gone with Dave's daughter, Gemma, and her partner, Simon, in Bristol. It's always great fun to visit the city because there is so much to see and do. I don't think we could ever tire of it! Today's and tomorrow's posts will recount our weekend and hopefully entice you to make your own visit.

Arriving around lunchtime on Sunday, we caught up with each others' news before catching a bus from Brislington into the city centre. Our destination was the Bristol Floating Harbour, now almost completely rejuvenated, and a circular walk we hadn't done before. The harbour covers an area of about 70 acres and has been in use since at least the thirteenth century although its current layout owes much to nineteenth century alterations including the construction of lock gates and canals. Now primarily used for pleasure craft, reminders of Bristol's naval history can be seen in Brunel's SS Great Britain - apparently the South West's top tourist attraction - which we didn't visit, and the Matthew, which we did board.

The Matthew was built in Bristol to commemorate the 500th anniversary of John Cabot's 1497 sailing to Newfoundland and is a faithful replica of that original ship. It was open for free visits over the Bank Holiday weekend (with a donations box to which we contributed) and it was amazing to think that such a small vessel crossed the Atlantic. This replica also made the same voyage and was welcomed into port at Bonavista in June 1997 by Queen Elizabeth II. We also saw the Matthew under sail on the Monday as she set out on a harbour tour.

Harbour history is also on show much further along at
Hand Of A River God by
Vincent Woropay 
Underfall Yard which is a working boatyard and now incorporates a newly opened visitor centre with displays, interactive models and a little cafe. You can visit from 10 - 5, 7 days a week throughout the summer and it's free. Underfall's slipway and buildings were rescued from dereliction during the 1990s and the yard is now used by a number of boatbuilders working in a variety of methods from traditional to cutting edge. We peeped at some boats under construction and I found it interesting to see their 'skeletons'. Within the visitor centre, we admired restored machinery, had a go at maintaining harbour water levels and I learned the origin of 'shipshape and Bristol fashion'. The phrase came about due to the Bristol Channel having the second highest tidal range in the world. Before the innovation of the floating harbour, the retreating tide would often leave ships beached and at risk of falling over. Therefore everything had to be especially securely fastened down and neatly stowed when boats were at Bristol.

A lot of our walk was spent simply drinking in the ambience - and a ginger beer at the Cottage Inn - and looking at the wide variety of architecture along the harbour route. There is a vibrant mix of new and older structures and some gorgeous looking residential apartments which must have pretty gorgeous price tags too! From several places we could look over to the painted terraces up on the hills too. The whole route is pretty much flat and about three miles so an hour's walk if you don't get distracted, or a good afternoon's worth for us.

Looking across the harbour from Baltic Wharf 

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