Floating the boats.

I don’t know about you but when it comes to the Winterval – that peaceful time between Christmas and New Year when time stands still and pottering about becomes an engrossing occupation – undemanding is the order of the day. Which is why, when the teeniest twinge of cabin fever struck, I turned to one of my favourite walks, one which I have walked, run, pushed a pushchair round for going on 25 years, rain and shine, solo, with friends and en famille. Were the stakes not quite so high I could probably do it blindfold. But that would be a shame because the whole point of this familiar route is that there is always something new to see.

Enough of the build up, where are we? In a word or three, we’re on Bristol’s Floating Harbour embarking on a turn around the harbourside. Beginning at a swing bridge at the entrance to the harbour, we’ll walk up the north bank to the next bridge, cross over and come back down the south side – about 45 minutes at a push,  considerably longer at a saunter. img_0237Off we go.

Even though it was getting on for mid morning by the time we had got ourselves together, the fog was still clinging to the water as we set off, casting a romantic mistiness over the scene, IMG_0247.JPG lending a noble air to Gromit’s profile on the prow,img_0249 and turning our mighty SS Great Britain into a ghostly apparition.IMG_0257.JPG When I first encountered Bristol docks in the late Seventies, it was a heavily polluted industrial wasteland on which the city had turned its back and where, on my first time at the rowing club, I was warned that if I fell in I would have to have my stomach pumped. (Over exaggeration in the face of an impressionable newbie or not, I never went back to find out). Times change and the water is now clean and much of the old port infrastructure has been cleared away for housing, all of which is pricey, some of which has been carefully thought out to add to the attractiveness of the cityscape. And there’s a waterborne community here too.

In amongst all of this, towards the centre of town, is a corporate headquarters which is also making sterling efforts to add to the gaiety of nations. img_0277Well played, Lloyds Bank, for taking the circular theme and running with it to such pleasing effect.

No surprise to hear that there is an abundance of spots for a coffee or something stronger,

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A kid height window into MShed museum. Anyone know what the clanger is doing amidst the ships?

along with several museums, galleries and other places to take a look at.

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Bristolian John Cabot (who allegedly beat Columbus in the first European foot on North American soil stakes) surveying the scene halfway around the walk.

All very good in their way and this renovation of a once redundant urban space is hugely popular with visitors for good reason. But that’s not what draws me back. What keeps me returning are the small signs of maritime life, past and present,  that have survived the heritagisation (I just made that word up) of the harbourside. The ferry steps worn by centuries of passing feet,IMG_0254.JPG the cranes and rail lines that, though now museum exhibits, still etch their presence on quayside and skyline,img_0312the old boats being restored in the dry dock or winched up onto the slipway, the new ones taking shape in the boat builders’ workshopsIMG_0329.JPG and the orderly jumble of the marine engineers’ yardsIMG_0325.JPG – all tell of individuals and their lives in this place.

 

And this is why this view of my home city, which has evolved through the  residents’ bold colour choices, will always be my favourite.img_0326

Come and see for yourself.

And tell me please – where’s your favourite walk? What’s the place that keeps drawing you back?

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4 thoughts on “Floating the boats.

  1. We did that walk one September evening recently, en route to Cornwall. I love that view of the colourful houses going up the hill. Also a bit puzzled why John Cabot is regarded as an Englishman but…that’s us for you! Happy to welcome the intrepid traveller and take his as one of the crew. I am very impressed with Bristol and it is a city I could imagine living in. I wish I could say I had a particularly favourite walk but I am just happy wandering fairly aimlessly.

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    • Thanks for raising this. Yes, I agree re the odd way Cabot is claimed as English when he was a born and bred Venetian (I think), but he is taken as an honorary Bristolian hereabouts, with this statue here and the earlier Cabot Tower – a decorative but otherwise pointless 1897 edifice – built on top of one of the highest points in the city to commemorate the 400th anniversary of his voyage. Pointless that is until the invention of the plane and the construction of Bristol Airport when Cabot Tower turned into a major navigational hazard. Good. Or probably not.

      Being cynical I would say that one of the reasons that cities (or nations) grab hold of heroes with whom they are only loosely related is to distract from their connections with those perpetrators of less savoury acts. (Don’t start me on Cardiff and Scott of the Antarctic)

      And while I am on my soapbox, I would also add my own uneasiness in celebrating the discoverers of North America when that land was already peopled with aboriginal first nationals before any European set sail.

      Phew. Glad to have got that off my chest. Delighted to hear that you have enjoyed this walk too. I am sure that you would find a happy berth in Bristol – it’s the sort of place where many of us come for a bit and then turn round one day to realise that decades have passed and we have never quite gotten round to moving on.

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  2. Good morning! I found your blog via “For the Love of a House”, where you left your Christmas calling card. I have spent the past hour viewing your wonderful walks. We have visited your country several times, but now I feel we must certainly visit again and see some of these wonderful vistas. I found Mousehole particularly charming. Happy 2017!

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    • Tee – thank you so much for taking the time to read my posts and to leave your kind comment. In the UK we don’t have the spectacular scenery that you may be used to at home and we enjoy visiting the US to marvel at the scale of your country, but when it comes down to it there are landscapes to be enjoyed wherever we go, we just have to seek them out.

      Mousehole was indeed charming – I cannot claim to know the region but the more I see of it, the more I like it.

      Happy New Year to you too. Ceri

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