Bath & Bristol pt 2 – Take two

Blimey, where has the time gone. It doesn’t seem five minutes since we made that night time trip down to Cornwall at the start of this wonderful summer. But this time next week we’ll be back at work, although thankfully it’s only an INSET day so no alarm clocks going off at silly o’clock – that’s not until the following Tuesday when school starts again.

Earlier in the week we had a call from the estate agent selling the flat we are buying. She was making positive noises about a possible exchange of contracts today with a view to completing next week. This would be nigh on perfect for us but given our experience when selling, we won’t be holding our breaths! So as it stands, Patsy is still our main – well only – residence. Anyway, back to the trip:

Monday evening and the Ring O’ Bells, a short drive away in Hinton Blewett was the recipient of our custom. A truly delightful old village pub featured on the ‘10 pubs in 10 minutes’ flyer mentioned in the last blog. The food was delicious – and excellent value too, served promptly, hot and with a smile. There were three ales on offer  and we tried two of them. Both the Butcombe Bitter and London Pride were in excellent nick and went down well – but then they usually do!

Tuesday, and another intermittently sunny day. Most of the day was spent lazing around and reading after a brief stint of house work – or should that be ‘van work – in the morning. We are on a service pitch here so the water and waste water is connected up, so that’s two less jobs for your truly. We did drag ourselves away from the recliners and the afternoon sun for a visit to the supermarket to stock up.

Wednesday, and back to Bath for another look around. There was still a queue around the block for the Roman Baths, and glimpsing over the wall in to the central atrium it looked too crowded to enjoy fully, so we gave it another miss.

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Bath is of course full of stunning architecture, constructed out of the pretty pale honey coloured bath stone. A lot of this came from the quarries owned by one Ralph Allen who made his money from reforming the postal system in Britain. He devised a ‘cross post’ system whereby post from say Bath to Bristol didn’t have to travel all the way to London first. He also introduced the first ‘signed for’ system to minimise losses from undeclared mail.

Builders at the time  were unconvinced by the qualities of bath stone though so Allen engaged architect John Wood to design a huge house in Prior Path overlooking Bath to show off it’s properties. It clearly worked.

One of the buildings that overlooks the gardens had an interesting roof line and was designed to represent Britain’s three classes. At the far end – to the left – are the small cottages. In the middle is the manor house and to the right – with the best view of the gardens and river –  is the ‘castle’.

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Another cracking day in this beautiful city but with feet aching and tops wringing we called it a day later afternoon and headed back to base to cremate some burgers.

Wednesday, and back to Bristol, this time to see a bit more than just the inside of pubs. The old tourists favourite the hop on-hop off bus was the obvious choice and we joined at the beginning after utilising Bristol’s excellent park & ride service.

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There was live commentary on this tour and it must rank as one of the best we have ever been on with a both witty and informative guide keeping us entertained. The great engineer Isambard Kingdome Brunel is well represented here  – gawd, his parents must have hated him – imagine going to school with a name like that – anyway, his innovative ship; the S.S. Great Britain – the first iron hulled ship is moored here. The S.S GB took the first All England cricket team to Australia and became home to a large number of sheep when laid up in the Falklands. The Clifton suspension bridge spans the Avon gorge and was, at it’s time a remarkable feat of engineering. A competition was run to design the bridge and although Brunel’s design came second he persuaded the committee to adopt it. Construction was fraught with problems and sadly Brunel died five years before his project was completed.

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Behind the S.S Great Britain are the offices for Nick Parks’ Aardman productions, creators of Wallace & Gromit. There is currently a ‘Gromit Trail’  thing going on over the city and beyond with 80 Gromits to spot. At the end of the summer they will be auctioned off with the proceeds going to local charities. We managed just nine:

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To the north of the city is the Downs area. Huge grassed open spaces and tree lined avenues with fantastic views back to the Clifton Bridge, down to the Avon gorge and across to Avonmouth docks. On a clear day you can see across the Severn to South Wales too.

I don’t know about you but I hated games at school and that, apparently is all the fault of Clifton College, a private school here that first  introduced games as a way of encouraging team spirit. An idea that soon spread to schools all over the country.

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Only Fools & Horses Fan? Well, Nelson Mandela House – home to Del Boy & Rodney – is actually Whitemead House here in Bristol. Peckham market scenes were also filmed here as were the infamous ‘Batman & Robin sequence and the row of garages where Del Boy found the old watch that eventually made him a millionaire. It was said (by our tour guide) that Bristolians were considered not as nosey as Londoners and filming would be easier here. No photos but if we get the chance we’re going to go on our own  ‘Fool & Horses’ trail before we leave.

We were also taken through one of the less attractive parts of town that graffiti artists had been let loose on in an effort to cheer it up. A controversial decision but they’ve been invited back again next year again apparently.

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Final stop was at the Cathedral and City Hall – both stunning buildings in their own different ways. Afterwards we paused for a well earned pint (just the one, honest) before waiting for the next bus, not realising initially that if we got off our arses and walked, the bus stop back to the park and ride was only five minutes away!

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So, another great day exploring and another blog complete. It started sunny but is now rather overcast. A drive out somewhere may be on the cards this afternoon, but we shall see.

A reminder that if you are a real glutton for punishment and the occasional blog isn’t enough you can follow us on Twitter (@aloadofnonsense) and Facebook (facebook.com/aloadofnonsense) for more updates and pictures.

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