Right, following Wednesday nights er, research expedition it was a later start Thursday morning, jumping once again on one of the lovely Bristol Ferries from just outside the back gate of the site.
The destination this time was another Brunel creation, this time the SS Great Britain, now lovingly preserved and sitting in dry dock. Although she started life as an ocean liner, she became a coal transporter and, after a massive fire in 1886, spent some years as a coal bunker in Ports Stanley in The Falkland Islands, before being scuttled and abandoned in 1937.
in 1970, thanks to some considerable donations, she was re-floated, mounted onto a pontoon and towed around 8000 miles back to Britain and Avonmouth docks before being re-floated and towed up the River Avon and returning at last to her home. What a sight that must have been for the gathered crowds, particularly when she passed under the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
The dockyard is laid out as it would have been back in the day and you are directed first to the dry dock. Below the waterline is now enclosed – and dry thanks to glass plate. Whilst this gives the illusion of the ship still being on water, below it allows a giant dehumidifier to dry the air to help prevent further corrosion the ships hull. It also means you can get right up close to the hull and see the scuttle holes, the repairs to the hull and the giant propeller and rudder.
The dockyard museum tells the incredible history of the ship – there are some great newsreel clips of her launch and you get to see the documentary showing her return from the South Atlantic to Bristol too. Then it was time at last to go on deck, and how great was that. Isn’t she lovely:
We had a good look ‘below’ too from the plush public rooms and cabins from first class, the galley, offices and engine room to the rather more pokey steerage class.
We could have spent a lot longer looking around – and perhaps should have done. At fourteen quid for an adult it’s about the going rate for this sort of thing, but that does allow you to visit again within a year. It’s an excellent attraction. There’s a lot of thought gone into it and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and would love to go again should we find ourselves back in Bristol – and I really hope we do.
Please have a look at the little video I put together of our visit HERE
Next up, was a walk along the harbour side past the Bristol Harbour Railway, replenishing reserves with a cuppa and beans on toast before arriving at the M-Shed, proudly guarded by a line of old dockyard cranes.
The M-Shed is a museum that tells the story of Bristol through three facets – People, Places & Life. It shows how Bristol has grown over the years, it’s contributions to engineering, culture and way of life and also, the slave trade.
It was pretty hot in there but the balcony provided some fresh air and a good view across to the city too. The exhibits extend outside, with a 1934 fireboat moored alongside a 1935 diesel tug. A steam powered dockside crane can be found in operation at certain times. It’s a worthy addition to Bristol’s museums, although if you’re not a fan of out of control screaming kids you may want to choose when you visit carefully. Having said that it is free, which no doubt helps explain it’s popularity.
A relatively early night ensued, catching up with our friends Neil & Dave for a quick drink in the evening, ready for our final day in Bristol on Friday.
You can probably guess by now how Friday started. Yes, on a ferry and into the city then heading north and east a little into the old city.
The indoor market in the old Corn Exchange got a look in and Trev splashed some cash on a flat cap. With the Portly Partner duly attired in said cap we continued our amblings admiring some fine old architecture on the way as well as some of the murals that we remembered from our last visit in 2013. And some new ones.
The Bank Tavern sits like a rose between two thorns and the contrast in architecture with it’s neighbours is stark. It was a welcoming place and a bowl of water was provided for our pals four legged friends. We didn’t get to try the food but what was coming out looked good.
Moving on and back into the heart of the old city, and the St Nicholas Market area, the sight of people queuing for some delicious smelling food in the covered alleyway whetted our appetite, so much so that we stopped, although for something far less exotic. At the pub around the corner – The Crown. The chip butties accompanied the beer perfectly….
We were heading now back now in the general direction of the ferry, but on the way we, yes, you guessed it spotted another pub – The King William Ale House, and it seemed only right to go in and er, admire the architecture Very nice it was too – and equally as welcoming for the pooches.
With a pub next door and more close by it could have easily turned into a pub crawl but good(?) sense prevailed and instead we made our way back to the ferry and thence the site. With most of the packing up done we met up with the guys again for the last supper. They would be staying for another night and we were sorely tempted to do the same – although it’s unlikely a pitch would have been available. So we said our goodbyes and thanked them for helping make it such a great week. We’d had a cracking time and so want to come back soon.
Our trundle home was trouble free – that is until about half way along the A27, just a few miles from Patsy’s home when some numpty decided it would be a good idea to pull out of a layby straight in front of me. Thankfully, there was nothing in the outside lane, a vehicle having just passed, so I lurched over to the right to avoid a collision. Patsy had a bit of a waggle on the back which wasn’t an enjoyable experience for any of us but the stabiliser soon brought her back into line. The dash cam captured the whole thing and there’s a link to the footage on YouTube HERE. It’s already had a tremendous number of hits – I wish all my videos were as popular as this one!
So, that was Bristol. What a great city. We’re already looking to go again. The site though is extremely popular and very hard to get booked on to for more than a night or two. Moreover, it is under threat – the council wants to redevelop the site but opposition, particularly from local traders who benefit from the money the site brings in, is considerable. I do hope it stays.
Right, there we are. Coming next is our Easter break and once again we’re heading north, so lots to come.
Until then, links to those videos again:
An Evening’s ‘Research video
Bristol Harbour video
Patsy’s Places - Baltic Wharf Caravan site slideshow
The S.S Great Britain video
Thanks for reading – and watching,
Rich & Trev