You may remember in The Time of my life I wished I could be in two places at once? I was watching the hot air balloons launch at Ashton Court in Bristol, but wishing I could be up at Clifton Suspension Bridge to see them float overhead too. The bridge has a spectacular location at the head of the Avon Gorge and I thought I might take you there this week.
I left home on an early morning flight, bound for The Washington Hotel in Clifton. The receptionist there very kindly pointed me in the direction of the bridge and I did what I do best- follow my nose! I was extremely pleased to turn a corner and see before me the Avon Gorge Hotel. It has a highly recommended sun terrace with views out over the bridge.
A good place to start our walk, I think. I had rather a surprise when I turned to look at the suspension bridge. A sheep was keeping his watchful eye on me!
That’s put a smile on your face, hasn’t it? And a good thing too because I should warn you, there’ll be a bit of ‘uphill’ involved in our walk today.
‘Wish Ewe were here’ is one of 70 Shauns liberally scattered around Bristol’s many attractions this Summer. You can follow the Shaun in the City trail around Bristol until 31st August, after which the flock will be herded in the direction of Covent Garden in London. Aside from delighting adults and children alike, the sheep are raising money for charity. I did spot quite a few, which I’ll share with you in another post, but today you might like to take a look at Viveka‘s.
Turning left out of the hotel, you can see the bridge ahead. I was a little disappointed that one pillar was swathed in white, but repairs were necessary. Clifton Suspension Bridge was opened in 1864 and is a Grade 1 listed toll bridge, though foot passengers can cross for free.
Initially we are going to climb the hill to Clifton Observatory. I promise you, the views are worth it! Site of a former mill, 337 feet above the Avon Gorge, the cliff top was used as a look out post as far back as the Iron Age. Today the building functions as a camera obscura. William West, an artist, rented the mill as a studio and installed telescopes and the camera obscura to facilitate drawing the gorge and Leigh Woods on the opposite bank of the river.
Having gazed our fill, it’s time to head back down and cross the bridge itself for still more magnificent views. I hope you have a head for heights? Suspended 75 metres above the Avon Gorge, it is an awesome feat of engineering.
One of the things I’d hoped to do was to take a boat trip through the Avon Gorge, to see it properly from the river. The gorge is home to many rare plants, in particular the whitebeam trees, some of which grow nowhere else in the world. Amongst these are Bristol whitebeams, Wilmott’s, Houston’s and Leigh Woods varieties. Rock cress and Bristol onion can be found clinging to the cliffs and in late Summer the delicate lilac flowers of Autumn Squill.
An evening visit would find the bridge beautifully illuminated, and in the dusk, Jackdaw and horseshoe bats swooping from their homes in the caves. The Visitor Centre on the Leigh Woods side of the bridge will provide you with a full and fascinating history, and on Summer Saturdays and Sundays you can take a free tour of the bridge itself.
Although similar in size, the supporting towers of the bridge are not identical. I was unable to verify this as the tower on the Clifton side was under wraps. The visible tower stands 85 feet tall. Roller-mounted ‘saddles’ at the top of each tower allow slight movement to the chains when loads pass over the bridge. I was amazed at how ‘solid’ the bridge felt beneath my feet, despite the fragility of its appearance.
The bridge is credited to a design by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, but has a colourful history. I was interested to find that its predecessor was a stone bridge, built in the 13th century, on which were built houses 5 stories high. Wikipedia is very informative on the subject if you would like to know more. Our little walk can be completed with a return over the bridge, and maybe lunch at the Avon Gorge Hotel with those wonderful views. Or you might like a wander through charming Clifton Village for a wider choice. I’m going to head down beneath the bridge for a different view, but you don’t have to follow.
I hope you enjoyed my Monday wander as much as I did. Perhaps you can see now why I would have liked to see those hot air balloons above the bridge. Maybe another time? For now let’s get that kettle on, relax, and put our feet up.
Grateful thanks, as always, to my many contributors this week. I love walking with you all and sharing your company. For anyone wishing to join in, my Jo’s Monday walks page will give you the details if you just click on the logo.
The first two lovely ladies had to wait patiently while I was away last weekend, so please do visit :
In our topsy-turvy world- fabulous snow shots from Ruth in Tasmania- brrrrh!
And a gentle piece of reminiscence with Jill. Stories beautifully told- don’t miss this!
If you’d like to be transported to an Impressionist world, Drake will take you there :
Debbie always stops to admire interesting architecture. Take a look!
Just what I could do with right now- a stroll in beautiful botanic gardens. Many thanks, Anabel!
Can I count this as my entry this week, Jude? Only joking! Thanks a lot, Amy!
Geoff is prone to a bit of a ramble :
Planting acorns seems like a nice idea. Find out how with Denzil :
Drake tugs at my heart strings with a second walk this week :
While Meg showers me with the most delicious orchids! And that’s not all!
Still in Australia, Rosemay shows us just why Perth is the perfect home for her :
I’ve had some beautiful shares in the 18 months of Jo’s Monday walks but none lovelier than this. Thanks, Jude!
I hate for it to end in tears, but I’m afraid it rather does for Pauline and Jack! Get well soon, sir!
That’s it for another week! Next week I think I’ll take you harbourside. Don’t forget, those folks at Monday Escapes have lots to entertain you too. But the main thing is to have a happy week ahead. See you next time.