Bristol Hot Air Balloon Festival

Jo’s Monday walk : Clifton Suspension Bridge and Observatory

Clifton Suspension bridge

Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol

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.

And towards Bristol!

And towards Bristol, in the other direction

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.

A look out at the bridge and we're on our way

A look at the bridge, and we’re on our way

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.

Looking down from the Observatory to the bridge

Looking down from the Observatory to the bridge

A plant lovers paradise

A plant lover’s paradise

I think you will agree that the view is magnificent

I think you will agree that the view is magnificent

Samuel Jackson's watercolour from 1825

Samuel Jackson’s watercolour from 1825

Looking down into the gorge

Looking down into the gorge

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.

Looking up!

Looking up!

The Observatory seen from the bridge

The Observatory seen from the bridge

The River Avon below twists and turns into the distance

The River Avon below twists and turns into the distance

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.

The supporting tower on the Leigh Woods side of the gorge

The supporting tower on the Leigh Woods side of the gorge

Looking back through the tower

Looking back through the tower

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.

The bridge in silhouette

The bridge in silhouette

Looking back up

Looking back up

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.

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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.

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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!

A walk in the snow

And a gentle piece of reminiscence with Jill.  Stories beautifully told- don’t miss this!

The Old Custom House : a photographer’s delight

If you’d like to be transported to an Impressionist world, Drake will take you there :

Heaven on earth, a paradise

Debbie always stops to admire interesting architecture.  Take a look!

On Emerald Hill

Just what I could do with right now- a stroll in beautiful botanic gardens.  Many thanks, Anabel!

Dawyck Botanic Garden

Can I count this as my entry this week, Jude?  Only joking!  Thanks a lot, Amy!

Monday Walk : Banff Springs and Bench Series

Geoff is prone to a bit of a ramble :

In search of an identity- one walk, one dream

Planting acorns seems like a nice idea.  Find out how with Denzil :

Erezee: A breath of fresh Ardennes air

Drake tugs at my heart strings with a second walk this week :

Wondering walk in Paris

While Meg showers me with the most delicious orchids!  And that’s not all!

Gilgandra Flora Reserve

Still in Australia, Rosemay shows us just why Perth is the perfect home for her :

Our Adopted Home- Perth and South Western Australia

I’ve had some beautiful shares in the 18 months of Jo’s Monday walks but none lovelier than this. Thanks, Jude!

I promised you a rose garden

I hate for it to end in tears, but I’m afraid it rather does for Pauline and Jack!  Get well soon, sir!

Ups and downs in Brisbane

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.

Six word Saturday

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Saving the best till the last?

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Most of you will know that I had the most amazing time at Bristol Hot Air Balloon Festival last weekend.  I shared my best photos in The time of my life but I did want to give you a little flavour of the spectacular Nightglow and fireworks that ended the show.

My little digital really wasn’t up to the task but to my surprise my smartphone was capable, despite the wobbly, excited hands of the photographer.  Trouble is, I haven’t found a way to upload it to share with you.  Well, there’s always a way, isn’t there, so I spent some time this morning searching through YouTube.  I don’t think that this video fully captures the electric atmosphere, but maybe that was just me getting over excited.  It starts slowly and is quite long, so I would suggest you fast forward and watch snippets.  You do get to see the fireworks at the end, though, which is more than I managed.  I was taking a long walk home!  Hopefully next time I’ll be a little wiser. Still I was lucky- the event was so popular that some people were stuck in traffic and didn’t even make it.

It just remains for me to say ‘thank you Bristol’ and hope to see you again.

Have a great Saturday and don’t forget to visit Cate with your six words.

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The time of my life!

You are about to see penguins fly!

You are about to see penguins fly!

There must be something about August!  Apart from it being the height of an English Summer and my wedding anniversary month, I seem to have some of my very best memories from then. You have no idea how ridiculously excited I was to be going to the Bristol Balloon Festival!  And I wasn’t even flying (maybe someday?)

I won’t share with you the whole saga right now.  Sufficient to say that it was a very long walk home (even by Restlessjo standards), and that the people of Bristol are some of the nicest folk I’ve ever met.  Are you ready for this?

It all starts with the moment that life is breathed into these beauties

It all starts with the moment that life is breathed into these beauties

Look Mum! I'm surrounded by balloons!

Look Mum! I’m surrounded by balloons!

Even a square one!

Even a square one!

I had arrived at the showground early, and been royally entertained with flying model aircraft and the beautiful gardens at Ashton Court- all in radiant sunshine.  But there was no doubt of the spectacle that everyone wanted to see, and excitement began to build as the teams drove out onto the field.  The baskets were tipped inelegantly on their sides and the balloons draped around them.

As the first one juddered and stammered to life, a thrill went through the crowd.  And then it was proudly erect!  Pink, white and perfect, it waited patiently while all the other balloons performed their own ballet.

Faster and faster they rose!

Faster and faster they rose!

As the baskets were righted and the excited passengers climbed in, it was the job of one man to hang on to a rope for dear life to stop the balloon plunging away.  In moments they were airborne, one after another, amid the gasps of spectators.  Necks craned and we waved as the passengers waved back.

Against a mackerel sky

Against a mackerel sky

Who could help but smile?

Who could help but smile?

And wave!

And wave!

Although the skies were clear and bright there was still some doubt as to how many balloons would be able to take off.  The occasional gust of wind across the airfield gave no real sense of how breezy it might be in the skies overhead.  But one by one they pulled away, and the excitement never faded.

A certain twosome were eagerly waiting

A certain twosome were eagerly waiting

And then there was Swatch

And then there was Swatch

Anyone know these guys?

Anyone know these guys?

Airborne at last!

Airborne at last!

Don't forget the polar bears!

Don’t forget the polar bears!

In minutes they were clear of the trees and gone, in the direction of the city and Clifton Suspension Bridge.  Part of me wished I was waiting by the bridge, but there is no guarantee in which direction they will head, air currents being vital to this.  On the field, the numbers of balloons dwindled, but I remained rapt.

Two red letter days?

Two red letter days?

But look whose turn it is next!

But look whose turn it is next!

Totally adorable!

Totally adorable!

'Balloons' was one of the last to take to the sky

‘Balloons’ was one of the last to take to the sky

And then it was over, for a little while.  Wilkinson Cup began to be deflated and the balloonists were off being collected from their respective landings.  That would be fun to see too!  Then began the wait for evening and Nightglow.

The cup takes a curtain call

The cup takes a curtain call

Without ever seeing Paula’s Guest Challenge this week, I knew that the subject was Time, and that with Debbie in the driving seat there wouldn’t be much of it to spare.  Mine is rather a large ‘snippet of time’ but a very special one, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it with me.  Please click on the links to see Debbie’s wonderful post, and Paula’s interpretation of it.  I hope I can play my part in making Thursday special.

And I musn’t forget a mention of a very special friend, whom I was lucky enough to meet in Bristol.  Viveka, this one’s for you!