07 December, 2016

Walking from Banksy to Brunel in Bristol

- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

I am fascinated by the way threads tie together across geography and history. John Cabot was an Italian, an unsuccessful bridge builder, who retreated across the sea to find North America in 1497!

John Cabot

Our guide on the Bristol walk was an artist and historian. Before the walk I flew around the Cathedral - where I long to return to the Home Front stained glass windows remembering fire wardens and nurses in the war. A November art installation on College Green recalls the Battle of the Somme. Golden unicorns stand on the municipal office building. Everard Press facade shows William Morris - Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

Bristol history

Forbidding stone walls and iron bars for prisoners during the Napoleonic War. French people were held there for 10 years and they built a Huguenot Chapel. The building is upmarket apartments - but how much sadness must lurk in those stone walls!

Napoleonic prisoners

Our group is at the corner looking at bomb damage from the war ... and the Ungardener has vanished! I walked back to our hotel thru parks and along the water. Relieved to meet him again there! He had stopped to take a picture of Bristol Time. See the third hand. Before the Great Western Railway, Bristol kept its OWN time - 11 minutes later than Greenwich. In 1841 the first train from London arrived in Bristol and time changed.

Bristol time

Himself was looking forward to the SS Great Britain - Brunel's iron ship. It was found rotting in the Falkland Islands. The lower half is conserved under humidity protection. This ship sailed around the Cape of Good Hope! Carried emigrants to Australia and Crimean War soldiers. Imagine feeding all those people out of a kitchen this size!! Below was hot and humid - we took a break to hear Brunel himself tell us his story. We walked home in a gentle summer shower. Nothing like the Don't They Know July in England is Summer bitterly cold weather we had at the Eden Project in 2009.

SS Great Britain

We went to Clifton (= cliff town - inspiring Cape Town's Clifton beaches?) Enticing and pretty gardens. Happy cat in his window perch at the Royal York Crescent. At St Vincent's Priory four dancing women effortlessly support the bay window.

Clifton house and garden

Clifton Suspension Bridge, carefully editing out the other pier which was swathed in scaffolding. Avon Gorge has rare grassland plants on its cliffs. When Brunel was told that his bridge would destroy the autumn squill, he had the bulbs dug up and safely replanted.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Had to stop to look again at this 'stained glass window' - a sparkling mass of cable ties!

Cable tie 'stained glass' window

Our guide brought the art to life. Wartime photo of two little girls has been used as social commentary, their gas masks against today's drug dealing. Along a narrow passage Darwin's blue eyes, finches and blue footed boobies. The street art was from See No Evil in 2011 as a project to revitalise a fading section of the city. Successfully, as the art works disappear one by one. Sword duel is inspired by a Spanish old master, Ireland winning against England. Brutal Soviet machinery from Poland. Madonna and child are that artist's own wife and son (and a tribute to single mothers). Each artist was allocated a site and given exactly one weekend to complete the work.

Bristol street art

Banksy. The Well Hung Lover. Banksy insulted the football club and they retaliated with blue paint bombs. A fresh layer of history.

Well Hung Lover

From Bristol we flew to Frankfurt

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Pictures by Jurg and Diana Studer
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  1. You give great (virtual) tours yourself, Diana!

    1. Planned by the Ungardener, former tour guide, who slaved over a hot Google looking for interesting things to do.

  2. A very interesting tour of the city ... It seems you had a good guide, what a difference that makes! I love the way the city had its own time until the railways came to town! I often think of old buildings & the tales they could tell & sometimes the sadness that is part of its history ... Loved the art work too.

    1. I like that the city is walkable. Not huge, but with lots of variety.

  3. Fascinating Diana, I have to admit I've never visited Bristol, just passed it by on the motorway or arrived and departed from its airport.

    1. It was, that onward flight to Frankfurt, that made us decide to spend a few days in Bristol. Much enjoyed!

  4. Lovely to see the city where I used to work for many years afresh through your eyes Diana. I was there again last week and saw the other part renowned for its street art, the Stokes Croft area. Nelson Street, which you've featured was part of a street art festival a few years ago. Some of the best pictures have gone now as the area is being slowly redeveloped. Shame I didn't know you were here as I live only a short distance away!

    1. Stokes Croft was where our 'Hilton' hotel was.

    2. In which case I know exactly where you stayed! One of the offices I used to work in was right next door. That area has changed so much since I worked there. The 'bearpit' as it is now called near to where you stayed (which I knew as the St James Barton roundabout) was a no go area at night, and is now one of the showcase projects in Incredible Edible Bristol.

    3. Yes! In the bearpit we found a vegetarian restaurant.
      It still felt a bit unsettling as the shops closed ...

  5. I enjoyed the tour. And the photos!

  6. A city with a lot of history attached to it - thanks for the tour Diana.

  7. Some very interesting history! Amazing how much we can learn from a good tour. Not sure I would want to live in a former prison. Hopefully, no ghosts roam the halls!

  8. It was lovely to read about your tour of Bristol. My family originate from here and my son now lives there, so we know it well. What did you think of the installation on College Green? There used to be an additional hand on the town clock here which showed Bridport time! Sarah x

    1. Sadly we were there in summer, before the installation.

      I very much like that Bristol is on a walkable human scale. Sandwiched between London and Frankfurt for us.

  9. That photograph of the Clifton Suspension Bridge gives me a funny stomach.

    1. My husband's photo. I stayed mostly at the far end, looking at the plants.