Sunday, 30 June 2013

Brilliant Bristol.

Well, I have to admit, Bristol has an awful lot going for it. We have really enjoyed our time in the city and have tried to visit as many of the attractions that time would allow.

The harbour is the hub of the city, although not really on the coast, as the sea lock divides the port area, from Avon estuary.  The ports water level is maintained via the river Avon from Hanham lock, so the water in the harbour is mostly fresh rather than saline.  Pity that, as I hoped increased salinity would have killed off some of the weed growth on the hull!

Anyway, as a small passenger ferry crosses the harbour from the end of our pontoon, we took this to Spike island, the home of the SS Great Britain.  This is yet another of Brunel's marvels and really is a must see if visiting the city. The museum and ship are truly marvellous and the hours seemed to fly by as we wandered and wondered at this masterpiece of Victorian engineering.  You MUST visit, my vocabulary cannot begin to describe how brilliant this is.

After this, we walked along the southern edge of the harbour and towards Prince street bridge, passing a steam locomotive giving trips on open topped carriages.

Crossing the harbour brought us to the Old city, and after having a good wander around we decided to eat at one of the many small bistro type establishments situated in a covered area of the old market. We decided on a Moroccan place, and the food was enjoyed semi al fresco and really good it was to.

We then walked back to the harbour and caught one of the many frequent ferry's that criss cross the harbour, which took us to the Hotwells area and the entrance to Cumberland basin. This is basically the sea entrance to the harbour.

Skirting this, we then walked around into the Avon gorge for a view of the Clifton suspension bridge, another Brunel wonder.  A zig zag path left the road and climbed up and up and up to Clifton. We were knackered by the time we reached the top, but boy was it worth it for the views and to see the bridge at close quarters.

From below

Nearly at the top

Looking one way towards Bristol

and the other way down the Avon estuary
As if this was not enough exertion, we then climber up again to the observatory, more stunning views.

Then began the descent through the rather up market area of Clifton, with its many bijou shops and eateries.  The old knee was well cream crackered by this time as going down hurts me far more than climbing up.  Still, a very pleasant walk down and back to the boat.

Only one fly in the ointment when some idiot unplugged our landline mid evening. No damage or harm done.

So Bristol, good on you.  Brilliant place that when the time comes tomorrow, we will be sad to leave.

Whilst wandering around Bristol we came upon many Gromit sculptures, there are 80 that will be auctioned in October for the Bristol Children's Hospital charity.  This was Ali's favourite of the ones we saw. (A giant strawberry).

Friday, 28 June 2013

Bristol, in the wind.

A lazy start this morning.  We could not progress past Hanham lock until the lock keeper at Netham lock had been consulted.  Due to the tide, our passage down this section and into Bristol could not commence until 1300 at Hanham. So we left our mooring at 1130 and chugged down, arriving just before 1300.  A quick phone call by Ian to Netham Lockkeeper and we were ok to go, arriving about 1345.

This is a very benign section.  The tide only really impacts when it is high.  Today it was not, and so after dishing out the dosh, collecting our guides and having a natter with the very helpful lock keeper, we were off into the harbour.

Our mooring last night

You really would not know you were on water in any way affected by tides at this time of year.  In fact the Kennet flowed considerably faster by some margin. Ian and Helen led the way, and we followed. The approach, as with so many urban areas, progresses through light industrial areas and then into the more residential and leisure areas.  The once mighty hub of commerce that was the docks is now given over to pleasure and leisure, with only the remnants of industrial buildings evidence of it's past, interspersed with new development.  I may be somewhat partisan, but Liverpool still has the edge over Bristol I am afraid.

Passing under Temple Meads and then under the somewhat vertically challenged Redhill bridge, we entered what to me was the old harbour proper. We moved from a gentle breeze, to suddenly gale force winds and what Ali called "waves".  It was blowing a hooley, but we pressed on  doing an anti clockwise tour of the dock area, eventually entering  Cumberland basin, were after a glimpse of the Clifton suspension bridge, we turned around.  We then stopped at the Harbour masters offices at the extreme west of the docks, and purchased some cards in order to extract electricity.

Twas then the fun began......

We were advised by the lock keeper and by Doug and James, and others, to head for the floating pontoon nearly opposite the SS Great Britain. Ian and Helen we could see had already moored up to the entrance of this small inlet, on a pontoon. As we approached, the only space I could see was at the back of the inlet and battling the now gale force winds I managed to reverse in and semi secure to a very short pontoon. (Ali here - I have to say with the wind and the angle John had to negotiate to pass the bows of moored boats, even I was impressed and so was the Harbour Master).

It seemed no sooner had the adrenalin rush subsided, than one of the many " Harbour masters/mistresses" approached and asked us if we would consider moving to the inlet I think is called the Amolfini Quay. This is lined with bars and is extremely noisy, so I declined the offer, but said I would move if she would indemnify me from any damage caused to other craft if blown into them due to the prevailing conditions. We stayed put!  It is a nice quiet mooring so we are well happy.  Ian & Helen however, did battle to wind again to moor on the pontoon at the side of us as they had moored on a 'ferry' pontoon.  Selfishly this has helped us as we have tied the bows together which has given us some stability.

Tonight after another natter to Ian and Helen over a cuppa, Ali and I walked around the cathedral quarter and thence to The Old Pump House, were we partook of a little sustenance and liquid refreshment.

Brilliant day.  Sorry to Ali if at times she felt a little sea sick! (Me again - yes I did, however it was worth it!)

The harbour by night

Miles 10
Locks 3

Thursday, 27 June 2013

To Bath (and then beyond!)

Once again the blog has been delayed by dodgy internet!  We have purchased a new dongle in the hope that this will cure the problem, but rain has delayed putting this to use as yet. (It lives in a box on the roof).

Yesterday we set off at 9 ish and began the final hop to the fair City of Bath. I must admit, this section is very pretty, following the Avon valley with its wooded slopes. There remain many moored boats and to be honest running at tickover has gone out of the window because we would not make any headway!  I Still trundle at a slow pace, but a little more than usual.

We were soon approaching the Avoncliff aqueduct which crosses the river. This is not quite as impressive from the canal as the next, the Dundas. We stopped here for water and to empty you know what and Ali descended in order to take some photo's of this still impressive stone structure. It helped that the weather was fine I suppose, but this is a fabulous area.

Avoncliffe Aqueduct

Dundas Aqueduct

Dundas Aqueduct

from below
we loved this hire boat!
 Soon we were approaching Bath and keeping a keen eye out for visitor moorings. We managed to get the last one before the Cleveland House tunnel and Dave and Angie breasted up with us for the night. As it was early afternoon, we all decided to walk down the locks to the river, then into the city centre.  After a wander, Ali and I walked up the hill to the Circle and Royal crescent to take in the views of this magnificent place. The old knee behaved itself, as it seems to when the weather warms up. After another wander and a visit to the 3 shop we decided to visit the Roman baths.

I baulked at the cost initially, but I must say, it was money well spent. That which remains is impressive, and the Georgian architecture compliments this. That Roman engineers could design and build something like this two millenium ago is breathtaking. I would go back again.....

Cleveland House - the old Canal Company HQ

Pulteney Weir

The Circle

Royal Crescent

War Memorial

Queens Street

Roman Baths

Why don't we have signs like this now?

By this time it was early evening and we were both getting a little peckish. We had spotted a "Jamie's Italian" earlier in the day and as we both enjoy the food, decided that they could have our custom. Not so sure they will ever let us back in though! I had a clam based pasta dish, and one was more than a little off!! To be fair, they replaced the meal with an alternative and could not have been nicer, then gave us all for FREE.  I must admit I was a tad testy with the manager, but thoughts of food poisoning and a cassette toilet may have inspired my show of ire.

Later, Dave and Angie joined us on the boat for a few drinkies in order to wish Angie a happy birthday for today. Our ways will part for a while as they did not want to tackle the river to Bristol. Catch them up later next week.

So today, in fair summer weather, we said farewell and we set off down the six locks to the river. We had the good fortune to double up with Ian and Helen from N.B. Leo, who we then shared the locks and the rest of the day with. Double good fortune was in meeting Keith from N.B. Fruit of the Vine, another Beacon boat owner and a volunteer lock keeper in Bath to boot. So we made good time going down, including the " deep lock", which is well, deep!

A right turn onto the river took us below the much photographed Pulteney bridge and weir. Ali walked the bank in order to take some photos. Then a quick turn to head down river towards Bristol. This section remains beautiful, with stunning lock and weir combinations.  As 2pm approached, the clouds started to build and as the floating pontoon at Bitton bridge was free, there we moored for the day and shared a cuppa and natter with Ian and Helen (and a very lovely piece of Helen's lemon drizzle cake). Then, the heavens opened. But care we not, good mooring, lashings of hot water for a good shower and a lovely meal on board.

Bath Deep Lock - going down
and down
and deeper down

Thats what you call a cill!

from inside

Keith & Ali - thanks Keith for your help

Onto the River Avon

Turning in front of Pulteney Weir

First Lock

Lovely views

We have no mooring picture tonight as it started raining!

Wednesday 8 miles 2 swing bridges
Thursday 8 miles 10 locks