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Thursday, 11 January 2018

Even though they seem to have little function today it's hard not to be impressed with the overwhelming scale and grandeur of ancient churches. Bristol has many examples, some nothing more than a pile of ancient rubble, some bombed-out skeletons, some still standing proud but no longer with a congregation and a very few are still open for services. By no means a complete list, here are a few we've come across during our walks.

This one is St. John on the Wall, built in the 12th century as one of five churches built into Bristol's city walls. It's the only one of the five to remain. It is possible to enter the church and visit the 14th century vaulted crypt beneath although it wasn't open the day of our visit.

Just up Broad Street from St. John on the Wall is Christ Church with St. Ewen, All Saints and St George (Church of England). It's the only Church left in the Old City that holds regular services. It was built between 1786 and 1791 and is probably the third church on this site. Its location is on the hill-top of what was once the centre of the original walled town. We took this photo on Christmas Day when the doors were open, lights were on and people were arriving for services. The ring of ten bells was being played by hand, not that expertly, but, delightful nonetheless. It's not often you hear church bells rung by hand these days. Normally, on the two plinths beside the clock, there are two 'quarterjacks' which hammer out a tune on the quarter hour. Unfortunately, they are out for restoration right now and we were unable to see them.

Bristol Cathedral grew from an Abbey on its site that was built in 1140. Some portions of this building remain. The Cathedral is known for being a medieval 'hall church', with the vaulted ceilings in the nave, choir, and aisles all at the same height.

There are many different buildings on the Cathedral site, all stunning.

St. Mary Redcliffe (Anglican) is another very substantial and impressive Church, constructed from the 12th through the 15th centuries.

The two most poignant examples though, were the Blitz-bombed churches of St. Peter's and Temple Church. St. Peter's is the most visible as it sits in a prominent position in Castle Park, just adjacent to the main shopping area of Broadmead. During the Bristol bombing of November 1940, the roof caught fire and the church was ruined. What remains is maintained as a monument to the civilian war dead of Bristol.

Temple church is hidden away, so, not as visible, but, it is also a loss of great significance. One 'benefit' of its destruction was that it enabled archaeologists to prove that within the walls of the old church was another, earlier, round church that was built here, as part of a monastery in the 1130s, by the Order of the Knights Templar. Only nine of these round churches were ever built in Britain.

Don't know the name of this church, but, it dominates the area at the foot of the Bristol Bridge.

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Saturday, 6 January 2018

Since we purchased our current boat, in May 2017, the steep learning curve and maintenance issues have kept us so busy that there wasn't a lot of time for blog updating. Thus, the page on the site entitled 'THE BOAT' (on the horizontal menu bar across the top) was severely out-of-date. I've now updated it and changed the name to 'THE BOATS' as it contains information on all five of the boats we've owned. You may want to take a look? Here's a pic of our very first boat, "Cygnet", an Alberg22 purchased in 2005.

Also, I was never happy with the 'FIND GJOA' page either. What I'd really like to be able to show readers is a map that continually updates our real time position and keeps a historical track based on AIS data (which is generated from our AIS transponder and doesn't require any manual intervention). I know I can do something similar using maybe a SPOT device, or email, to report position with a subscription to various services etc., but, these all cost money and/or manual intervention and I haven't found one yet that offers a simple, cost-effective (i.e. free), hands-off solution that I like (any suggestions are welcome).

In the past I've manually moved our historical tracks from our chartplotter and loaded them to Google Earth and that is what I have been showing. Unfortunately, this requires a lot of manual effort and was never suitable for uploading when at sea. Recently, I realized I could embed a map from which would show our current position, from real time AIS data, when we are close to a shore-based station and when offshore in remote areas, possibly by satellite collection as well. I've now added this map to the FIND GJOA page. It's not great either, but, may be interesting to look at when we're underway again...
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Friday, 5 January 2018

We've been busy exploring Bristol on foot. It's a wonderful city for walking with many footpaths along the Avon river and Floating Harbour.

In some places, it reminded me of Amsterdam, or, Copenhagen.

Bristol was heavily bombed and badly damaged in the Blitz of WWII. The whole of the main shopping area around the Norman castle site was wiped out in just one attack on November 2, 1940. However, many old buildings and interesting historical streetscapes remain. Bristol was founded as a port around 1000, receiving a Royal Charter in 1155. There are examples of Norman, Medieval, Tudor, Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian buildings remaining throughout the town.

Queen Square, completed in 1727 in honour of Queen Anne, has been so perfectly restored, without modern intrusions, that it makes history come alive and offers a tranquil, green respite from the busy roads that run outside it. Unbelievably, it wasn't always so. In 1937, a dual carriageway was built diagonally right through the middle of the square! Luckily, sense prevailed and the road was closed and removed in 1992.

Many buildings of the same vintage surround the square without a modern interloper among them.

Elsewhere in Old Town, there is a varied mix of styles. Some of the most elaborate and grandiose buildings were built in the Victorian era. This one was erected in 1857. The design was based on a Venetian library.

Perhaps more typical of Victorian style is this streetscape...

and this example from 1899.

This building defied description. Technically Victorian, as it was built in 1900, I had to look it up to find it has "a pre-Raphaelite art nouveau style facade". It was designed by the chief designer at Doulton and is the largest decorative Carrara marble tile facade of its type in Britain. "Edward Everard" is the name of the printing company that commissioned it.

This quaint shopping laneway is known as the Christmas Steps.

Substantial and impressive limestone buildings were found along Corn Street.

Nearby, on Broad Street, is the lovely Grand hotel. Built in 1869 and Grade II listed it has just reopened after a major refurbishment.

The tour ended in front of the Corn Street Exchange where we found an interesting bit of trivia about the clock with two minute hands above the entryway.

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Sunday, 31 December 2017

The end of another year is upon us and I'm planning to start a new annual, end of year tradition with this post. Last year (2016), I published a post entitled Signs-Part I with photos of signs that we came across in our travels that had either made us laugh, think, or, just generally intrigued us. Often, the best ones go by in a flash if we're in transit, so we can't get a photograph, but, here are a few we came across in 2017 that may amuse you.

Don't remember where we came across these three...

The next four were in New Zealand...

One from the USA...

and a few from Canada...

This one isn't a 'sign', but, it definitely brought a smile on a woodland walk...

This one, seen on a park bench in Revelstoke BC, was a little unusual in that it didn't commemorate the dead as is usually the case with plaques on sponsored benches, but, expressed thanks to a place and community that obviously meant much to them. A few simple words, but, so evocative it really tugged at the heartstrings.

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Thursday, 21 December 2017

While waiting to move into our furnished rental in Bristol, we decided to head to the seaside for a few days as we'd been missing the sea already.

Just an hour or so from Bristol is Weston-Super-Mare, a traditional seaside town. We went not knowing what to expect, probably a faded, down-at-the-heels town with social problems. There was quite a bit of that, especially in the old-fashioned hotel we stayed in. Cobbled together from a row of old mansions, it was very worn around the edges and like a rabbit warren inside with steps up or down every few feet. Located directly on the front, across from the pier and adjacent to a shopping mall, the hotel was very busy. The included breakfast service, 'full English', of course, was run like a military operation. They couldn't serve a minute before 8:15, then, the whole team sprung into action. It seemed comical, but, the cheerful efficiency was appreciated and the food was mostly edible.

The town's natural setting on the Bristol Channel was superb. The weather was beautiful, cool, but, sunny, perfect for a long walk along the incredible beach.

Tidal heights of almost 14.5 metres did mean you had to watch the clock. The low tide mark is about 1.6 km from the seafront.  Although the beach itself is sandy, low tide uncovers areas of thick mud and gives the town its nickname of Weston-super-Mud.

One day, we walked east, the next west. One of the things I like best about the UK is you don't really have to plan a day trip, just set out from where you are and soon you will encounter something interesting. Today's treat was a Norman church, high on a hill with a vista of the Channel and the Mendip Hills. It was a hike to get up there, but, worth it. St. Nicholas Church, dedicated to the patron Saint of sailors, was consecrated in 1129. Although without a roof since 1860, there is a small, intact portion of the Church. It's usually locked, but, the day we were there it was being decorated for an upcoming Christmas candlelit choir service and was open to view.

At the base of the hill was a medieval port village, aptly named, Uphill.

Leading to the village was a tidal estuary and boggy marshland which we slogged through.

The next day we headed the other way, past the new, modern pier directly across from our hotel. It charged £1 admission to walk on it. It was full of tacky, noisy arcades with barely a way to get outside to admire the sea view.

Then, we came across the day's surprise. Just a little further along the front was the historic Birnbeck pier. Currently a ruin, there is a trust trying to raise funds for its restoration. Interested parties have come together to form the Birnbeck Regeneration Trust. It looks very much worth saving. Look more closely at the lifeboat shed and slipway. I'm assuming there must be a piece missing, otherwise it would have been quite a challenge to launch a lifeboat at low tide!

There were some quality buildings to look at.

Tucked in behind a sheltered wall, we also found this iris, in perfect bloom the first week of December, a welcome sight.

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Saturday, 16 December 2017

We'd been discussing returning to the UK for a while and had already decided on Bristol as probably the best place for us. So, when we left Australia sooner than we had anticipated, the decision on where to go was easy.

Why Bristol? It's an old place, having received a royal charter in 1155. It's on the west coast. In the past, we have already lived in London and the South/South East, so, wanted to be in another part of the country. Bristol is ideally located to explore the West country and more of the North. A rich maritime heritage and a location on the mighty Bristol Channel appealed (second highest tides in the world, after the Bay of Fundy), as did its long history with architecture to match. It's a university town, small (only about 465,000), has an international airport and a rail station from which you can get to anywhere in the country. When we later learned that the Sunday Times had rated it the 'best place to live in Britain' for 2014 and 2017, we felt we'd made the right decision. Bristol also won the EU's European Green Capital Award in 2015, the first UK city to do so.

On the downside, with a population growth of over 10% in the last three years and a large student population, it has a very tight rental market and prices are only next to London in their heights. As usual, we applied logic to the process and quickly found a suitable rental, we move in next week. We would have liked a period property, but, most were unfurnished and/or needed work. We needed furnished and fast so took a new build. No one has lived in it, so, it will be all new and we can just move right in. We can walk everywhere from there, including to Bristol Temple Mead railway station, no car required, hooray!

Walking around The Floating Harbour (located on a stretch of the tidal River Avon its depth is lock-protected) is a delight. Its banks are lined with historic ships.

One of the boats with a Canadian connection is a replica of 'The Matthew', the boat John Cabot sailed to Newfoundland in 1497.

Other interesting sights are a steam crane and a row of historic, moving gantries, used to load/unload ships.

There'll be a lot more posts on Bristol in the months to come. There's a wealth of things to see and do here and in the surrounding area. Bristol is just 106 miles west of London, 77 miles south-southwest of Birmingham, 26 miles east of the Welsh Capital Cardiff and 60 miles east-southeast of Swansea. Interestingly, it's a city and also a county, positioned between North Somerset and Gloucestershire.

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