I can’t believe it’s Friday again – the week has flown by.

This week’s tale starts and ends with breakfast. There’s a little luxury thrown in at the end, to sooth a somewhat frustrating trip to the city.

Read on to see where I went today…

Getting there

I’d originally decided I’d walk over the Clifton suspension bridge in Bristol. I’ve been over it many times by car and numerous times in an ambulance – escorting patients, and once at 60mph with a blue light as a patient myself. However, compared to the Sydney Harbour bridge and New York’s Brooklyn bridge, the Bristol landmark is relatively short, taking a maximum of 10 minutes’ stroll to cross.

Today, I was determined to get some steps.

I looked at the official website for ideas and found a route walking over and under the bridge – about an hours’ walk. Perfect.I printed off the route and stashed it in my handbag.

I won’t bore you with the detail of the 20 mile drive to Bristol, such as the jag driver that resented being overtaken by a Smart car on the M5. He immediately moved from lane 1 to lane 3 in a single and rushed manoeuvre, missing me by what felt like inches, then sped off. He obviously didn’t see the traffic police in front of the lorry that he was stuck behind when I overtook him. They also sped up and followed him. I wish I’d seen what happened…

Also, it did strike me as ironic that I was in a queue of slow traffic on the way into Bristol, held up behind a lorry that declared in huge letters on the back ‘Express service’!

Anyway….

Parking – again!

To follow my intended walking route, I needed to park on the Clifton side, so I drove onto the bridge, dropping my £1 coin into the machine to raise the barrier.

The drive across the bridge is frustrating. view-down-the-bridgeThere’s such a great view in both directions, but if you are driving, you can’t take your eyes off the road, as it’s narrow and cars are coming the other way. If you do manage to catch a glimpse, the high and dense wire fencing disrupts the view. However, this would not be a problem today! I could come back and walk.

I’ve driven through Clifton many times and from many different directions, but I often lose my bearings in the narrow streets. I needed to find a parking space not too far away, and easy to find later, but I knew that the local streets would already be full of cars.

parking-ticketI turned right and found a spot parallel to the gorge. That was easy!

It wasn’t quite so easy to operate the parking ticket machine, which spat out a ticket before I’d put the money in…

Having learnt from my last expensive tussle with a ticket machine, I tried again, then set off for the bridge.

Things to see on the way to the bridge

It didn’t take me long to realise I’d parked not far from the entrance to a place I’d been wanting to visit since it was renovated a couple of years ago.

clifton-rocks-sign
Underground funicular railway leading down to the Gorge

The railway was built inside the rocks and ran from the late 1800s until just before the 2nd world war, during which it was used as a secret transmission base for the BBC.

According to a notice, it is open only on special occasions, so I made a note to google it and come back, now I knew where it was..

bridge-info

I passed a viewpoint with some information about the bridge, before making my way up the hill to the former toll booth, which was closed and no longer in use.

 

The Bridge

So, having looked forward to finally seeing the view from the bridge, I can’t say that I was overly impressed. Maybe it looks better in sunshine, or maybe I’ve been spoilt by the Sydney Harbour and the New York bridges.

Here are a few photos

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I did wonder where the railway along the bottom of the gorge went to – might be fun to take a future Friday trip.

The view on the Bristol side of the bridge showed the floating harbour, and the new football stadium in the misty distance. However, the other side of the bridge was closed to pedestrians, so it wasn’t possible to get a good view of the gorge. I tried to sneak down the cycle path, but the minute I set foot on the tarmac, a loud voice from the middle of nowhere shouted me to step away from the cycle path. Bum –  cameras and speakers!

As I arrived at the Leigh Woods side of the bridge, I suddenly remembered the walking route I’d printed off. Oh no! I’d left my handbag in the boot of the car to avoid carrying it…. Oh well. I’d just have to try and remember. As I arrived at the visitor centre, I was pleased to see this on the window

whats-nearby

It didn’t quite match what I remembered from the route I’d printed out. I’ll ask inside for further information, I thought.

Well…. no.

I think the centre was supposed to open at 10.00, but it was closed. The front of the building is quite unwelcoming, with a small sliding door (which didn’t automatically open) looking like a side entrance in the big white building. There was no-one around as far as I could see through the glass. A bit disappointed, I wandered up the road to the left of the visitor centre to try and find my own way.

How the other half live

parking-space

After about 100 yards, I took a right turn, up a hill. Well – the houses were amazing, with personalised number plates on very expensive cars. Where there was no room on the drive, some cars even had their own unlined space within the double yellow lines!

The houses were all very individual, although there was a modern and ugly block of flats on a bend in the road which spoiled the effect somewhat.

I admired the fact that they’d even camouflaged the bins…

hidden-bins
Hidden bins

The hill carried on up and round the bend. I was looking for a pathway to the gorge through the woods, but it was not forthcoming.

The scenery was nice though.

The Observatory

I decided to turn around rather than get lost. I found my way back down to the bridge, went across for the 3rd time and headed for the Observatory, as the notice on the visitor centre said it was open from 10am.

observatory-road-sign
Good name for the road!

The views were spectacular. I was now looking down on the bridge and could see all parts of the gorge.

Unfortunately, the Observatory was closed – just my luck today! Still, the view of the bridge was worth the climb.

bridge-from-observatory
Lovely view
within-jumping-distance
Looks within jumping distance!

A final treat

I walked back down into Clifton via a different route, and came out at nowhere near where I’d parked. Oh dear – where was the car? I recognised a pub across the road that I’d been to with a team I’d worked with a North Bristol Trust, so I headed that way, looking for a coffee and a chance to warm up before resuming my search.

I found myself outside the Ivy and thought – why not? After all, it was the only place I’d wanted to go this morning that wasn’t closed!

So there I was, having late breakfast (or was it early lunch?) of coffee with crumpets and Marmite mousse, with silver service, on a Friday morning in Bristol! It was lovely.

silver-service
Lovely!

Time was marching on, and the parking ticket would soon be running out. I left the warmth of the Ivy and headed back into the cold. I had no idea where the car was, so took a left and headed down a wide avenue with a park in the centre that looked like it was in the general direction of the gorge. Lo and behold, 2 minutes later, there it was!

car-and-bridge

Yay!

Steps

Here are my steps for today’s walk. You can see how hilly it was by the number of floors.

Thanks for reading my rambling tale. I’m happy to hear any thoughts you may have

See you next week!