Easton in Gordano? It’s a village on the south bank of the river Avon near Bristol and is the home of our friends Iain and Bev and, this last weekend, the location of our latest get-together with our group of 10 to about 18 friends (depending on who can make it) intent on having a good time, lubricated with a certain quantity of alcohol.
|Friday night at Iain and Bev's. On the left is Helen and, clockwise, Sue, Iain, Jackie, Phil, Bev, Manu and Ian|
Driven down by Ian and Helen, after he’d finished work as Chief Engineer in a well-known international chocolate factory in Birmingham, we avoided most of the Friday afternoon traffic on the usually very busy M5, to be welcomed with large gin and tonics and nibbles by Iain and Bev (even though Bev isn’t all that well at the moment) in their really nice house. Manu was already there (Crystal couldn’t make it) and Phil and Sue (Dr. Phil, ex rocket scientist and nuclear engineer to be precise!) turned up about 8:30pm just as dinner was served.
How is it that these evenings can go on so long? 02:30am was about the time we went to bed after one and a half bottles of gin, a number of bottles of wine and then a couple of bottles of port to swill down the many varieties of cheese and biscuits. Several cups of tea and water at 02:00am was my salvation to avoid a hangover as I felt myself spiraling rapidly towards oblivion!
|John (with his pint of Guinness) and Fiona on Saturday|
Manu, in usual Manu style had disappeared home by the following morning, leaving a little note for us, as he had some property business to attend to, but our numbers swelled again as we were joined by Iain’s sister Fiona and John for breakfast in the local pub. Guinness for breakfast! Well, he is Irish!
|Phil by the Avon|
Our nine, less Bev who stayed at home, walked the seven miles into Bristol along the south bank of the Avon, in beautiful clear blue but cold skies, past the Avon Gorge with its 300 ft (100m) high wall of rock and the regular venue for climbing for Brian and Phil and later Brian and Jackie on Tuesday evenings (evening climbing after work all day and driving nearly 2 hours down from Birmingham and then back again later, were we mad or just keen?) We had a good reminisce, pointing out the various climbs, many of them three star classic routes, right along the gorge, as far as the buttress under the Clifton Suspension Bridge: Great Central Route, the photogenic Giants Cave Buttress (always drew crowds of onlookers on the suspension bridge) and Suspension Bridge Arete to name but a few.
|The Gang! Jackie, Ian, Helen, Iain, Fiona, Sue, John & Phil|
|There's people climbing on that rock, but you probably can't see them|
|This is 'Main Wall' at Avon. We've done many climbs on there|
|Clifton Suspension Bridge. the buttress to the left is Giants Cave Butress|
Bristol, with its long maritime history is a great place to visit. Its history goes back to Anglo-Saxon times when a small settlement, known as Brigstowe (a place of settlement by the bridge) grew. The Norman’s built a castle here after their conquest in 1066 and in 1497 John Cabot set sail, in his ship the Matthew, hoping to find a passage to the Eastern Indonesia, but instead making landfall in North America, most likely Newfoundland.
|Clifton Suspension Bridge and the Avon at low tide|
|Clifton to the left, Bristol and the start of the docks to the right|
|Some of the dock area|
|The floating 'Bristol Beer Factory'|
The Avon river runs into the huge Severn Estuary, which captures the incoming tide from the Atlantic and funnels it in to give the Avon the second highest tidal range in the world (the highest is the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia – I always like to know these things!), rising as much as 14m twice a day. The six miles between Bristol docks and Avonmouth, its entrance to the Severn Estuary, has many twisting turns, but it became a big port due to the ability to sail in on the fast flowing incoming tide and back out again on the receding tide. This had positive and negative points, the negative being the stranding of ships at low tide on the mud banks, leading to the design of a flatter bottomed, stronger hulled ship that gave rise to the phrase ‘Ship shape and Bristol fashion’.
|First beer at 3:30pm!|
It led eventually to the damming of the river and the creation of Bristol’s ‘Floating Harbour’, allowing ships to remain floating at low tide. In the mid 18th century it was a hugely important city, being a main port for imports of sugar cane, tobacco, rum and cocoa, but these were the products of slave labour, revealing Bristol’s darker side in it’s active involvement.
In the late 18th century the arrival of the chief engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel further shaped the city with the building of the Clifton Suspension Bridge (1352 ft long, 702 ft between piers, it was completed in 1864, five years after his death. Did you know, the bridge is three feet lower on one side to counteract an optical illusion?). He also built the SS Great Britain, the first iron steamship, built in Bristol in 1843, abandoned and beached at Port Stanley, Falkland Islands in 1937 after more than a million sea miles, but in 1970 was re-floated and bought back to Bristol where it is being restored.
|John and Fiona in matching clothes!|
|Nice sunset photos from our floating bar|
We arrived in the rejuvenated dock area, which is now a restored and modernised area of fine old buildings converted to chic harbour-side apartments, restaurants and bars and a thriving, busy area. We got as far as the ‘Bristol Beer Factory’, which is a floating bar, at 3:30pm, what a time to start drinking! But it did give splendid views of the river, the harbour, the SS Great Britain in its dry dock and, later on, a great sunset.
|A not very good photo of the SS Great Britain, floodlit at night|
|Night on the town. Yes, it was cold!!|
Bev joined us here after catching the bus down and the evening continued in another bar, a superb Indian restaurant and, after a very silly and crowded bus ride back at 11:00pm (how old are we? – but I don’t think we offended anyone and hopefully caused a few laughs) we ended up back at Iain and Bev’s local for another couple of beers and finally back to theirs, after saying goodbye to Fiona and John.
|Jackies teddy is crowded in by pirate bear and Chinese 'wealth' cats (given a much naughtier name by Ian!)|
|A homely picture at Iain and Bevs|
A lazy Sunday in front of a roaring log fire lounging about eating breakfast, reading the Sunday papers and then a pleasant walk through a local wood, followed by a late lunch, we were home about 6:00pm, very happy but tired people.
|Sunday afternoon walk through the woods|
Thank you Iain and Bev for your hospitality, Ian and Helen for taking us and everyone else for your great company – we have missed these weekends while we’ve been travelling!