This photo ‘Balloon and Brunel’ reminds me of my years spent living in Bristol. You can’t escape the influence of Brunel in this world famous city’s landscape.
How did the photographer get this remarkable shot? We at once recognize the graceful shapes of Isambard Brunel’s famous suspension bridge. But the exactly matching balloon adds an unexpected element to this iconic image of Bristol. It sums up for me nearly 7 years of involvement with this stimulating place. A delightful city with so much of interest, not just for tourists.
In a recent poll Bristol was ranked as Britain’s most sustainable city based on its environmental performance. It received the 2015 European Green Capital Award. The BBC’s Natural History Unit is based here, as well as Bristol Zoo, with the University Botanic Garden nearby. The Sunday Times named it as the best city in Britain in which to live. As a one-time resident I agree.
As the city wakes on a warm, calm mid August morning, there is expectation in the air. It is the start of the annual Bristol Balloon Fiesta, the largest balloon event in Europe.
The ‘early risers’ will be at Ashton Court to watch the balloons being inflated ready for take off. On a day like this, the opportunity for ideal weather conditions must not be missed. At the other end of the city we and our children watch as we see the first balloons rise above the city skyline followed by over a 100 others – a splendid sight. Some will be passing overhead silently, except for the occasional blast of flame to keep the balloon airborne. Inevitably some others will have to make a forced landing in rather unsuitable locations!
All Shipshape and Bristol Fashion
Another must-see item on the tourist’s programme will have to be a visit to Brunel’s ‘SS Great Britain’ and to the replica of John Cabot’s ship ‘The Matthew’. In this tiny vessel he made that historic 1497 journey across the Atlantic to be the first European to land on the N American continent. From this port, Bristol ships plied the trade with the developing American colonies. Over the years, these docks have been full of activity with ‘all hands on deck’ getting ships ‘shipshape and Bristol fashion’, ready to set sail for exploration or trade. Today with the coming of larger vessels the docks have moved to Avonmouth, the Avon river proving unnavigable for larger vessels.
A Dark /Bright Past – the bad and the good
Sadly Bristol also has a dark past, its involvement, along with Liverpool, in the appalling slave trade until Wilberforce’s act in 1807. On a much happier note we remember the leading role the city played in the great religious awakening that stirred England so deeply in the 18th century.
Far better than the grim slave trade, Bristol has, through those early ‘Methodists’, been exporting the Good News of God’s love, bringing hope and freedom through Jesus Christ. When George Whitefield began to preach in Bristol in 1737 vast crowds came to hear. John and Charles Wesley joined Whitefield and the first ‘Methodist’ chapel was established, ‘The New Room’, in the centre of the city (see photo above). Whitefield travelled across the Atlantic 7 times on his visits to preach in New England, carrying the revival fires to America. Later John and Charles Wesley began to travel across England preaching and establishing new churches. These were amazing days and they made a large impact on the English- speaking world at the time.
It was men influenced by this 18th century religious awakening who eventually persuaded parliament to pass Wilberforce’s abolition of the slave trade bill.
Gromit Unleashed 2 2018
However, most of the attention at present is this piece of tourist publicity. It is a trail throughout the city featuring about 70 sculptures based on the cartoons of Bristol company, Aardman Animations. Dressed up in Bristol- related outfits they advertise the city’s past and present achievements. The famous cartoon characters are lovable buffoon Wallace, who is always getting into scrapes and his faithful dog Gromit, who always comes to the rescue. These cartoons are loved by all ‘children’ from 1-99! To see more visit ‘visitbristol’
I’ll leave the last word with Wallace and Gromit – ‘Time for walkies, Gromit!’
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As always, thank you for joining me.
Top Featured Photo -© Copyright Nigel Mykura – Creative Commons. Gromit photos are from a friend Sue who has grandchildren in Bristol! The other photos are from Wikipedia unless indicated.