Friday, November 01, 2019

MENU's UK Adventure 10. Bath and Bristol to Clyst St George, Devon

One of the problems with visiting ancient historic towns in Britain is getting parking near the action. And so we had several tries at getting close to the river and the famous Baths in eponymous Bath. They have a confusing and long one way system too, so its thirsty on petrol. Eventually we got very close and were surprised to find parking beneath Waitrose, just a few minutes away. But how long to leave the car. You have to decide as you go in, not when you come out, and this has caught us out a couple of times. We will just need an hour as we are so close, we thought. We were wrong
We walked along the river Avon and photographed the Pulteney bridge and the famous weir
An old enclosed market took one straight back to Regency days
And this hotel must have seen so many famous people who came to 'take the waters'
Then we found the Abbey, currently undergoing a lot of work which means taking a detour around it
till we found the baths and the famous colonnades. Getting in was surprisingly easy! Lynne was peering in at the door trying to see how much it would cost and couldn’t see any signs so she asked the doorman it it was expensive to do the tour. It isn’t; a £16.50 ticket each on weekdays for seniors includes an audio guide in one of twelve languages, a public guided tour on the hour, every hour starting from the Great Bath and the opportunity to try the natural Spa water at the end of your visit, so good value. (The water is not for sissies, it is full of sulphur and other minerals. Won’t kill you, but Lynne's memory of it is that it unrepeatable, ever)
The doorman replied with a very Joburg Southern Suburbs accent and so we got chatting, in Afrikaans, when he learned we were from South Africa. "You are my Uncle and Aunt!" he said, "follow me!" then one, two, three, he marched us inside and equipped us with the portable audio guides that hang around your neck and allow you to listen with earphones to the recordings that are prompted by the location you are in. What luck! It is a superb tour, very informative without being taxing or overly technical. You can even choose to listen to author Bill Bryson, famous for his amusing books about life in Britain, telling you his favourite things about the Baths. We just had to do it faster than we wanted to, scared that our car might be clamped

The famous baths from the top terrace. In Roman times Bath was known as Aquae Sulis
Much restoration has taken place since Lynne was last here, way back in the 1970s and the tour is well worth taking
From the other end
Inside, the history of the baths is told; you see the excavations, the original spring that fills the baths and many murals, statues and carvings that were found are displayed. This is a temple pediment with the head which is thought to be the Gorgon's Head We would love a replica of this for outside our house, which is called Sunkissed, as it also looks like the sun
They shine different lights on the stone and differences are revealed
This might be how the carving was painted when it was first installed
This beautiful gilt bronze head of the goddess Sulis Minerva is one of the best known objects from Roman Britain. Minerva was the Roman goddess of wisdom. She was also the goddess of trade, the arts, and strategy in war. Her domains included medicine, poetry, and handicrafts as well. Minerva was highly influenced by the Greek goddess Athena and is a good example of Rome's melding of Greek and Italian traditions. Minerva is part of the holy Capitoline triad, the three supreme leaders of the Roman pantheon, along with Jupiter and Juno
Yes they are real. Dressed as if they were workmen from the days of the Romans, who built the baths on existing hot springs
Makes for a very authentic photo shoot!
South west aspect of the impressive Bath Abbey, a former Benedictine monastery. Founded in the 7th century, it was reorganised in the 10th century and rebuilt in the 12th and 16th centuries; major restoration work was carried out by Sir George Gilbert Scott in the 1860s. It is one of the largest examples of Perpendicular Gothic architecture in the West Country
and the inside of St Michael's Church on our way back to the car. It is a tea shop for visitors during the week
Needs must to collect money to keep the church going
We did a fast trot down the high street and of course were too late; our hour was up by a few minutes
and we had to pay the three hour rate. You learn fast when it’s many pounds difference
Inside the old Post Office was this familiar Cape Triangular stamp on the wall
The building is no longer a post office, but houses the Postal Museum and a fashionable boutique called Jigsaw
Death takes a macabre bike ride through Bath, promoting a comedy event
Then on to the city of Bristol, where John's family, the Fords, ran a very successful butchery business at the end of the Nineteenth Century. He has this photograph of the outside of the building at Christmas, taken in 1890 with his 10 year old grandfather, Douglas, standing at the right hand edge. We wanted to see if we could find any vestige
We found the street, King Square Avenue, and even found parking opposite the site of the butchery
But, sadly, most of the area was bombed in the Second World War, so nothing remains of the original building, which would have been to the left of this 
John thinks the Butchery was on this corner
opposite this small park in King Square
On our way out of Bristol we went across the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge
We must admit it was by complete accident, we were fighting with our SatNav and it led us there
We took photographs of the River Avon and the bridge
It is a remarkable feat of early steel engineering, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and opened in 1864;
this was a huge gap to bridge
Looking upstream. The Fords lived on the other side of the Bridge from the city so, although we don't have an address,
we did get a feel of the rather affluent late Victorian suburb that they lived in. Butchery was obviously a good living
This family portrait, taken in about 1899, shows a prosperous Victorian family
John's great grandfather, Thomas, is the elderly man in the middle
and his grandfather is the young man with a moustache second from the right
Looking down the Avon toward the Bristol Channel
Then it was on the horrendous M5 motorway and down to Devon to stay the night with Lynne's cousins Rick and Mary Pratt in Clyst St George. We had tried so hard not to travel on this motorway, but our car's SatNav kept taking us down what is considered one of the fastest and most dangerous motorways in Britain. We wouldn’t recommend it. If you can turn off motorway driving at that point, do so, we couldn’t without an instruction book, which the car didn’t have. Europcar told us that they remove things like books and floor mats because people steal them! We always prefer the road less travelled; slower yes, but more attractive and you do see more of the countryside

After a lovely afternoon of family chat and catching up, off we went to dinner at their local country pub, the St George and Dragon. Dating back to the 19th Century, the inn originally comprised a brew house, skittle alley, garden stables, outbuildings and a three-acre arable field. All the family together
Mary, Rick, daughter Caroline and her husband Iain
Only the cricketing teenage twins were missing; we expect to see them on TV one day playing for England
We had a lovely meal together
And drank a bottle or two of Réserve Roquemolière Picpoul de Pinet 2018, which was very refreshing and went very well with dinner. John had a lamb shank, a huge portion that nearly defeated even him, but which the rest of the family managed well. Lynne had some good lobster croquettes
Back 'home' we went through some old family photographs, some that Lynne had never seen of her father and mother,
and met the soft and soppy family dog, whom we loved. It is very special seeing family after all this time
All content ©  John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus

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