A Bristol-mix Saturday

This set of photos resulted from an impromptu tour around a really odd mix of bits of Bristol last Saturday. No particular purpose, just decided to see how things were changing in the Enterprise Zone area around Temple Meads and moved on from there. Not everyone’s top choice for spending a Saturday but it’s good to take in a panoramic view of your adopted city every now and then – re-examine your prejudices, inspect the present, see how the visions of architects and planners take shape and what tricks they’ve missed or pulled off. And illuminating too to discover new viewpoints and transformed vistas.

This route encompassed urban decay and salubrious suburbs; remnants of defunct transport and evidence of dismantled communities; grand houses and rough-sleepers’ woodland bedrooms – many shades of the city’s distant and recent histories. Meanwhile new technologies emerge and the adaptable entrepreneurial spirit throws up some pleasing surprises – architectural, environmental and edible. Some more details below photos.

Work has begun on the new arena near Temple Meads Station – guess that means that Grow Bristol’s project will have to shift soon – seen in these photos from a small, and somehow almost invisible spinney on the site of old housing right next to the Bath Road in Totterdown now home to discarded tents, an unusually large number of freezer bags and a crocus plant.

Surprised to learn from the Bristol Wood Recycling people that the future of their site and the neighbouring, dystopian Parcel Force building is still uncertain – they’re just across the river from the new Arena site – property speculators at work.

Lunch in Hart’s Bakery, located in one of the arches underneath the approach ramp to the station and despite misgivings that it would be an overpriced hipster haven the pasty was excellent and fair value, the bread magnificent and everything seemed comfortably ordinary.

Admired, disdained or withheld judgement on new buildings, hard-landscaping and street furniture round Temple Quay then headed north-east a couple of miles to Easton and dived into several different continents courtesy of the Sweet Mart on St Marks Road. On the rare bits of wall space not covered in shelves there are photos of the family’s market stalls selling vegetables in Uganda in the 1950s and 60s, their original enterprise that developed into a successful shop, but they were thrown out by Idi Amin in the 1970s and Mr.Kassam Majothi came to Britain as a refugee, starting up the Sweet Mart in 1978. Still run by the family it’s become a fine example of Bristol’s independent shops; there’s a short film about the family here.

Took a long-winded route out to Kingsweston via Bristol’s18th and 19th Century suburbs of Henbury and past Blaise Castle House to Vanburgh’s Kingsweston House, a handsome pile in spacious grounds that often fills me with gloom, despite this we were heading there for ‘tea on the terrace’ in the thin winter sun. Because of Bristol’s slave trade reputation it’s easy to assume that large houses such as these were all built by families who were connected with this bleak history but Blaise was built by a Quaker abolitionist (also a banker), John Harford.

Neighbouring Kingsweston was owned for several generations by the wealthy Miles family who regrettably were part of the Triangular Trade, but Philip Napier Miles became a notable philanthropist in the early 20thC providing many local amenities – perhaps making amends for his antecedents. It was this same family who in the 1870s developed Avonmouth as a new dock on the marshland below their house thus reducing the once famed views to a dismal industrial scene. It was too cold to sit on the terrace so we stayed inside the Vaulted tearoom but there are still views to be had of the Welsh hills, and Avonmouth. Back home to sample the Hart’s Bakery loaf and goodies from the Sweet Mart, but first through Lawrence Weston, past the wind farm and the shiny new bits of the sewage treatment works on the ex-marshand…


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