07 December, 2016

Walking from Banksy to Brunel in Bristol

- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

I am fascinated by the way threads tie together across geography and history. John Cabot was an Italian, an unsuccessful bridge builder, who retreated across the sea to find North America in 1497!

John Cabot

Our guide on the Bristol walk was an artist and historian. Before the walk I flew around the Cathedral - where I long to return to the Home Front stained glass windows remembering fire wardens and nurses in the war. A November art installation on College Green recalls the Battle of the Somme. Golden unicorns stand on the municipal office building. Everard Press facade shows William Morris - Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

Bristol history

Forbidding stone walls and iron bars for prisoners during the Napoleonic War. French people were held there for 10 years and they built a Huguenot Chapel. The building is upmarket apartments - but how much sadness must lurk in those stone walls!

Napoleonic prisoners

Our group is at the corner looking at bomb damage from the war ... and the Ungardener has vanished! I walked back to our hotel thru parks and along the water. Relieved to meet him again there! He had stopped to take a picture of Bristol Time. See the third hand. Before the Great Western Railway, Bristol kept its OWN time - 11 minutes later than Greenwich. In 1841 the first train from London arrived in Bristol and time changed.

Bristol time

Himself was looking forward to the SS Great Britain - Brunel's iron ship. It was found rotting in the Falkland Islands. The lower half is conserved under humidity protection. This ship sailed around the Cape of Good Hope! Carried emigrants to Australia and Crimean War soldiers. Imagine feeding all those people out of a kitchen this size!! Below was hot and humid - we took a break to hear Brunel himself tell us his story. We walked home in a gentle summer shower. Nothing like the Don't They Know July in England is Summer bitterly cold weather we had at the Eden Project in 2009.

SS Great Britain

We went to Clifton (= cliff town - inspiring Cape Town's Clifton beaches?) Enticing and pretty gardens. Happy cat in his window perch at the Royal York Crescent. At St Vincent's Priory four dancing women effortlessly support the bay window.

Clifton house and garden

Clifton Suspension Bridge, carefully editing out the other pier which was swathed in scaffolding. Avon Gorge has rare grassland plants on its cliffs. When Brunel was told that his bridge would destroy the autumn squill, he had the bulbs dug up and safely replanted.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Had to stop to look again at this 'stained glass window' - a sparkling mass of cable ties!

Cable tie 'stained glass' window

Our guide brought the art to life. Wartime photo of two little girls has been used as social commentary, their gas masks against today's drug dealing. Along a narrow passage Darwin's blue eyes, finches and blue footed boobies. The street art was from See No Evil in 2011 as a project to revitalise a fading section of the city. Successfully, as the art works disappear one by one. Sword duel is inspired by a Spanish old master, Ireland winning against England. Brutal Soviet machinery from Poland. Madonna and child are that artist's own wife and son (and a tribute to single mothers). Each artist was allocated a site and given exactly one weekend to complete the work.

Bristol street art

Banksy. The Well Hung Lover. Banksy insulted the football club and they retaliated with blue paint bombs. A fresh layer of history.

Well Hung Lover

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Pictures by Jurg and Diana Studer
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