If you have been keeping up to date with my website you would know Ive been blogging and photographing my 8-month Roam around the world in 2019. Most recently I have been on a road trip through the USA which I’ll be writing about soon but first to my recent adventure across England during the “UK Heatwave”. I have now returned to Australia, unfortunately in my experience no world trip can be “Endless” without some dose of reality (ie earning an income) so now its time to catch up on the writing between looking for a job.
Recently Id based myself (thanks to close friends) in the northern English city of Chester between trips to Portugal, Spain and Morocco (refer to previous blogs). Chester was a thoroughly enjoyable experience including plenty of Sunday roasts, football and beer. My time was coming to a close however and it was time to plan my last few weeks in England before flying out to the USA. The plan for the next few weeks formed itself really, news reports on the BBC were indicating that an ensuing “UK Heatwave” was coming so as I love with the beach I decided that heading to the English south coast. I bought a ticket at the train station and decided on the city of Bristol for a few days.
Bristol has a population of around half a million people and is a city on the river Avon. Founded around 1000AD, it was a major port in the exploration of the “New World” (USA and Canada) and there are many historical buildings and boats located on the river running through the city centre. Id booked a hostel on a riverboat moored on Bristol Harbour so was right in the centre of the major tourist attractions. The downtown area gravitates towards the harbour and there a series of locks with riverboats moored alongside as well as museums. There was also little street traffic as the roads are narrow and are diverted away from area so its mostly people leisurely walking about. It was quite a pleasant stroll around the Bristol harbour especially on a hot English day.
After the harbour I headed up to one of Bristol’s famous landmarks, Cabot Tower located in Brandon park. The tower is on top of a hill and there were plenty of people lying about sunning themselves taking advantage of the weather. I headed up the spiral tower staircase, 32 metres to the top, the view of Bristol and countryside below was stunning. After a nap in the park I headed into Bristol Old Town, walked the cobbled streets looking at old buildings and had lunch.. I then headed to Bristol Cathedral, inside were hundreds of students dressed in university graduation robes and camera crews filming the ceremony. These graduation ceremonies were constantly going on for my stay two day stay so I didn’t get a chance to see inside much of the cathedral nor did I choose to visit any museums that Bristol has to offer as I wanted to be outside.
Bristol is famous for hip hop and alternative music and the hostel I was staying at indicated the best nightlife is in an area called Stokes Croft. Stokes Croft is actually a long street which appears run down, the buildings are painted with graffiti and the area is famous within the United Kingdom for this, I thoroughly enjoyed both nights I spent there. Many bars included DJ’s and live music and were doing happy hours selling international and locally brewed cider, beer and food. The people were very friendly, everyone was engaging and interesting. The area king of reminded me of the US city of Portland, London’s Camden Town or my home Newtown in Sydney. If you are not familiar with these places the area is essentially people with a unique fashion sense, men with beards, lots of tattoos and graffiti. After many beers I headed back to my boat hostel passing Llandoger Trow, a building and area where students and others were celebrating university graduation with you guessed it, beer. I felt very home in Stokes Croft and was sad I had to leave so soon, I now intend to make it back there one day.
My second day was all about heading to the beach, Bristol is about 45 minutes by train to the beach side town of Weston-Super-Mare in Northern Somerset. The weather was reaching 30 degrees celsius which is considered hot in England. I walked down the high street towards Grand Pier on the coast, the beach was a scattering of people and mini vans parked with attractions including ice creams and donkeys rides. I went to the shoreline but the water which was dirty brown so rather than swim I explored the pier. This involved few hundred metres walk along the bridge into an adjoining complex full of arcade machines for children. The Grand Pier is actually quite new, originally built in 1904 it was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 2008 and is very modern.
I relaxed outside on a lounge chair for a while and then walked along the water to an outdoor ocean swimming pool where people were splashing about making most of the sensational weather. The water looked clean so I went for a quick swim and then kept walking along the coast until I came across another creepy looking much larger abandoned Birnbeck Pier which appeared to be effected by some long ago fire, unfortunately the bridge was chained off and I could not access it. I then headed back to the train station past dated 1960’s constructed hotels, some abandoned, people were under umbrellas drinking and eating no doubt shading themselves from the sun. Weston-Super-Mare to me felt like a English sea side village trapped in the 1960’s with, it was a great and almost surreal day. I then headed back to Bristol and even managed sunburn under the sweltering English sun. Please note the surreal-ness I experienced could of been sunstroke and maybe not the town at all.
Sadly the following day I was back on the train and headed for the South Coast city of Bournemouth. Bournemouth has population of just under 200,000 and is perched on 7 miles of coastal beach, much like Weston-Super-Mare, the beach culminates around Bournemouth Pier. The pier was built in the 1850’s and like Weston it contains many children machines with stuffed toy prizes, it also has slot machines for adults inclined to gamble. The pier includes outside attractions such as zip lines, restaurants and bars. The “UK Heatwave” was kicking into full gear so the three days I stayed in Bournemouth I spent down at the beach, the weather was reaching about 36 Celsius and the water was lovely shade of blue with people surfing the waves and swimming about, I spent a fair amount of time in the water. There were plenty of people turning going bright red due to sunburn and not necessarily coping to well with the heat. Australians such as myself are used to this type of this weather where it was evident to me a lot of the English were not. I found out later that Cambridge in the north recorded the hottest day on record in the United Kingdom, 37.8 celsius, boiling hot for some pasty white *Poms or *Pommies.
*Note the word Pom or Pommie is a slang term used by Australians to refer to English people. There are a few thoughts on the etymology of Pom, this includes the phrase “Prisoner of his Majesty” meaning English were left stuck in England while the Colonial convicts that were deported by the English went to Paradise or Australia. Pom also is the likening English people to the pomegranate fruit, the common held belief in Australia that English people will turn bright red when experiencing the Australian sun. The use of the word Pom by Australians is not considered to be an insult but rather affectionate abuse in reference to their paler English ancestors. When the French use of the word Pom it refers to Potato (or pomme de Terre) and should be considered an insult, its fine for Aussies to say Pom, but not the French . The term “Prisoner of Mother England” is incorrect and should not be used to describe a Pom… anyway I digress so apologies and back to my Travel blog.
When not hanging out at the pier or on the beach Bournemouth has a lovely coastal walk, the centre of town also has the Lower Gardens where people can hang about for the day listening to many talented buskers or play football. Bournemouth as typical with most English towns is quite historical and also contains many bars that can and should be frequented. My three days in Bournemouth involved going to the beach to take taking advantage of the heatwave, visiting every fantastic bar and spending the following morning eating a large breakfast fry up of bacon, eggs, beans, sausages, hash browns and mushrooms to deal with the hangover. The bar scene was very friendly, I met a lot of tourists that mainly come down from London to enjoy the weather and also friendly locals that were more than happy to discuss cricket, rugby and other common interest that Aussies and Poms share. I had a friendly and relaxing time and in many ways my short stay in Bournemouth much like Bristol reminded me of Australia.
Well anyway this is Part One of my trip to Southern England, next up Ill cover the towns of Portsmouth, Brighton, Winchester and then onto my last stop in London. As you may tell I have thoroughly enjoyed my visit in the sunny south; so much so I intend to do it again one day soon. With its historical piers and wonderful warm beaches its been an absolute treat, most of all Ive enjoyed the friendly banter with Pommies Ive I’ve met over the past five days. I hope to have a blog out shortly on the rest of my time in England and then will be writing about my trip to the USA, hope you enjoyed the read.