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Seasonal area

July 2013

Current Seasonal Area is here

We've come to Bristol for July and will take the resultant scene of the Avon Gorge from the top.

Said top features a rather fine bit of typical British summer sky - a lovely bright blue decorated with grey rainclouds. Happily on this occasion they were off to annoy someone else.

Under this sky is the dominating form of the Clifton Suspension Bridge. This has the curious accolade of being one of the earlier designs from Mr Isambard Kingdom Brunel but one of his last designs to actually be built. The design was produced for a competition early on in his career with the general aim of spanning the Avon Gorge - an awkward geographical feature west of Bristol which divides the western portion of the city in half. Much argument over how best to span the river led to Thomas Telford producing a suspension bridge design, which Brunel modified in a bid to reduce the necessary budget. Even in this form the simple design was rather expensive; money proved difficult to raise and apart from the tall towers on top of the cliffs on each side of the gorge not much was done in Brunel's lifetime. Eventually it was financed as a memorial to the old chap, who died at his home in London in 1859 from the side effects of overwork. The chains were recycled from a suspension bridge across the Thames in London at Charing Cross which, confusingly for those of us well-versed in the Kennet Valley, went by the name of Hungerford Bridge.

Under the bridge are some rather handsome rock formations, with the rugged cliff faces, patches of grass and struggling trees creating a semi-Alpine appearance. This is emphasised by the avalanche shelter which protects the A4 from any falling rocks from the cliff that supports the bridge structure. The A4 is on the final leg of its journey from London at this point as it heads westwards towards Avonmouth and the associated international port facilities. Long-distance road traffic actually tends to prefer to pick up the M5, since the A4 is a hideously unpleasant way of passing through Bristol.

At the very bottom of the Avon Gorge is of course the Avon itself. The River River is tidal by this point in its journey westwards to meet the Severn at Avonmouth. It flows gently between great muddy banks in a way which suggests that it couldn't possibly have sliced a gash like this through the landscape. Traditionally it was the river that was the main highway into Bristol, but as ships got larger and land transport inproved traffic steadily moved away from the huge inland Bristol Harbour. This old port is now posh flats, marina space, derelict warehouses and a museum.

A funicular railway - unusually with four running lines - once linked the riverbank with the bridge. This closed prior to the Second World War and the tunnel in which it ran (hiding all the views and no doubt ruining custom in the process) was used for BBC wartime emergency studios and various offices.

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Last modified 01/07/2013

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