It’s becoming a bit of a ‘done thing’ that Mandy and I head off in the Van for the first week of the new year. It’s nice to have a little time off for Xmas, but we both have the option of working in between Christmas and the new year, so we would rather do that and chill for the first week when everybody else is going back to work stressing. 2015 was the first new year break in the van at Links Lanes Campsite, Lincoln . Last year we had 4 nights at Baltic Wharf and enjoyed it so much we decided to do a similar thing this year.
Bristol is a great City Break! As with any trip, the better the weather the better the overall experience. That said, you do have the safety with a city break that if the weather is particularly bad, you can fall back on some selective sight seeing, shopping, restaurants or catch the odd movie to keep you out of the elements. Basically the trip is not going to be a write off if it rains non stop. Last year was enjoyable because Bristol was a relatively new experience, majority of the time it was pretty damp, drizzly and overcast, but none the less, still lots to see and do.
The temperature over the Christmas break for 2016 was close to tropical, and it just didn’t seem like a traditional Christmas. I was praying for the colder weather because that’s what makes you want to hibernate, and it gives you the justification that staying indoors, eating food and watching TV is the right place if it’s cold outside. I was keeping an eye on the forecast after Christmas and on the run up to the new year and it looked like things were set to change. We saw New Year in …just! We are normally in bed pre 12am, but we made the effort this year to watch the fireworks in Londan before retiring after midnight. We weren’t booked into the campsite until the 2nd so New years day was spent chilling and getting the van ready for the following day.
So with the van all packed up and ready to go we left Derby just after 9am. As the forecast predicted the day started cold, crisp and clear. As we drove the journey was interrupted occasional by fog and mist but it was a really nice drive and arrived at the campsite just after midday. Half an hour later we had checked in, filled the vans water tank, and we were pitched up ready for the next five night. The site owners had given us full autonomy as far as a parking spot was concerned and our chosen location was closer to the river than last year, which gave us good views over the perimeter fence where the brightly coloured town houses steep banks. It makes all the difference when sitting in the van having a coffee and listening to the radio if you have an interesting view…. as opposed to a line of white motor-homes & caravans. Its the little things that make a big difference 🙂
Our van was only a few yards away from a wooden security gate that exited onto the river path (visually blocked in the photo above by my van 🙂 ) but this was proof of just how good of a location we were in on this campsite. From the river path you could walk left to a pub called the Cottage Inn for a bite to eat , or from the same spot catch the Ferry to any one of a number of different locations in the city center.
We decided to stretch our legs and take a walk towards the center along the footpath. The houses and industrial shipping buildings cast shade on the walkway in the winters low sun. It was still below zero and you could tell this by the occasional small frozen puddle along the way. That said it had a certain buzz of activity about it. People walking their dogs, pushing prams, cycling , running and boating on the river . I guess I had to remind myself that this was Bank Holiday Monday, and most people were taking advantage of their last day of freedom before the first day of work in 2017. It was really energizing just being a part of it. The path lead along the river Avon a few hundred yards to a marina, then away from the waterfront via a couple of alleyways and roads for a short stint. This is due to some dry docks, one of which contains the SS Great Britain. This is a fantastic attraction, one of which we did last year and well worth a visit. We then found ourselves back on the river front in a place called Prince’s Wharf . You could tell by the train lines, rolling stock and large cranes along this stretch that it used to be a real industrial hub.
On the quayside are four electrically powered cargo cranes built in 1951 by Stothert & Pitt. Three of these cranes are working and operate some weekends. A short distance to the west is a much older crane, the sole surviving operational example of a Fairbairn steam crane. Built in 1878,also by Stothert & Pitt, it was in regular use until 1973 loading and unloading ships and railway wagons with weights of up to 35 tons. It has been restored and is in working order, operating on some bank holidays and the Bristol Harbour Festival.
Large building are dotted around the harbor as you would expect with industrial shipping . One is called the ‘M Shed’ which is a former ‘transit shed’. Its been developed as an attraction with museums, art galleries and is a real cultural hub for those that want to learn about the history of the area. More information on whats on here can be found at their website. We didn’t stop on the way into the city center, except to take the odd photo to capture the moment. Within 20 minutes we were at the Aquarium where a large ferrous wheel had been placed. We were surprised at how little time it took us to walk to the this location. Last year we had used the ferry on every occasion, mainly due to the weather, so it was hard to judge from that respect, but we were please with the speed of access on foot, so this year walking was the preferred method of travel.
The first day seemed to dissapear quickly after after lunch at Prezzo. We knew that we had plenty of time during the rest of the week to spend perusing the shops and exploring the surroundings, so stretching our legs with a brisk walk into the city and back with lunch in between was all we intended. This set us up for a relaxing evening in the van before retiring for the night.
The night heater was switched off as we climbed into bed. We usually get to warm if left on even in the coolest of nights. However, i woke up in the early hours with cold ears. I buried my head in the sleeping bag and didn’t really get back to sleep. I didn’t want to switch the heater on because i thought we would get too warm, but when we got up as the day broke, we realized that it must have been exceptionally cold. The sun roof in the cab is the only part of the van that gets affected by condensation. This was frozen solid on the inside. The temperature was reading -7. Maybe we should have left the heater on after all 🙁 .
So the heater was switched on and the van was nice and warm when we got back from the showers. We took our time, had coffee and breakfast and chilled in the van for until mid morning listening to the radio.
Once we surfaced we plotted a slightly different route into Bristol city by taking a left out of the riverside campsite gate, walked towards the Cottage Inn Pub and through a boat building yard. It was really great to get so close to the craftsmen working on these vessels, some of which looked particularly old.
The temperature was still very low, especially in the shade. From the boatyard we across the road bridge, which was actually a turn table to let tall vessels through, and onto the opposite side of the river past the Pump House Pub. Here are a few photos of the mornings stroll.
Well this pretty much set the scene for the rest of the break. The weather was very good most days and highlights included a walk up to Clifton Suspension Bridge on the Wednesday via Cabot Park.
Bristol also has a lot of Banksy Graffiti. I am no expert on this subject, but I think some of these are from the famous artist? A couple are just cool. I think there is a fine line between unwanted scrawling, and something that genuinely adds something to a building or wall. Art is subjective.
Well I will conclude this blog (all be it three months after our visit) with a gallery of the best photos I took during the five night stay. Included is a photo of a great syncro T25 campervan called Rocky, owned by a really nice chap called David who camps weekly in it in Bristol. We had a nice evening at the pub talking BLOGs and camping, and as it transpired he did Europe In A Campervan in 2011. I cant explain in words just how much I love Bristol. We have already booked for the the first day of 2018 for another five night break 🙂