Bristol 2011 – Day 2

Sunday, September 4th 2011

We start the day with breakfast in the hotel room. The hotel breakfast is not cheap and there isn’t much choice for vegetarians so it’s better the save the money and make our own. Yesterday evening we bought instant porridge (add boiling water and stir) and some "breakfast biscuits" (a bit like a fruity breakfast cereal in a biscuit). We also have tea, of course.

Tower of St Stephen's
Tower of St Stephen’s
A well known landmark

The weather is what I call "bright grey", that is, the sky is overcast but it looks as though the day might brighten up later.

After breakfast, we went to take the lift down to the ground floor. There are three lifts serving 16 floors plus the car park. This was also the time when the housemaids (some of whom were men) were setting out to clean the vacated rooms and many guests were on their way out. The result was that the lifts were whizzing up and down like yoyos but none were stopping at our floor. In the end, we gave up and walked down.

Foundation plaque
Foundation plaque
Celebrating Bristol’s hero, Isambard Kingdom Brunel

We went first to the bus station to enquire about bus rover tickets. The information office is closed on Sundays so we drew a blank. We took a bus to the train station and were advised that there was a bus information office there. Maybe there was but, if so, it was closed. Perhaps the bus company doesn’t think people need information on Sundays.

Temple Meads long platform
Temple Meads’ long platform
The platforms follow a graceful curve in both directions

Our destination today is Weston-super-Mare and we are going there by train. There is one train an hour on Sundays and as we had about 45 minutes to wait it seemed a good idea to go to Bonaparte’s for coffee and croissants. There are two clocks in the buffet and one of these has been stopped at 6:56 or, as they would have it, 1856, the year in which the station opened. Just as well the opening wasn’t delayed 4 years until 1860, eh?

Bonaparte's Buffet
Bonaparte’s Buffet
The stopped clock reflects the station’s opening

The train, having come all the way from Paddington was a few minutes late but on the positive side, by the time we reached Weston, the sun began to shine, dismissing the earlier threat of rain.

Weston-super-Mare
Weston-super-Mare
The sun began to shine – as it should at the seaside

I visited Weston twice as a child, just for a day trip each time. I remember going to the bathing station on the first occasion and the beach on the second. Needless, to say, I recognized nothing today and it was as if I were visiting it for the first time.

The Town Hall
The Town Hall
Built in the 1850s of local stone; extended and enlarged 1897

We explored a little and then looked for somewhere for lunch. We settled on a small cafe called the Lighthouse, mostly because it was not crowded like most other places on the seafront. All I will say is that, despite the amiability and enthusiasm of the staff, we will not go there again despite the modest prices.

The Courthouse
The Courthouse
Plain, solid and a little forbidding

Like many seaside towns, Weston rose to prominence in the 19th century, and has grown apace since then. Its name combines Anglo-Saxon – west tun (‘west settlement’) – and medieval Latin – super Mare – meaning “on Sea”, appropriately enough. Why not call it simply “Weston-on-Sea”? I don’t know: perhaps it wasn’t posh enough – too much like so many other resorts. Mare, by the way, is pronounced like ‘mare’ (female horse) and not ‘maray’. They also insist that super be written with a small ‘s’.

Weston and the Severn
Weston and the Severn
Cardiff and Wales are within sight

The map shows how Weston stands at the mouth of the Severn and looks across the water to Wales and the city of Cardiff. That must have been fun in more warlike periods of history!

Parish Church
Parish Church
St Emmanuel, built 1847 in the Perpendicular style

As a well established town, Weston has all the usual amenities, such as a handsome Victorian Town Hall, parish church (idem), and a rather blocky but no doubt functional courthouse.

A rather nice car
A rather nice car
As a pure bonus, I managed to snap the fine vehicle

Visitors to Weston are naturally drawn to the seafront and they will find there all the usual facilities, a mixture of a genteel earlier age and modern entertainments.

Pier Square
Pier Square
A pleasant open space with cafes and restaurants

There is an esplanade, called Pier Square, where you can stroll or sit and where we found several cafes and restaurants. The centre piece of the Square is a fountain, known as The Coalbrookdale Fountain or The Boy and the Serpent.

The Coalbrookdale Fountain
The Coalbrookdale Fountain
Donated to the town by Thomas Macfarlane in 1913

At first sight, you may think this is a Victorian fountain but the relative lack of curlicues and complex decoration shows it is later. It was donated to Weston in February 1913 by Thomas Macfarlane and was refurbished and reinstalled in February this year, being inaugurated by Mary Macfarlane, great granddaughter of Thomas – a nice touch.

The Big Wheel
The Big Wheel
Want to go for a spin? Not today…

There is a Big Wheel which, if it is not the London Eye is nonetheless of a respectable size. It has been here about two years but has had a troubled history, being rescued from administration in January. It was not working today, which seemed ominous.

The Grand Pier
The Grand Pier
A triumphant survivor of fire

Like any self-respecting seaside town, Weston has a pier. This one is called the Grand Pier, no less, and the name is perhaps merited because the structure was gravely damaged by fire in July 2008 but seems to have risen again triumphantly, like the Phoenix. Certainly it was very busy when we visited it today.

A vast sandy beach
A vast sandy beach
The main attraction for many visitors

Weston is known for its long, broad sandy beach. The tracks in the sand were made by the horse-drawn carriage taking people for rides along the strand. As I recall from my childhood, the beach slopes only gradually so that you need to walk for what seems miles to reach water deep enough to swim in. Perhaps this is an advantage, though, for families with small children.

Winter Gardens Pavilion
Winter Gardens Pavilion
A ‘venue’ where you can, among other things, stop for coffee and find tourist information

We walked north along the seafront (which faces almost due west at this point) to the Winter Gardens Pavilion where we found a tourist information bureau. From here we took an open-top bus. Where to? Well, I’ll show you…🙂

Sand Bay
Sand Bay
A small village and unspoilt beach

The bus brought us here, to Sand Bay. It is a small village on the banks of the Severne. It is very quiet and peaceful, and its main attraction is the unspoilt beach.

An unspoilt beach
An unspoilt beach
A lack of amenities is its chief asset

There is a car park which doubles as a bus stop and provides a public toilet. Apart from that, there is an almost complete lack of facilities for the visitor. We did spot Grandma’s Tea Rooms but even this seems to be up for sale. Paradoxically, this lack of amenities is Sand Bay’s great attraction as you will not find here the coach parties, the families with fractious infants or the beer swilling football fans that form the staple visitor diet of the more developed locations.

Birnbeck Island Pier
Birnbeck Island Pier
Weston is just around the headland

Yet Weston is just around the headland, marked here by Birnbeck Pier, and…

The Welsh coast...
The Welsh coast…
…veiled by the heat haze

the Welsh coast is visible half-hidden in the heat haze.

We sat here in the sun for a while, enjoying the peaceful atmosphere and the pleasant scenery, and amused ourselves trying to photograph some of the small creatures that were flying or walking about.

Smaller denizens of Sand Bay
Smaller denizens of Sand Bay
Some came closer than others!

We scored a butterfly, a hoverfly, a rather fluffy bee and a curious spider who explored Tigger’s arm and hand.

Taking a turn for the worse
Taking a turn for the worse
Rain clouds replaced the sun

By the time we returned to Weston, the weather had taken a turn for the worse. The sun disappeared behind stormy-looking clouds and a few drops of rain fell. In any case, Weston seemed to be closing down for the day as shops and cafes locked their doors and turned off the lights. It seemed a good time to start back to Bristol.

Strange little building
Strange little building
Cab office or “weybridge”?

We did, however, photograph this strange little building. It is well known but I have yet to see a plausible explanation of what it is. An inscription on the chimney apron calls it “Weybridge 1866” but I remain sceptical. I suppose there might be a weighbridge inside that might date from 1866 but without seeing it, who can tell? The building is certainly not 19th century vintage and looks more like an abandoned minicab office.

Temple Meads
Temple Meads
Back in Bristol

We returned to Bristol and our hotel. We vaguely thought of going out again later in the evening but as the weather there was no better than in Weston, we stayed in and finished the day cosily.

Starling in Weston
Starling in Weston
He wouldn’t look into the camera but I photographed him anyway!

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
This entry was posted in Travel and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Genuine comments are welcome. Spam and comments with commercial URLs will be deleted.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s