Faccombe is a village in Hampshire, situated a short drive south west of our house. The village is on the North Downs.
A large part of the parish is part of the Faccombe Estate which is used for pheasant shooting, which I find deeply disturbing. The pheasants are cute, rather stupid characters who are everywhere. They are fed by the estate, and then duped into being targets. There are many on the roads. They panic when they hear a car and then run straight at it instead of into the hedgerows. They finally realise they need to change direction or take off vertically and flap their wings like mad. Poor things. Should you so wish, you can find out more about the shooting season, which has just begun, below https://www.davidbeardsmoreshooting.com/post/pheasant-shooting-season
The estate is, or was, owned by the Landon family1,2 and includes, interestingly, a wind turbine, which has been there since 1993!
Starting from the Victorian Church of St Barnabas, we set out on part of the Test Way3. We passed corn fields and then descended through a wooded glade before being disturbed by the sound of pheasant shooting.
Fortunately the shooting stopped and the party drove off in convoy. We sat by a pile of logs to enjoy our sandwiches.
Clearly, Mr T had earned a pint! There is nothing traditional about the estate owned Jack Russell 4 This is a new, albeit tasteful, build overlooking the village pond. The Dog House accommodation is distinctly upmarket. I wouldn’t say no to a night there.
All in all, Faccombe is picturesque but rather weird. It could definitely feature in a TV murder mystery.
Last Sunday I was beyond excited to get back to Harris Manchester College Chapel.1 My first visit since Covid19 struck, so it must be two years or nearly that. This tranquil space, with its magnificent windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones, specifically caters those who refuse to be designated to any one faith. It is for all to enjoy, regardless of belief. Regular services in the Unitarian and liberal religious tradition are held on Sunday mornings. For me it works well alongside Buddhist Meditation.
The service was led by Bert, The Lapsed Atheist2 , and focussed on the Catholic Roots of Liberation Theology which is way more interesting than it sounds. Essentially, Bert introduced us to some pioneers of social justice within the Catholic Church. A recording will be available soon at ukunitarians.org.uk/oxford/sermons.htm
Harris Manchester College
Harris Manchester College (HMC) is the only college in the University of Oxford dedicated to taking students, both undergraduate and postgraduate, aged 21 or over.
The college was founded for those who could not accept the beliefs of any particular denomination, and this open spirit continues today. The college has a radical dissenting edge, putting inclusivity and diversity at the heart of it’s values.
Although founded in the eighteenth century, it arrived in Oxford at the end of the nineteenth century and occupies an enviable central position, with fine buildings and accommodation.
History of HMC
in 1757, The Warrington Academy, a dissenting academy, is founded in Warrington, Cheshire. Tutors included Joseph Priestley, discoverer of oxygen.
The Warrington Academy closed in 1786 and a new dissenting academy was founded, the Manchester Academy. It provided higher education to religious non-conformists, training people for the learned professions and civil and commercial life.
In 1840 The Manchester Academy received a Royal Letter in Council signed by Queen Victoria, making it a Collegiate Society of the University of London, with the same status as University College and King’s College. Thirteen years later, Manchester College moved to London.
Following the abolition of the religious tests at Oxford, Cambridge, and Durham Universities, Manchester College moved to Oxford in 1889. The college was initially housed on the High Street but moved to its current Mansfield Road site in 1893 when construction of the new college buildings was completed.
Chapel Walk along the River Cherwell
After coffee, four of us took off for a walk north along the Cherwell. This river is a tributary of the River Thames. It rises in Northamptonshire and flows southwards for 40 miles to meet the Thames at Oxford. It is the second largest tributary of the The Thames after the Kennet, which flows through my own home town of Newbury.
We took the bus back to town and then I headed home in the car with a sense of accomplishment.
A bad forecast, petrol shortage and high rates of Covid19 led us to cancel our trip up to Yorkshire. We were sorry to miss seeing friends and the Halifax area again. There was one good day during the week and we were determined to make the most of it.
This is a wild plateau-like landscape 1 of wavy hair grass, purple heather and pine trees. It is internationally important heathland. I found it breathtaking and like nowhere else I had visited. I am in good company. The views also inspired the wonderful Victorian poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson. ‘You came and looked and loved the view, long known and loved by me, Green Sussex fading into blue with one grey glimpse of sea.’
We were surprised by the ‘sense of timelessness’ described by the National Trust. Not a motor vehicle to be heard, which is unusual in this part of the world. Traders, shepherds and quarrymen have been using these tracks for thousands of years.
The flanks of Black Down have old flower-rich meadows, ancient woodland and copses. The meadows are cut for hay, which is used to feed the cows over the winter. internationally important heathland.
It’s very nice to get an extra chance to sit in the sun so late in the season and with this in mind we prolonged the experience in the garden of The Selborne Arms 2
The Zig Zag Path
The pub is situated right next door to this amazing pathway constructed in the eighteenth century by the naturalist and clergyman Gilbert White 3 and his brother.
The views from the common at the top of the path are well worth the effort. This is part of the Butterfly Walk. Read more here 4
‘When a few dozen women set out with their children to march to Greenham Common one glorious summer day in 1981, they had no notion how radically their lives would soon be changed. Nor could they have dreamed that their small anti-nuclear demonstration would spark off a mass feminist protest lasting more than a decade, it’s influence felt all over the world.’
So says the journalist David Fairhall, who wrote the wonderful book, Common Ground.
Before the pandemic struck, in Winter 2019 to be precise, three of us spent an hour or so in the Wellcome Cafe talking, amongst other things, about what we could do to mark the fortieth anniversary of the arrival of the peace protesters at the GreenhamCommonUSAF/RAFairbase in September 1981. Back then, one of us had not been born, one was a child and one (that’s me) was a young woman. Only one of us ended up at the GreenhamCommonWomen’sPeaceCamp. No, actually, it wasn’t me. I was too much of a wimp, had only a vague idea where Greenham was and in any case, I was working very hard in hospitals up North. But I was in awe of the women and how they stuck it out for years, in increasingly difficult circumstances, to bring the imposition onto our soil of American nuclear weapons to the attention of a wide audience.
Rebecca’s Mum took her to Greenham, which is near Newbury, when she was a child. This made a massive difference to her life. Her mum was radicalised as a feminist and this changed how Becca was raised and led her to go into peace and women’s rights activism.
Becca has a background in acting and runs the theatre company Scary Little Girls. This partnered with a fantastic online resource called The Heroine Collective, to undertake an archiving exercise, to make sure the oral histories of the Peace Camp don’t die. The project led to GreenhamWomenEverywhere.
DrSophieFrost is an arts consultant and academic with an interest in feminism and social justice. Like myself, an ex-parish councillor and Newbury resident since 1997, she has been involved in the past in the re-development of GreenhamControlTower
The Peace Camp
Forty years ago a small group of women, along with a few men and children, marched from Cardiff to protest against the proposed arrival of US nuclear warheads at USAF/RAF Greenham Common. This led to the establishment of the Greenham women’s peace camp, which at its height gathered more than 70,000 women for direct action and became the biggest female-led protest since women’s suffrage.
Women (for it soon became women only), despite being subjected to increasingly harsh conditions due to repeated evictions, maintained a constant presence at the Base for two decades, seeing the arrival and departure of the nuclear war heads as well as the restoration of the base to common land. This amazing saga is described in the books listed below
You can get a sense of the protest and the camp in this clip from ‘Carry Greenham Home’
In a nutshell, we held Zoom calls with representatives from Greenham Tower (notably the Awesome Ceinwen Lally and the Talented Professor Andy Kempe) and Greenham Women Everywhere. The former secured funding to host the weekend events from Greenham Trust and the latter from The Arts Council, to fund the march and events on Sunday.
We just got on with it. The result, after copious amounts of blood, sweat and tears is the march, the joyous weekend outlined below and the related events. Ceinwen and Vanessa, from Greenham Women Everywhere, were the masterminds and main ‘hands on’ people, but there were many others.
First thing to say is that I wasn’t there. However, the amazing photographer, WendyCarrig, has documented the march on Twitter (@wendycarrig). Wendy held an exhibition “Common People’ in Greenham Control Tower in 2019. She had stayed at the peace camp for two weeks as a student, so was able to show her original black and white work, which formed part of her dissertation. ‘Common People’ rekindled her passion for the camp and she was therefore keen to participate in and document the march.
Also, you can read about each day of the march here
And, just to prove that we went over to Hungerford to meet the march on the penultimate day, here is my photo:
And here is the unofficial arrival of the march on the evening of Friday, 3rd September. We met the marchers at ‘Blue Gate’, on the extreme western edge of the common.
Next, we led the march over to the tower. The last 20 minutes of such a long journey!
GW40 Weekend at Greenham Control Tower
Saturday, 4 September
We cycled over the Common to the tower. I have covered this 3.5 miles many times but never cease to reflect on the peace and beauty of the place.
The restoration of the common in the 1990s would be another huge blog post but I must just mention that the peace women who remained at Yellow Gate after the missiles left played no small part in this legal process.
The Peace Fence
Here is the fence at the end of Saturday
Here is the lovely stretch tent that housed the afternoon’s events.
First up were the CreatorsofPeace , a global women’s peace initiative that was launched in 1991 at the Initiatives of Change conference centre in Caux, Switzerland, by Anna Abdallah Msekwa, a respected politician and trailblazer of women-led organisations in Tanzania. In her inaugural speech she made a call to action to “create peace wherever we are, in our hearts, our homes, our workplace and our community. We all pretend that someone else is the stumbling block … could that someone be myself?”
Elizabeth Laskar and Miranda Shaw have been UK Coordinators for Creators of Peace for over a decade.
The workshop with El and Miranda was really thought provoking. They will work with groups of all types, from my reading group in West Berks to women escaping war zones. I’m sure we will work with them in the future.
Rebecca is a feminist campaigner for peace, security and justice. She lived at Greenham for five years and also started the Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp with two Greenham campers in 1985. While living at Greenham she helped organise ‘Embrace the Base, Close the Base’ when 35,000 women encircled the airbase on 12-13 December 1982, danced on the nuclear shelters, occupied our control tower, and much more.
Ninety six cruise missiles (and four spares) arrived at Greenham in November 1983. But eventually the women of Greenham succeeded in their quest to raise awareness about these nuclear weapons and on 1 August 1989 the first missiles left. Their protest contributed to a dialogue that eventually led to the removal of the missiles. It took nearly two years for all of the missiles to be removed, the final missile left for destruction on 5 March 1991.
The political dialogue between the Soviets and the US had eventually led to the treaty between the US and the Union Of Soviet Socialist Republics on the elimination of their Intermediate-Range And Shorter-Range Missiles (INFTreaty). This was signed by Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev in 1987.
After the INF Treaty, Rebecca Johnson worked with international activists and Geneva diplomats to ban nuclear testing. She founded the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy in 1995, and still provides research and implementation strategies for various disarmament treaties. After spending two years in Scotland as a coordinator for Faslane 365, Rebecca became a co-founding Steering Group member of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons — ICAN — which in 2017 was awarded a collective Nobel Peace Prize for their work to achieve the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
This is an international treaty banning all nuclear weapons that has been ratified by 51 countries and that campaigners hope which will help raise the profile of global deterrence efforts. It came into force this year. Although in some respects the step is largely symbolic because the world’s nuclear powers have not signed up, the treaty will be legally binding on the smaller nations that have endorsed it, and it is backed by the UN leadership. This Treaty outlaws the creation, ownership and deployment of nuclear weapons by signatory states and places obligations on them to assist victims of nuclear weapons use and testing.
In 2019 US President Donald Trump US “suspended” the INF Treaty. A day later Vladimir Putin announced Russia would suspend as well. Freed of the Treaty’s restraints, Russia is now poised to deploy a new generation of medium-range nuclear weapons on its territory again.
This year Boris Johnson’s decided to increase the cap on British nuclear stockpiles by more than 40%, from 180 to 260 Trident nuclear warheads.
As ever, Rebecca was captivating and passionate. She invited ‘veterans’ to tell their stories and interspersed these with her own. She punctuated these with serious messages about the fragile state of our peace.
Many Newbury residents worked at the USAF/RAF base and still have strong feelings about the Cold War era. Some were strongly opposed to the women, others took a more nuanced view. Other locals actively supported the women. A school boy’s research project revealed a 50:50 split amongst those living very near the base. This can be found in West Berkshire Museum.
Younger people living locally often have no idea of the common’s recent past which is why events like this are so important.
On this occasion, I am told, only one person objected out loud to the presence of Rebecca and the women. He challenged the wisdom of having children at the camp, saying their health was being put at risk by the protesting mothers. (The child in question was present and now a strapping lad!) Another audience member explained that the weapons they were objecting to were far more dangerous. He was whisked away by visitors.
Jemima Brown’s Peace Camp
While adults and children were happily engaged with the fence, artist Jemima Brown was holding a Family Sculpture workshop. Thermos flasks, scraps of fabric and other bits and pieces were being used to create sculptures and pictures celebrating the women of the Greenham Common peace camp.
The workshop ran along side Jemima’s exhibition ‘PeaceCamp‘ which is at the West Berks Museum until 30 April, 2022. Sculptures also inhabit selected venues frequented by the peace women, including the Control Tower itself.
It was great to meet AlexandraKokoli at last. Alexandra is working with Jemima on her book to accompany ‘Peace Camp’. She and my friend Chris got stuck in!
A beautiful morning dawned and proceeded to be a cloudless day in which temperatures peaked at 28 degrees. (On this day in 1930 my Mum was born in Gorton, Manchester). (RIP)
We were delighted to encounter Juley Howard the moment we arrived. There she was with her Singer Sewing Machine looking very content. Juley came to Greenham as a teenager and did her A levels at Newbury College. I don’t have a photo of her from today but here is one from Facebook. She is being interviewed on BBC’s Bargain Hunt and is speaking about her motivations for going to live at Greenham Common. The book she wrote with Faith Moulin, RighteousAnger, the story of the decade 1983-1993, gives an understanding of her moral imperative to stop the deployment of Cruise missiles and protest for world peace.
Meet the Marchers
I really wasn’t sure about the concept of grown men (friends of mine, dare I add!) dressing up in quasi-decontamination suits and carrying their homemade bomb across the Common from Greenham Business Park. However, when they arrived, along with the Greenham Women, it was a resounding success. It was based on a 1980s procession by Oxford CND.
The marchers were greeted by the Mayor of Newbury, Billy Drummond and the Deputy Mayor of Thatcham, Jeff Brookes. Jeff gave an impassioned speech thanking the women for their tenacity, bravery and perseverance. He was very thankful.
Living Theatre Peace Camp
Thanks to Ceinwen, the Control Tower secured a grant from Greenham Trust. This enabled them to mount an exhibition called ‘Both Sides of the Fence’, secure the lovely stretch tent and hire the pop up loos! The biggest win though was the hiring of Dr Ronan Hatful (Newbury’s home grown Shakespeare scholar and tutor at Warwick University) to direct the dramatic re-enactment of the camp.
In an understated way, the actors chatted, knitted, made tea and sang songs. The actual veteran protesters joined them, flitting in and out and teaching them new songs. It was charming.
I spent the rest of the day wandering and enjoying the relaxed, festival like atmosphere.
The day finished with a cabaret.
And now for the last couple of words…….
It had been a weekend that surpassed our wildest dreams. We estimate that up to 800 people passed through. Feelings about the protest era in our town still run high and the population can seem divided at times. I hope this weekend has helped to heal wounds. The exhibition aims to tell everyone’s story; the voice of an actor reciting the words of an employee at the airbase who was ‘anti’ the peace women upset a younger activist. Fortunately we were able to calm her. It seems so much needs to be done till the world is really at peace.
Dinner with the Bomb Makers
Thanks to David Hatful for arranging a curry at The Gun, Wash Common (always to be recommended)
DRAWING TOWARDS PEACE
THURSDAY 21ST OCT 2021, THE LOOKOUT STUDIO, THE BASE, 10-1
As part of the ‘Summer on the Common’ programme this workshop with award winning contemporary artist Robert Fitzmaurice will enable participants to explore their personal feelings about Greenham Common, the peace movement and the forms of protest that took place using various drawing techniques and media.
BLOODY WIMMIN’ – 30/9 and 1/10 7.30-9pm Control Tower
A script-in-hand performance of Lucy Kirkwood’s acclaimed play
Opening with a snapshot of life in the women’s camp at Greenham circa 1983 then shifting to a contemporary extinction rebellion, the play gently pokes fun at the petty squabbling of the protestors as a contrast to the serious fights in which they are involved. The play is, in turns, wry, tense and ultimately poignant as a veteran Greenham woman proclaims that ‘it’s very easy to laugh at passion.’
This event will take place in a marquee. The play reading is about 45 minutes. We aim to have some discussion afterwards too.
Dukkha is a pali term which roughly translates as suffering or unsatisfactoriness. It acknowledges the difficulties inherent in human existence. Buddhism recognises this in the first of the Four Noble Truths1. These truths normally help me keep dukkha in perspective but recently I’ve really been unable to see through it. I’ve been in glass half empty mode, so not able to blog. Nothing seemed of much interest. All the difficulties were magnified and the joys went by unnoticed. Even things that weren’t difficulties were imagined into being such.
Maybe this is what a pandemic can do to you. We face a second winter of discontent as the current wave intensifies. And not to mention the ‘Brexit’ Shortages.
It took the terrible events associated with Afghanistan falling to the Taliban to bring me to my senses. I’m now focussing on others while trying to be a bit kinder to myself. That might sound obvious but it hasn’t been.
We went to Langham Brewery2 and met our good friends for a walk in the surrounding sussex countryside.
On a trip to the seaside we stopped at The Old Cottage, Bexley Hill. See this tweet. https://twitter.com/timofnewbury/status/1428777782180552708?s=20. A later occupant was the artist, Kit Barker3 . Kit’s brother, the poet George4 , inspired Elizabeth Smart5 to write the wonderful prose poem, ‘By Grand Central Station I sat down and wept’. I thought of her when I was there (Grand Central I mean) and will now need to re-read it. I was going to make a judgment about George but had better not.
AND, we’ve had a few walks from local pubs. We found some rather wonderful, self important hens at The Old Boot, Stanford Dingley.
We helped daughter move and then brought her home for a few days. The first day was lovely: a private garden yoga class for the two of us, then lunch in the market. I tried #sushi for the first time. Where have I been? It was delicious! THEN, she got a massage while I went to do some essential shopping. That last bit may sound a bit unfair but the yoga was her present to me and the massage was mine to her.
View over the Solent to the Isle of Wight and Southampton from my swimming spot, and the next best thing
I got some sea and pool swimming done too.
And the garden continues to produce lovely veg.
Ms Thomas finally got her second Pfizer vaccine and now feels very secure. She still worries about us, being well aware that she can still spread the virus, especially in the context of living in a city with no restrictions other than masks being mandated on public transport. Even that is not a regulation where we live. The whole idea of Freedom Day and ‘learning to live with Covid’ was mad. IMHO. I mean, about a hundred people are dying daily of Covid19. We could have kept more restrictions in place till as the younger were fully immunised, or had had the chance to be.
We approach the 40th anniversary of the arrival of the peace women in Greenham Common. There will be celebrations over the weekend 4/5 September6 and my friend Jemima7, has a fab exhibition in the museum and around town.
Bits and pieces
I’ve read three very different books and enjoyed them all
The Broken House by Horst Kruger8
Seven Sisters Book One by Lucinda Riley 9
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie10
The third is my favourite, set during a period I remember from childhood but never understood. And of course, there has been Garden Yoga. Wonderful and very special.
I’m looking forward to getting back to The Buddhist Society classes and also U3A Book Club and Spanish. Some very different things.
Reading all this, the important question hits me. How can this person be upset by Dukkha? The answer is: not so easily if I just observe thoughts and move them out of my head to imaginary shelves. These are marked ‘Fear’ ‘Judgment’ ‘Self Doubt’. With all of this filed away there is no Dukkha but something more positive, calm and kind. Sending everyone joy……..
Before checking out at 12 we take a nice walk along the Harbour to Spike Island 1.
This comprises the strip of land between the Floating Harbour to the north and the tidal New Cut of the River Avon to the south. The Floating Harbour is the former natural tidal River Avon. It was made into its current form in 1809 when the tide was prevented from going out permanently by a lock. A tidal by-pass was dug for 2 miles through fields producing the New Cut. (this is overgrown on the banks and it’s not currently possible to access a path).
In the Floating Harbour the water level remains constant and it is not affected by the state of the tide on the river in the Avon Gorge.
Spike Island was created by William Jessop in the early 19th century. Historically, it was the site of working quays, shipyards, warehousing and other associated dockside industry.
The Bristol Harbour Railway runs the length of the island, and formerly connected these working areas with the railway network. With the redevelopment of the docks, the Island has become a residential area. There are also restaurants and pubs. Other formerly dock-related buildings have become cultural venues, museums and office space
This area seems very Scandinavian to us. We are pining for Copenhagen.
We eat our breakfast by the harbour. It’s the biggest, tastiest, most calorific, yummy almond croissant I’ve had in a long time. I stick half in my bag to finish off on the platform in Westbury. Said croissant was from Mokoko2. (9 on the map)
Further west from Mokoko we see school kids heading into SS Great Britain3,4 (shown on the map)
SS Great Britain is one of the most important historic ships in the world. When she was launched in 1843 she was called ‘the greatest experiment since the Creation’.
By combining size, power and innovative technology, this was a stem ship ahead of it’s time, which changed history.
Now a museum, this former passenger steam ship was the longest passenger ship in the world from 1845 to 1854. SS Great Britain was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. This is one person deserving of a statue and I stand and admire him at Padding Station whenever I am there. (not much in the Covid era) The ship operated between Bristol and New York City. While other ships had been built of iron or equipped with a screw propeller, Great Britain was the first to combine these features. It was the first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic Ocean, in 1845, in the time of 14 days.
When launched in 1843, Great Britain was by far the largest vessel afloat. But the protracted construction time of six years (1839–1845) and high cost had left the owners in a difficult financial position, and they were forced out of business in 1846, having spent all their remaining funds refloating the ship after it ran aground at Dundrum Bay, Country Down. In 1852 it was sold and repaired.
Great Britain later carried thousands to Australia from 1852 until being converted to all-sail in 1881. Three years later, the ship was retired to the Falklands, where it was used as a warehouse, quarantine ship and coal hulk until it was abandoned in 1937.
In 1970, Sir Jack Arnold Hayward paid for the vessel to be raised and repaired enough to be towed north through the Atlantic back to the United Kingdom, and returned to the Bristol where it had been built 127 years earlier.
And now, to the station and home, till the next water based jaunt!
At The Bridge there is a lovely attentive new owner. The beer is really well kept and the outdoor seating, though roadside, is nice and quiet. The city centre traffic in Bristol really is minimal. It’s amazing. It’s 7 on the map
After the pub we head to Fish 2
We get a take away Fish and Chips, with mushy peas for me, from this great place situated on a Dutch Barge. Nice food which you can eat from trestle tables out side by the harbour. It’s 8 on the map
These days I often reflect on the fact that my parents never experienced a pandemic. There again they lived through World War Two. Mum as a child and teenager and Dad in the Airforce and then as a POW.1 Bristol suffered terribly from wartime bombing, as explained in my earlier post on this trip2, so you find a random old building amongst the soulless new.
We are getting the bus to the coast! Portishead, on the Severn estuary, has a long history as a fishing port. It expanded rapidly during the early 19th century around the docks, with supporting transport infrastructure. A power station and chemical works were added in the 20th century, but the dock and industrial facilities have since closed and been redeveloped into a marina and residential areas.
Unfortunately the beach is mud and not swimmable and I can’t quite get my head round the lido4.
We have a lovely walk round the headland, through woods to The Royal Inn5 which has been operational since 1830. Next stop is the Marina.
We get the bus back into town and climb the hill in Brandon Park to Cabot Tower6. (no 5 on the map) This is a grade II listed and was built in the 1890s to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the journey of the Venetian, John Cabot, from Bristol to land which later became Canada.
We press on the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery7. We are booked into the exhibition Island Life which presents work from over 60 photographers in Martin Parr’s collection to provide a picture of life in post-war Britain and Ireland. It’s great but I am fading so retire the cafe and resuscitate myself with a pot of Earl Grey. Seriously, there are some fantastic documentary photographs in there. Quigley Point features, which takes me back to my childhood holidays in Donegal.
On the way home we take advantage of the lovely late afternoon weather and stop in busy Kings St at the Llandoger Trow8. (no 6 on the map) This pub dates from 1664. Near the old docks, it was named by the sailor who owned the pub after Llandogo, just twenty miles away in Wales, a village which built trows (flat-bottomed river boats).
The pub was damaged in World War II, but remained in sufficiently good condition to be designated Grade II* listed building status in 1959. The pub is said to have inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write of the Admiral Benbow Inn in Treasure Island and Daniel Defoe supposedly met Alexander Selkirk here, his inspiration for Robinson Crusoe. The pub is also supposedly haunted, with up to 15 ghosts, the best known being a small child whose footsteps can be heard on the top floor. The pub has an 18th-century shop front, but three of the original five projecting gables remain.
Left Handed Giant (LHG)1 is a Bristol-based brewing company, with three premises across the city. It makes several excellent beers of different styles from two brewery sites based in Bristol, one at the taproom in St Philips, and one at the LHG brewpub in the heart of the city. (4 on the map)
The LHG is housed inside a former brewery, which is really impressive. The is now a 250-year-old tradition of brewing on this site alive.
They serve Mission Pizza from wood-fired pizzas from the in-house kitchen.
If I had known how amazing it all was, I wouldn’t have complained so much about queuing for forty minutes!
Continuing our water theme for this ‘stay at home’ summer, we are again heading off to river, docks and sea water (estuary style) We have a straightforward journey towards the Southwest, changing trains at Westbury then passing through Bradford on Avon and Bath Spa to our final destination.
Bristol1 is situated on the River Avon, not far from the Severn Estuary. It has a population of nearly half a million, making it the most populous city in the South West. The city lies between Gloucestershire to the north and Somerset to the south. South Wales lies across the Severn Estuary. I’ve visited the town twice before (once by walking in on the Kennet and Avon Canal!) and whizzed past it lots of times, but I’m ashamed to say that until now I thought it was more of less where Gloucester is! (ie at the head of the Severn estuary)
There have been settlements in the area since the Iron Age. Around the beginning of the 11th century, the settlement was known as Brycgstow (“the place at the bridge”in Old English). From the 13th to the 18th century, Bristol was among the top three English cities, after London, in tax receipts; however, it was surpassed by the rapid rise of Birmingham Manchester and Liverpool in the Industrial Revolution.
Bristol was a starting place for early voyages of exploration to the New World. On a ship out of Bristol in 1497 John Cabot, a Venetian, became the first European to land on mainland North America. Some historians believe that Cabot landed at Cape Breton Island or mainland Nova Scotia. Others believe he may have landed at Newfoundland, Labrador or even Maine. He sailed on the Matthew (more later) Though the ship’s logs are incomplete.
In 1499 William Weston, a Bristol merchant, was the first Englishman to lead an exploration to North America.
Transatlantic Slave Trade
Bristol participated in the medieval slave trade from before 1000 AD, with English and Irish slaves being traded until the 1100s. The city’s involvement with the slave trade peaked between 1730 and 1745, when it became the leading slaving port 2. Bristol’s port facilitated, and benefited from, the transport of half a million slaves. In 1750 alone, Bristol ships transported approximately 8,000 of the 20,000 enslaved Africans sent that year to the British Caribbean and North America. The port has since moved from Bristol Harbour in the city centre to the Severn Estuary at Avonmouth and Royal Portbury Dock.
Bristol’s economy is now built on the creative media, electronics and aerospace industries, and the city-centre docks have been redeveloped as centres of heritage and culture. The city has a variety of artistic and organisations and venues. Bristol was named the best city in Britain in which to live in 2014 and 2017, and won the European Green Capital Award in 2015.
As we arrive before checking in time the obvious next step is The Cornubia.3 Though first we eat our sandwich in Temple Gardens.
Temple Church4, is a ruined church in the Redcliffe area. ( 1 on the map) It is on the site of a previous, round church of the Knights Templar which they built on land granted to them in the second quarter of the 12th century by Robert of Gloucester. In 1313 the Knights Hospitaller acquired the church, following the suppression of the Templars, only to lose it in 1540 at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. By the early 14th century, the church served as the parish church for the area known as Temple Fee. From around the same time, the rebuilding of the church on a rectangular plan started. This was completed by 1460, with the construction of a leaning west tower.
The church was bombed and largely destroyed in the Bristol Blitz of World War Two. This occurred between 24 November 1940 and 11 April 1941 and consisted of six major bombing raids. It was largely hushed up to keep the morale elsewhere up. In total 919 tons of high-explosive bombs plus many thousands of incendiary bombs were dropped, 1,299 people were killed, 1,303 were seriously injured and 697 rescued from the debris of bombed buildings. Last night I watched a great preparatory programme about the Bristol Blitz. It told people’s stories and described the destruction of the old city and most of it’s churches5.
The ruined Temple Church is a poignant reminder of the war. It is now Grade II* listed. In 1958, English Heritage agreed to undertake a guardianship role. A 1960 excavation discovered the plan of the 12th-century church, enabling it to be marked out on the ground in stone.
The Cornubia was originally built in 1775 as shop units for a wig-maker and is the only building in the area to have survived the Blitz. Hurrah, but it looks so out of place.
The name Cornubia derives from the old Roman name for Cornwall.
Next: Check in and tea at the hotel. (2 on the map)
We take a stroll down the parade, which was built in 1763. In December 1585 troops mustered on the river bank here to fight Philip of Spain. It’s rumoured that King Alfred sheltered in the caves behind the wrought iron door. This was also an early nineteenth century landing for slaves, rum and sugar.
There were protests around the world after the filmed murder of George Floyd6,7 during his arrest by US Police.The statue of Edward Colston6,7 was pulled down on 7 June 2020 during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol.
One year on, the statue now forms part of a new display at M Shed8 to start a city-wide conversation about its future. The statue is on display alongside a selection of placards from the protest as well as a timeline of key events leading up to 7 June 2020.
There was something really fitting about seeing the statue in a museum and I hope it will stay there.