Up, up and away…


From the 11th to the 14th August this year is the annual Bristol Balloon Festival.

The Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is Europe’s largest annual meeting of hot air balloons, attracting over 150 Hot Air Balloons from across the globe. The Fiesta truly is a sight that can only be seen in Bristol. Held over four days in August at Ashton Court Estate, the event is completely free with charges made for parking on the event site. Tickets can be purchased here. Alongside the fantastic site of hot air balloons filling the skies, we have a large number of great trade stands, fairground rides and entertainment.


We went last year and had a really nice time watching the mass ascent of the numerous hot air balloons.


For me the real highlight of this festival are the mass ascents. You can get really quite close to the balloons as they rise.


Of course if you aren’t interested in hot air balloons, then there is a bundle of other stuff you can do, from stalls to fairground rides.


It should be noted that if you don’t like crowds then this probably isn’t the event for you, though you could always go to the early morning ascents.


I know a lot of people like the night glow on the Thursday night, my previous experience was that the whole thing was incredible, but ruined by the constantly moving crowds, so I now watch it on the telly.

Making the most of my membership

For my birthday I received a membership of the National Trust and we have been visiting a fair few places. The membership gives us free entry (and free parking) to hundreds of places across England and Wales as well as entry to properties in sister organisations such as the National Trust for Scotland.

I have decided to keep track of where we have been and what it would have cost us if we had actually paid to get in.

It’s not a true reflection, as if we had to pay the full entry price, we would probably have spent the entire day there. When we went to Dunster Castle we only spent a couple of hours, and there was so much we didn’t see, we are planning to go again.

King John’s Hunting Lodge
Two adults £5.00
Children go free



Parking £3.00
Family Ticket £39.20

Dunster Castle

Dunster Castle

Parking £2.50
Family Ticket £28.40

Sand Point

Sand Point

Free (no saving)


Tynetesfield House

Parking £3.00
Family Ticket £38.65

Brean Down

Brean Down

Parking £3.50

Overall we would have spent £123.25 on tickets and parking, which now exceeds the £111 cost of a family membership. So still nearly nine months left to go. Wonder how much we will save?

Elementary my dear Watson

I have visited Baker Street for work on a quite a few occasions for work, but on my most recent visit I was quite surprised to see Sherlock Holmes looking down on me quite close to the tube station.

Sherlock Holmes

I’ve not noticed him before, most of the time I am trying to avoid the crowds outside Madam Tussauds. Though I think a more realistic Holmes and Watson would be fun. Though a bit of a fan of Sherlock Holmes books, TV and films, I have never bothered to visit 221b Baker Street, in the main as I believe it is not a real address and is in fact a bank!

An afternoon at Tyntesfield

For my birthday I received a membership of the National Trust and we have been visiting a fair few places. The membership gives us free entry (and free parking) to hundreds of places across England and Wales as well as entry to properties in sister organisations such as the National Trust for Scotland.

Tynetesfield House

Tyntesfield is quite local to me and I have been meaning to visit for sometime since the National Trust were given the house and gardens.

Tyntesfield is a Victorian Gothic Revival house and estate close to Wraxall in North Somerset. The house is a Grade I listed building. The background to the house started off when in the 1830s a Georgian mansion was built at that location, this was bought by William Gibbs, whose huge fortune came from importing and selling guano to be used as fertilizer.

Tynetesfield House

The house was significantly expanded, extended and remodelled in the 1860s. The dining room was made bigger, and the upper bedrooms were almost doubled in size and given bays. You can see this quite easily when looking around. A chapel was added in the 1870s and though a crypt was planned, it was never consecrated so it was used as storage.

Tynetesfield Chapel

The Gibbs family owned the house until the death of Richard Gibbs in 2001. Tyntesfield was purchased by the National Trust in 2002, after a fundraising campaign to prevent it being sold to private interests and ensure it would be open to the public.

It certainly is a place you could spend all day, but one of the nice things about National Trust membership is you can pop in for a shorter amount of time and not feel you need to get the full value of the entry fee by spending all day there.

The gardens are beautiful and you can spend a lot of time walking through the grounds and gardens.

Tynetesfield Gardens

The house is really interesting and you can see the way in which the house was remodelled and extended over the years. It certainly is interesting to see how the other half lived back then.

I really liked the library, which was a huge space, probably could fit most people’s houses in there! Sad that though full of books, some had never been opened or read, true some were reference books and you might not have needed to read all of it, but often these libraries were purchased more for show than a thirst for reading.

Tynetesfield Library

We had a nice cup of tea and scone in the cow barn to finish the day off.

Bristol Harbourside in the 1990s Part Six

Back in the 1990s when I was teaching at a college in Bristol, I use to undertake regular field trips to the Bristol Harbourside as part of a unit on urban regeneration. There was at the time to much happening down there after years of inaction that it was an ideal place to demonstrate the impact of investment and change of use. Bristol had been an important port for hundreds of years, this all came to a halt in the 1970s and regeneration plans were developed. Not much happened for twenty years, but in the last twenty years we have seen major regeneration of the area, massive building of offices, business, residential and entertainment, as well as visitor attractions such as at-Bristol (where incidentally I worked for a while when it opened).

During one of those field trips, I took my SLR camera with me, and digging around a box in the garage I found the prints, which I have since scanned in. This is the final post on these images, you can find part one, part two, part threepart four and part five.

Before the advent of North Sea gas most towns and cities had gasworks that turned coal into gas which was then used for heating and cooking. Down in the harbourside were the Bristol Gasworks. Back in the 1990s these were no longher used for making gas and were in a state of decay, but they were still used for storing North Sea gas. Since then the gas storage has been removed. The buildings were listed and due to the contamination on the site it took many years before they could be used for something else.


You can see from this 2005 image that not much had changed in the preceding ten years to the gasworks building, but around it there was a lot of building and regeneration.

Old Gas Works

On the other side of the harbour this view is now dramatically different as a range of houses and apartments have been built.


Even in the 1990s we already had a fair bit of development already done.


A view up the harbour looking towards the SS Great Britain on the right.


At this point the SS Great Britain had been back in Bristol for twenty years and was looking splendid. She didn’t have the fake water glass thingy representing water as she does now, but she was in pretty good condition and the team restoring her had done an excellent job.


One aspect of the harbour which doesn’t change is the need for dredging.


If you were here today you could turn around and walk over Pero’s Bridge, back then  you needed to walk around. Over on the left is the Watershed.

Bristol Harbourside

Overall it was interesting to see what had changed in the last twenty years and also what hadn’t.