When I woke up this morning not only was it my birthday but also the sun was shining, so I downed my early morning coffee, got myself ready and went out.
In addition to being a full time student I also write for three local websites, mainly about things to do and places to go, not just in my hometown of Weston-super-Mare but also in the cities of Bath and Bristol. In the course of my work I often come across places that I’ve never visited or events that I haven’t previously heard of. Several times I have written articles about the University of Bristol’s Botanic Garden at Stoke Bishop for Guide2Bristol, and, especially as it’s hosting a sculpture exhibition this weekend, today seemed an ideal opportunity for my first visit.
I drove into Bristol across Brunel’s Suspension Bridge, trying not to get distracted by the amazing views of the Avon Gorge. The Botanic Garden is at Stoke Bishop on the far side of the Downs, about a five or ten minute drive from the bridge.
While I am not a gardener myself, at all, I do enjoy looking at the results of other people’s hard work and the Botanic Gardens are both beautiful and very interesting to walk around. Covering 1.77 hectares the gardens are divided into several zones, each featuring plants from different parts of the world or which have different uses. I particularly enjoyed looking at the Chinese and Western Herb Gardens and the area around the pool is very pretty.
The sculpture exhibition, which features the work of 11 artists, added an extra level of interest to the visit and it seemed that every corner I turned revealed something new. I took lots of photos, as I always do, so here are just a few of my favourites:
I ended my visit to the Botanic Garden by taking a look around the Glasshouses, there are three accessible to the public and the temperature and humidity rises with each new door you pass through.
In the final, hottest and most humid, glasshouse I came across this cocoa pod, I had no idea that they grew out of the trunk of the plant in this way, it’s weird!
The sculpture trail continued into the glasshouses:
There are many more photos from my morning at the Botanic Garden on Flickr.
After leaving the gardens I drove back across the Downs towards the Suspension Bridge, intending to go home, but I was struck my memories of childhood days spent picnicking with my parents, cousin and grandparents, and of visits to the Camera Obscura which overlooks the bridge, so I decided to park the car again and go and revisit those memories.
I haven’t been in the Camera Obscura for years, and had forgotten exactly what it was like, so I was quite excited to hand over my £2.00 and to climb the steps to the top of the tower. I can’t explain the technology that makes it work, but, basically, at the top of the tower is a small, dark room containing a circular, concave ‘table’, which visitors stand around. High above them, in the roof, is a lens which rotates 360 degrees by means of a wooden pole passed from person to person, the scene outside the tower is projected onto the table.
I haven’t explained it very well, but you can read more about it here. I did however, and I know how much this will surprise you, manage to take some pictures of the projected image.
When I was a child my cousin and I would take it in turns to go to the top of the tower, so that whoever was left outside could stand and wave, visible on the Camera Obscura’s table-top screen whenever the lens was pointing in their direction. We were easily entertained back in the ‘olden’ days.
I also paid an extra £1.50 so that I could descend beneath the Camera Obscura tower to the Giant’s Cave, emerging onto a balcony high above the Avon Gorge to stand on what felt like quite a dodgy metal grid to peer hundreds of feet beneath me into the Gorge and the River Avon. I loved it!
The odd places you find electrical sockets never fail to bemuse me, but once I’d spotted it I found myself wishing I had a kettle with me, I would’ve killed for a cup of coffee before starting the climb back to the surface:
See that little balcony over in the distance, that’s where I had been standing:
And to end my birthday on a real high note, a short time later I looked out of the window and realised that the sheep who sometimes live in the orchard in front of my house had arrived for their first visit of the year. I quickly sent texts proclaiming SHEEP!!! to my daughter and stepdaughters and posted a similar status on Facebook before grabbing my camera and running outside gleefully to take the obligatory sheep arrival photo. Here it is:
It’s been a very nice birthday.