A Sentimental Journey around Bristol

I’ve been intending to make this nostalgic walk for some time. Back in 1990-91 I finished university and then began working in a warehouse while I tried to work out what I was going to do and save some money. It was a long walk – actually longer than I remember. I had no car, it wasn’t on the bus route and I only ever took one taxi during the five years I lived in Bristol.

So this was the plan: to re-walk that journey and see what I could remember, see some of the places I knew so well nearly 25 years ago.

I arrived by train. Temple Meads has improved a lot but is recognisable although I notice all the taxis outside are now blue. Maybe they always were.

I worked in Old Market but wasn’t entirely sure of the best route. On the way I noticed much more was being made of the Templar connection to that area: a Wetherspoons pub called Knights Templar, the names of office buildings and this piece of public art:

Templar Stone by Jane Rickards

I found my way to Kingsland Trading Estate where I worked.

Kingsland Trading Estate

I think this was the warehouse where I worked but the company I worked for is no longer there. It was a real eye-opener for a soft student.

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One of these warehouses was where the TV programme Casualty was made. Don’t ask me which one. It was a surreal sight to see nurses, doctors and blood-spattered patients lining up outside for their coffee and burgers.

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You couldn’t go far in the half-hour we were given for lunch, but there was a splendid record shop called Plastic Wax within five minutes walk of my warehouse. Many of my favourite records still have the Plastic Wax price stickers on them including my treasured copy of ‘For Your Pleasure’ by Roxy Music. It’s not there any longer. I think it was this shop:

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My route used to take me through Braggs Lane which I remember because it seemed sort of sinister, like Hobbs End in Quatermass and the Pit. It’s not at all sinister.

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I crossed the dual carriageway into St Paul’s and past lots of places I remember from my twice-daily walk all those years ago, such as the Salvation Army.

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From there onto the colourful Cheltenham Road. Graffiti and street art is of course everywhere in the city that produced Banksy.

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After the Arches, I found the ‘new’ Plastic Wax – goodness knows how long it’s been there.

Plastic Wax records, Bristol

I enjoyed browsing, nearly bought a copy of ‘Starsailor’ by Tim Buckley, but stopped myself which I’ll probably regret.

Plastic Wax Record shop Bristol

I had to ignore the lure and strong fragrances of Gloucester Road and instead turned up Zetland Road into Redland which was always sign that I was nearly home. The Mexican restaurant is still there. I can’t remember if I ever actually ate there.

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Still more climbing to be done but the Shakespeare Pub meant home. The Shakespeare was at the end of our street and close enough to act as the sitting room we didn’t have in our flat. It was a proper pub and the landlord wasn’t a big fan of students. There was the time he told one of my friends to buy a drink or leave because it wasn’t a bus stop. There were other times when I paid for a pint with 20p, 10p, and 5p pieces. There wasn’t chance of a pint there though this time because it was closed for refurbishment.

The Shakespeare pub, Redland, Bristol

Also at the bottom of the street was the Redland Village Bakery. From the outside it looks the same.

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Inside it was much bigger than I remember it. I bought a baguette and turned the corner to see my old flat. The upstairs bay window was my old bedroom.

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Back in the late 80s/early nineties the run-down house next door was home to two misanthropic brothers, shabbily-dressed and apparently elderly. I say ‘apparently’ because I was astonished to pass one of them in the street. 24 years on, he looked exactly the same!

That was my post-university work journey done so after wallowing awhile in nostalgia I retraced some of the route I used to walk when I was at university.

I walked down Whiteladies Road which is much busier than it ever was in my time and up Cotham Hill which used to be a little run-down but had a wonderful second-hand bookshop, sadly gone. I passed the nursing home of the Little Sisters of the Poor. Walking past this mysterious building day after day piqued my curiosity so much that one day I walked in, asked what went on there and wrote an article about it.

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This was just around the corner from the English department in Woodland Road which looks pretty much the same as I remember it.

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I asked the security guards if I could have a nose around. Some of it was familiar, much seemed changed. I think this was the old common room but it’s very different. The photo is shaky because I was embarrassed to be taking it and snapped on the move!

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However, this was definitely the main lecture theatre back in my day. Sadly it was locked so I could only peer through the door.

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From Woodland Road, I walked to Bristol Art Galley. As a young man I was a big fan of this painting: ‘The Mermaid’ or ‘The Siren’ by Frederick Leighton. I can’t imagine why.

The Siren by Frederick Leighton

While I was in the gallery I wandered around the new Jeremy Deller exhibition which I can’t pretend to understand at all, but the Bowie theme and the following two wall-hangings ensured I had ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ in my head for the rest of the journey.

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Next to the Art Gallery is the Wills Memorial building, paid for by tobacco and slaves, where I sat exams and listened to lectures including one from the poet Donald Davie.

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I used to think the waterfront area around the Watershed was the bees knees. It looks a little worse for wear now but I still enjoyed a pint watching the water buses load and unload.

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Just a short step from the waterfront you step back in time when you walk into King Street.

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That’s where you’ll find the Old Vic and the amazing pub, the Llandoger Trow.

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I’m not exactly sure what the Welsh connection is but the area’s name makes it explicit:

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Before returning to Temple Meads,a quick glimpse of St Mary Redcliffe which looked fantastic in the sun, but gloomy in this photo.

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