There is a brand new Wallace and Gromit sculpture trail, Gromit unleashed 2 running in Bristol from 2 July to 2nd September with over sixty sculptures dotted around the city and surrounding areas to raise money for the Wallace and Gromit Grand appeal for Bristol Children’s hospital and the St. Michael’s hospital special care baby unit. Bristol children’s hospital treats more than 100,000 patients every year and cares for patients from Bristol and the South West of England.
Many of the figures have been painted by well known artists and represent famous Bristol characters like W.G. Grace, the cricketer in my photo. The Lego design team have created a model using over 30,000 bricks and the Paw patrol team have also painted a Gromit. Aardman animation which produced Morph, Creature Comforts, Shaun the sheep and Chicken run as well as the Wallace and Gromit films is based in Bristol and Nick Park , a founder of Aardman studios is a patron of this appeal.
For 2018 Wallace and Gromit are joined by their arch enemy Feathers McGraw and are positioned in iconic locations around Bristol and surrounding areas. The detect-o-gromit app is available to purchase from app stores for both iPhone and android for £1.99. It has both short and longer trail routes and includes a pedometer which rewards you for 10,000 steps and has more details about the work done by the children’s hospital. A trail map is also available from the Bristol tourist office and Bristol museums. More information can be found on the Gromit Unleashed facebook page.
The first Gromit unleashed trail and the Shaun the sheep trail raised £6 million for Bristol children’s hospital and this time they are hoping to do even better. Sculptures are auctioned off at the end of the season and many end up at well known locations.
If you live near Bristol I think it would make a grand day out for you and your family. It will also help you all to get fitter while having fun and discovering new parts of the city.
First bus have a day family ticket for £8.00 if purchased through their app which allows a family of five to travel throughout the Bristol Inner zone and includes a 10p donation to the charity.
I belong to a meetup group called “A walk in the past “. This combines two of my loves history which I studied at University and walking. Normally we meet in Bristol or surrounding areas but last week I ventured further afield to London in search of Roman Londinium. I was able to combine this with a visit to see my son who was happy to join me on the walk.
Our group met at a suitably classical location, Trajan’s statue by Tower Hill tube station. This is close to a surviving section of Roman town wall. Roman walls can often be spotted as they have a tile level every couple of feet. We were able to follow the wall for some distance and I was surprised by how much survives. We even found one section in a car park with the brown tile levels clearly visible.
Roman London is buried under modern London and much of it remained undiscovered for centuries. However during the second world war the blitz destroyed many buildings revealing Roman remains. One such building is the London Mithraem, the remains of a temple to Mithras. It has been lovingly preserved and is now in the basement of the Bloomberg building, the European headquarters of the American corporation. It is beautifully present with a sound and light show. It can be visited for free by prior arrangement. The London Mythraem They also have an interesting display of Roman artefacts found at the site including part of a collection of over 400 wax writing tablets. Another important building in any Roman town was the amphitheatre. The London amphitheatre remained hidden until 1988 when developers rebuilding the Guildhall discovered unusual curved walls. The remains can now be seen for free in the basement of the Guildhall.
Originally Colchester was the capital of Roman Britain but Londinium soon became more important. Boudica led the Iceni on a raid which resulted in many wooden building being destroyed and it was decided to build a fort and walls to strengthen the town. Londinium became more important under the emperor Hadrian who used his own money to build civic buildings. The Romans were able to build a bridge across the Thames near the site of the modern Tower Bridge and it became an important trading port. Lead from the Mendips and copper and tin from Cornwall were traded for olive oil , wine and other luxury goods. I was shown the site of the London arena, where soldiers would have trained which was discovered about forty years ago and the enormous forum basilica. which is now under Leadenhall market. We ended our walk by looking at Roman artefacts in the excellent museum of London. This is also free and is well worth a visit. I particularly liked the model of the original London bridge.
When I retired I joined a U3A French group. For those people who have not come across it before the University of the third age is a voluntary organisation that provides classes and social groups for retired people. Our group is unusual that we run without a tutor. We meet in members’ houses and play games like scrabble and taboo in French. We also meet up with other French groups for activities such as talks and petanque.
One member of our group noticed a request in the U3A magazine from a similar French group in Nantes in north west France who wanted to do an exchange and as Easy Jet has just opened a route between Nantes and Bristol we thought it was a good opportunity to practice our French and see a new city. The French equivalent of the U3A is the University Permanente. It is different from the English version as it is attached to the main university and classes meet in the University.
Four of us arranged to go and we were met at the airport by our hosts from the French anglophone group at Nantes airport with a sign reading UP Nantes which reminded us of UP Pompei, a 1960’s British T.V. comedy show. For the next three days our very generous hosts showed us round Nantes.
I was struck by the similarities with Bristol, both cities have about half a million inhabitants and are former ports which have lost trade because the rivers, the Loire in France and the Avon in England have become too shallow for modern boats. Both cities also owe much of their prosperity to the slave trade. We visited a very moving memorial to the slave trade in Nantes and discussed its relevance to Bristol which seems to want to forget its past.
Nantes was also the birth place of Jules Verne, the French science fiction writer. The old boat building sheds in Nantes have been turned into a
steam punk museum where fantastical machines are created. The highlight is an enormous mechanical elephant as big as a double decker bus which gives people rides around the dock yard. There is also a huge carousel based on Verne’s story twenty thousand leagues under the sea where you can ride on underwater sea creatures.
We enjoyed meeting the French group and practising our rather rusty French. We also savoured French cuisine both in our hosts’ home and a variety of restaurants. Our hosts introduced to some very interesting bars including the nest (Le Nid) at the top of Le tour Bretagne (Brittany tower) where the chairs and tables resemble eggs and we had stunning views of the whole city and La Cigale (the cicada) with its beautiful art deco décor.
We returned home with greater confidence speaking French and a strong commitment to continue our contact with Nantes UP.