Avonmouth to Bristol
For the trip up into Bristol City Docks, John and I had been joined by my eldest son, Rob, and friends, Martin, a Bristolian artist and Wil, from Nijmegen, in the Netherlands, who had arrived the previous evening to visit us. For this trip, we tied the barges abreast.
As we locked out of the Royal Edward Dock, I looked back at the shipping in the port and thought about the old days that Peter had talked of, when you could walk from one side of the dock to the other across the decks of the barges and lighters. So few were now left. Still, here was one that would be saved from the breakers torch.
As we passed the village of Pill, once the base for most of the Bristol Channel pilots, the day grew brighter. In Hung Road, the Bristol based, Naval Auxiliary minesweeper passed us, on her way to sea. Bob the engineer, who was on deck, pulled his greasy cap sideways and gave them a crooked salute, they loftily ignored us.
The faithful old sand dredger, Harry Brown, was next down, but the waves and greetings we got from the crew were much more encouraging. They, at least, seemed to really appreciate the sight of two working barges heading toward the City Docks after so many years, no matter how rusty and neglected they looked.
We rounded Horseshoe Bend and chugged past the old Roman harbour of Abona, at Sea Mills, then the magnificent sight of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, majestically spanning the Avon Gorge, greeted us, as it had greeted so many generations of seamen before us.
Arriving in Bristol by boat is an experience like no other. The Avon Gorge and the Clifton Suspension Bridge look imposing from a car on the Portway, but from a boat in the middle of the river, the grandeur is magnified by the central viewpoint.
In through the locks and we had arrived. We moored in the Cumberland Basin and were joined by Kate and Martin’s wife, Sue with their children. A bottle of champagne was popped to celebrate a successful conclusion to the first stage of our project.
All we had to do now was turn this one hundred and fifty tons of rusting steel into an art gallery – no problem!