I headed down to Bristol early for my Refill team day so that I could spend time with my friend. Allysse and I are both lovers of wandering and finding out unusual facts. She suggested we take a guided walk, which turned out to be a brilliant start to my trip. We discovered lots of things about Weird Bristol – including a bee hive in a statue and a headless virgin Mary!
Weird Bristol is an interesting and entertaining account which I discovered via my friend Allysse on Twitter. Following on from that, the writer Charlie Revelle-Smith, has written a book of walks taking you on an unusual adventure around the city of Bristol. Allysse received a copy of the book and when I headed down to visit recently, we decided that it would be a good time to give it a go.
Little did we know when setting out that we would discover an upcycled monument, meet Cary Grant and discover the Bristol version of the Tower of Pisa.
Walking the walk
One thing I really enjoyed about setting out on the walk was that both Allysse and I were about to discover new things about the city. So often we see these statues, sculptures and monuments in our home towns but they blend into the background or just something we pass on our commute. I know this because I do it and when I shared the facts with my other Bristolian friends, they reported to have ‘not noticed’ many of them before.
It is not really a bad thing that we forget about the things in our city, but I do think that times like this act as a reminder to take more of an interest where we live. To be a tourist in our own cities.
Although it is easy to head out and to try to find out the information, I would highly recommend getting a book or taking a guided tour. This way, someone else has done the hard work, so you can enjoy the tales with eager interest.
Neptune and the pot belly
Of course I am not going to take you through the whole tour in this post – you can buy the book – however, I will share some of the highlights to give you a cheeky sample into the fun things we discovered while wandering around the city on the statue tour.
As we walked over to Nepture, I noticed something about his proportions being slightly off. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but something was definitely not right. I was correct. As we read the information to each other in good tourist style, we discovered that this statue had been made out of lead. Lead is not a material which weathers well and with the tidal breeze and British rain, he was beginning to sag somewhat. To prevent any further damage, they decided to cut off his head and fill him with concrete. You might be wondering why this would be a problem to his proportions and it is because the accidentally poured too much in, causing him to have a bit of a droopy belly.
I suppose it is better to have a bit of a belly than to be completely saggy though. And it did explain why he looked a little weird.
Upcycling is definitely not a concept I had ever really associated with public monuments, but it turns out that if you can’t get enough money to build a memorial, you do what you can with what you have. This is the case for the King George V Memorial Fountain.
Unfortunately, King George the V was not one of the more popular of the monarchs so when a collection was held for a memorial statue, they didn’t make enough money for what they imagined. In order to deliver something for the public, they created a rather mis-matched fountain from parts remaining from the demolition of the local Co-operative building. This explains the wheat farmer and miner on this side of the fountain. Partnering it with a lion on the other side.
I have passed this a few times before, but never really looked closely enough to see how bizarre it is! I do wonder whether the money raised would have been better put to use filling more statues with concrete?
The leaning tower of…Bristol!
It is believed that the tower was built on a foundation which was too soft for the structure causing it to lean. Rather than rebuild, they counteracted the lean further up the building! If you look carefully, you can see where the lean begins to turn the other way round. The real name of this ruined building is Temple Church. The majority of it was destroyed in WW2, but the leaning tower remains to tell the tale. My favourite bit was that is apparently on 4 degrees less in tilt than the Pisa tower.
Seeing Bristol from a new angle
We discovered more than twenty items of interest on our walk around Bristol and the facts which came with them had us laughing, gasping and flashing looks of bemusement. It has certainly sparked my interest in finding a similar book for Manchester so I can repay the favour and take Allysse on a trip around my city too. I will definitely be doing more tourist in my city things too – I actually have a series coming up, so keep your eyes peeled.
I have to say that I am already excited to get back to Bristol to wander some more with Allysse. There are around 20 walks left for us to discover, so plenty of excuses for heading down south-ish!
Are you a fan of Weird Bristol or finding odd facts about cities you visit?
Can you recommend any more books of a similar style? Or any facts about Bristol or Manchester, we should explore?
Let me know in the comments!