Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Shaun in the City

The Shauns I Found
Two years ago Bristol hosted Gromits and the unbelievable success of that charity fundraising event prompted the organisers to turn to Shaun the Sheep as the next character from the Aardman stable to repeat the exercise.  This time there were 70 Shauns put out in Bristol, to follow the 50 that were placed out in London earlier in the year.  Sadly I had missed them so I did not want to lose the opportunity to revisit Bristol.  Hence on my way to the south west I detoured to Bristol and did the trail around the city.  No children with me this time so I had high hopes of seeing all the ones in the city centre and perhaps even time to check out some of those placed in outlying districts.

Jarsberry Ram
It was a rather grey morning; perfect for this kind of exercise.  The organisers had set the Shauns out on 9 different trails this time and I started out with the Harbourside one.  I parked at the western end of the old docks and walked down to The Pump House, once an important building for the docks but now a popular pub.  Being early in the morning I was able to check out the first Shaun of the day without worrying too much about customers.  Last time the Gromit here was Gromberry - Gromite dressed up as a strawberry.  There was a pleasing parallel then when I encountered Jarsberry Ram - Shaun dressed as a raspberry!

Bristol Docks
I crossed to the south side of the docks and attempted to take the route that we had used last time around by the boatyards.  Unfortunately for me it was too early and the path had not yet been opened and so I had to retrace my steps and take the rather less interesting route along the road.  I did get to have a close look at a very large catamaran being painted so the trip wasn't entirely wasted. Luckily on the other side of the boatyard I was able to regain the dockside path and passed by the early morning sweeping crew doing their best to make the area spick and span before the visitors started arriving for the day.

Pirate Captain
The walk along the dockside is one of the best urban walks I know and even on a gloomy day like this the colours of the houses on the opposite side of the dock really made up for the greyness.  I soon passed the second Shaun, Sgt. Shepherd, a play on the Beatles character and looking a bit like Paul McCartney!  This was probably the last Shaun that I was able to inspect without being hindered by other vistors.  By the time I got to the next one, Lotus, outside the Aardman HQ behind the SS Great Britain I had to wait my turn before I could get a photo.

I didn't pause too long to look at SS Great Britain as no Shaun outside and I have already visited a couple of times.  It is a fascinating place to look around though.  Onward I went past all the former sidings of the docklands railway to the M Shed.  Outside the museum was Pirate Captain and he definitely had the air of Jack Sparrow about him.  The detail was really good, with a big bushy beard and a small bird taking shelter in his hat.  This was the first Shaun I came across that had significant interest and this set the tone for the rest of the day.  In fact I was really surprised at how huge the interet was in all the Shauns.  Whole families were out on the hunt for Shauns and most were doing the App that went with it.  At each Shaun you could scan a QR code and it would bleat at you to confirm that you had found it. Someone had some imagination - it certainly made me smile!

On The Waterfront
While on the dockside I took some time to look at some of the non-Shaun stuff.  The old steam crane was being started up for demonstrations later in the day, the black smoke suggesting that the fire wasn't very hot yet.  On the opposite side of the dock there were screams every so often as mad people were bungee jumping from a crane.

St Mary at Redcliffe
The next Shaun was probably the one I had the hardest time finding.  Baahbershop was not in the location suggested on the map but a couple of hundred metres away.  I really had to tour round the neighbourhood to find it but eventually found it outside some hoardings advertising the latest regeneration project for the docks area.  I rather suspect that the docks will look even more different in a couple years time when this area is redeveloped.

Bristol Express
I crossed the swing bridge at the eastern end of the dock.  Lucky for me that I missed work that was about to start on the bridge for it is to close for a good long time for refurbishment.  I picked up six more Shauns on the opposite side of the dock in quick succession including a couple of particularly good ones - Beach Boy and On The Waterfront.  All were thronged with people and this slowed me up considerably.  Yet, the rest at each one was fairly welcome as pounding the paved streets can be quite tiring very quickly.  Beach Boy was the last of the Shauns on the Harbourside Trail and my next one was the Temple Trail.

Temple Church
I found myself in Queen Square - a very upmarket little oasis with King William III at the centre sitting astride his horse.  This statue is a grade 1 listed building apparently - an accolade not likely to ever be afforded to the temporary art installations on the Shaun trail.  The Shaun by his side was a green and yellow affair which was far less interesting than the one tucked away in the corner which showed Shaun dressed in the robes of the judiciary.  It rather suited him!

Bagpuss Shaun
The rest of this trail was through the district of Redcliffe and took in the enormous church of St Mary, Temple Meads station and the regenerated area to the west of the station.  Of particular note were three Shauns near to the station - the very imaginative Bristol Express dressed like a railway scene and celebrating the old ways of getting to Bristol. Great West Shaun also celebrated the railway but this time he was dressed as an engine.  The final celebration of transport was Rosie where Shaun was dressed like a canal narrowboat.  The navigation from London finally ends here and there were a few narrowboats around that had obviously completed the journey via the Kennet and Avon Canal.

Lamb Chop
Before leaving the Temple Trail I got to look at a sight in Bristol that I had not previously seen; the rather amazing Temple Church.  This bombed out church has been left as a poignant relic in its ruined state - not unique by any means and in fact not even unique in Bristol but somehow more haunting than some of the other churches that I have seen in a similar state.  The flush of brightly coloured flowers alongside the bright pink Sheepish added some much needed colour to proceedings.

Shaun on the Cob
I crossed the river to walk the Old City Trail - this was based around Castle Park and the nearby shopping areas. This part of the walk took me into Cabot Circus - a modern shopping centre housing Bagpuss Shaun (a rather strange combination of children's characters it has to be said).  Outside this shopping centre  was the main shopping area for Bristol and even though it was a Sunday it was thronged with people.  There were a few Shauns scattered around this area including one at the bus station that amused me because it was Shaun jointed into Bristol portions.  Outside the bus station was an old time busker playing the accordian - a sight I hadn't seen in a good many years.  He didn't seem to be doing it for money either - just the love of the music.

St Nicholas Church Gardens
Some of the best Shauns on the trail were on this section of walk - the colourful Maisie and Friends stiing outside the children's hospital, the Test Card and perhaps the best one of all - Shaun on the Cob.  Just along from here I finally stopped for lunch at a rather wonderful little stall that sold falafels and other middle eastern type food. From the shopping area I headed back into Castle Park and the gardens of yet another bombed out church.  This was a good moment to pause and take breath.  There was a good array of flowers and I really enjoyed this little oasis before moving on to St Nicholas Market across the road.  The stalls here were largely closed as it was a Sunday but the atmosphere of the place seemed timeless.  The Shaun that was perhaps the most work to put together was inside here - Woolly Wonderland, which seemed to be entirely knitted.

St Nicholas Market
I briefly found myself back at the head of the docks as I transferred from the Old City Trail to the Heritage Trail which headed up towards Clifton and the older part of the city.  There was less emphasis on the cathedral this time around as the only Shaun was outside the frontage and the first that was in two pieces.  As Shaun Arthur trying to get to grips with Excalibaar could really only be in two pieces!

Woolly Wonderland
I headed up Park Street and dived out into Brandon Hill Park where I expected to find From Dusk until Shaun at the top near to the Cabot Tower but was caught out as when I climbed to the top I found myself looking down on it - feeling highly irritated I got to the bottom on the other side and was confronted with the slowest family yet who seemed to want the piece all to themselves.  All of us waiting were getting rather annoyed by their slowness but they never seemed to get the hint.  I managed a couple of quick snaps before heading up to the Cabot Tower.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that the tower was free to access and so I climbed to the top.  Even though it was rather a grey and overcast day the views from the top were amazing.  There were plenty of other people having the same idea and it was a bit of a squash at times.  The tower was built in the 1890s to celebrate 400 years since the sailing of John Cabot from Bristol to the New World where he discovered what was to become Canada.

Park Street
Having puffed my way up and down the tower I headed over to the museum to visit the next two Shauns hosted inside.  The museum once again had one designed by Nick Park, the creator of Shaun the Sheep.  This had some of the original drawings from the early cartoons on it and was fascinating to look at.  With 70 Shauns to decorate some of the designs were really innovative and the one in the Foyer was mesmerising as it had colour changing LEDs inside it.  This trail was a particularly short one as I quickly picked off Thunderbird Shaun, Rex and Flock n' Roll before heading over to Clifton.
View From Clifton Bridge

By the time I got to Clifton I was feeling weary and I took the pragmatic view that there were a couple of the Shauns on this trail that were just too far to walk to.  With the combination of the trails that I have been on I had walked more than 10 miles and on hard pavements I was beginning to feel it.  Nevertheless the thrill of crossing the Clifton Suspension Bridge was too much to miss.  Leaving it to the end was probably a good move on my part for it made for a really good finale to the walk.  I popped up to the Observatory first, passing a natural rock slide on the way that seemed to be extremely popular.  The view out over the gorge was spectacular although the river in the bottom was a rather strange sight as the tide was out.  At low tide the river barely has any water in it and it is rather astonishing to think that a major port could have built up around a waterway that is unavailable for such a long time.
Clifton Bridge View

The walk across the bridge to find Isembaard was a bit of a procession.  The bridge is pretty narrow and there isn't a lot of room for a walkway either side.  Nevertheless the number of people on the bridge did not detract from this engineering marvel.  The view is astonishing and more than makes up for the fact that there is only a relatively thin deck of metal holding you up so high above the gorge.  Having walked over and back I dropped down to the Avon Gorge Hotel.  On the way I passed the bride and groom from an Indian Wedding up here to have their pictures taken.  They looked so lovely and  colourful in the wedding outfits and I hope that the pictures taken did them justice.  I also wandered past the former cliff railway that enthusiasts are trying to reopen.  I wish them well in that endeavour as it looks like a very long term project indeed.  I had to walk through the hotel out into the beer garden to catch the next Shaun, which was rather an odd experience and one I didn't care for.  Outside the hotel was a lion from an old trail.  Thankfully the lion and Shaun were kept at a safe distance from each other :)

Clifton Railway
After the hotel there was only one more Shaun to get - they helter skelter one in the middle of Clifton.  As with so many of the others on the trail it had a healthy number of visitors to come and look.  In fact I would say that the numbers out on the trails massively exceeded what we remembered from Gromit a couple of years ago.  By now it was the middle of the afternoon and I had seen 46 of the Shauns.  Not content with that I picked off a few in the outer part of the city that were too far to walk to - hunting mascots is pretty addictive!  The auction comes up soon and I think there is every likelihood that the organisers will exceed the £2m they raised from the sale of the Gromits.  I wish them every success as I thoroughly enjoyed hunting them down in the Bristol streets.

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