Back to Underfall

We parked the car by the Floating Harbour in Bristol and were about to do battle with paying for parking online/by phone, when we realised not only dd the parking meter have the facility to accept actual money, but we had some actual money. Parking paid we headed towards the Underfall Yard, but stopped to look at a restaurant we either hadn’t noticed before or wasn’t there before, which was under the flyover. It had an interesting and tempting menu, including a section on bubble and squeak* made with various ingredients and served with a variety of other things. We would return another day and investigate.

We crossed the road and walked past the Novia Scotia, a pub we’ve never been in but which looked smart and newly painted and with a lovely seating area outside… somewhere else we must visit next time we’re here. We walked past the lock gates and round to the Underfall Yard which is still a working boat yard with boatbuilding, marine engineering, metal working and training; the public can walk through – although away from the workshops of course. There is a great information centre and café but of course at the moment no-one can go in, however the outside seating now had an awning with fairy lights, so even if the weather was inclement or even just a bit damp there’s somewhere to shelter and enjoy a coffee, with cakes or sandwiches or a light meal. We had only just had breakfast so we continued our walk.

Like everywhere, lockdowns 1, 2 and 3 saw the Underfall closed, but people who worked there were able to continue their business for part of the time. Everywhere was spick and span, shiny and clean, repainted and smart. Not that it wasn’t tidy or clean before, but the absence of the public meant that a lot of jobs had been done, and it showed! We stopped to distantly chat to a chap at an information table; we’ve visited so many times, but even so I still learned something new, something interesting. There’s a working slipway and in the past we’ve seen all sorts of boats hauled up onto it for different work and maintenance, boats of all sizes:

The patent slipway can lift out vessels up to 32m (105 ft) long and 8m (25ft) wide, and up to 180 tonnes dead weight. Boats can be taken out for a quick inspection or anti-fouling or for longer periods for major repair or alteration. Multihulls can be lifted out fully rigged. Narrow Boats can be accommodated either singly or in pairs. Alongside the slipway, the workshops of the Underfall Yard house experienced shipwrights, riggers, blacksmith and welders, fibre composite specialists and carpenters.

It amused us that a small cabin cruiser was up on the wooden bits (I don’t know the technical name for the structure of the slipway) We walked past the workshops, past the Harbour Master’s offices and out of the yard. We continued along Baltic Wharf, an area which now has rows of modern flats and apartments, very fancy and no doubt expensive as they look out over the water. We saw a small rowing boat – was it a gig, I’m not sure, but there were five people in it, a lady steering who it seemed to me hadn’t done it before, and a lady and a gent side bus side, an oar each, and in front of them another coupe of gents with oars. They were having a grand time as they rowed off down through the floating harbour (so called because boats and ships could remain floating whatever the state of the tide thanks to locks)

We walked past a favourite pub, The Cottage, which we were pleased to see busy with happy customers, all seated well apart from each other, and as usual delicious smells emanated. It was pleasant and sunny and we walked along, chatting as we do, taking pictures, observing things, past the Bristol Marina with many houseboats and other craft moored, until we got to where the S.S. Great Britain is moored. We’ve been aboard so many times, we didn’t need or have time to visit again, but more new things on display – a wonderful set of information boards with beautiful photos telling the story of Brunel’s great ship and how it was rescued as a wreck from the Falkland Islands where it had been consigned to rot away, lashed by Atlantic tides.  Here is the story of its rescue, and its happy ending:

We turned back, our parking ticket was about to expire, but we stopped by the marina to watch a crane lift a small boat from where it had been resting (no doubt being repainted, mended, fixed in some way on dryland) Two men worked the crane – not in a cabin but standing beside the boat controlling the massive structure through what looked like an X-box. We chatted for a while to another passer by and then we headed back along Baltic Wharf, back through Underfall, back past the Nova Scotia and back to our car. A simple but wonderful day out, then home for a cup of tea.

Here’s a link to loads of pictures, maps and information:

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