Bristol #1: On location and meeting friendly felines

Read this blog: The one where we have a beer with some cats

Monday 19th February 2024

We try to plan a regular trip away with our friends Liz and Martin in our respective motorhomes early in the year and for our 2024 visit we had settled on Bristol.

In September 2021, on our way back from Tresco, Robert bought Matilda a lifetime membership of the National Trust at Godolphin House. Matilda noted that Robert waited until she was old enough to qualify for a senior rate before he indulged her but was nevertheless delighted and determined to start getting his money’s worth out of this investment as soon as possible. The following day, she identified Lacock Abbey and Village as a National Trust site which, unlike many at that time, did not require pre-booking.

Since then, encouraged by her daughters and mindful that age could increasingly blunt her memory, Matilda has acquired a National Trust passport to keep a record of the beautiful and historic places she visits. She therefore suggested that Lacock would be the perfect spot to break the journey to Bristol so that she could get her NT passport stamped. She managed to convince Robert, who likes to arrive at any destination early so that he can sample a hostelry or two, by reasoning that they would not need to spend long there, having visited recently.

Lacock is a cinematographer’s dream.

This historic village is largely undeveloped and unspoilt and has consequently been used as a location for many period dramas over the years including Pride and Prejudice [the 1995 version with Colin Firth], Downton Abbey and Wolf Hall.

TravellingHerd: High Street, Lacock Village

At the heart stands Lacock Abbey which was founded in 1232 as an Augustinian Covent. However, in 1540, towards the end of the Dissolution of the Monasteries [1536 to 1541] it was sold to Sir William Sharington, who demolished the Convent church and used the stone to build a family home over the old cloisters.

TravellingHerd: Lacock Abbey

The cloisters themselves were used for domestic purposes and storage and have remained largely unchanged. Lacock is therefore one of the most complete surviving medieval nunneries in England. The cloisters are especially atmospheric and have appeared in more than one of the Harry Potter films.

TravellingHerd: Lacock Abbey

Unfortunately Matilda’s research was not entirely comprehensive and the Abbey itself was closed so although she acquired stamps in the visitor centre and the shop, she decreed another visit was necessary at some point in the future for her to return to the Abbey to ‘get the full set’.

From here we travelled on into Bristol along a road which meanders confusingly across the River Avon to the Caravan and Motorhome Club site at Baltic Wharf. Although you cannot book a specific pitch at this site, we were lucky enough to arrive minutes ahead of Liz and Martin and were therefore able to secure adjacent pitches. 

TravellingHerd: Baltic Wharf Caravan and Motorhome site

The site is situated on Spike Island, close to the SS Great Britain and it is just a short walk into the city. After connecting the electricity and having a catch up over a cuppa we decided to take a stroll to get our bearings. This took us past the Aardman Animation Studio: Robert, Matilda and their daughters are all fans and it was lovely to see familiar characters looking back at us.

TravellingHerd: Window display at Aardman Animation

Across the waterfront, the houses are painted in a range of bright colours [see selfie of the day]. The Cross Harbour Ferry leaves from close to the SS Great Britain and unsurprisingly takes passengers across the harbour for a small charge of £1.20 each. All payments are by card – no cash accepted. It’s a small crossing but saves a walk around and over the nearest bridge.

TravellingHerd: On board the Cross Harbour Ferry

Matilda had recently celebrated her birthday by going to Java Whiskers, a cat café in White City with her daughters and so had been pleased to discover that there was a ‘cat pub’ in Bristol. Cats and coffee is good but cats and beer she felt was even better.

The sign in the window declaring “No idiot pub crawls” immediately recommended The Bag of Nails to us. Children are also not welcome and when there are pub kittens “in training” dogs are not allowed either.

Anyone with a feline friend will know that a box, whatever the size, is a cat magnet and there are several placed at intervals along the bar. During our visit, they were all occupied.

TravellingHerd: The Bag of Nails pub

Matilda was particularly pleased to secure a seat at the bar and to see that there was a pump serving a beer with her name on it [see Video of the day].

TravellingHerd: The Bag of Nails pub

Sally, one of the resident cats, [being petted by Matilda above] is quite docile and usually accepts being used as a ‘table’ for the card machine [see Video of the Day].

The clientele were a radically different demographic from that found in your average pub, being predominantly young and female. We were amused when we left to glance into the hostelry next door to see two lone gentlemen propping up the bar. The cats certainly work as a marketing tool.

TravellingHerd: Sally, one of the feline residents at The Bag of Nails

Liz and Martin had arranged to meet friends for supper and so we parted ways. We popped in to Junction to sample a Bristol Beer Factory brew before returning to our motorhome to eat and have an early night before more serious sightseeing the next day.

Video of the day: Sally the cat

Selfie of the day:

TravellingHerd: Beside the River Avon

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