A great believer in exploring the off beat, non-touristy things hidden inside every city.
Published April 2nd 2015
Some of Britain's lesser known gems
The Avon flows far below me; a rather brownish narrow river. The great chasm it divides are two counties- Somerset and Bristol. I am standing on the Clifton Suspension Bridge- a sheer marvel of engineering the brainchild of one of Britain's finest engineers, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
As the name suggests, it is held up entirely by cables in vertical suspension. Traffic plies in the main section whilst there is a pedestrian walkway as well. My young daughter walks on it gingerly and then asks me if this is Britain's version of the much famed Golden gate bridge of San Francisco, America. While that may be true, this is definitely the older one, having been in use since 1864, while its more photographed counterpart is only as old as 1937. We are visiting my brother-in-law's family in Bristol. So, I am standing near the Bristol end.
Just before the bridge starts, is an observatory which dates back to the Iron Age and seems to have been functioning originally as a lookout point on the cliff top and then used for a while as an artist's studio in the 19th century by a certain William West. Now solely a tourist site, there are the usual things inside like pictures, maps, telescope etc. I don't know much of his art, but he seems to have been quite a builder, having built a tunnel running 2000 feet from the observatory into the actual rock of the gorge to a small cave like look-out point called Giant's cave- on the actual cliff face.
All in all the bridge and the surroundings make for an unusual spot of sight-seeing. In 2012, this was one of the handover points for the Olympic Torch as well.