Oxford, Bristol, Bath & Salisbury

Oxford

Headed into Oxford for the day – went to the Ashmolean Museum first … very large, so large I couldn’t fit it all in. Only looked at two floors – the very large and well done lower ground floor covering Conservation and Restoration techniques with a lot of actual artifacts that have been done one or the other (and, sometimes, both).

Then had a look at the Bodleian Library, but only the externals as the only way to see a limited portion of the interior is by a timed tour … no time, sadly.

Horrendous Traffic

We think Australian traffic is bad … British traffic can be truly horrendous. One of the roundabouts between Oxford and Bristol was so badly designed that took the road I was on over 30 minutes for the queue to travel 1.1 miles (less than 2 mph). It wasn’t because the traffic at the roundabout was particularly heavy, it was entirely because the design was so abysmally bad that it actually caused the bank up on that one entrance.

Even approaching Bristol on the M5 when things were slowed down because of works etc. traffic was moving at ~20 mph.

Bristol

The only thing I wanted to see in Bristol was the SS Great Britain, Brunel’s second Steamship and vastly larger than the SS Great Eastern (his first). Much better presented with a lot of the interior spaces furnished ‘as was’ back in its heyday and good museums before and after entry.

One amazing thing was that the so-called First Class cabins were not only about the same size as the steerage ones, but had two bunk beds instead of four … the only advantage they had was that they faced onto a large open lounge on one level and, on the level below, was a space almost as large which was used for dining. First Class travel left a lot to be desired … the bunk beds wouldn’t have even been 6′ long and about as wide as a moern day Economy Class airline seat … I would have had a hard time squeezing into them … no, not fun at all!

The ship itself has had some major conservation work done on it … the drydock it is permanently installed in had been drained and the lower part of the hull, which is severely rust and salt impacted, is set off in a climate controlled perspex structure along what would have been the waterline. Dehumidified air is pumped in continuously to prevent further rust damage and it seems to be working.

First Class ‘luxury’

Bristol Aerospace

Then off to Bristol Aerospace Museum … based on the edge of one of the airfields the Bristol company started just before WW1 and with a fair chunk of vintage planes, not all of them Bristol designs, but all with some element designed or manufactured by the Bristol company … which is still going strong as a conglomerate with interests in many other things besides Aerospace stuff.

The museum also contains the last Concorde to fly … with the interior fitted out as it was at its last flight, as a passenger carrier, not as a testbed as the one at Duxford is.

Concorde
The Interior of Concorde – quite cramped!

Bath

The only thing I really wanted to see in Bath were the famous Roman Baths, but, it seemed, so did every darn tourist in England! Dodging and weaving in, around, and (not quite) under them I was impressed by the way they have opened up areas that (from memory) either weren’t open to the public or weren’t as well presented back in 1981.

No, I still didn’t taste the water … it smells of sulphur and, though they’ve evidently cleaned up the contamination that made it impossible to drink back when I was there last, the smell is just … awful.

(One think I didn’t know, the presentation claimed that Bath is not only the biggest such facility in NW Europe but it is the only natural Hot Water spring in Britain … I am not sure about the latter claim, I suspect it simply means that it’s the only really large one.)

The Great Bath from above

Salisbury

It was sort of difficult to get into Salisbury as the Park & Ride buses were servicing a big Army Day event nearby … almost over by the time I got there … so I drove into town where, fortunately, parking was free as a result, and I managed to see the Cathedral and close.

Salisbury Cathedral – the main stained glass windows behind the Altar

And you’ve noted I have figured out how to upload photos to WordPress!

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