The Odyssey continues – although I did go back to jail this week!
This week has been much quieter than our previous full on week, thankfully, as I don’t think I could have kept that pace up for too much longer!
We returned the hire car early in the morning and spent the day walking around the city of Bristol. It was a beautiful day and we took the advice of our favourite expat blogger Melanie from The Wandering Darlings and visited many of of the places she’s promoted in her blog, the SS Great Britain and Brunel Museum being one of them. It was a great way to spend the afternoon and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We also visited the M Shed, a free museum which tells the story of Bristol. It was really well done.
The harbour area is really pleasant to walk around and we had no problem finding our way around the city. It was nice to discover the city this way and it really helped my step count – I’m way above my normal average step count so far this trip – we’ve been quite active!
The warm sunshine had everyone out in Castle Park, and we joined them for a short while before getting our lift home.
While our daughter and fiance went off to a wedding we were left in charge of the fur-babies overnight – Ozzy the chunky black lab and Bruce the rabbit. We managed very well and the cooler, overcast days helped as we were able to use the indoors time to catch up on things and stop for a minute to catch our breath.
What a gorgeous couple they are! (Note: This is not a photo of the dog and rabbit)
We had a nice morning out visiting nearby Kilver Court gardens, designer shops and a spot of lunch in the sunshine. The gardens cost to go into and there was a wedding in progress at the time, so this was a bonus – got to love a wedding! There was a stunningly huge (and unexpected) viaduct, the Charlton Viaduct, traversing the gardens which added to the atmosphere. Although not huge, the gardens were tastefully done, very neat and well kept with gorgeous colours amongst the greenery, with an island, formal and informal gardens and a replica of the Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal winning rockery. The gardens were created over 100 years ago as an oasis of tranquility for a factory workforce. It was so peaceful and tranquil, I could have stayed there for ages.
HM Shepton Mallet Prison
After our colourful and pleasant morning in the tranquil gardens nearby, our next stop was starker and much more dismal. That’s because it was a prison, exactly like in the old TV show ‘Porridge’ and similar to Australia’s Goulburn and Bathurst jails.
As I worked in a jail for 20+ years and was made redundant in awful circumstances 18 months ago, my daughter kindly asked if I’d be OK, as I hadn’t been to a jail since finishing up in December 2016. I said I should be fine but strangely enough, it was still weird being ‘inside’ again.
This prison was much different to mine in some ways but similar in other ways. The ex-Officer who led our 2 hour tour was very experienced and knowledgeable. I related to much of what he explained about prison procedures and the day to day life behind bars, despite my experiences being in a more relaxed jail environment. It was all quite familiar and I did feel a bit strange.
The Shepton Mallet prison was originally built in 1610 and since then has served many purposes – including a military prison; a repository for 300 tons of important historical documents in 1939 (war years); an American military prison; and a place of executions and hangings. Quite different to my previous place of employment!
I learnt many things during our tour –
- the term ‘screw’ which inmates call Officers comes from the days of prisoners working the treadmills when officers would tighten the screw to make the wheel harder to turn. Shepton Mallet had one of these treadmills in operation.
- It is thought that over 100 dead inmates are buried in unmarked graves underneath the prison.
- Also the stairs were made uneven to make it difficult to establish a smooth rhythm which prevented inmates running on the stairs.
- Shepton Mallet prison was closed in March 2013 due to economy cuts and now it is open for interactive tours, ghost tours, overnight stays, movie sets, parties – you name it! On the day of our tour a Zombie movie was being filmed but alas we didn’t see any zombies or ghosts.
- I crawled into an old cell from the 1600s and it was quite eerie knowing its long history.
The prison is apparently haunted with the White Lady occasionally making an appearance. We decided we couldn’t stay overnight and Melanie was really quite spooked by the whole experience. I also know I’m in a much better place now, out of the jail system.
This was another amazing National Trust property just outside Bristol. The best part of visiting National Trust properties has been that our Australian membership is reciprocal, so we have free entry to all NT places in UK. Bargain – thanks mum and dad for the membership! I would heartily recommend joining the National Trust as they are doing great work in keeping history alive. I’ve been amazed at the huge number of people at these places, it’s great to see families enjoying themselves and taking in the history!
Bank Holiday and Afternoon Tea in our old house
The hanging baskets are out and a bbq – beautiful weather for the Bank Holiday Monday had us out gardening! If you know me, that’s a rarity 🙂
Later that day we ventured around to our old house for afternoon tea. You might remember that when we did our Teacher Exchange back in 1992 we swapped houses, jobs and cars with an English family. This is the house we lived in for the year with our three daughters and we always try to pop in to see our exchange house whenever we’re in the village. It’s a weird feeling! Luckily the English family still live there and are always welcoming.
We had a lovely catch up on all the news since our last visit while enjoying the afternoon sunshine in the garden eating yummy delicacies and drinking Pimms. As we’d ridden the bikes around there we continued on for a quick lap of the reservoir before heading home for a yummy bbq dinner. Just as well I’m being so active with all the walking and riding we’re doing, or I’d be the size of a house already!
The Shute Shelve Tunnel on the Strawberry Line
On an overcast morning we decided to get a ride in before the predicted rain set in. We had heard that the tunnel which had been closed on our earlier rides on the Strawberry Line, was now open so we set off to check it out. It was open with a great two lane surface inside and apparently lights are next on the agenda. I just kept riding towards the light at the end of the tunnel!
We stopped in at the historic Sandford and Banwell Station, now a tourist attraction run by volunteers. It was closed but the elderly gentlemen working on various projects invited us in to see what was going on and we enjoyed an interesting chat about all things rail, riding and travel. I must say they had the most amazing flower baskets and boxes, which added a lot of colour to the old station and trains.
So what’s our ‘Odyssey’ all about?
Odyssey – a long wandering and eventful journey. An exciting adventure.
I’ve decided that this three month trip will be known as our Odyssey, as it will be a long wandering and eventful journey. My posts in this series, so far are here:
I’m trying to update Our Odyssey series once a week, mainly so that I don’t lose track of what we’re doing. The hardest part of that is finding the time to do it! I’ll aim to post an update on a Thursday or Friday but don’t hold me to that schedule 🙂
So that’s a quick run down on our activities for the week, I hope you’ve enjoyed travelling with us and will join us again!
Next up is Iceland followed by a cycling and barge tour in The Netherlands 🙂
Feel free to ask any questions or leave a comment below. I always love hearing from you and try to answer all your comments 🙂
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