Walk around the Iron Age Hill Fort and creepy abandoned pier at Weston Woods

About 20miles south west of Bristol, just a little further than the notorious Weston Super Mare sea front, lies Weston Woods. An area of importance since the Iron Age and now a 130-hectare nature reserve, this was the spot that Danielle, Ian and I decided to explore this weekend to escape from the chaos (and essay deadlines) of the city.

I’m writing this post right now tucked up in bed with a hot water bottle and a cosy cup of lemon and ginger tea as while today’s little adventure has left me exhilarated and somewhat cleansed, I am also feeling soggy, cold and definitely soon to come down with something. This trip is not for the faint hearted, especially in our bracing October weather. If I had known what would be in store, perhaps I would have brought more appropriate footwear – my Nikes are pretty mucky right now.

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Following the pathway (which is roughly 1 ½ miles) we had the chance to explore the beautiful woodland, climb the broadleaf trees and also check out the 2000 year old pits – apparently these were dug and used to store grain. We were also able to have a look at the Iron Age Hill Fort as the defensive ramparts can still be seen. (Archaeological side note from me – During excavations in 1850, they found around 100 human skeletons here, many of which showed signs of having been violently killed and things! I love gory archaeology goss!) Exploring the various bridleways and admiring the fungi and enormous trees, draped with ivy and splattered with bright orange lichen, was a welcome respite from the city. And the fresh, coastal air was a beautiful tonic to our hangovers and grogginess after a busy weekend of lots of drinking and very little sleeping.

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We decided to walk back along the beach – which was glorious and exciting at first – but fairly soon pretty exhausting. We made hilariously/devastatingly slow progress clambering over the oddly shaped rocks, slipping on the spikey pebbles, and sinking into the scarily sticky sand. BUT, cold and soggy and muddy and tired, WE MADE IT. And we got to enjoy gorgeous views of the sunset, as well as of the derelict Victorian pier which has been abandoned for over a decade?! Definitely keep an eye out for this! Fantastically creepy – complete with rotting decking and broken windows, what’s left of Birnbeck Pier (constructed in 1867) is the perfect setting for a horror story and a great topic of conversation for the journey home.

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USEFUL INFO:

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Derelict remains of Birnbeck Pier

If you liked this one then you might want to read some more posts about the coasts (rhyme lol).

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Meet the animals at Bristol Zoo Gardens

I had one of the best days last weekend on my adventure to the brilliant Bristol Zoo Gardens. With over 400 species to gawk at in a beautiful 12 acre zoo, it’s definitely worth a trip into Clifton for this one. Plus, they’re a registered charity, so the admission goes towards their conservation projects – REALLY, then, you might say that you kind of ought to go.

I’ve been lucky enough to have had the chance to visit this exciting spot both as part of my anthropology course, but also every week as a volunteer. For a special treat, however, on the last weekend of September (which by some stroke of luck was a pretty sunny day) I got to go back to this fantastic place to explore as a proper visitor.

Highlights for me included catching feeding time in the reptile house and watching the Mountain Chicken Frogs leaping after their agile prey (lots and lots of bugs) while a lazy looking boa eyed up a bunch of mice (gross but also weirdly great). Watching the enormous Western Lowland Gorillas (whose scientific name is Gorilla gorilla gorilla which in my opinion is brilliant) pottering around, climbing and running and picking at their food with their forever-surprising dexterity. Jock (the silverback) weighs an incredible 32 stones of pure muscle, and it’s crazy to watch him peel the lids off yoghurts and licking the inside (You can catch the Gorilla feeding and talk at 14.30). I loved watching the Fur Seals playing and darting around the water. You can see them from above, practically leaping out of the water whenever they surface for a breath, but even better is popping below to see them swimming upside down and shooting around under the water – perfect spot for a SEALFY hahaha (You can watch these guys being fed and listen to the talk at 15.30).

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Another definite highlight was the visit to ‘Explorer’s Creek’ (RIGHT where I belong) home of the Rainbow Lorikeets. For a small fee (I think it costs 70p for a pot) you can feed these crazy dudes some nectar and seriously, if they’re feeling greedy, what feels like a whole flock of these fellas’ll come and land on you. At one point I had a lorikeet on my shoulder and another on my head. So much fun! And it was gorgeous to watch Larry’s reaction as these beautiful birds settled on his arm.

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To finish off the day we popped into the butterfly house. A lovely, tranquil end to the day watching the beautiful South American butterflies (including Blue Morphos and Pale Owls which are HUGE) fluttering and floating around. If you stay really still, they’ll even stop on your shoulder long enough for you to take a photo.

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Although quite an expensive adventure, it was a beautiful day regardless. Bristol Zoo Gardens has a great collection of animals to look at, so if you have a day at your disposal and wildlife and nature is your jam, then a trip to Bristol Zoo is a definite must. Much hilarity will be had and I guarantee you will learn something new and see something that amazes you.

USEFUL INFO:

* Admission: £15.95 for adults and £13.90 for students.
(If you buy online you can grab yourself 10% off ticket prices, and if you’re a uni student there are some societies that you can join including BUVZS which gets you discount entry)
* Opening times: 9.00-17:30 peak times and 09.00-17.00 off-peak (i.e. winter).
* The Cafe is open for lunch between 11:45-14:30, but you can get coffees and little snacks there throughout the day. I can’t remember how much a coffee is… Sorry. I’ve let you down.
* Bring with you: a Picnic, A flask of coffee, Your camera.
* Bristol Zoo Gardens,
Clifton, Bristol BS8 3HA
* http://www.bristolzoo.org.uk/
* @Bristolzoogdns

P.s. if you WOULD LIKE SOME MORE BRISTOL-BASED BLOGS HAVE A LOOK HERE OR MAYBE SOME MORE ABOUT NATURE? PEACEEEE OUT.

Learn about Egyptians at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

As an archaeology student in my third year at university here, it’s embarrassing to reveal that it has taken me so long to properly explore this treasure trove. But this summer, I finally got round to having a proper mooch around the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, and guys, it did not disappoint.

Sitting proudly at the top of Park Street (next to the Will’s Memorial Building… you can’t miss it), the impressive Edwardian building is host to 20 galleries over 3 floors. Whether you’re into geology or inventions, the natural world or archaeology, dinosaurs or painting, there will be something in here to interest you. AND, (best bit), it’s completely free. FREE. Seriously. So there’s no excuse. Even if you’re just popping in for a coffee at their café or going to check out the beautiful architecture and the gorgeous wide entrance hall with high glass roofs, grand staircases and marble floors, it is definitely worth a visit.

Along with some temporary exhibitions (you can see what’s on at the moment HERE), there are some permanent galleries to check out, including a display of the wild life in the West of the England (= taxidermy. Brilliantly creepy), a dinosaur/’sea monster’ gallery (one of the sea monsters was pregnant when it died and you can see it in the fossil?!), and an Egypt exhibition.

The Egyptian exhibition explored the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians, looking into the ways that they expressed their views about life, death and the afterlife. There was an enormous collection of beautiful artefacts grouped into these themes, and you could read more about the objects on touch screens and explore and respond to them on computers. I seriously enjoyed this more interactive way of learning about the people that inhabited the area we call Egypt for more than 12000 years. #prehistoricpardy #archaeologyaction

Useful Information:

  • Price – FREE. FREEEEE. FREE ENTRY. IT’S FREE.
  • Museum and Gallery opening times – 10.00-17.00 weekdays. 10.00-18.00 weekends.
  • Facilities – Café. Lockers. Toilets. GIFT SHOP!
  • Cup of coffee – £1.90 (Vanilla latte: £2.70)
  • Bring: Your interested self.
  • Bristol Museum and Art Gallery,
    Queens Road, B8 1RL (it’s very very hard to miss)
  • Http://www.bristolmuseums.org.uk
  • @bristolmuseum
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Inamun Coffin Lid and Case – on display in the Egyptian gallery. Over 2,600 years old, dating to the 25th or 26th Dynasty (675-640 BCE) in the Late Period. From Thebes and made of wood, this coffin is typical of the period and is covered with texts and images of gods.

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The museum has a large collection of real Egyptian artefacts and has been collecting them for over 150 years. The lighting in the gallery is kept low to preserve the objects.

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The Museum cafe has a wide selection of hot and cold drinks, as well as some food and cakes.

If you liked this you might like to read some more Bristol-based blogs or some more Museum-y ones.