SHIPSHAPE AND BRISTOL FASHION (SBFAS 03092020) Tour Manager Report The following is a detailed breakdown from the recently completed tour to Bristol and beyond. An enjoyable few days. DAY ONE - Thursday 03.09.20
As per itinerary. The walk from Bristol Temple Meads to the hotel was straight forward, mainly on the flat and took 10 minutes at a very leisurely pace. Should any pax decide that they require transport to the hotel or if the weather is poor then there is an enormous amount of taxis at the station entrance. The Mercure Holland House Hotel check in was quickly completed and all the pax were given their room keys and a letter fully explaining the CO-VID 19 policies within the hotel. We dined as a group in the hotel restaurant and the food and service was very good. (This was to be the norm for our entire stay) DAY TWO - Friday 4 th September
After a very good breakfast we walked to the boarding point for our harbour cruise. The walk was easy and interesting as it takes you right through the middle of the old dock area which has been significantly “regenerated”
The cruise was excellent with a very informative and humorous commentary. The group then had time to wander around and grab some lunch. There were a large choice of eateries on Wapping Wharf and the Bristol Steam Packet has its own floating café (The Greenshank) which adjoins the boarding pier. Very good and reasonably priced. Our afternoon visit to the SS Great Britain was a great success. We were met by one of their volunteer guides (Alan) who gave us an introductory talk on the ship. He then offered to show us round the ship, however he was not allowed due to limited space and social distancing issues in the ship. Alan then boarded the ship and met individual “bubbles” at strategic points on the vessel and answered many questions. A very pleasant meal again in the hotel brought the day to an end. DAY THREE (SATURDAY 05.09.20)
A leisurely breakfast surrounded (socially distanced of course) by Everton Ladies Football squad and their entourage. We then met John and Nick who were to be the driver and conductor of our vintage coach for the next two days. The coach (a 1948 Bristol) proved very popular. John gave a talk about the history of the bus and also answered many questions over the next couple of days about all aspects of transport around Bristol. The trip around Aerospace was well received especially the Concorde exhibition. The allotted time of 3 ½ hours was probably a bit too long as all the group were ready, fed and watered about thirty minutes before our scheduled departure. Consequently we left early and made our way to the area of the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Here a local historian Peter Davey gave us an informative talk on the Clifton Rocks Railway. He also showed the group an original commemorative medallion struck for the opening of the bridge in 1864. We then utilised our free time to walk across the bridge and surrounding park. An earlier arrival back at the hotel allowed the group extra time to visit the old centre of Bristol. Another pleasant dinner. And so to bed!
DAY FOUR (Sunday 06.09.20)
Our vintage bus took us the Avon Valley Railway at Bitton. A frisson of excitement went through the group when it was realised our journey was to be steam hauled and not the expected diesel. The group were socially distanced in our private carriage and we were served a very pleasant and plentiful cream lunch/tea on our round trip. We were then conveyed to Bath through very pleasant scenery where we said our goodbyes and expressed our thanks to Nick and John who had been excellent hosts on the bus. Prior to the group dispersing in Bath I issued them their rail tickets for their journey to Bristol. We then enjoyed free time around the sights of Bath, however the weather took a downward turn in the afternoon with some very heavy rain. Consequently a number of the group returned early to Bristol. Final dinner was again very pleasant.
DAY FIVE (Monday 07.09.20)
After a filling final breakfast the group made their way to the railway station for completion of the tour. Overall, this appeared to be a very successful tour. The group were very pleased that they were actually on holiday and were fully understanding and appreciative of the efforts made by Railtrail to get the tour running. On top of that I would like to thank Kathy for her endeavours in getting the tour together.
None of the group expressed any issues or concerns about distancing or other Coronavirus issues and from a personal point of view I felt the hotel and all the excursions were fully compliment and I felt safe. Hopefully we will not be looking at this side of things when this tour runs again. The time spent at each venue was just about right but as I mentioned we could probably take ½ hour off our time at Aerospace which would allow a little more time in the Clifton area of Bristol which is renowned for its Georgian architecture and green spaces. As I said at the top of the report this was an enjoyable few days especially in these very uncertain times. Jon Harrison 08.09.20