Monday, May 24, 2004

Up and Down

I was down in Bristol at the weekend for a friend's birthday. Having been out late on Saturday night and slept in most of Sunday morning, we decided it would be a good idea to walk up to Clifton, see the suspension bridge and get some lunch.

My friend and her boyfriend live in a flat at the base of the hill near the waterfront. The bridge, which famously spans the Avon Gorge, is a mere half-mile away. However, to get there, you have to climb the hill and boy, was that tough. The slope averaged about 1 in 5 and was as steep as 1 in 4 in places and we were knackered when we got to the top. Still, we were there and walked across the bridge and back, admiring the views (which are fantastic). From there we walked the rest of the way up onto the downs (not much further, really).

At that end of the downs, near the cliff face, is a camera obscura and the entrance to something called Giants Cave. This is a cave about halfway up the cliff face that you could get to via a tunnel out the back of the observatory. We'd seen it from the bridge and it was only a pound to go down there so we decided to do it.

The cave is about ninety feet down from the top of the cliff and the tunnel down to the back of it goes pretty much straight there, so it's ridiculously steep. There are steps all the way, but the problem is in the height of the tunnel. My friend is only about 5'6" or so but even she had to bend at times. Towards the end of the tunnel it got so steep that you couldn't bend forwards any more and instead had to lean backwards and try and peer round your feet to see where you were going. Nice.

Once we were down there we spent a few minutes looking out at the view and standing out from the cliff face on a metal grill, trying not to look at the drop immediately beneath us. Not good is you don't have a head for heights. Thankfully, I do. We then killed ourselves getting up to the top again and swore never to do it again.

As we were heading back towards Clifton to go for a drink, we passed what my friend called the "Slidey Stone" - a great slab of rock which is exposed from the hillside. This slab is sloped fairly gently and down the middle of it a path about 15-20" long has been polished smooth by the passage of generations of bottoms. There were people sliding down it even as we stood and watched; nervously starting off at the top before picking up speed and frantically trying to stop before the smooth rock ran out and a rough sandstone boulder began. Not all of them were entirely successful and a couple of faces were contorted in pain as the came to a halt.

For some reason I refused to have a go.

We then went for a drink on a terrace overlooking the gorge. We basked in the sun and let our legs recover before we took ourselves off again, down the hill to the flat.

All in all it was a very good weekend. I just have to catch up on some sleep, now.

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