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12 Incredible Aerial Shots of Bristol

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bristol from above

‘Bristol by­­ Balloon’ from Bristol instagrammer and student Patrick Metcalfe

On my 10th birthday I picked up my very first camera, and 13 years later I’ve never been more engaged  with photography! I love the combination of the technical knowledge, creative freedom & exploring of the great outdoors that it can offer on a daily basis, whatever the weather.

I joined the popular image-sharing platform Instagram back in 2014 and this has been the main source of inspiration and drive for my photography over the last 3 years – there are some superb Bristol-based ‘Instagrammers’ out there!

Originally from Kent, I’m a current Master’s student of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Bristol and it was in my first year (all the way back in 2013) that I was first given the opportunity to take my camera into the air by flying with the university’s hot air ballooning society. The society, known to most as BUHABS, celebrates its 31st birthday this year and offers students & staff the chance to get involved with the operation of the iconic Bristol University balloon. As well as being trained in how to help with the operation of the balloon (known as ‘crewing’), the society offers frequent flying opportunities which can take you over the city of Bristol.

After my first flight, armed with my camera, I was hooked – and I’ve returned to the skies in the balloon on many occasions since then to fill up my camera’s memory card with photos of Bristol from the unique perspective that the hot air balloon offers! Unlike the increasingly popular consumer drones, having your camera in the basket allows you to take up heavy zoom lenses and it’s a lot easier to spot compositions with your own eyes than via your smartphone screen.

I like ballooning so much that I now hold a position on the society’s committee, as well as travelling to hot air balloon gatherings across Europe – with the annual Bristol International Balloon Fiesta being my favourite, of course!

The photos I’ve captured from the air, some of which are featured in this article, have helped my photography to reach a wider audience than I ever thought possible – I have recently started selling prints of my work, as well as having it featured in venues and publications across Bristol. It generates a small but welcome income that I use to support my university studies (& photography kit, naturally).

In this article I have chosen 12 of my favourite Bristol images I’ve taken from the Bristol University hot air balloon – I hope you enjoy them!

1. Totterdown

totterdown

The repeating patterns in this group of houses in Totterdown leapt out to me when seen from the air, in fact I’ve actually taken this shot on two separate flights across the city. It’s not hard to be hypnotised by this image, and it’s turned out to be one of my most well-known compositions.

2. Broad Quay Birds-Eye

broad quay from above

The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice this was taken before the infrastructure developments started in the city centre for the metrobus. This was actually shot on my first flight in the hot air balloon – and what a memorable flight it turned out to be!

3. Cumberland Basin

cumberland basin

From the ground they don’t look like anything special, but I really like the curves of the Cumberland Basin junction when viewed from above. The Bristol Ferry was an added bonus to complete the composition! This is an area I’d love to get the chance to shoot again from a different angle – fortunately flights from Ashton Court Estate can frequently pass over this area when the wind direction is right.

4. Hotwells & Cliftonwood

hotwells from above

This was one of many colourful Bristol scenes that I couldn’t float past without capturing on my camera. It’s now become one of my best-selling prints!

5. Clifton & The Suspension Bridge

clifton suspension bridge from above

Another of the spectacular views that Ashton Court take-offs can offer – this time looking north-east over the Clifton Suspension Bridge, Clifton Village & beyond to Southmead Hospital. It’s a great feeling to float past the White Lion Bar terrace and give a wave to the people enjoying drinks in the evening sunshine.

6. The SS Great Britain

ss great britain

One of Bristol’s many historic attractions, Brunel’s SS Great Britain. She was built in 1839 in the same dock where she now rests, having carried passengers and cargo all over the world for nearly a century! Having been sunk and left to corrode off the Falkland Islands in 1937, she was returned to Bristol and has been restored into a fantastic museum.

7. Kaskelot

kaselot from above

The tall ship Kaskelot was actually built over 100 years after the SS Great Britain, in 1948, and still sails around the UK. On this particular flight she was moored by Lloyd’s Arena which made for a simple composition, with the straight lines leading the eye to the ship. This image was also processed into a partial monochrome to further highlight the Kaskelot, which was lit up in a lovely golden colour from the low evening sunlight.

8. Shimmering City

bristol sunset above

Hot air balloon flights are usually in the early morning or evening, when the temperature and wind speeds are lowest. The low sun at these times creates long, dark shadows which give a high contrast with the bright sky. In this image the sun also casts a bright glare from the river, making the scene look magical.

9. A Lot of Allotments

bristol allotment from above

Whilst not particularly Bristol-specific, I had to include this birds-eye of a group of allotments that passed under the basket on a recent flight over east Bristol. There are scenes like this all around the city that may not look particularly special from the ground, but when viewed from above they are transformed into something completely different!

10. The Avon Gorge

avon gorge from above

I was surprised at just how small the Avon Gorge looked from the air, considering how high above the river you feel when crossing the Clifton Suspension Bridge! It’s also amazing to see all the way across to the Severn Estuary and Wales when just 1000ft above the ground. I’ll never get tired of the views that ballooning offers!

11. Queen Square & Park Street

Any Bristolian will tell you that Park Street is one of the steepest roads in Bristol, but from the air it looks significantly flatter! The view from the top of Wills Memorial Building has the same perspective-distorting effect. I like how the trees surrounding Queen Square stand out in the foreground of this image, surrounded by the building of central Bristol- it emphasises the importance of protecting these green spaces within our cities.

12. The Harbourside

One of my favourite places in Bristol is the Harbourside, so to see it from the air was something extra-special for me. Lloyd’s Arena in the bottom-right is occasionally used as a take-off location for balloons and it’s high up on my ballooning wish-list for obvious reasons!

Enjoyed these photos? You’ll find more on my social media accounts: Instagram @paddyo.11 or on Facebook as Paddyo Photography.

If these have got you itching to get airborne, I can’t recommend the experience enough! There are lots of commercial ballooning companies in the Bristol area who fly throughout the year and these balloon rides make excellent birthday presents. In my opinion, hot air balloon flights should be on everyone’s bucket list!

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The Time I Beat Bristol’s Scariest Escape Room

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Hell in a cell Bristol

I’m put in many a tricky situation exploring the very ‘Best of Bristol’.

Usually up high, scaling buildings and cranes (#antimitchclimbs), but I didn’t think it would result in being locked in a prison cell with a psycho killer called Pig Face (pictured above). Welcome to Hell in a Cell, ay?

Now for some of you reading, Hell in the Cell will make you think of wrestling but I can promise you this is scarier than when Shane McMahon jumps off the top of that cell.

Probably..

Hell in a cell Bristol

The rather terrifying Pig Face.

Hidden beneath the old Crown Courts on Bridewell Street, within the cells, this has been dubbed “Bristol’s scariest attraction”. And so in the interest of research I took on Pig Face, and lived to tell the tale!

I can’t actually give away too much of the game, because this is an escape room and that just wouldn’t be cricket, would it?

What I can reveal though, should give you a taste of what to expect.

Hell in a cell bristol

You don’t know what you’re getting yourself in for until they handcuff you and throw a bag over your head..

Like any escape room, Hell in a Cell Bristol sets players challenges that they have to complete. Perhaps the first challenge is not backing out after you’re handcuffed with a sack placed over your head.

It’s then trying not to cack yourself as you’re led into the pitch black cells, where you know you’re not alone, but you can’t quite tell what’s there.

It’s that lovely fucker by the name of Pig Face.

Pig Face is reasonably fair at this point and allows you an hour to make your escape. It’s go time!

Oh, and all your belongings have been taken off you, so you can’t use your phone torch or ask Siri for help.

You ok there hun?

A post shared by Hell In A Cell (@hellinacellbris) on

What I will say is that you bond pretty bastard quickly when you’re scrambling to find light and remove your handcuffs. I was with my good friend Colin Moody, but with three other people I did not know, and we came out of it with an unwavering sense of camaraderie.

That probably explains why this Bristol escape room has proven so popular with corporate clients in the city. Hell, it’s proven pretty popular with all but one reviewer on a popular site that rhymes with whip chastiser. That person claimed it wasn’t very scary. Ooooooo sorry ‘ard.

The game itself was challenging, terrifying and fun (if you like being scared). It will most certainly fill you with adrenaline and leave you in need of a celebratory drink if you do make it out.

This is NOT for the faint hearted. I don’t scare easy, and if you’re like me you won’t feel a sense of fear, but you’ll definitely be made to jump. Nobody is immune to that.

If you do scare easily, go to the bathroom beforehand. Or don’t, these are real holding cells so you could always have a pee in there..

Fancy it? Then click here to book.

Tag us in your psycho selfies on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook if you take on Pig Face

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Sampling The Lesser Known Ciders From Thatchers

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Thatchers Cider

Despite the recent rain, bbq season is upon us, and no camping trip or garden gathering is complete without a few ciders to sweeten the deal.

With honey notes and a golden colour, the medium-dry Thatchers Gold is the flagship cider from one of Somerset’s oldest cider makers – and it’s a great go-to cider on any occasion – but Thatchers Cider have been producing and pressing apples in the Somerset village of Sandford since 1905, and their selection these days is broad.

Thatchers Cider

Thatchers Katy, the 7.4% single variety cider well-known to Bristolians who want something a bit stronger than Gold or Dry..

An introduction to Thatchers Cider and Pasture

To showcase the full range of their cider offerings, the Thatchers Cider team descended on Pasture – the stylish new bar and restaurant near St Mary Redcliffe – last week.

With butcher Sam’s enthusiasm for local produce and Thatchers’ chief cider-maker Richard Johnson on hand, it was the perfect pairing.

Thatchers Cider

Thatchers Redstreak, a multi-award winning cider with accolades such as Supreme Champion at International Cider Challenge 2017, and World’s Best Sparkling Cider at the World Cider Awards 2017.

Richard introduced us to the Thatchers Cider story – starting over 100 years ago with farmer William Thatcher making cider to help pay his workers, and ending with William’s great grandson Martin (the current managing director) overseeing Thatchers Cider distribution throughout the UK. In between tastings, Pasture’s Sam talked us through the menu selections he’d made to bring out the best in the ciders chosen.

Thatchers Cider

Cured duck breast with juniper and orange marmalade, on a chai cracker.

Food and cider pairings

The Thatchers team opened with Katy, a light and softly sparkling cider made from Katy apples, and with it came Pasture’s scallop ceviche with pickled gooseberry and lime – the delicate seafood working beautifully with the light, bubbly cider. There followed five further mini-courses, each paired with a different Thatchers’ cider.

The meaty steak tartare with oyster mayonnaise met its match in Thatchers’ Old Rascal – a peppery 4.5% cider made with Tremlette and Somerset Redstreak apples for a bittersweet flavour. And Pasture’s short rib croquettes with delicate gochujang aioli balanced nicely with the bold and beautiful Thatchers’ Vintage – an oak-matured 7.4% cider with fruity aroma and crisp flavour. 

Thatchers Cider

Pasture’s Signature Short Rib Croquette with gouchong aoili and nasturtiums.

It was a great chance to try lesser-known Thatchers ciders you don’t regularly see in the big supermarkets, and clear to see the thought Sam had put into the food pairings he chose.

Thatchers Cider

Thatchers Family Reserve, a sparkling Somerset Apple Wine that rediscovers the recipe for champagne cider originally created by William Thatcher in the early 1900s.

If you’d like to give a few of Thatchers’ lesser-known ciders a try, take a look at the full range and buy online here. And for more details on the flame-grilled offerings over at Pasture, check out their website here.

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Bristol’s Biggest Food Festival Is Back

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Bristol Food Connections

Bristol Food Connections 2018 is nearly here, so it’s time to plan your festival!

Bristol Food Connections is one the highlights of Bristol’s food calendar, with a ridiculous amount of events (130 at the last count!) taking place across the city from 11-17th June.

It’s a fairly huge festival, covering everything from growing your own food to huge gala dinners and talks on sustainability. We’ve decided to break down what’s happening and pick out a few of our favourites from this year’s programme.

Bristol Food Connections

Booze it up

There are plenty of ways to hit the hard stuff (and find out more about it too)…

See more of Bristol

With events dotted in every far flung corner of Bristol, now is the time to get out and explore!

  • World Food Passport (All week, £8)
    Taste your way around the food businesses of Gloucester Road, collecting stamps as you go (or you can also do a guided food tour of Gloucester Road that week too).
  • Behind the Scenes of a Gin Distillery (Sat 16th, £25)
    Head out to Thornbury for this special tour of 6 O’clock Gin’s distillery to find out more about how their delectable spirit is made (with plenty of tasters along the way, obv).
  • Shroomshop (Sun 17th, £30)
    Get some hands-on tips about mushroom cultivation at this workshop in St Werbs.
  • Thyme Trail (Fri 15th, £15)
    Visit various vendors in Wapping Wharf, hearing the stories behind the businesses and getting tasters as you go.
  • TimeZone: Eat Your Way Around the World (Sat 16th, £4)
    Try a range of international cuisine in Easton, including Jamican, Indonesian and Spanish.
  • Eco day at Hartcliffe City Farm (Sun 17th, Free)
    Try your hand at pond dipping, searching for bugs and other activities.

Bristol Food Connections

Educate yourself

It’s not just about filling your face with food, there’s plenty of opportunity to learn a new skill or hear some interesting perspectives on the food we eat too:

Fantastical feasts

Some seriously special dinner events from well-known chefs and local producers…

  • FUTURE: FEAST (Mon 11th, £25)
    Star Trek meets Come Dine With Me in an ‘immersive dining experience’.
  • A Summer’s Feast (Fri 15th & Sat 16th, £30)
    The next generation of Bristol chefs serve up a seasonal feast.
  • It’s a Bristol Ting! (Sun 17th, Free)
    Celebrate Bristol’s Jamaican community with rum & jerk chicken at Lakota.
  • Chocolate Gala Dinner (Mon 11th, £35)
    A special dinner to kick-off festival week, with all 3 courses featuring chocolate.
  • Summer Dine & Vine Feast (Thu 14th, £30)
    A three-course tasting menu paired with bio-dynamic wines.
  • Homegrown Collective Supper Club (Fri 15th, £35)
    Three-courses of local, seasonal food accompanied by music.

 

There are also loads of free talks and demos at the Festival Hub (next to Watershed) throughout the week, so it’s worth stopping by to see what’s on!

 

See the full Bristol Food Connections Programme

 

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