‘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!
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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!
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!
New Year Menu Twist at Woky Ko
Woky Ko launch new menu
Nestled in Wapping Wharf on Bristol’s buzzing harbourside, Woky Ko: CARGO swung open its doors in late-October, 2016 – capturing attention with a bold menu of delicate flavours. Talented chef-owner Larkin Cen has recently added to the family with Park St’s Woky Ko: Kauto, and the two combined offer some of the finest Asian cuisine you’ll find anywhere in the South West.
Woky Ko: Kauto
Woky Ko: Kauto has perhaps become the flagship venue, offering a little more space and a stronger restaurant feel than its waterside cousin. Sleek lines, muted tones and a contemporary feel combine to create a warm and welcoming space, with a row of high stools offering hungry diners that intimate ‘kitchen table’ experience.
There’s a strong crossover of influence and flavour between the Cargo and Kauto menus – with dishes like noodles, sharing sides and baos featuring in both. But with a larger kitchen, Kauto offers a fuller range.
Ramen recommendations (Ramenations? No…)
On my most recent visit I broke with previous form and tried the Woky Ko ramen; a large bowl of steaming noodles swimming in an umami (look it up) broth based on the saltier shio recipe. Larkin has spent hours perfecting the balances of salt, soy and spices across his dishes, and, with delicate jamon bone and rich roasted garlic, Woky Ko ramen is simply stunning.
But yes, I do have form here. On my first Kauto visit I fell a bit in love with the KFC ramen. This show-stopping blend of Korean spices leaves you slurping from the bottom of the bowl – perhaps not very fitting for a stylish restaurant setting, but it’s all too easy to get carried away…
Sichuan ox cheek and hot and sour aged tofu complete Kauto’s ramen offerings, complemented by a mouth-watering selection of sides like onglet steak, tiger prawn toast, crispy duck pancakes and tenderstem broccoli that will change the way you look at greens forever.
New Year deals from Monday to Friday
Woky Ko’s new weekday deals started up recently, offering diners a little added value for money from 4.30pm to 6.30pm Monday to Friday.
Down on the harbourside, Woky Ko Cargo is offering either chicken vermicelli noodles or edamame bean and sunflower seed yakisoba noodles plus a Tsingtao beer for £10.
And on Park St, just opposite the Wills Memorial Building, Woky Ko Kauto’s early-evening deal brings you a free beer, glass of wine or soft drink with any of the four ramen dishes.
Behind the Scenes at Thatchers Cider
I have a confession to make… I’m a cider snob. I like it dry or medium-dry, and cloudy – with the heady scent of fermented apples still brimming in the glass. The kind of cider that’s been greasing the wheels of agriculture and industry in Somerset for centuries. Not for me, the sugary, sweet, supermarket stuff… I’ll have a pint of real zider, and you can leave the twigs and leaves in, too.
Spanning four generations in the same family, Thatchers is our region’s most famous cider-maker – and their range of produce is broad. Although most of their ciders are slightly over-processed for my liking, they do still make cider the traditional way. I’d say a visit to their orchards at Myrtle Farm in the heart of Somerset’s cider country is a must-do for any cider-lover in Bristol.
Exploring the orchards
My recent visit began in the Thatchers Exhibition Orchard, where manager Chris oversees over 450 different apple varieties. The weather conditions in Somerset offer the perfect conditions for growing apples – with cold winters allowing the trees to lie dormant, and temperate springs promoting bee pollination and blossom-growth. True to form for this time of year, it was pissing with rain as we strolled among the lines of fruit-laden trees – but the apples like a little of that, too.
Hearing how Chris and his team fuse new apple buds to young root stocks to produce varieties like Dabinett and Jonagold was insightful, and his ability to harness the power of nature to produce the finest harvests made for fascinating listening. Our tour continued past the huge apple vats and ancient fermentation tanks to the state-of-the-art canning plant, and it was a joy to hear the various Thatchers team members share their passion for the product.
To the tasting…
Thatchers brought a selection of their lovely cider to Bristol a few months ago, so this was a fortunate second tasting for me. We sampled diverse brews including Redstreak, Old Rascal, Vintage, Haze, Katy, and more – each offering a different balance of scent and flavour to the last. It turns out Old Rascal is the team’s overall favourite Thatchers’ cider – a very fine drop indeed.
Lunch at The Railway Inn
The Railway Inn is Thatchers’ local pub, with a broad selection of beers and ciders alongside a full menu of delicious dishes sourced, of course, from in and around Somerset. The pub has been lovingly converted from its original stone structure to a warm and welcoming space – with traditional snug, open bar area and stylish oak-beamed dining room. There’s garden seating for summer visitors, and a seasonal menu that makes the very most of the region’s natural produce.
Take a tour
If all this talk of apples and cider has got your taste buds tingling, you can find details on Thatchers’ guided tours and tastings on their website here. October is Cider and Perry Month, so now’s the ideal time to celebrate and support our local orchards and cider-makers. Harvest season is upon us too, so if you visit Thatchers there’s a good chance you’ll get to see the trucks arriving from across Somerset – their fruity haul ready for pressing.
If you head over, do book a table at The Railway Inn – it makes a good visit great. I can recommend the Thatchers Gold-battered fish and chips, and the sticky toffee pud hits the spot. Cider’s not bad ‘n’ all. Cheers!
Pata Negra Revamp Kitchen And Menu
Pata Negra Steps It Up for the Autumn Season
Bristol’s proud independent streak is well-documented, and we’re lucky to have so many vibrant and exciting bars, restaurants and cafes to choose from in this city.
If you enjoy visiting and supporting Bristol’s varied independent venues, it’s likely you’ll have a list of places old and new that you’re just waiting for the right time to tick off.
The Ox on Corn Street had been sitting on my must-visit list for months when I went last month, and I was very, very impressed.
But from the style-savvy team behind The Milk Thistle and Hyde & Co, what else could I have expected?
Also on Corn Street, and also run by the same talented team, Pata Negra is another venue I’d been curious about for a while — but on those occasions when I’d peered in past the door, I’d never felt encouraged in. Despite the great location and classical décor, it somehow just didn’t feel tempting.
Fresh changes at Pata Negra
That’s all changed now. In the latest round of developments at Pata Negra, the kitchen has been brought up from the basement to take pride of place at the forefront of the room — and the difference is striking.
You step through the doorway to skilled chefs preparing delicious dishes in their new open-plan setting, with a fine haunch of cured Ibérico ham hanging from the wall.
Further towards the back of the room, welcoming window seats and banks of plush red-leather benches offer the perfect settings for intimate gatherings of friends.
A menu re-vamp for the autumn season
The engine-room of the restaurant is now fully on show, and a menu re-vamp has changed things up for autumn. Diners can expect seasonal twists on authentic Spanish classics alongside new dishes created to bring the best out of the kitchen’s open grills.
Meanwhile, the wine and sherry list showcases the best of the Iberian Peninsula — the perfect accompaniment to the delicious tapas dishes, fresh seafood and decadent desserts on offer.
For full details on Pata Negra’s refreshed autumn menu, head over to the website here.
New Year Menu Twist at Woky Ko
Woky Ko launch new menu Nestled in Wapping Wharf on Bristol’s buzzing harbourside, Woky Ko: CARGO swung open its doors in late-October, 2016...
Behind the Scenes at Thatchers Cider
I have a confession to make… I’m a cider snob. I like it dry or medium-dry, and cloudy – with...
Pata Negra Revamp Kitchen And Menu
Pata Negra Steps It Up for the Autumn Season Bristol’s proud independent streak is well-documented, and we’re lucky to have...
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