Cap­i­tal of clean and serene

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Britain & Europe - VIC­TO­RIA TROTT

WE are chug­ging up the River Avon in a wa­ter­bus, past moored plea­sure boats, industrial ships and float­ing restau­rants. Hop­ping on be­hind Tem­ple Meads rail­way sta­tion, it’s a fit­ting way to start ex­plor­ing Bris­tol, the 2015 Euro­pean Green Cap­i­tal.

I alight at the City Cen­tre stop, where re­de­vel­oped quays, known as Har­bour­side, are lined with bars and restau­rants, as well as the Arnolfini con­tem­po­rary arts cen­tre and the Wa­ter­shed, a 19th-cen­tury ware­house that’s home to three cine­mas, a cafe and me­dia com­pa­nies. The Wa­ter­shed also houses the Euro­pean Green Cap­i­tal HQ, and I have an ap­point­ment with ed­u­ca­tion and en­gage­ment direc­tor Savita Custead.

Says Custead: “The Euro­pean Green Cap­i­tal Award was launched in 2008 and we are the first one in Bri­tain … we have more cy­clists than any other Bri­tish city and they are well catered for, the streets are closed to ve­hi­cles on Sun­days, there are two city farms and more than 400 parks, and Glouces­ter Road has one of the high­est con­cen­tra­tions of in­de­pen­dent shops in the coun­try, with many be­ing eth­i­cal busi­nesses.”

I also dis­cover that the Avon Gorge, fa­mous for its sus­pen­sion bridge built by the renowned Vic­to­rian en­gi­neer Isam­bard King­dom Brunel, sup­ports 27 na­tion­ally rare plants and that the wa­ter­bus runs spe­cial 3 ½ hour “water­side wildlife’’ tours ac­com­pa­nied by an ex­pert in lo­cal fauna. And that there is a cal­en­dar of events planned with a green theme in­clud­ing: the year-long In­ter­na­tional Green Tech­nol­ogy Fes­ti­val; Food Con­nec­tions (May 1-9), which cel­e­brates the city’s culi­nary di­ver­sity, in­clud­ing Slow Food; Big Green Week (June 13-21), fea­tur­ing the Fes­ti­val of Na­ture; Har­bour Fes­ti­val (July 17-19) with its street theatre and live mu­sic; and In­ter­na­tional Bal­loon Fi­esta (Au­gust 6-9), when the world’s first so­lar bal­loon will be launched.

Food plays an im­por­tant role in Bris­tol’s green cre­den­tials and I head up Park Street with its stylish clothes and home-decor shops, past the grand uni­ver­sity and mu­seum build­ings, to Friska, win­ner of Best Eth­i­cal Restau­rant in the 2014 Ob­server Food Monthly Awards.

Over a de­li­cious toasted ba­con sand­wich, the cafe chain’s mar­ket­ing manager Lot­tie Pet­tinger tells me, “Friska, which means ‘healthy, fresh and full of life’ in Swedish and ‘fast’ in Czech, was founded about five years ago and we now have six out­lets in the city ... the food is sourced lo­cally from eth­i­cal pro­duc­ers and ev­ery­thing is made on the premises ex­cept the bread and pas­try.”

The com­pany wants to make a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence. “We have zero waste and our stores are fu­elled by green en­ergy,” Pet­tinger says. “We also work with a lo­cal char­ity to lend money to en­trepreneurs in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries so that they don’t have to bor­row money with high in­ter­est rates.” This is Clifton, noted for its 18th-cen­tury ar­chi­tec­ture, and the city’s most de­sir­able place to live.

Nearby, along a busy tree-lined road, is the Royal West of Eng­land Academy, where the ex­hi­bi­tion Into the Fields (June 20-Septem­ber 6) will cel­e­brate the ru­ral re­al­ist paint­ings of The New­lyn School (1880-1930); and the BBC’s Nat­u­ral His­tory Unit, fa­mous for mak­ing pro- grams such as Africa and Frozen Planet, able guided tours are avail­able.

Back at Har­bour­side, I meet Chris Dun­ford, sus­tain­abil­ity of­fi­cer at the At-Bris­tol Science Cen­tre, one of the na­tion’s green­est build­ings. As we walk around the in­ter­ac­tive, mul­ti­me­dia ex­hibits he tells me, “The build­ing was unique when it opened in 2000 and con­tin­ues to be, due to the cut­ting-edge heat­ing and cool­ing sys­tem … we’ve been cen­tral to the run­ning of the Green Cap­i­tal process; we reg­u­larly ad­vise lo­cal busi­nesses on sus­tain­abil­ity is­sues. And the public can learn about green is­sues via our ex­hibits or on one of our guided tours.”

The cen­tre is based around a Vic­to­rian river­side train de­pot, which was sym­pa­thet­i­cally ren­o­vated.

where pre-book-

“The rest of the water­side re­de­vel­op­ment hap­pened be­cause we set up here,” Dun­ford says.

“This sum­mer there will be a photo ex­hi­bi­tion, an en­ergy tree with so­lar pan­els where mo­bile phones can be charged and a blue-whale sculp­ture, which peo­ple can help to build with re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als.”

The ob­vi­ous place to spend the night is The Green­house, a con­tem­po­rary six-bed­room B & B, which has just been voted “green­est place to stay in Bris­tol’’ by The Guardian news­pa­per.

The wa­ter­bus stop is a 10-minute walk away.

• vis­it­bris­ • the­green­house­bris­

Avon Gorge sus­pen­sion bridge, built by Vic­to­rian en­gi­neer Isam­bard King­dom Brunel, top; At-Bris­tol’s Science Cen­tre, above

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.