« VorigeDoorgaan »
A RAMBLE ABOUT CLIFTON.
It is curious to notice how suddenly places sometimes spring up, flourish, become fashionable, and then as quickly and as unaccountably decay. Many such instances might be cited “to point a moral and adorn a tale," could we now spare time to be didactic. But we cannot. We have to record a very pleasant ramble about a very pleasant place, and at a very pleasant time. The time was a bright, lovely day in September; the place was Clifton; and the ramble was among its beautiful scenery; through its noble woods; along the picturesque and winding banks of its fine river; over its lofty and grassy downs ;-in short, wherever beauty tempted or inclination led. A more delightful ramble, or a more delightful place for a ramble, it would be difficult to
It was, as we have said, a glorious day in September: the autumn sun was shining his brightest, and tinting all things in a manner that might make painters despair; and endowing the meanest thing with a loveliness which the pencil vainly emulates, and which the pen more vainly attempts to describe. It was such a glorious day, when, in the words of a late popular novelist, “we wended our way” from the old, dreary, dirty, and unsavoury city of Bristol, for a day's “out” at Clifton. This place, as is well known, is now the West End or aristocratic suburb of the old city, and is of almost mushroom growth for the rapidity of its rising into fame. We sincerely hope that its prosperity will not equal that mercurial vegetable in the rapidity of its decay. Of course, growing under such circumstances, it abounds with fine villas, stuccoed and otherwise; admirably arranged walks and drives; gardens whose extreme beauty not even the egregiously bad taste of some of their possessors can destroy. Of course, you meet there the peculiarly gay and languid specimens of the human genus yclept "fashionable place-hunters," and turn away with fear and trembling accordingly. We very soon left off our survey of the works of man here, and turned to the works of the Great Architect, who split that wonderful ravine, with all its windings, and bade that beautiful river flow between its precipitous and rocky, or foliage-decked, banks, to be a joy for ever. And now we are on the downs. A most invigorating and refreshing breeze is kissing our foreheads and filling our hearts with joy, and our limbs with vigour and elasticity, as bare-headed we run or saunter along, as will, or caprice, or desire impels us. It is a fine thing to stand, as we are now standing, on the top of St. Vincent's Rocks, and gaze on the waters so far below, along whose surface the steamer, the barge, or the pleasure-boat, is gliding along, all the noise and tumult softened by the distance. It has been well and truly said, that the place “is rife with the romantic associations which belong to the wild and picturesque in nature. The perpendicular precipices, with suspended trees shooting their branches over the brink; the beetling rocks; the narrow gullies filled with the falling fragments of the cliffs ; the unvarying sound of the jackdaws, wheeling and eddying about their lofty homes; the occasional blasting of the rocks, echoing and reverberating like rumbling peals of thunder, with the terrific and dissonant crash made by the masses of stone that are hurled from their native beds down the cragged and rugged precipice--all combine to form a picture, that, seen and felt, though but once, must nevertheless haunt the imagination and furnish a theme of thought for many years." Nay, the enthusiastic tourist ventures to compare it to the Vale of Tempé; but as we have not been fortunate enough to visit that spot of classical renown for grace and beauty, we know not if the comparison be borne out or not; but this we know, that if Tempé surpasses this, it must be beautiful indeed.
There is a good Observatory on the top of the downs; but the first object that strikes you is a pier which stands gazing hopelessly and helplessly at one on the opposite side of the river; and questioning your guide-book as to the meaning of all this, you find that “a Mr. Vick, a wine-merchant of Bristol, having in 1754 bequeathed a thousand pounds towards the erection of a suspension bridge, to unite these summits, which sum, with the interest, amounted in 1834 to nearly £10,000; a public subscription
was then entered into by the inhabitants of Bristol and Clifton, to carry the benevolent testator's will into effect, by appointing a committee of trustees, who obtained a variety of designs, and fixed upon the one submitted by Mr. Telford. An Act of Parliament was obtained, and the foundation-stone of the pier on the Somersetshire side of the river was laid August 27th, 1836, by the late Marquis of Northampton, who was then in Bristol with the British Association.
“ The funds already contributed, including Mr. Vick's gift of £10,000, amount to about the sum of £45,000; the whole of which has been required for the prosecution of the works to their present stage, which has remained in statu quo since 1839.” And so it remains, even to this day; and so it is likely to remain for some days yet to come.
Up and down the beautiful undulations of the Somerset side of the river we wandered, resting on the edge of every precipice, on the top of every rock, at every opening in the view, filled with the true pedestrian delight at the noble sights which were visible from every point. The turf on which we trod seemed as elastic as our spirits. The rich mountain-ash berries hung in their glorious clusters, and sparkled in the sun like precious stones on the forehead of beauty. The daisies were thick about our feet; and thinking of one far away, whose name and loveliness these objects recalled, we involuntarily sang,
“ Red, red as the rowan,
Her bonnie wee mou;
Her breast and her brow.
But faithful I'll be ;
And Mary loes me.”
The hawthorns were thick, and clustering, and deeplytinted. The luscious blackberries often wooed us aside, and tempted a risk of the neck in reaching over the hill side, or venturing on insecure footings for the sake of obtaining some large, black, tempting berry, which here, as everywhere else, was always most provokingly out of reach. The chestnuts were in that rich ripe state “when the shell divides threefold to show the fruit within." The leaves were of every tint with which Autumn clothes herself, and won joyful exclamations at every step. We will not confess how long we lingered on the summit of the cliffs ere we took the zig-zag path which leads to the banks of the Avon.
At length we are wandering along the banks of the river, quietly humming over Burns's words :
“ The Muse, nae poet ever fand her,
And no think lang;
A heartfelt sang!”