Many Old Bedfordians must travel down to the west country along the M5, and as they cross the Avon Bridge, glance curiously towards the docks on either side of the River Avon, especially the enormous car parks of new cars.

A select 14 of us on the 5th of June 2016 were able to tour the docks and to see some of the operations and port facilities at close hand. Our host was Mr Mike Johnston, a volunteer with the Port of Bristol Seafarers. Mike is authorised to drive visitors around this very secure industrial area in a mini-bus.

Delivering an interesting commentary, he first took us round the older docks at Avonmouth where we saw a few small ships, some tugs, monstrous cranes, locks and a dry dock, wind turbines, constructed and awaiting construction, much scrap metal and biomass awaiting shipment, an orange juice terminal, historical lighthouses, Severn Estuary mud and much more. Over all there was an air of having seen better and busier days. Across the river, in the Royal Portbury Dock, we saw a huge lock and docking facilities specific to certain raw products, such as coal, gypsum for plasterboard and molasses. But the car import and export business dominates these docks. We saw a large transporter ship being loaded with cars for export, with vans shuttling the drivers to and fro.

At the end of the tour we stopped at the Seafarers Centre, and pictured from left to right, we are Richard Shorrock (45-53), Mark Howson (65-74), Gail and Jonathan Pinnock (63-73), Barbara and Chris Reeve (66-70), Nigel Sargeant (66-70), Jane Gray, Jeremy Greenop (65-69), Ann and Patrick Chavasse (49-54), Denise and Richard Sheppard (57-66), and Sandy Gray (59-64).

After a warm expedition and curiosity satisfied we repaired to the nearby Rudgleigh Steak House in Easton-in-Gordano to slake our thirst, catch up with old friends and to enjoy a convivial Sunday carvery lunch.

Mark Howson (65-74)

DVP for Bristol, Gloucester and Somerset

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