Bristol’s urban regeneration: A conference afloat

Bristol’s Watershed – Cumberland Basin – Temple Quarter – Watershed.
Urban regeneration observed from the water

Report by Ellen Macaulay and Maria Whitehead, geography students at Malvern St. James Girls School

On Tuesday 21st January, Yr 12-13 students from local schools in the Bath and Bristol region and further afield (Wells, Malvern) came together to be taken on a tour to boat trip to particular parts of Bristol with the idea in mind of looking at different buildings and areas in relation to the topics of Changing Places, Contemporary Urban Environments, Regenerating Places, and provide an example of a Geography Fieldwork Investigation. It was an amazing opportunity to see areas that have undergone all the different processes we have been studying in our topic – Regenerating Places. We also learned from Dr. Andrew Tallow from the University of West England about the recent adaptations to Bristol Harbourside. Moreover, we found it particularly beneficial hear from a representative from Bristol Temple Quarter (Jack Allan, Economic Development Manager), who outlined the different plans for the area, getting a real perspective of the changes Bristol has seen over the years. It was a fantastic and exciting opportunity, making the learning of the topic enjoyable and incredibly interesting.

All aboard for the guided tour of the floating harbour. Schools from Bristol, Wells and Malvern represented.


Jack Allan (Temple Quarter Enterprize Zone) and Dr. Andrew Tallon (UWE)


We started the journey with a talk from The Bristol Packet Boat Trips crew about the history of Bristol whilst being shown examples of different areas that have undergone regeneration. Interestingly, we discovered the history behind an area in Bristol called, ‘Wapping Wharf’, a perfect example of an area that has undergone regeneration. Wapping Wharf was once land that was previously derelict where Bristol’s merchants, around the 1700s developed the area as a dockland, marking the start of Bristol’s reputation with ship building. By 1742 there was a dock on the site of where the ‘M Shed’ museum lies today. Historic map evidence, illustrations and other documents suggest the existence of timber yards and other associated buildings, which are thought to have been homes, as well as a graving dock, where ships would have been repaired. We learnt that the area gradually declined during the 1950s and 1960s, and then became home to the Arnolfini gallery and the Industrial Museum. In 2006, the Industrial Museum closed to be redeveloped into the new M Shed, which opened in 2011 and is owned by Bristol City Council. Now, Wapping Wharf is known for its incredible selection of independent restaurants, cafes and shops. Shipping containers have been utilised to provide successful commercial space (‘Cargo’), which gives the area a ‘true dockside character’. The area is also home to over 200 residents. We found it fascinating to see how regeneration can make a particular area that was once run-down and neglected succeed.

We docked at Temple Quarter for a walking tour guided by Jack Allan. This was really useful, as he gave us up-to-date statistics and told us about future plans for regeneration along the harbour side. This included one of the last brownfield sites, which is currently going through the process of planning. Bristol GA is running a competition later in February to see what ideas young geographers might have for this space considering it is currently so full of offices that is quiet after five o’clock in the evening. The facts from the Council were current and detailed, and we’d be hard pushed to find them any other way. We were also taken to Bristol Temple Meads railway station, which is going to be developed to include a new line which can transport people and goods quickly to London so they may be opening an old part of the railway to put this in place. We also learnt of some of the issues faced such as very expensive housing in flats, which are not very attractive as they were built quickly for the immediate need. The tour gave a great insight into the £300-million investment.

We both really enjoyed the tour because it put geography into context, which is often something we don’t get the chance to see in person, and certainly not from a boat, on the Avon! It was a really worthwhile trip, and it was a great opportunity to see the different sections of Bristol that have undergone the geographical process of regeneration.

Thank’s to the Bristol GA for hosting us.

Discussing plans for Temple Meads railway station


Walking tour of the Temple Quay site with contributions Jack Allan (TQEZ), Garry Atterton and Dr. David Richards (University of Bristol).


Back on board the Flower of Bristol for the return journey from Temple Quarter


Organised by Simon Killen (St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School)
Photo credits: David Richards (University of Bristol)

School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol.

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