We haven’t really had days out with the kids since they started doing sport at weekends, when the boys were aged 7 and 10. To be honest, I’m not sure we did them much before then either, because going out for the day with three young kids is hard work. And now they’re teenagers? They don’t always want to hang out with Mum and Dad, and definitely not with their siblings. But I was determined the kids and I would go back to Bristol for Gromit Unleashed 2.
Hunting for Gromits (and Shauns) in Bristol is something of a tradition for me and the kids, and I didn’t want it to be over just because the boys are 17 and 14 now. So I looked for a day when none of them were busy and told my clients I would be unable to work that day.
We were going Gromit hunting!
I was a bit stressed about the train. There’s no parking spaces at the station and I didn’t really understand where my husband had told me to park. I had visions of us getting lost and missing the train. So we set off 45 minutes before the train was due to depart. And a mile into our journey to the station, I had a revelation.
Could we just DRIVE to Bristol?
I don’t drive long distances. I’m a nervous driver. I think I’m a crap driver. I worry about getting lost. But, as it happens, I’d driven to Bristol twice recently to take my son to athletics competitions. OK, so on one of those trips I scraped another car in the car park, which means our insurance premiums will go up. Not my finest hour.
But if I could drive to Bristol for an athletics competition, surely I could drive there to hunt Gromits?
My car isn’t the most pleasant – there’s not much space in the back for big kids’ long legs. And the air conditioning doesn’t work. But the kids were up for it.
We were in Bristol five minutes after our train was due to depart. And the parking cost about the same as one adult train fare (even with our railcard). It was a no-brainer! Why hadn’t I done this before?
We were so early that the first two Gromits we hoped to see were unavailable, due to House of Fraser and the cinema not even being open!
My boys have always been keen to navigate in the past, but they weren’t so up for it. Was it going to be a really bad idea taking teenagers out for the day? But my daughter is 12 now. Perfectly capable of navigating. She even planned a logical route, rather than our usual slapdash arrangement of dashing to one, then dashing to another in a completely different direction.
And so we made our way through the city centre, finding Gromits, Wallaces and Feathers McGraws as we went.
There was usually one or two other families at each (and none of them with teenagers!). Everyone queued politely to take their photos. At each sculpture, I took a photo with as many of the kids who were willing to pose at that time – usually three of them, sometimes just one or two of them, followed by a ‘clean’ photo for social media. I even appeared in one or two myself!
The Wallaces were particularly nice to pose with, as they come with their own bench!
We headed for the harbour, where we knew there were a lot of sculptures. Unfortunately, we also knew that a few of them were missing as they had gone away for safety for the Bristol Harbour Festival.
My daughter was loving navigating and my younger son was being particularly chatty. It is definitely good to get teenagers away from home and their devices to get them talking (OK, so they did have their phones, but they were far more talkative than they are at home!). We headed along the river to SS Great Britain, the historic ship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, which when it was built in 1843, was the biggest ship ever built. We photographed Wallambard, then headed to see Oh, Bollards at Aardman itself. And stumbled across all of the ‘missing’ sculptures, including Alex the Lion and A Grand Tribute, a lovely tribute to Peter Sallis, who voiced Wallace.
In total, we found 33 sculptures. We didn’t get lost and we didn’t miss any on either the Bristol Trail or the Harbourside Trail and even picked up a couple on the West Trail without realising it. That takes us to 40 sculptures in total. Now my daughter is determined we will find the other 27 before 2nd September.
And you’ll be pleased to know, I didn’t scrape my car.
Gromit Unleashed 2 is in Bristol until 2nd September, with the incredible sculptures raising money for Bristol Children’s Hospital. All sculptures are completely accessible and free to visit (even the indoor ones). You can purchase an app for £1.99 to help the charity and can also donate at some of the sculptures. If you’re looking for something to do this holiday, it really is A Grand Day Out.