Wessex On Screen: Shank

Shank is a 2009 LGBT-themed drama film directed by Simon Pearce and set in Bristol (though some scenes were filmed in Southwark). It should not be confused with a dystopian SF film with the same title made the following year. The film stars Wayne Virgo as Cal, a closeted gay gang member struggling to contain his desire for another member of the gang.

The film was shown in various gay and lesbian film festivals around the world, getting a limited theatrical release in the UK before being released on DVD. A sequel, Cal, followed in 2013.

Wessex Attractions: Hook Norton Brewery

Hook Norton Brewery is a traditional brewery near Banbury in Oxfordshire that acts almost as a living museum. It was operated by steam until 2006 (its historic Victorian steam engine is still on view to visitors), and its beer is delivered to the village of Hook Norton on a horse-drawn cart.

The brewery operates a network of 47 pubs in northern Wessex and southern Mercia. 23 of these pubs are in Oxfordshire, and a further three in Gloucestershire. They brew a wide range of beers; and two ciders, original and berry.

Brewery tours can be organised via their website. The brewery offers a shop, a restaurant, and two meeting rooms. The postcode is OX15 5NY, and it is served by Stagecoach bus service 488, from Banbury to Chipping Norton (get off at Pear Tree Inn)..

Wessex Attractions: Over Bridge

Before the opening of the first Severn Bridge in 1966, traffic wishing to cross the River Severn from Bristol and points south had two choices: the Aust Ferry, and Over Bridge in Gloucester. The latter was built in the late 1820s from a design by Thomas Telford (1757-1834), the Scottish civil engineer nicknamed “the colossus of roads”, whose other achievements include the Menai Bridge. The design was based on Jean-Rodolphe Perronet’s design for a bridge over the Seine at Neuilly.

Telford’s 150-foot, single span stone bridge replaced an earlier bridge dating back to Tudor times, though there had been a bridge there for much longer, as one is recorded in the Domesday Book. It closed to traffic in 1974, when the present A40 bridge was opened, but remains as a pedestrian bridge.

The bridge is currently maintained by English Heritage, and is a scheduled monument. It is two miles from Gloucester railway station and is well-served by local buses. The postcode, for satnav purposes, is GL2 8BZ.

Wessex Attractions: Athelstan Museum

The Athelstan Museum in Malmesbury is a small, volunteer-run museum next door to the town hall, named after King Athelstan, who was buried in Malmesbury. Its collection includes an original Turner painting, various Saxon and Roman coins, and examples of Malmesbury lace.

The museum is open from 10.30 am to 4.30 pm Tuesday to Saturday, and 11.30 am to 3.30 pm on Sunday, closed Monday. The nearest bus stop is Malmesbury Library, served by bus services 93, 93A, 278 and C62. The nearest railway station is Kemble, and the postcode is SN16 9BZ.

Wessex Attractions: Ebbor Gorge

Ebbor Gorge is a 157-acre carboniferous limestone gorge in Somerset owned by the National Trust, managed by English Nature and close to Wookey Hole. The gorge is part of the Clifton Down limestone formation, a unit of the Pembroke limestone group. There is evidence of human habitation dating back to paleolithic times, along with animal remains of lemmings, steppe pika, reindeer and red deer. The latter exist in small numbers in the gorge to this day.

Ebbor gorge was declared a site of special scientific interest in 1952 and a national nature reserve in 1968. As well as the aforementioned red deer, it is home to horseshoe bats (greater and lesser), and several threatened species of butterfly. The humid environment makes it an ideal habitat for fungi and ferns, while bluebells and wood anemones are also abundant.

The postcode, for satnav purposes is BA5 1AY, and there is a free car park, open from dawn till dusk. First Bus 126 from Weston-super-Mare to Wells passes through Easton, about a mile and a half from Ebbor Gorge.