Leigh Woods and the Avon silt banks

Back at the start of May, I had a morning trip to Leigh Woods, and it was wonderful – a perfect Spring day, with the clouds whipped across the sky, the light changing continually, from sunny to cloudy and back again.  It was such a perfect Spring day, and I loved exploring the Stokeleigh Camp Iron Age Fort, so on the way back down Nightingale Valley, I turned north and walked up the silt banks, through the long grass, and along the tide lines.   I have photos, and sounds, below, but let’s start with photos.   The album is on flickr, but if you mouse over the first picture, it should bring up a slideshow…

Stokeleigh Camp Iron Age fort

and here’s the map of where I walked – without all the back-and-forth of looking at the same things over and over!

This is an accidental, ghost path through Nightingale Valley because of a double exposure, as my (new ebay purchase) Olympus XA2 has an occasional glitch:

Accidental double exposure

The Stokeleigh Camp fortifications give me the shivers – imagine, people were living here, around 2,500 years ago, looking down at the Avon and across at the fort on Clifton Downs.  I loved it in the snow, but the shapes are so visible in the spring – imagine them fenced and defensive.

Stokeleigh Camp Iron Age Fort

Stokeleigh Camp Iron Age Fort

Stokeleigh Camp Iron Age fort

Here’s the view across to the Clifton fort now, with the Suspension Bridge next to it:

Looking across from one Iron Age Fort to another

Walking through the woods, the soundscape was amazing – through a group of school children, with chainsaws off to one side (slightly concerning!) with birdsong and of course, traffic.  It was the first day this year I noticed insects out, after the long winter.  Here’s the recording, walking through the woods, and then sitting on a bench:

I was looking for the only water in the southern part of the woods – the pond, which was low, but full of bright green flag leaves

Leigh Woods pond

I walked the route of the Fort walls, around the inside and the outside, and then back to the top of Nightingale Valley.  It was one of those exhilarating days, where patches of sun and shadow race towards, over and away from me, everything changing.   The sun in the fresh, new leaves was especially beautiful, and there were patches of bluebells to contrast with that acid green, especially down the steep sloped sides of the Valley.

Spring trees, Leigh Woods

At the bottom of the Valley, it looked like rain clouds were massing, but I didn’t want to turn back, so I climbed down onto the silt bank, and walked north.   It’s a bit treacherous, walking on the silt banks, as the long grass hides the rough surface, and places where the silt falls away.   The wind in the long grass was beautiful, with the roar of the Portway road on the right, and the wind in the trees, and birdsong, on the left.

I walked a lot up the tide-line – the thick line of reeds, twigs and debris that meanders with the curves of the land, marking where high tide has been.  I love the curves of it, and the way the debris is all lined up.  It gets sun-bleached, and the feel under the feet is like nothing else.  It’s soft, but crunches, and gives underfoot a little – and I have to step carefully, as it can again disguise holes.  On this spring day, it was full of insects and spiders, which ran away with every step.

Tide line, Avon silt bank

Walking on it sounded like this:

Walking up it, I was looking at the big lump of driftwood that was bleached like bones, the skeleton of a fallen tree.  It seemed to have more wood stuck in it.

Drift wood

At first I thought it was an accidental sculpture, washed up by a high tide and caught in the branches – but then, as I got to it and saw it from different angles, it definitely looked like someone had made it deliberately.



Sculpture?  Accident?

I walked on up to the lighthouse, and of course I had to climb it, and sit up there.  I know nothing about these Avon lighthouses, I don’t even know if they are used these days.

Desire line to the lighthouse

Avon lighthouse

Sitting on it, feeling the wind, and listening to all those different noises, was so relaxing.  The view south down the Avon:

Thr bridge from the lighthouse

and the sounds I was listening to:

I especially loved being able to look back at the tideline from above – makes me really want to play with a drone, to follow these more.

Tide-line from the lighthouse

I walked back to the sculpture and onto the path again, back down the river, away from the tide direction.  I always stop to look at the collapsing passenger piers, where so many people must have arrived in Bristol.  It seems crazy they’re just being left to fall into the river, not least because that’s a lot of wood and metal…

The decaying passenger jetties

I climbed down onto the silt banks where I could for more views.  Down nearer the Floating Harbour, the grass was coated in white – salt? and felt harder around my feet.  The bank is much rougher, with more little gullies and holes in it.

The decaying passenger jetties

But I wanted to get down there not just for the Suspension Bridge views, but also to have a clearer look at the Entrance Lock, the way into the Floating Harbour from the Avon.  The picture above is standing on the bank looking north – the next is south to the Lock, and the third is what it looked like directly across the river.

The entrance to the Floating Harbour from the Avon

Avon slipway

I did a lot of clambering from the path to the banks, trying to get good shots, as the sun disappeared from good.   I am always fascinated by how the colours change on film as the light changes.  Here’s the end of the Floating Harbour, and the silted up closed lock, where I always take my Cumberland Basin mud photos.

The entrance to the Floating Harbour from the Avon

The silted up lock that Brunel built

Such a perfect Spring walk. I love walking with other people, but having days like this, by myself, is so good too, and I haven’t done it for a while.  I must do it more…

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