It was bad enough walk-commuting in the heatwave without melting, let alone walking for fun, but luckily exploring the water means there are a lot of shady walks. On 24th July, Tracy Homer and I took the bus out of the city to walk and talk, from Abbott’s Pool, down through Paradise Bottom and along the Avon back into Bristol. Here’s where we walked:
and my flickr album of photos from the walk:
So where did we go?
We got off the bus in Abbott’s Leigh, and walked up through the lanes and past orchards to Abbott’s Pool Woodland, a landscaped valley with a little lake in the middle of it. Abbott’s Pool was originally built in Medieval times to provide fish for the nearby Priory, and then it was owned by the Wills family, famous as Bristol employers through the gigantic tobacco factories (benefiting from USA slavery). The woods were landscaped, with fake rocks and a series of waterfalls – and the lake has become one of the most easiest places for wild swimming in the city.
We started off looking for the spring that should lead to the Pool, but the stream bed was dry. The Pool is shared between fishing enthusiasts at the south end, and swimmers by the reservoir wall, and the fishing end was covered in waterlilies, with so many of those circular ripples that show where fish are breaking the surface. There were the sounds of happy people and happy dogs, splashing in the water, and I wished I’d brought a towel.
As we walked round the water, we saw more and more fish, with a pair of girls sitting on the wall with tiny fish swimming around their toes. We walked down along the little cascades, up and out of the woods.
I liked walking through the lanes, with the glimpses of the Severn views in the distance, and the variety of different buildings we passed, from legitimately old, through to ugly modern. We were out in the sun along the main road, completely failed to buy a cold drink at the Brackenwood Garden Centre and headed down into Paradise Bottom, the Humphrey Repton-designed arboretum looked after by the Forestry Commission at the northern end of Leigh Woods.
We started off by a completely different kind of pool, the dead-looking one so smothered in weed that it looks solid. Can’t blame the heatwave for this, it looked this way back in May, but the water levels throughout the woods were definitely lower. The pools were lower, the waterfalls smaller, and the stream beds were showing where the levels should be.
The light was gorgeous to look at, but I always forget how dark woods are in full leaf, with the canopy blocking out all the sunshine, so I didn’t take many photos. The advantage of the heatwave was that I could walk around the abandoned harbour in the woods, that was built to bring the Bath Stone that built Leigh Court.
We walked back along the Avon path, and I’m still thinking about the conversations that were interrupted by me hopping off the path to climb the lighthouses along the river and feeling the breezes.
We tried to explore the silt banks, because I wanted to show Tracy the driftwood sculpture, but in the summer the grass is too high to make it safe, as the silt banks are pretty treacherous, with lots of holes and unexpected ravines in the mud. We did make it to the tide line, though, and that made me happy, because my first time walking on a tide line was with Tracy on Lamplighter’s Marsh, so I always think of her when I feel that specific give under my feet.
We finished the walk watching the fish on the Underfall Yard slipway,a bit sweaty, but pleased with ourselves that the sun hadn’t stopped us. It was a walk I’m going to remember for the sunlight and shadows on different pools, the breeze from the river, the fish, and above all, the conversations.