Avon Stories podcast #19: Dru Marland’s poetry, art and life on the Kennet & Avon Canal

Dru Marland is a poet and artist who lives on a narrowboat on the Kennet & Avon Canal.

I went to visit her boat on a wet, grey day, and she told me all about her work and her life on the water, and about the community of canal-people.   We talked about how she started out as a poet, and the traumatic experience that lead her to become a full-time artist, as well as the beauties and difficulties of narrowboat life, from having to find a new berth every fortnight, to more prosaic issues like dealing with the mud, and a boat’s equivalent of plumbing.

During the podcast, Dru read me some of her poems, and we also talked about specific pictures she’s made, some of which you can see below – all pictures copyright to, and used with the kind permission of Dru Marland.

All rights owned by Dru MarlandThe West End of the Kennet & Avon Canal, by Dru Marland

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Walking the rails, Portishead to Pill

Back in July, I went to Portishead for the first time, where Dave Chillistone of the Portishead Railway Group took me on a podcast-walk around the town and told me about the history of the Portishead to Bristol railway line, and why it should be re-opened.  One of the things Dave told me about was walking the line to Pill, and I promised myself I’d come back and walk it myself, before the railway was re-opened.   It needs to be walked in the winter, when the summer plants had died back, and Monday turned out to be the perfect day to do it – sunny, cold and dry.

My photos are here (Olympus XA2 35mm point & shoot, Canon 550D DLSR and a couple of iPhone).  If you mouse over or click on the first picture, it should take you to the slideshow, or you can go directly to the flickr album.  And there are words and a map below too.

Gate across the tracks

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Pigeonhouse Stream, Crox Bottom

Crox Bottom is a little park, off Hartcliffe Way, where Pigeonhouse Stream (I really love the names!) runs from the lake at the old Imperial Tobacco Factory, down to meet and run under Hartcliffe Way, and then join up with the Malago.   It’s a much bigger river than the Malago, and I don’t quite understand why it’s a tributary – but like the Malago, it’s taken underground by the Dreadnought Interceptor, a huge storm drain, so what passes out of the park is much smaller than what goes in.

I walked it with my friend Cee and her baby, on a cold-but-sunny Monday.   We’d both passed it in cars for years, and wanted to know more about it, so we parked at Imperial Park, walked down the bank along Hartcliffe Way (stopping to run across the road to see where the river comes out), and then back up along the river.  My photos are below – mouse over or click on the first one and it should pull up the slideshow – or just head to the flickr album.

Pigeonhouse Stream, Crox Bottom

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Avon Stories podcast #18: The Floating Harbour salvage auction

This week’s podcast is a mini-episode, just ten minutes long, and it’s all about the auction that’s running until 4th March 2018, on Bristol’s Floating Harbour.

Every two years the Harbour Master’s office runs a salvage auction, of boats that, for one reason or another, they need to remove from the Harbour.   They might have been abandoned; or they could have been seized as a last resource because their owners didn’t pay their Harbour fees; or in at least one case, the owner didn’t want the boat any more and rather than try to sell it himself, gave it to the Harbour Master.   There are kayaks and dinghies, sportsboats, a narrowboat and much more, in all kinds of stats of repair.  All the proceeds go into the maintenance of the Harbour, and it’s a chance to buy a boat for what’s likely to be a fraction of the usual cost.

I talked to the auctioneer, Graham Cockle, about what’s in the 2018 auction,  and more about why it’s on.  If you want to have a look at the boats yourself, even if you (think you) don’t want to buy one, the boats are on public view every Saturday and Sunday in February, from 10-4 on and around the pontoon between the Cottage Pub and the Underfall Yard.   And you can also have a look at my rainy photos of some of them, below (mouse over or click on the photo to get to the slideshow – or go directly to the flickr album).

Claire de Lune

The auction is all run online, and there’s more information about each boat (and other nautical accessories) and the current bids, on the auction page.

Graham Cockle’s auction site is here, as well as his contact details if you have any questions, and if you are tempted to bid, make sure you follow his advice in the podcast!  The information about mooring boats in the Harbour is on the Council website.

If you’re thinking about coming down the the auction, why not combine it with a visit to the Underfall Yard?  My last podcast was a tour around the Yard, to get you in the mood, and you can listen to it, and look at the photos, here.  If nothing else, grab a coffee in their Visitor Centre!

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You can download this podcast directly from the Avon Stories Soundcloud, and sign up for all the future podcasts via the Avon Stories RSS and subscribe on iTunes or Soundcloud to make sure you hear all the future stories.  You can also follow the project on twitter and instagram, for regular photos of the rivers and other waters in Bristol.

More Malago – Withywood, Manor Woods Valley and Hartcliffe Way

I am really making an effort to try to take photos every day at the moment, even if it’s just photos of my commute through the condensation-coated bus windows.

Luckily for me, I’m working in south Bristol, and, like I wrote last week, am using the opportunity to explore the Malago, when the weather’s up to it. I’d had a slip-and-slide through the mud in the little copse of woods around the Malago in the Withywood housing estate, with green shoots of bulbs and spring plants to come.

Photos here – if you mouse over or click on the first photo, it should take you to the slideshow, or at least the flickr album.

Exploring the Malago, Withywood

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Spring tide, February 2018

Today was the highest tide of the month, one of the highest of the year (11.5m!) and I pulled myself of out bed to get to the very end of the Harbour, by the Entrance Lock, for 9:20 and the high point.   I know that doesn’t sound like much, but on a grey, dreich Saturday in February, it’s a big deal.  Especially with the Chocolate Path closed.  Especially in the rain.  But wow, I’m glad I did!

Clifton Suspension Bridge, spring tide

Cumberland Basin, high tide

River, refelctions

When I got to the river, it was still, that moment of balance that I love, and wish I could find in myself.  It’s always a rush to get as many shots as possible in that time, and I was cursing because I’d once again forgotten the cameras I wanted to bring, spare film etc.   But it was lovely.  I lay on the edge of the Harbour, putting an underwater camera in the river (it’s so much better doing that in summer) and watched the way the misty rainclouds moved through the trees.

I think my favourite part was standing on the Entrance Lock gate, and watching the water move.  By this time the tide had turned, and the water, which had flooded over the top of the lock gate, was rushing back out to re-join the river, bringing clouds of silt.  I only had my phone to take films, but this makes me very happy:

The clouds of silt always look so magical, and I could have watched this for days.  I walked on around the Harbour, and had other adventures too – but those will be in my next podcast…

 

Moon-watching

Yesterday was the last day of January, and the special-blue-blood-moon, or whatever the hashtag is.  I’d loved it all the way home, running across roads to try (fail) to take photos – so when I got home, I persuaded Vik we should go and see if we could see what it looked like over the river.

It was COLD, the water choppy in the wind, and dark, with the moonlight rippling on the wavelets.  High tide, coming up to spring tide tomorrow, and apparently the highest tide of the year.  With all the recent rain, the Entrance Lock gates were open, and the Cumberland Basin so full.  We walked through Greville Smyth Park in the dark, feeling for the path with our feet, to the very end of the Harbour to look at the water.  Of course it made me miss the Chocolate Path more than ever, and that is always going to cast a pall on any river walk – but I’m really happy I did this, instead of just collapse on the sofa.

I’m waiting for my film photos to come back, though not hopefully, as 100iso on a point & shoot without a tripod is not the best way to take photos in the dark (…) but here are three from my mobile phone, lit by the streetlight.   I loved how the collapsing piers by the Entrance Lock became islands in the water, and how easy it was to forget how incredibly deep the river was.

The collapsing piers, like islands at high tide

Public art, collapsing pier

Night Avon, high tide