Silt clouds in the Avon

Yesterday Vik and I were on a walk, and it wasn’t going so well – the walk leaders didn’t have a map, just instructions, and didn’t know where they were going, and that makes me so stressed. So when we got to the Cumberland Basin, we peeled off, and went to look at the river instead.

After the long, long winter, May has been pretty much perfect, and yesterday was a beautiful day.  The sun was low in the sky, and the tide was very high, very still.  We stood on the very end of the Cumberland Basin, looking at the bridge, and then down at the water directly below us.  The first Entrance Lock gates had been opened recently, and clouds of silt were flowing into the river, at first slowly, and then when the second lock gate was opened too, very fast.

It’s one of my very favourite things, watching the clouds of silt under the water – the way they move, like eruptions, or something blossoming.   It’s magical to me, and I always hope I’ll see it.  Of course I wish I’d had my DSLR and tripod with me, as filming on my mobile has limitations, but still, I took nearly 50 snippets of film on my phone.  I’m not posting all of them here, but check out how gorgeous it was.  The light was changing, the water pressures kept changing too, and I was hypnotised.  We spent about an hour and a half there, and then walked home, with everything looking beautiful.  I also took a whole load of photos on my film camera (and UPDATE!  they’re here).

The sounds to imagine are a base rumble of traffic from the Portway ahead to the right, and behind on the Plimsoll swingbridge; the piercing blackbird song coming from across the river ahead of us, other birdsong layered up; and the sound of the water flowing, with gloops as eruptions of silt hit the surface.  The smell was of river-water on a hot day, so evocative and refreshing.  Spring breeze on my skin and in my hair, the stone of the Harbour edge warm in the sun, and gently-rough on my hands and where I sat.  The water was so high, it was only a metre and a half below us, and I was having fantasies of jumping in.

At first, it was relatively slow

Looking out across the river, the surface tensions were picked up by the light, but it was just too bright for my phone

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Cranbrook and the Redland Springs, April

In March I was looking at the springs in Redland that lead to Cranbrook, but I hadn’t realised that the Cranbrook leads down to The Arches, and that, according to the Big Blue Map of Bristol, it’s above ground around there. So two weeks ago, Tracy Homer and I went to have a look for it.   My (mostly phone) photos are in my flickr album (if you mouse over/tap the photo below, you should be able to see a slideshow…)  I have a film-ette and some sounds in the post below too.

The makeshift bridge

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Royate Hill and down the Frome

Ever since I went to Royate Hill Nature Reserve while walking along Coombe Brook with Tracy, I’ve been thinking about that space.   I was especially thinking about the photos I took of the brook from the viaduct, and wanting more.   So as last Tuesday was a beautiful day, I hopped on the bus to go back.   After the nature reserve, I walked back into town down the line of the Frome – my map is here:

and the album of photos is on flickr – or if you mouse over the first picture below, it should bring up the slideshow.   I have some film-ettes too, which I’ve added in below.

Royate Hill viaduct Nature Reserve

It was such a contrast to last time.  That day was grey and misty, Tuesday was blue skies, and breezes.  As soon as I got into the reserve and was walking up the steps, I could see how spring had changed things in the few weeks since I was last here, with cow parsley coming out, and annual plants everywhere.  All the leaves were that perfect spring acid green, shining in the sun.

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Shawn Sobers’ film about Newstead Abbey and slavery

A few weeks ago I went on a podcast-walk in the snow with Dr Shawn Sobers, talking about his work as a film-maker, artist, educator, curator and more.  One of the things we discussed was his work with heritage sites, exploring their links to the transatlantic slave trade, and he told me about a film he’d just finished working on at Newstead Abbey in Nottingham.

This film, Blood Sugar, was a collaboration with the Abbey, poet Michelle Mother Hubbard and the Slave Trade Legacies group – and it’s now online if you want to watch it:

Listen to the podcast with Shawn, talking about his work, here.

Avon Stories Podcast #21: Photography, film, heritage and more, with Dr Shawn Sobers

I met Shawn Sobers when I was doing my Photography degree at the University of the West of England, and he was one of my professors.  But that’s just one of the many strings to his bow – Shawn is a filmmaker, photographer, writer and curator, and I always found his community-based practice and his range of interests to be completely inspiring.

We went for a walk along the Avon in Lacock, exploring the landscape where Henry Fox Talbot lived and created processes that gave us modern photography.   While we walked, we talked about teaching photography, Shawn’s film practice, his work with National Trust sites helping communities research their links to Transatlantic slavery, and his own role in running a heritage site, curating the Tafari Gallery at Fairfield House, where Emperor Haile Selassie lived in exile in Bath.

Please do forgive the patches of audio problems in the recording.  We were walking in the March snow, on a day full of weather warnings, and it proved a bit too much for my audio equipment!

Find out more about Shawn on his website, which has a selection of films we talked about, including his 1999 film on Haile Selassie, Footsteps of the Emperor, his recent art film about the sinking of the SS Mendi, a ship carrying Black South African Labour Corps troops to serve in World War I, and Under The Bridge, the 1990s film for HTV exploring Transatlantic slavery in Bristol, including the River Avon:

Continue reading “Avon Stories Podcast #21: Photography, film, heritage and more, with Dr Shawn Sobers”