Coombe Brook, April 2018

I’m really enjoying using this project to explore places I’ve never been in Bristol, and last Wednesday’s walk with Tracy Homer was a perfect example.  We wanted something not too long and arduous, and I’d had on my list these little runs of water through Speedwell and Clay Bottom, which seemed even more intriguing on the Bristol City Council’s Big Blue Map of Bristol, which shows (most of) the rivers and streams where they run above and below ground, and named this one:  Coombe Brook, aka The Gossey.  It’s only a few kilometres long, but it runs through two very different nature reserves, and even when it’s below ground, its path is a green corridor through the city almost until it reaches the River Frome.  Intriguing in so many ways!

Our walk map is here – with the line of the river very approximately in blue.  I’ve added in our full walk, including heading back along the Bristol-Bath Cycle Path:

And my photo album from the walk is on flickr, or below (if you click or mouse over the first image, it should bring up the slideshow.

Coombe Brook footbridge

So, what did we see?

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Dreich Holga photos

It’s a dreich, dull April – I laughed, because double-checking the spelling of dreich, the Oxford Dictionary example of how to use it is ‘a cold, dreich early April day’.  I still haven’t replaced my broken film cameras, but on Saturday, I took one of Vik’s Holgas – a plastic-lensed, medium-format, very basic camera, with 160iso film, because we didn’t have any 400.  And I’m really enjoying the results.  First, some shots from Ashton Avenue Bridge, with the outflow from Colliter’s Brook into the Avon, and across the river, Ashton Brook (a historic County boundary).

Avon mud

Where Ashton Brook meets the Avon

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A few photos of the Avon at Lacock

Back in March, I went to Lacock, in Wiltshire, to record a podcast with artist, film-maker, curator and educator Shawn Sobers.  It wasn’t the cleverest day to go, as it was snowing on and off, with weather warnings, so it was cold and muddy, but I really enjoyed the day.

We went to Lacock because Lacock Abbey was the home of William Henry Fox Talbot, one of the pioneers of photography, and I know Shawn from when he was my professor on my Photography degree at the University of the West of England.  I’m embarrassed how long it took me to realise that Fox Talbot’s work was taking place on the banks of the Avon, but it felt like the right place to walk and talk about the various strands of Shawn’s work.

You can listen to that podcast here, and I have a couple of photos below.  It was a bad day for taking pictures (too cold, for one!), but also, I’ve been finding it hard to take good photos while I’m podcasting, and I need to work out why that is – maybe because podcasting is all about focusing on the conversation, while photography is about being open to the world?  But for what it’s worth, a few of my Lacock Avon shots:

The Avon, at Lacock bridge

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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:

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Footprints on the Avon mud, and other Thursday photos

On Thursday Vik and I met in town and walked round the Harbour for the Suffragette talk at the Bristol Archives.  We were early, so went to the very edge of the Harbour to look at the river, one of our regular walks.

Avon silt bank, looking like a deep sea creature

The first thing we enjoyed was this tiny glimpse of one of the silt islands, looking like a whale coming up for air, or a sea monster lurking on the bottom of the river.  And an aside – if you look on the maps on Know Your Place, you can see there have been silt islands here since the 1880s, including this one, which I find fascinating.

Of course we went to look at the mud that banks up in what used to be the Brunel lock, one of my very favourite places.  There are almost always bird footprints here, but I’ve never seen as many as then.  I don’t know if it was a flock on in the middle of migration, or something special had been left on the mud after the spring tide, or it was just that the conditions were extra good for retaining footprints, but it was delightful.

Footprints, Avon mud

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Snowy walk along the closed Avon path

Last Saturday the snow was still around, and I went walking in it with my friends Kate and Tim.  They’d never been down the closed part of the Avon footpath, or seen the Netham Weir, which is there to try to stop the Avon being tidal, so off we went.

Map of our walk:

And photos too.   If you mouse over/click on the first photo it should open the slideshow, or you can go directly to the flickr album.

BOC Gas

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