The stream in Paradise Bottom

OK, I have to start by saying I love the name Paradise Bottom!  It’s a valley with a couple of streams in it at the most northern part of Leigh Woods, on the bank of the River Avon.  This part is owned by the Forestry Commission, and it includes what was an arboretum, designed by Humphry Repton in the 18th Century, so there are all kinds of interesting trees.  The main stream starts at a pond at the top, with other springs and streams joining it, and more ponds further down in the woods, before the stream joins the Avon.

I’ve walked and cycled on the path along the Avon, but never gone up into it before, so Matt Gibson and I went exploring last Sunday, looking for the water.

My photos are here – it was dappled woodland light, which all my cameras found hard, but wow it was beautiful!  Golden-green sunlight through the leaves, the smell of wild garlic everywhere, and I have some clips of what it sounded like below.  Mouse/swipe over the first photo, and it should bring up the slideshow…

Waterfall from a Paradise Bottom pond

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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!

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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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Avon Stories Podcast #23: Soundwalking with Dan Pope

There are so many ways to explore a place, and one of them is through the sounds you find there.  Dan Pope is an acoustic consultant and musician, who also makes sound-art and runs sound walks, and for this episode, we went walking down the St Philip’s Greenway and the closed Avon path, on a soundwalk.

Between stopping to find out what we could hear, Dan told me about various kinds of soundwalks, and how we can come at them from art, science, politics, ethnography, history, psychogeography, planning, and so many more viewpoints.

We also talked about his work, and what can be done to add positive (and negative!) soundscapes to places.

Dan has a fantastic list of sound resources, for people who want to explore sounds in their area:

  • The Hush City app is a great resource to add sounds you encounter to a global community – you can explore their website and see what they do
  • Cities and Memory is a global sound project, collecting sounds and having sound-artists remix them into sound-art pieces.  For example, their Politics of Protest global sound map.
  • The World Listening Project runs World Listening Day every year, with tons of events, including soundwalks – this year it’s on 18th July
  • The Institute of Acoustics has regional branches across the UK, which run events – find your local branch here.
  • The Bristol Walking Festival doesn’t have specific soundwalks this year, but there are tons of interesting walks to places that you can listen to
  • Apps like Titanium Recorder and the Soundcloud app are great for recording interesting sounds you hear out and about – look them up wherever you get your apps

We also briefly talked about some people working in sounds:

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Avon Stories podcast #14: Site singing at Over Bridge with Ellen Southern

Ellen Southern is a vocal artist, whose Site Singing project includes visiting lesser-known heritage sites, and making vocal pieces responding to the spaces, alongside drawings, photos and writing.

I met Ellen when she was performing a piece under the Avon Bridge, as part of a walk, and I was delighted when she invited me to come and visit one of her sites, Over Bridge.   This is a beautiful, abandoned bridge to nowhere on the River Severn in Gloucester, and we explored the space together, while she told me more about the bridge, and why she loves it.

Ellen also talked about using her voice in her art, and using her voice to explore spaces.   I’m really grateful to her for sending me some of the pieces she recorded on our trip, that are included in the podcast.

While we were there, I took photos with my medium format and 35mm cameras, and my mobile phone, and you can see them in this Flickr album (click on the first photo to start the slideshow).

Over Bridge

You can find out more about Ellen Southern on her website, and follow her on facebook and twitter.   Her Site Singing project is documented on her blog, with writing, drawing, and of course, music, and there are also recordings on Bandcamp.  There’s also an interview with her about the project on South Art Text.

Ellen is also in a band, Dead Space Chamber Music, and they are on facebook, twitter and bandcamp.

There’s more information about Over Bridge on the English Heritage website.

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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 water in Bristol.

Repeating a walk: November adventure from Pill down the Avon

It took me a long time to be happy with the fact that a lot of my practice involves repetition and re-visiting places to see how they look at different times.   I think part of this is doing a photography degree, where no project lasts more than 5 or 6 months, and each time it’s about doing something new.  But one of the things my final project – and even more, my post-uni life – taught me was the value of the everyday, and how re-visiting can add depth and value in ways that continually jetting off to exotic new places can’t.

When I walked from Sea Mills across the M5 motorway bridge and down the Avon with my friend Tracy Homer in the summer, we talked about how we should definitely take that walk again, and see how it looks in different seasons, and what else we can discover.  So last week we did it again, with changes – our November walk to see how the autumn looks.

Map, and click on the flickr album to see more photos, taken with my DSLR + 50mm lens and my Olympus XA2 35mm film camera.  Below I have a selection of my favourite photos and thoughts about the day, along with some mini films and some sounds I recorded.

Wind on the Avon

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