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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Looking for the Malago (January explorations)

I’m temping at the moment, which I do from time to time, and always try to use it as an opportunity to explore, especially places I don’t usually go.  Of course, it’s hard to do that in January, when it’s murky in the mornings, usually dark when I’m walking home, and it’s been raining almost every lunch time.  But I have had the opportunity to look for the River Malago, and that’s been fantastic.

I’ve walked along the Bedminster parts of the Malago so many times, and back in October, I walked the stretch through Manor Valley Woods for the first time, and I’ve always wanted to look for the source of the river in the Dundry hills, so I’m really happy to be looking for the river in different places.  I have some January Malago photos – not great pictures, but ones infused with memories for me.

This is the place that the Malago leaves the woods on the Dundry, and enters the city:

Malago plank bridge

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Avon Stories Podcast #16: Exploring the New Cut, and finding out about its Friends

Back in August, Roy Gallop, one of the founders of the Friends of the Avon New Cut, took me for a walk along the Cut, down the Chocolate Path and back along Coronation Road, and told me all about this man-made river route – the huge trench that takes the tidal river Avon through the city of Bristol.

The Cut was built to enable the river route to be turned into the fixed-height Floating Harbour, to try to keep Bristol as one of the most important ports in the UK.  Now, the Cut is an urban nature reserve, a green corridor that’s home to a wide range of flora and fauna, and the Friends of the Avon New Cut (FRANC) have worked to celebrate and protect it.

Map used with kind permission of the Friends of the Avon New Cut

But this is a sad podcast for me too, because it reminds me what we’ve lost.  Roy and I spoke about how the Cut has been neglected, and left to gradually collapse, and since we took our walk, the whole of the Chocolate Path has been closed for the foreseeable future, due to erosion.  It’s so depressing that this fantastic car-free route has been lost to the city, but I’m very glad we recorded this while we could.

Please do check out the FRANC website, and join them on their walks and talks, events and litter picking days.  You can also buy the book about the Cut that Roy published and download their walking guides.  And of course, follow them on facebook.

You can also explore the New Cut throughout history, with maps of Bristol before and after it was built, and photos and drawings and much more, on the Know Your Place website.  You can find out more about KYP in this podcast and post.

Here’s the route of our walk – and I’ll add photos to this post tomorrow, too.

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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.

Avon Stories podcast #15: The unloved landscapes of Sylvia Crowe, with Wendy Tippett

The Cumberland Basin to Ashton Gate road system is this complicated tangle of roads passing above and below each other, with endlessly confusing ways over and through it for cars and pedestrians alike.  It’s generally seen as a brutalist concrete nightmare, but back in the 1960s, when it was built, it was seen utopian and futuristic, full of exciting new ways to live in a city, with vibrant spaces and an urban park.  These included a market place and piazza on the Northern edge, a service station, a new hill, playgrounds under the roads, and of course, the viewpoint up the River Avon to the Clifton Suspension Bridge, all designed by Sylvia Crowe.

Despite having no formal schooling after leaving school at the age of ten due to TB, Crowe was an important British twentieth century landscape architect, working on everything from vast Forestry Commission schemes, New Towns, power stations and reservoirs, down to private gardens.

These Bristol spaces must have been incredible to see at the time, with a giant fountain spraying up between the raised lanes of traffic, and a nautical-themed playground overlooking the Entrance Lock.  The problem was that no one had predicted how fast car ownership would increase, turning what were vibrant spaces into discarded concrete no-man’s-lands.

Sylvia Crowe Cumberland Basin Bridges, Landscape Plan. Coloured up by Wendy Tippett, with our Avon Stories walk marked up in red line. Ref. Landscape Report, Cumberland Basin Bridges & Ashton Gate Junction, April 1964, University of Bristol Library

Sylvia Crowe Cumberland Basin Bridges, Landscape Plan.
Coloured up by Wendy Tippett, with our Avon Stories walk marked up in red line.
Ref. Landscape Report, Cumberland Basin Bridges & Ashton Gate Junction, April 1964, University of Bristol Library.

Landscape Architect Wendy Tippett took me walking through the northern parts of the road scheme, and told me about how the spaces would have looked in the 1960s, including the design elements that are taken for granted these days, and why, ultimately, it failed.

You can join us on the podcast we recorded on the walk, with photos and lots of links to old photos and plans below.

Sylvia Crowe Cumberland Basin Bridges & Ashton Gate Junction, Aerial View.
Ref. Tippett, W., Unloved Landscapes Dissertation, 2014.

Wendy Tippett is the Landscape Director at Andrew Kenyon Architects in Bristol and Conservation Trustee of Avon Gardens Trust, and you can follow her on her twitter.   I highly recommend her guided walks, they made me see familiar spaces with new eyes – if you’d like to arrange one for a group, or talk to her about Sylvia Crowe’s work in Bristol, you can contact her on wendy [at] andrewkenyonarchitects [dot] co [dot] uk.

If you’d like to know more about Sylvia Crowe, there’s a brief biography on the Landscape Institute website, and there’s a description of the Cumberland Basin site on Parks and Gardens.

Since we recorded this podcast, Bristol 24/7 has reported that there are plans to sell off and re-develop a lot of the site, so this is likely to change again in the future.

I retraced the walk Wendy took me on in December, and my photos (DSLR, 35mm and 120 film) are in this flickr album – click on the first photo and a slideshow should start.

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Autumn walks

I’ve got various collections of photos from walks I took this autumn, and never got around to blogging – exploring the Malago, and the Avon at St Anne’s and the Greenway.  Full photosets under title links, and if you mouse over the top photo, it should turn into a slideshow.

The Malago in Manor Woods Valley, October

I’ve walked along the Bedminster sections of the Malago, down through the parks, but for some reason I’ve never gone past Parson Street before.   This was a babywalk with Cee and her son, and Vik, and I loved getting to see this area I’ve looked at on maps, and passed in the car.  And it’s beautiful!

We walked through the parks from St John’s Lane, then down Hartcliffe Way, and then the sidestreets.  We’d passed the river as a little stream, overgrown with plants, a treecreeper on a tree as we turned into the park.

Stepping Stones

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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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