A November walk through Nature Reserves

Last week, Vik and I took a November walk, starting at Sea Mills, down through the nature reserves, then along the Portway to the Goat Gully, and up around the Downs to Clifton.  We started a bit late for this time of year, getting on a bus at around 1pm, so by the time we’d got to the Suspension Bridge, it was definitely dusk.

I’ve been to these places before, but never as one walk, and that always shows new sides to places.   The Avon always looks different every time, of course, and I’ve only been the the nature reserves in the Spring before.

Photos are in this flickr set – there are photos from my DLSR, point’n’shoot 35mm and medium format film cameras.  Click through to see more, and I have more links below too.

The Avon from the Goat Gully

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A coach trip to the Bristol Port

A  few weeks ago, as part of the Docks Heritage Weekend, we took a coach trip around the Bristol Port sites at the Royal Portbury Dock and Avonmouth.  I had no idea what to expect, except we wouldn’t be allowed to get off the coach, but it was free, and of course I was interested.

It was an interesting photography say, as the mini-coach didn’t stop, and had tinted windows which put a weird colour cast on everything.  Plus window reflections are hard to avoid!  But I have a flickr set, taken with my DSLR + 50mm lens, and my mobile phone (click the photo to see more).

Machinery

It was really fascinating, especially in terms of spaces built for function, not design, and where space was not an issue.  The two huge Avonmouth concrete buildings, for example, are standing empty because it’s cheaper and easier than taking them down, which seems so unusual in the context of Bristol.

Docks

Portbury is all about the rows and rows of cars, waiting to be shipped out, or shipped around the UK, but we also went through a huge grain storage shed, with pyramids of animal feed piled high.  The Avonmouth side is bigger, with what feels like more diversity, but it was hard to tell – we went on a maze-y route that I couldn’t map in my head.

My favourite part was when we got out to the helicopter pad on the edge of Avonmouth, where the Avon meets the Severn.  The driver did a very neat turn very close to the edge, which had us all gasping!   I so wanted to get out and take photos – it’s always a surprise how close Wales is, and I’ve never seen the junction between the rivers.  It made me want to take a boat trip out into the Severn – to Steep Holm maybe?

Where the Avon meets the Severn

It’s something I’d absolutely recommend to anyone, if you have the chance to do this.  It was such unusual landscapes, and structures, and the commentary was fun (unintentionally hilarious in places too!).  So much to enjoy, and for free?  Perfect!

High tide, and experiments

Last night I was walking home in the dusk, under beautiful skies, and the tide was so high that the lock gates in the Cumberland Basin were left open, and 11.2 metre tide, per the Bristol Tide Tables, and that’s without any extra rainfall coming in from all the tributaries.

On evenings like this, it’s always hard to choose what to do, as the sun sets so quickly, and the river changes fast.  Between here and Vauxhall Bridge, where I left the water, the tide kept coming in, and it was a beautiful night – windy and gorgeous, and all my phone photos look like I’ve put crazy filters on them.

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Avon Stories podcast 12: Abona and the Romans in Bristol

Bristol isn’t a city famous for links with the Romans, like Bath, York, Gloucester or London, but the Romans were here for around three hundred years, and built a port on the Avon, Portus Abonae, which became the town of Abona, which is now Sea Mills.

In this podcast, Gail Boyle, the Senior Curator for Archeology at Bristol Museums, told me about Abona, the other Roman sites in the city, and what we know about who the Romans in Bristol were, where they came from, and why they were here.

She told me about the Roman remains in Sea Mills and the Kingsweston Roman Villa, and how a lot of what we know is thanks to teenage archeology enthusiasts in the 1950s, and how local teenagers were involved in the recent interpretation of the site.  She also told me what we can visit today, and I’ve included links below, and photos of what they look like.

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Exploring the Avon – Pill to Sea Mills, and following in Roman footsteps

One of the things I want to do with this project is to use it as an excuse to go walking, and exploring places I’ve always thought about – and last week was an adventure I wouldn’t have had without it.

I’ve known Tracy Homer for nearly 12 years, when we met at the first Bristol flickrmeet.  Back when flickr was this amazing social media site, we were part of the Bristol flickr group, and there was this moment when some of us went to a pub to take it from online friends to In Real Life, which branched off into going for flickrwalks to take photos together. Some of my best friends in Bristol are people I met that way, and I still go to a pub once a month or so with some of them, even though we now arrange through different ways, and flickr has gone from being about social media to being somewhere I just upload my photos to.

I liked Tracy from the moment I met her, and I’ve got so many good memories of talking mile-a-minute with her, taking photos, discovering new places, and always laughing a lot.  It’s one of those friendships where we can go years at a time without being in touch, but start where we left off, and she’s the best company for photowalks.  There’s something about not needing to explain why the walk will take twice as long as it should, because we’re stopping for photos, with someone who’ll get exactly what I mean when I’m over-excited about the light on the mud, or the way the grass curves, or whatever it is, and will understand the need to take the same shot on three different cameras, because she’s doing exactly the same thing.

Last week we went for a long walk, one I’ve been wanting to do for ages:  from Pill, up the Avon to the M5 road bridge, then down the north side of the river to Sea Mills, to look for echoes of the Roman town of Abona, and then up the old Roman road to the Downs.   All walks with Tracy tend to start with frantic texting and laughing at ourselves right from the start, and this was no different.  Could we manage to meet on the same bus from different stops?  Of course we could!

This is the map of our route, with my photos on it, and there are more in my flickr album.  I had four cameras with me – my Canon DSLR with a 50mm lens, my Olympus XA2 point & shoot film camera (though I ran out of film, stupidly), my iPhone, and the last of the £1 disposable underwater cameras, and there are some from each on the map, plus a mini film.

I’ve also put photos in the blog below.  It’s a long one, because it was a long walk (that’s my excuse, at least!)

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Avon Stories podcast 11: How Bristol nearly lost the Harbour, and other Planning stories

One of the main features of Bristol is the Floating Harbour that meanders through the city, lined with boats, from tatty barges to three-masted sailing boats, right up to floating nightclubs and restaurants.  But did you know that in the late 1960s there was a plan to close the Harbour to navigation, and build giant roads over it? And that a City Docks Act was passed in Parliament to make it possible, and it was only the global recession of the 1970s that prevented it?

Richard Holden worked in the Planning Department at Bristol City Council for 36 years, and he told me all about that, what would have happened if the road plan had happened, and more of the stories about the Harbour, including how the M Shed cranes were saved.

We also talked about the good, the bad and the ugly in Planning, how some of the developments came about, and how the best Planning work is essentially invisible.  He also told me about the current threats to the Harbour – nothing as extreme as a giant road, but developments that really do risk destroying some of the wonderful things that are emblematic of the city.  Scroll down for what everything can do to try to prevent these, and other, threats.

Richard sent me some photos of what parts of the Harbour looked like before redevelopment, and I’ve put them on this map, under the red icons, along with pictures I took about places we talked about, which you can also see in this flickr album.

Of course, you can find all kinds of other photos of the Harbour in the past on the Know Your Place website, and there’s more about that in my first Avon Stories podcast.

If you want to help shape the future of Bristol’s infrastructure and planning, there are things you can do:

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An Avon meditation film

It’s the Bristol Balloon Fiesta this weekend, and they’re notorious for not saying whether the mass launches will happen or not – so I set the alarm for 5:30am (ugh) yesterday to try to see the 6am ascent, but fell asleep before they confirmed it would happen.  Then the evenings have been too windy for the launches, so I made myself get up for the 6am launch today.

I’ve been dreaming about getting a film of something we experienced a few years ago – a stream of balloons floating along the Avon.  I’ve seen the mass ascent from the Fiesta once, and it’s fine, but I really want that river-of-balloons echoing the river, and to record the roaring of the burners.

I was so pleased with myself for being up early, in the beautiful morning light, and watching the balloons from Vauxhall Bridge felt great, I was convinced it was going to happen… until we realised the wind was taking them east, away from us.

I had that really crappy FOMO feeling (Fear Of Missing Out), and I feel for Vik and Matt, as I was also having low blood sugar and literally didn’t know which way to turn – chase the balloons?  Find a different spot?  Try to find breakfast?  Luckily Lockside was open early and I recovered my equilibrium – and then on the way home, there were these gentle-looking streams from the Outflow into the river, with clouds of silt.  The incoming tide was a fast one, but the force of the outflow was pushing the stream far over the water.  I only got 5 minutes of this, but I love it, it’s my perfect meditation film:

The only thing was wanting about 15 cameras pointing at different points.  But I here’s a mobile phone film-ette of a different point of the river at the same time:

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