I’m a bit obsessed with murky, underwater photography. I shot a lot of photos with really crappy underwater film cameras during my degree, and I love them, but I never did much with them. But I’ve always wanted to do more, and I really wanted to do some filming, so I borrowed my friend Tim’s GoPro Session and headed to the Harbour.
I’ve lived in Bristol for 17 years, and I’d never been on a Bristol Ferry trip on the Avon… until this week! It was very, very wet, so I’ve sped up the film so the raindrops on the lens don’t interfere too much, and so you can see my trip in 10 minutes
It was such a lovely thing to do. The lock from the Harbour to the River seems almost unnoticeable, very smooth. And then, although I’ve cycled up both sides of the river, and walked the Portway, I’d never been this low. I couldn’t believe the river is around 8 metres deep on the way back, as it doesn’t seem like it could be.
It was so meditative, especially once the rain drove everyone else inside, standing in this downpour, watching the water. I never knew herons lived in a colony, in trees, until it was pointed out on the commentary, and there’s something about the mud that I love. Everything was green and grey, with a bit of green, and I really want to do it again.
You can book your own Gorge trip on the Bristol Ferry Boats website. It costs £15, and it took around 2 hours and 15 minutes, but that depends on the tides (we were going against the tide going out, and much faster coming back).
Big thanks to Tim who lent me his GoPro Session, which the film is shot with.
One of the things I’ll be doing through my Avon Stories project is to interview as many people as I can, about all kinds of different aspects of the River Avon in Bristol, from historians, to experts on different places along the river; to artists making work based on or inspired by it, to people who work on and around the river, whether directly, or just because that’s where they’re based.
And where better to start, than with Pete Insole, who runs the Know Your Place website for Bristol City Council?
Pete is a Historic Environments Officer, and Know Your Place is an incredible repository of information about the city. It has maps dating back to the early eighteenth century, that you can overlay on top of each other, and on top of present-day maps and aerial photography, to get a feeling of how it has changed, but that’s just the beginning. You can access layers of paintings, drawings, photographs and information from Bristol’s museums, archives and the Council’s departments, and see exactly where those photos are taken. Or maybe you want to see where bombs hit the City in World World Two, or hear stories form Bristolians about how different parts of the city have changed. And finally, on the Community Layer, anyone can add their own photos to the map, whether of the past or the present, enabling people to add their own stories to the City’s records.
Pete told me all about how and why Know Your Place was developed, how it has expanded across the whole of South West England, and how it helps us understand some of the key aspects of the city’s history, including, of course, the River Avon.
If you want to explore Bristol through Know Your Place, start here. And if you want to see what else it contains for the wider West of England, the Know Your Place West website is here, with all sorts of excellent tutorials that will help everyone. There’s also the Know Your Place West twitter to follow for regular information, tips and new updates to the website.
Today’s Soundwalk was from Gaol Ferry Bridge to Vauxhall Bridge, along the Chocolate Path, at 6pm on a sunny Thursday afternoon.
Looking down the river to the west, it was all reflections, with the water on the mud shining silver – but looking sideways at the River, the mud and water were both a warm brown, with clouds of sediment just under the water. Very green trees after the recent rain, and it feels like there have been more rockslides into the New Cut, because of the high tide maybe?
During my photography degree, I made a series of films from the bridge on the Chocolate Path, above the sluices from the Underfall, recording the different ways the water reacted according to the weather, tide, and if water was being released from the Floating Harbour into the Avon. I loved standing still in the same place, watching the water, listening to traffic mingling with birdsong, having these meditative moments just being by the river.
I love this spot in any mood – the rush of water being released at low tide; how it can be so slow one day, and so fast the next; the almost volcanic eruptions when the outflow is released below the surface; the way objects move around this little inlet; watching the rain on the water.
Three years ago this week, my final Degree Show included a long piece, where I recorded the water rising, and the debris on the surface making beautiful patterns. So it feels appropriate to start this new project by re-visiting these films – there are a lot more on my Vimeo, and in my flickr album dedicated to the Outflow, and I’m sure I’ll be back to this spot often, and be making more of these.