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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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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Tuesday: footprints in the Avon mud

It was gorgeous February sunshine on a cold Tuesday, so I headed out to the mud at the very end of the Floating Harbour, my go-to walk.  Since the Chocolate Path is closed, I now take Ashton Avenue Bridge, and stopped to make a little film, taking photos once that was set up.

Avon from Ashton Bridge

There was something about the light on the texture of the mud that made the bird footprints look fantastic, especially the way the tracks would be so clear in one place, but a few steps back the mud was slooooooooowly oozing back to eradicate them.

Avon footprints

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Spring tide, February 2018

Today was the highest tide of the month, one of the highest of the year (11.5m!) and I pulled myself of out bed to get to the very end of the Harbour, by the Entrance Lock, for 9:20 and the high point.   I know that doesn’t sound like much, but on a grey, dreich Saturday in February, it’s a big deal.  Especially with the Chocolate Path closed.  Especially in the rain.  But wow, I’m glad I did!

Clifton Suspension Bridge, spring tide

Cumberland Basin, high tide

River, refelctions

When I got to the river, it was still, that moment of balance that I love, and wish I could find in myself.  It’s always a rush to get as many shots as possible in that time, and I was cursing because I’d once again forgotten the cameras I wanted to bring, spare film etc.   But it was lovely.  I lay on the edge of the Harbour, putting an underwater camera in the river (it’s so much better doing that in summer) and watched the way the misty rainclouds moved through the trees.

I think my favourite part was standing on the Entrance Lock gate, and watching the water move.  By this time the tide had turned, and the water, which had flooded over the top of the lock gate, was rushing back out to re-join the river, bringing clouds of silt.  I only had my phone to take films, but this makes me very happy:

The clouds of silt always look so magical, and I could have watched this for days.  I walked on around the Harbour, and had other adventures too – but those will be in my next podcast…

 

Avon mud

I don’t know why, but the mud around the Entrance Lock has been covered in muck at the moment – maybe because there hasn’t been much heavy rain recently?   It’s one of those things I laugh at myself for being frustrated about, and then suddenly see it in a new light, literally and figuratively. I love the patterns it makes, around the paths made by rivulets finding their way to the river.

Mud, marks

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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Avon mud

Triptych:  Mud (medium format)

I have so many photographic obsessions, and one of them is the mud on the Avon banks, especially around the blocked up lock at the entrance to the Cumberland Basin.   The silt has banked up here in corrugations, with lines where water has flowed meandering through it.  It’s fascinating in every kind of light, but my favourite moments are when the sun is low, making the water on the surface turn to silver.  The ridges and lines look like landscapes – mountains and rivers and hills.   And on windy days the light changes so fast, as clouds whip across the sky.   I made a film of that in the summer, and I need to go back and try it again in winter light.

Triptych:  Mud (medium format)

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