An “ordinary” walk around the Harbour

Last Friday Vik and I met after work, did a bit of shopping on Park Street, and then walked home on our usual route from the top of the Triangle – down Jacobs Wells Road, along the Floating Harbour, through Underfall Yard and along the south side of the Harbour, over Vauxhall Bridge and home.  I must have taken parts of this walk thousands of times (though if I had the choice I’d take the Chocolate Path, as I did commuting for years, but now it’s been closed by Bristol City Council and left to fall into the river…) and I am always in awe that this is one of my standard routes around the city.

It had rained for most of the day, and the light was spectacular, with more rain clouds overhead, with sunshine making clouds glow against the greys, if you looked in the right direction.

I have some photos in this flickr album – hopefully you can also make it work as a slideshow here…

Avon reflections

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Things to do in Bristol this week – walking and canoeing

Lots of water-related activities to do over the next few weeks in Bristol –  I know it’s a bit last minute, but I’m a bit over excited about them!

2018 National Go Canoeing Week, is 26th May-3rd June, with canoe and kayak activities all over the country.  If you know me in real life, you’ve probably heard me moaning about not being able to find a way to paddle around the Harbour, so I was extra excited to see, via morseykayak, that there are canoe trips this week.

We’re going on the evening canoe tour of Bristol on 30th May, run by All Aboard watersports, who are based between Underfall Yard and the Cottage Pub – and there’s 20% off the usual prices for the three special events they’re running this week.  Click through and find out more (and look out for 500 waterproof camera pictures!).  And if you’re not in Bristol, and want to find events in your area, there’s a lot more information on the British Canoeing website.

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Throughout May it’s been Bristol Walk Fest, with all kinds of interesting walks, and while the month is coming to an end, there are still a lot of fun walks to do – if I wasn’t pre-booked, I would definitely go on Monday’s walk exploring the life and times of maritime explorer John Cabot, the Avonmouth Story Walk and the ones that include the River Trym, Exploring Badock’s Wood and Tuesday evening’s walk around Westbury.

The full programme is here – definitely click the “View All Events” link at the bottom of each day, as often the best ones (and evening ones) lurk there!  And follow the @briswalkfest18 twitter and #BristolWalkFest hashtag, to see what other people are enjoying.

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A Forgotten Landscape is a cultural heritage project to conserve and enhance the Lower Severn Vale Levels area, with a lot of community engagement, and they have a really great website and twitter.  They’re currently running the Severnside Walking Festival, with events until 17th June, including walks, workshops and art projects.

I especially like the look of the two workshops creating fire sculptures, which will be burned on Severn Beach, on 8th and 9th June.  Wish I was free, they look like incredible experiences.  But all their events look so fascinating, and they’re also running the Severn Festival at Severn Beach (*sometimes* a really lovely train ride from Bristol…) on 14th July.   I definitely recommend spending some time on the AFL website, though, it’s full of intriguing projects, lovely images and so much to think about.

Silt clouds in the Avon

Yesterday Vik and I were on a walk, and it wasn’t going so well – the walk leaders didn’t have a map, just instructions, and didn’t know where they were going, and that makes me so stressed. So when we got to the Cumberland Basin, we peeled off, and went to look at the river instead.

After the long, long winter, May has been pretty much perfect, and yesterday was a beautiful day.  The sun was low in the sky, and the tide was very high, very still.  We stood on the very end of the Cumberland Basin, looking at the bridge, and then down at the water directly below us.  The first Entrance Lock gates had been opened recently, and clouds of silt were flowing into the river, at first slowly, and then when the second lock gate was opened too, very fast.

It’s one of my very favourite things, watching the clouds of silt under the water – the way they move, like eruptions, or something blossoming.   It’s magical to me, and I always hope I’ll see it.  Of course I wish I’d had my DSLR and tripod with me, as filming on my mobile has limitations, but still, I took nearly 50 snippets of film on my phone.  I’m not posting all of them here, but check out how gorgeous it was.  The light was changing, the water pressures kept changing too, and I was hypnotised.  We spent about an hour and a half there, and then walked home, with everything looking beautiful.  I also took a whole load of photos on my film camera (and UPDATE!  they’re here).

The sounds to imagine are a base rumble of traffic from the Portway ahead to the right, and behind on the Plimsoll swingbridge; the piercing blackbird song coming from across the river ahead of us, other birdsong layered up; and the sound of the water flowing, with gloops as eruptions of silt hit the surface.  The smell was of river-water on a hot day, so evocative and refreshing.  Spring breeze on my skin and in my hair, the stone of the Harbour edge warm in the sun, and gently-rough on my hands and where I sat.  The water was so high, it was only a metre and a half below us, and I was having fantasies of jumping in.

At first, it was relatively slow

Looking out across the river, the surface tensions were picked up by the light, but it was just too bright for my phone

Continue reading “Silt clouds in the Avon”

An April lunchtime walk

I met with my friend Cee last week for a lunch-hour walk from Victoria Square to Castle Park along the Harbour, including the new path under the Huller & Cheese flats and through the Finzel’s Reach development.  It was a stunning day, like the first real day of spring, with people everywhere, but our route was surprisingly empty.Map of our walk:

And a couple of photos…

Boats:

Grass-roofed boat

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Avon Stories podcast #18: The Floating Harbour salvage auction

This week’s podcast is a mini-episode, just ten minutes long, and it’s all about the auction that’s running until 4th March 2018, on Bristol’s Floating Harbour.

Every two years the Harbour Master’s office runs a salvage auction, of boats that, for one reason or another, they need to remove from the Harbour.   They might have been abandoned; or they could have been seized as a last resource because their owners didn’t pay their Harbour fees; or in at least one case, the owner didn’t want the boat any more and rather than try to sell it himself, gave it to the Harbour Master.   There are kayaks and dinghies, sportsboats, a narrowboat and much more, in all kinds of stats of repair.  All the proceeds go into the maintenance of the Harbour, and it’s a chance to buy a boat for what’s likely to be a fraction of the usual cost.

I talked to the auctioneer, Graham Cockle, about what’s in the 2018 auction,  and more about why it’s on.  If you want to have a look at the boats yourself, even if you (think you) don’t want to buy one, the boats are on public view every Saturday and Sunday in February, from 10-4 on and around the pontoon between the Cottage Pub and the Underfall Yard.   And you can also have a look at my rainy photos of some of them, below (mouse over or click on the photo to get to the slideshow – or go directly to the flickr album).

 

Claire de Lune

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Avon Stories Podcast #17: The Underfall Yard and its balancing acts

The Underfall Yard sits at the western end of Bristol’s Floating Harbour, a cluster of Victorian redbrick buildings, reminding us of the Harbour’s industrial history.   Over the last few years, more and more of it has been opened up, from the Visitors Centre to providing new walking routes around the end of the docks.  It can seem a bit chaotic, full of skips, piles of wood and metal, with whatever’s been dragged out of the Harbour recently – but that, to me, is part of its charm.

I’ve loved getting to see more of it during the Docks Heritage Weekend, Bristol Harbour Festival and Doors Open Days, but I always want to know more – and I was delighted when Sarah Murray, the Underfall Yard Trust‘s Community, Learning & Volunteering Manager, took me on a bespoke tour.

You can join us, as Sarah showed me some of the backstage and hidden sides of the Yard, including the Sluice Room, Engine Shed and Visitor Centre, and told me about the history of how the Yard came to be, and has changed over time, as well as showing me some of her favourite things.

A lot of our conversation was about the different ways the Yard’s work involves balancing.  It has an important role in keeping the Harbour level, protecting the City from flooding, but there are other day-to-day balancing acts, between being a Heritage site and the base of the Harbour Master and Docks Engineers; hosting tourists and businesses with very physical work; being open for commuters, walkers and joggers, while needing to close for safety reasons; and wanting to attract a good number of visitors, but not too many.  I’ve been thinking a lot about how to run a site as a living, working space, while showing off the heritage aspects, ever since.

I took some photos of things we talked about – they’re mostly January photos, grey and dull, with a few others I’ve taken over the last few years (mouse over or click on the photo to get to the slideshow)

Underfall Yard

For more information about the Underfall Yard, head to their website – and follow their excellent instagram and twitter, for day-to-day glimpses into the Yard and their work.   There’s a lot of information there, about their history, events that they run, visits for schools and colleges and other groups – as well as how to volunteer at the Yard, in different roles.

If you want to know more about boat building at the Yard, I have a mini-podcast with John Raymond-Barker of RB Boatbuilding, with photos of what it’s like inside The Big Shed, over here.

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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.

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