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.

1st November Avon view

 

Back at the start of the month I was taking the kind of walk I do a lot of in winter.   I get SAD, and I’ve been freelancing, so I have to make a conscious effort to leave the house sometimes.   One thing I do is order books from the library, so I have a continual reason to be out, dropping off read books, taking out new ones.   They start off as  functional, deliberate walks, rather than explorations, or leisure, but they can lead into more.

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This time I started getting fascinated with the wooden structures that are built into the silt banks along the stretch of river between Bedminster Bridge and the former entrance to the Harbour at Bathurst Basin.   They look so botched together, straining at the pressure of holding up the weight of the banking, and on their last legs.  I wonder when they were built, how long they will last, and what will happen when they fall – and that makes me think about how so much of the New Cut has been so badly maintained, and seems like one or two big storms away from collapsing.   It’s an unnatural river, and should need constant upkeep.  Without it, it won’t last another 50 years, let alone 100.

Where the Avon used to join the Floating Harbour, at Bathurst Basin

My photos were bad – grey November day, just my iphone, and 200iso in my 35mm, but I love them.   I hopped over the fence to look at the mechanics of the outlet that lets the Malago into the Avon, as I’m always intrigued as to what everything is.  It’s this kind of view I like best, and these are the moments the functional walks turn into something more.

Where the Malago joins the Avon

Malago structures, on the Avon

And it’s a continual obsession to take the same photos with multiple cameras, to see how the view changes – here’s the river from an unusual viewpoint, phone & 35mm.

Avon compare & contrast

Avon view - compare and contrast

The composition is better on the mobile, the colours better on film – but neither are great.   I wish I’d had my medium format or DSLR with me.   But I love them for the memory, and because I can’t remember seeing this view before.  I want to see what it looks like in winter, and spring, and summer.  Golden hour and frosty morning light, and everything between!