Avon Stories podcast #19: Dru Marland’s poetry, art and life on the Kennet & Avon Canal

Dru Marland is a poet and artist who lives on a narrowboat on the Kennet & Avon Canal.

I went to visit her boat on a wet, grey day, and she told me all about her work and her life on the water, and about the community of canal-people.   We talked about how she started out as a poet, and the traumatic experience that lead her to become a full-time artist, as well as the beauties and difficulties of narrowboat life, from having to find a new berth every fortnight, to more prosaic issues like dealing with the mud, and a boat’s equivalent of plumbing.

During the podcast, Dru read me some of her poems, and we also talked about specific pictures she’s made, some of which you can see below – all pictures copyright to, and used with the kind permission of Dru Marland.

All rights owned by Dru MarlandThe West End of the Kennet & Avon Canal, by Dru Marland

Continue reading “Avon Stories podcast #19: Dru Marland’s poetry, art and life on the Kennet & Avon Canal”

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

The auction is all run online, and there’s more information about each boat (and other nautical accessories) and the current bids, on the auction page.

Graham Cockle’s auction site is here, as well as his contact details if you have any questions, and if you are tempted to bid, make sure you follow his advice in the podcast!  The information about mooring boats in the Harbour is on the Council website.

If you’re thinking about coming down the the auction, why not combine it with a visit to the Underfall Yard?  My last podcast was a tour around the Yard, to get you in the mood, and you can listen to it, and look at the photos, here.  If nothing else, grab a coffee in their Visitor Centre!

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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 other waters in Bristol.

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 #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.

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”

Avon Stories podcast #14: Site singing at Over Bridge with Ellen Southern

Ellen Southern is a vocal artist, whose Site Singing project includes visiting lesser-known heritage sites, and making vocal pieces responding to the spaces, alongside drawings, photos and writing.

I met Ellen when she was performing a piece under the Avon Bridge, as part of a walk, and I was delighted when she invited me to come and visit one of her sites, Over Bridge.   This is a beautiful, abandoned bridge to nowhere on the River Severn in Gloucester, and we explored the space together, while she told me more about the bridge, and why she loves it.

Ellen also talked about using her voice in her art, and using her voice to explore spaces.   I’m really grateful to her for sending me some of the pieces she recorded on our trip, that are included in the podcast.

While we were there, I took photos with my medium format and 35mm cameras, and my mobile phone, and you can see them in this Flickr album (click on the first photo to start the slideshow).

Over Bridge

You can find out more about Ellen Southern on her website, and follow her on facebook and twitter.   Her Site Singing project is documented on her blog, with writing, drawing, and of course, music, and there are also recordings on Bandcamp.  There’s also an interview with her about the project on South Art Text.

Ellen is also in a band, Dead Space Chamber Music, and they are on facebook, twitter and bandcamp.

There’s more information about Over Bridge on the English Heritage website.

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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 #13: Community development in Southville and Bedminster with Ben Barker

When we talk about community development in Bristol, the neighbourhoods of Southville and Bedminster aren’t the first that come to mind, because they’re generally known for gentrification.

But behind the soaring house prices, there are still really diverse communities, and some pockets of deprivation – and some really interesting community development approaches.

Ben Barker has been at the heart of this work for over 25 years, involved in everything from projects that look tiny and have no budget, right through to things like the Business Improvement District that has helped the local high streets remain vibrant.

I always enjoy talking to Ben, so I wanted to find out more about his approach, especially to areas like social isolation, and projects impacting on elderly and disabled people, including making the area more accessible.

When we talked, we were referring to the Greater Bedminster Partnership, which has since been re-named Action Greater Bedminster!

Find out more about them on the Action Greater Bedminster! website. They’re still in the process of migrating to their new site, so some of the things we talked about aren’t up on the new one yet, but check back soon.  You can also sign up to their newsletter there to find out the latest happenings in the community.

Links to specific projects and initiatives we talked about below:

Continue reading “Avon Stories podcast #13: Community development in Southville and Bedminster with Ben Barker”