Exploring the Avon – Pill to Sea Mills, and following in Roman footsteps

One of the things I want to do with this project is to use it as an excuse to go walking, and exploring places I’ve always thought about – and last week was an adventure I wouldn’t have had without it.

I’ve known Tracy Homer for nearly 12 years, when we met at the first Bristol flickrmeet.  Back when flickr was this amazing social media site, we were part of the Bristol flickr group, and there was this moment when some of us went to a pub to take it from online friends to In Real Life, which branched off into going for flickrwalks to take photos together. Some of my best friends in Bristol are people I met that way, and I still go to a pub once a month or so with some of them, even though we now arrange through different ways, and flickr has gone from being about social media to being somewhere I just upload my photos to.

I liked Tracy from the moment I met her, and I’ve got so many good memories of talking mile-a-minute with her, taking photos, discovering new places, and always laughing a lot.  It’s one of those friendships where we can go years at a time without being in touch, but start where we left off, and she’s the best company for photowalks.  There’s something about not needing to explain why the walk will take twice as long as it should, because we’re stopping for photos, with someone who’ll get exactly what I mean when I’m over-excited about the light on the mud, or the way the grass curves, or whatever it is, and will understand the need to take the same shot on three different cameras, because she’s doing exactly the same thing.

Last week we went for a long walk, one I’ve been wanting to do for ages:  from Pill, up the Avon to the M5 road bridge, then down the north side of the river to Sea Mills, to look for echoes of the Roman town of Abona, and then up the old Roman road to the Downs.   All walks with Tracy tend to start with frantic texting and laughing at ourselves right from the start, and this was no different.  Could we manage to meet on the same bus from different stops?  Of course we could!

This is the map of our route, with my photos on it, and there are more in my flickr album.  I had four cameras with me – my Canon DSLR with a 50mm lens, my Olympus XA2 point & shoot film camera (though I ran out of film, stupidly), my iPhone, and the last of the £1 disposable underwater cameras, and there are some from each on the map, plus a mini film.

I’ve also put photos in the blog below.  It’s a long one, because it was a long walk (that’s my excuse, at least!)

Continue reading “Exploring the Avon – Pill to Sea Mills, and following in Roman footsteps”

An Avon meditation film

It’s the Bristol Balloon Fiesta this weekend, and they’re notorious for not saying whether the mass launches will happen or not – so I set the alarm for 5:30am (ugh) yesterday to try to see the 6am ascent, but fell asleep before they confirmed it would happen.  Then the evenings have been too windy for the launches, so I made myself get up for the 6am launch today.

I’ve been dreaming about getting a film of something we experienced a few years ago – a stream of balloons floating along the Avon.  I’ve seen the mass ascent from the Fiesta once, and it’s fine, but I really want that river-of-balloons echoing the river, and to record the roaring of the burners.

I was so pleased with myself for being up early, in the beautiful morning light, and watching the balloons from Vauxhall Bridge felt great, I was convinced it was going to happen… until we realised the wind was taking them east, away from us.

I had that really crappy FOMO feeling (Fear Of Missing Out), and I feel for Vik and Matt, as I was also having low blood sugar and literally didn’t know which way to turn – chase the balloons?  Find a different spot?  Try to find breakfast?  Luckily Lockside was open early and I recovered my equilibrium – and then on the way home, there were these gentle-looking streams from the Outflow into the river, with clouds of silt.  The incoming tide was a fast one, but the force of the outflow was pushing the stream far over the water.  I only got 5 minutes of this, but I love it, it’s my perfect meditation film:

The only thing was wanting about 15 cameras pointing at different points.  But I here’s a mobile phone film-ette of a different point of the river at the same time:

Continue reading “An Avon meditation film”

Avon Stories #9: Protecting our rivers with the Bristol Avon Rivers Trust

My Avon Stories project is based around the river and the waters in Bristol, and while I’ve been looking at how the river impacted on the history of Bristol, and how people use and are inspired by the river, I’m also very interested in the water itself – and in this podcast, I set out to find out more

I talked to Claire Hutchinson, a Project Officer with the Bristol Avon Rivers Trust (BART), a community-based charity that works to protect and improve the rivers and streams.  Claire told me about how healthy the water is, the challenges and issues facing the rivers, including the different forms of pollution, and what BART, and we, can do to protect our environment.

The BART catchment area covers the Avon and all the tributaries that feed into it:

You can find out more about BART’s work on their website, including their projects, and the ones we talked about:

Continue reading “Avon Stories #9: Protecting our rivers with the Bristol Avon Rivers Trust”

Avon Stories #5 – an artwalk with Nikki Pugh

This week’s Avon Story is a walk, with artist Nikki Pugh.

Nikki’s work investigates how we perceive, move through and interact with our surroundings. Her work combines a mixture of techniques from different disciplines, including sculpture, walking, playfulness and use of technology. Often it also includes other people getting involved in some way.

We walked down the River Avon together, watching the the tide change and discussing her recent projects. These include making landscape-reactive robots at the Pervasive Media Studio at the Watershed; exploring the Duddon Valley in the Lake District with Lancaster University and the Wordsworth Trust; and Orrery for Landscape, Sinew and Serendipity, a sculptural object that uses GPS and weather data to power an alternative – mechanical – method of visualising long distance bike rides.

Along the way we got distracted by the river, and stopped take a lot of photos and videos of the river, with a theme of “brown”!

Click on Nikki’s website to find out more about her work, including the projects we talked about, as well as commission some work, or invite her on a walk by a river.   You can also follow her twitter and flickr.

You can follow our walk on my map:

Continue reading “Avon Stories #5 – an artwalk with Nikki Pugh”

A bad photography day – and regaining my equilibrium

I often walk along the River and the Harbour with my partner – it’s not the quickest way to town from home, but it’s a diversion to take photos and enjoy the city, and it usually adds layers of interest and fun to days that would otherwise be about chores…  except sometimes it doesn’t.

Continue reading “A bad photography day – and regaining my equilibrium”

Avon Stories #4: Medieval Bristol part 2 – who were the Bristolians, and how did they live?

This is the second part of a conversation with Dr Peter Fleming, a professor at the University of the West of England, who specialises in Medieval History.

In Part 1, we talked about how Bristol became a superstar city, one of the most important in Western Medieval Europe. This time we talked about the people who lived in the city, from the Icelandic slaves to the Knights Templars, the Jewish communities, how women lived, and more; and how the city responded to the huge events of the era, including Plague and war.

Peter also told me about where the local seats of power were, and what Bristolians did for fun, including plays, sport and how Bristol has always been home to innovative music.

The map of the city, with photos of how sites we talked about look today, is here – and there are links to the Medieval maps in the post for Part 1 of the podcast.

If you want to know more about Peter Fleming, his UWE staff page is here, including the list of his articles and books he’s written and contributed to.   You can find more articles he’s written here, with links to read them.  And you can also follow Peter on his twitter.

We talked about books Peter has written, including:

  • Discovering Cabot’s Bristol: Life in the Medieval and Tudor Town, with Kieran Costello, which is out of print, but available in libraries and online retailers
  • His illustrated version of The Maire of Bristowe is Kalendar, written by town clerk Robert Ricart between 1480 and 1508, which you can buy from the Bristol Record Society.  Read more about it, with some of the amazing illustrations, on this blog by Peter.
  • Later this year, Peter’s latest book, Time, Space and Power in Fifteenth Century Bristol, will be published by Brill – tell your library to order it!

If you’d like to take a walk around Medieval Bristol, Bristol Old City has a Heritage Trail map with information about things you’ll see along the way, which Peter was involved in producing.  There’s also more information about Bristol’s town walls on Gatehouse.

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You can download this podcast directly from the Avon Stories Soundcloud, and sign up to the Avon Stories RSS and subscribe on iTunes, to make sure you hear all the future stories.  Make sure you’re also following on twitter and instagram, for regular photos of the river.

Photo set – the theme of the day was “brown”

This week I went for a walk with Nikki Pugh, who makes really fantastic interactive art.  We walked very slowly down the Chocolate Path, looking at the clouds of silt under the surface of the river, and the tide changing from coming in to sitting still at the change point, to watching what happens in the hour after the highest tide.

We both took a lot of photos with the theme of “brown”, and you can see Nikki’s flickr photoset here, and mine in this slideshow (click for more):

Watching the tide drop 1

I also made a couple of small, quiet videos, of how the water was reacting before and after Vauxhall Bridge:

Come back soon to hear the podcast, and make sure you check out Nikki’s website, and follow her on twitter.