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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A November walk through Nature Reserves

Last week, Vik and I took a November walk, starting at Sea Mills, down through the nature reserves, then along the Portway to the Goat Gully, and up around the Downs to Clifton.  We started a bit late for this time of year, getting on a bus at around 1pm, so by the time we’d got to the Suspension Bridge, it was definitely dusk.

I’ve been to these places before, but never as one walk, and that always shows new sides to places.   The Avon always looks different every time, of course, and I’ve only been the the nature reserves in the Spring before.

Photos are in this flickr set – there are photos from my DLSR, point’n’shoot 35mm and medium format film cameras.  Click through to see more, and I have more links below too.

The Avon from the Goat Gully

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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!)

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Avon Stories Podcast 10: An art-walk with Richard White

I met Richard White when I went on one of his Sweet Waters walks along the Avon, exploring the legacies of the Transatlantic slave trade.  That day we walked from Keynsham into Bristol, along the Feeder Canal for the final part, so I invited him to come and podcast with me on a walk along the River Avon.

We walked down the St Philips Greenway, from Bristol Temple Meads station to the Black Castle pub, via a closed path and the weir that stops the Avon being tidal, and had all kinds of experiences along the way, including strange gas on the River, and meeting a kayaker in a deflating canoe.  We talked about his Sweet Waters project, what the Black Castle represents, how Richard uses walking and social media in his art practice, and what we saw as we went.

You can see the photos we took on the map of our route (mine are blue, Richard’s are red)

And my album, with some more photos is on flickr.

 

The film of the weird gas release is here – I reported it to the Environment Agency, who investigated and said it wasn’t pollution, but it was something that shouldn’t have happened, and they’re making sure it doesn’t happen again.

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A walk from Filton to Eastville along the Frome

Last week I was up in Filton, recording the podcast with the Bristol Avon Rivers Trust, and afterwards, since I was up in that neighbourhood, I walked down through the Stoke Park Estate, and along the Frome.

Stoke Park was beautiful – completely empty on this hot, summer day, with the sounds of crickets, birdsong, ‘planes overhead, and the M32 thrumming in the distance.  It’s somewhere I’ve only been once before, and I really should find out more about it, especially the strange ruins.

Stoke Park Estate

I have a thing about being underneath roads, so in the tunnel under the motorway, I recorded the sounds – under, and then next to it:

After Stoke Park, I went down to the Frome, starting at the weir at Broom Hill.  Clambering over the sluicegate to stand on the end of the weir, I put my disposable underwater film camera into the weir, for different views of it.  I love these three especially

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