Saint George, Bristol: Paths, Cuts, and Lanes. PROLOGUE

I have decided to document the paths and lanes around where I live. I live in Saint George, Bristol, or possibly Crews Hole, depending on who writes the address, or which map you look at. Our flat is a few hundred meters from the River Avon, though despite our ellevated vantage point, the river cannot be seen, though its route is clearly visible as it wends its way downstream.

It is, however, just possible to see Crews Hole Road [sic – the lack of apostrophe in ‘Crews’ is not my doing]. We can also just spot the peaked roof of the recently-reopened Bull Inn, just beyond the cliff-clinging Buddleia plants that edges the flats’ carpark.

The aims of this project (at this point of time, leastways) is (1) to document some of the hidden, and not so hidden, routeways of the area; and (2) to learn how to get the most out of my oft-neglected Nikon F65 SLR (film) camera.

So some more detail. First, the paths and lanes. There is quite a variety of walkways roundabouts this steep valley slope. There are the roadways that plummet straight down the hill, the narrow paths cutting between houses and past backs of  gardens. There’s Trooper’s Hill nature reserve with gravel-surfaced paths through the heather, and the tarmac’d River Avon path. Some trails are overgrown and unused, such as the path that starts at the end of our car park, and there are rat-runs through pavement-less narrow lanes, unnerving for walkers who find themselves facing a suped-up Mitsubishi, or impatient van driver.

Second: my camera. I have owned the camera for about 8 years. For a good few years it’s been mothballed, collecting dust in the spare room. I recently got a copy of Natural-Light Photography by Ansel Adams (1952: 1971, Morgan & Morgan: New York) from Bristol Central Library. It’s pretty technical, recommending all sorts of light meters, and discussing the merits and demerits of various, and largely obselete, film types; but depsite that, it is the philosophical approach to natural light photography (a term that refers to not only outdoor shots, but the process of photography that does not use specialist lighting equipment) that is inspiring.

I intend to use a single film per routeway. This means about 36 shots each time – so I will have to think carefully about every photograph. I documented a path today and used about 2-and-a-half films! Using a digital compact camera has certainly made me lazy about photos, with its vast memory and instant results. I look forward to slowing things down, to take my time; and from this, become more attentive of my local area.

There is another aspect to this approach which I hope will be useful. There will always be a lag between photographs taken, and photographs developed (barring converting the spare room into a darkroom). It means it is possible to write some notes about each path during or immediately after, perhaps with some research. But once the photographs are developed, it is hoped I will have a new perspective – perhaps something I missed during the excursion, or that ability to look at something in its fine, static detail.

Essentially, I envisage that the process will embody three key elements:

  1. Close observance and photo-framing during the walk
  2. Writing and considering my thoughts and feelings of that walk
  3. The close study of the returned photographs in all their pristine, and not so pristine, detail.
St George/Crew's Hole

St George/Crew’s Hole area. Click map to got to OSM.

Sun-ways not Widdershins – revisited

On 16th October 2014, I published a post of a walk through the field near work. This week, I took another close look. But this time from the start of the summer.

 * * *

TOWERING TREES

varicose veins | flames of green buds | cumulonimbussing conker tree

* * *

SEVEN HOLED SURFACES

 

* * *

FLOWERS OF MEADOW & HEDGEROW

unknown with grass | willow grass | lesser stitchwort | nettle: stinging and dead | hawkweed | elderflower

* * *

FRUITS OF SUMMER COMING, SUMMER PASSED

elderberry | blackberry | fig

* * *

CRAWLING

spider nest | honeydew | scorpian fly | cuckoo spit | anthill | humble bumblebee

* * *

EPHEMERA

If Bristol were flooded.


* Video is my recording of a film shown at Millenium Square, Bristol, on 03/05/2015. The original film Cheers, Drive! can be viewed at: http://www.triplegeek.com/portfolio/visuals/cheersdrive.

* Boat images are of the Withdrawn exhibition in Leigh Woods, near Bristol, described as “an unexpected encounter with a flotilla of abandoned fishing boats installed in the depths of the woodland”. More details at: http://www.lukejerram.com/projects/withdrawn

Three Processions

I set out alone in brilliant sunshine
Along the green river, a shop
The town; the Gloucester Road

The first Saturday of May
To see the procession
Or at least, its terminus upon ancient common

Gloucester Road to Filton Road
Crowds outside pubs thicken
“Are these all for the Jack?”

Police on foot, horseback, riot vans
Match day. Blue and whites
I arrive at the common

(Avoiding the busy streets)
The common is empty
The road alongside, suddenly

Gets noisy: proud chants
Supporters escorted on a
Pre-planned route

This is not the procession that I
That I was expecting
But it carries its own values

Sense of occasion
I wait for mine, sat here
Too early, and realise

This is a solitary procession, all of my own.

On form and fluid – musings from Minehead

Preface

Over Easter weekend 2015, I decided to cycle from Barnstaple (Devon) to Bridgwater (Somerset), wild camping (and, as it turned out B+Bing) along the way.

I might elaborate further on the trip in the future. But for now, here are some thoughts I had in Minehead in Saturday evening as I watched the flow and ebb of the tide.

   * * * 

I’ve walked along the waterfront, from Butlins on the eastern edge, to the west end in the shadow of North Hill. Behind is the RNLI Lifeboat Station, and I’m sat on a trailer for towing boats.

Further down towards Butlins, the beach is sandy but here it’s all pebbles: grey, purple and violet, smoothed to irregular shapes.

Along the shoreline to the left and right stand two fishermen, spending as much time looking behind at the wooded hill and playing with their equipment, as out to sea. A couple sit on a conspicuous shelf of concrete, which seems to be a dried dump of cement; pebbles from the shore embedded within.  

I like watching the tide. A good deal of my childhood was spent in a village that is “the second most inland place in the UK”, according to my mother, though my dad is from Grimsby. The waves crash at rarely a foot high. The larger waves work further up the shore, and as the water recedes, the rocks clatter loudly, as though a smoker is taking a rattly inhale before the next crest blows in.

Sometimes the pebbles don’t rattle, the old smoker missing a breath.

I wonder: is the tide coming in or going out? After several tiny waves, I conclude going out, only for another large wave to come in, confounding me.

It’s seven o’clock, and the sky above the western horizon of the sea is golden. Wales, seen through the haze, is basking in sunshine, too, including the large power station; its smoke a barely-percepitble grey smudge.

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

Anthony Gormley sculpture, Leith.

Why are coastal towns so often furnished with sculptures? In Aberdeen, the harbourside paving inscribed with poetry, a sort of concrete poetry, or perhaps better: granite poetry. In Leith, Anthony Gormley’s frozen, rusted anglers-without-poles stand stoic.

Minehead, too. A pair of giant galvanised hands wrestle with a corrugated map, marking the start (or, depending on proclivity and angle, end) of the South West Coastal Path. Even this deserted trailer upon which I sit (a sort of sculptural memorial itself) sits three small pebbles placed upon one another.  

In front of me, 100 or so metres out into the water, two structures I recognise but don’t understand, protrude from the surface. Two seagulls and a crow stands sentinel atop. A large ship approaches from the east, perhaps an oil tanker from the Avonmouth refinery. It floats in languid light, the same golden sunlight that has long been hidden from this sheltered section of harbour.

20150404-0020

Maybe this is why sculptures seem so plentiful on the coast; a desire to make form from the unending fluid of the ocean. Tim Ingold asks of his undergraduate anthropology students to visit Aberdeen beach, and to the consider the nature of place, space (though he’d never utter that word), emergence, surface and form.

In short, looking out to sea we saw a world in movement, in flux and becoming, a world of ocean and sky, a weather world. […Apply this way of seeing to the land, and] it is the solidity of the ground itself that is thrown into doubt

Ingold, 2011, pp131-132

So sculptures: more than just an attempt to fix the sea, but to fix the land too. Perhaps seaside dwellers are used to flux and dynamism: waves, coastline, rising rivers, supermoons, spring and neap tides, rain, fog, wind, but as well as seeing this in the sea, it is seen on the land as well. Groins and piers for the sea; sculpture for onshore.

It’s getting cold, and my thirst needs slaked – so to the pub. But before I depart, I look again at the pebbles in front. The couple have left, but in their stead, a neat stack of eight or ten pebbles. And yes, now I’m sure: the tide is coming in.

Reference

2011, Ingold, T, Being Alive: Essays on movement, knowledge and description, Oxon: Routledge

Bendochy – a poem

BENDOCHY

?????????????????????????????????????

cold cold cold
the green man’s face blooming.

bloom of my own, this curse of the Celts:
the tiny red fissures at the surface, closer than
most, like a map of blood-red
wind-felled trees.
the ice wind sucks heat
from these threads, my face
feels like the blood is
being frothed out of my skin then
freezing, holding my features,
a grimace.

middle age abbey, medieval gaol,
Victorian barracks, ancient cross.
manacles on a standing stone:
age unknown, but still
a reminder, of something not
remembered

the wind off the river flows
right to this church, for Bendochy
parish, walls to keep out the
icewind and doubts, a shelter acute
when against savage nature

the green man still grins
the cursed Celt grimaces

 

This poem first appeared in Wyrd Daze, “the multimedia zine of speculative fiction and experimental music & art”. Reproduced with thanks. Visit Wyrd Daze for more.

Not (yet?) the cove of forgotten dreams

What is this gap, this cut, this cove?

From the river path, I see a trunk sewer, elevated above the ground. Duck under, and a ruined concrete and brick structure. My eyes dance across the surface of broken angles; peer into a rubble-strewn chamber.

But soon, I am looking at something more massive. A cliff, dwarfing the ruin and sewer. (Though is massive the correct term? A cliff suggests a lack of mass, a void. But whatever might be appropriate, it is surely a derivative of ‘very big’). The cliff a horseshoe of wall, and trees sparsely fill the flat bottom and lower flanks.

Up high, leafless and stunted trees tiptoe on the edge of the golden-in-sunlight rocks. It’s sandstone, I think. Or maybe limestone. The lower cliff faces are shiny wet and pattered in sunlight. Here the water seeps through the rock’s crevices, and drips off the brambles and ivy. Not quite a din or cacaphony, but an asyncopated collage.

SAM_2559Drip         Drip                               Drip               Drip                 Drip    Drip                       Drip                     Drip                         Drip                           Drip      Drip                          Drip          Drip               Drip                                  Drip             Drip              Drip        Drip                    Drip               Drip                                        Drip                     Drip  Drip               Drip        Drip  Drip                                      Drip                  Drip     Drip                      Drip                  Drip

I’m at the highest point I can get to from the bottom, and the space is quite a wonder: an amphitheatre of stones and gravel facing a stage empty but for the trees. What happened here? How did this place come to be? I search high up on the cliff faces, looking for prehistoric rock art. A folly practice, in a site near the city in view of the busy river path, but I look all the same.

But there is still rock art – the furze of spray paint. The prescence of modern (that is, contemporary) people, or at least, the signs of their prescence, sometimes unnerves me. I can happily lie in a flimsy bivuoac in the thick night while foxes bark and owls screech, but if the thought that I might be discovered by a gang of kids or a gamekeeper crosses my mind, I’ll not be sleeping. Now, seeing this rock art, the narrowmindness of my romantic prehistoric-focused imagination is thrown in to sharp relief. I wonder: what would an archeologist make of this space in two-thousand years?

In Don Fernando, W. Somerset Maugham considers that great proto-postmodernist tome Don Quixote and the mention of a meal named duelos y quebrantos, which translates as pains and sorrows. He points out the great scholarly exertion used to find out what this dish might be, for it to be discovered that it’s merely bacon and eggs. He then leaves a quip about bubble and squeak, anticipating the three-hundred years of investigation into what this meal could possibly be. And so to here: as well as the spray paint, there’s a picnic bench and abandoned tent, as well as the concrete ruin and sewer pipe. When this place is buried and then excavated, what conclusions would future thinkers draw with regard to this space? Picnic bench as ceremonial table? Tent as nomadic home left in a hurry? Sewer pipe a sign of Romanesque technology?

I scramble back down and it becomes clear that the boulder and scree is not timeless; permanent. There are signs of a recent rockslide. In among this largely plant-free stony debris is a tree with large blocks against its trunk. Other trees lie half buried, their roots rising skyward. Fractures in the rock face portend the next rock fall.