In my mental landscape, Bristol is a city of hills, not towers. Although, one local tower – the Purdown Transmitter, or BT Tower loomed large in my imagination. Not least because it looked more like some kind of alien space station, than a building that belonged at the north eastern edge of 1980s Bristol.
There’s a painting in the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery that I can’t say I exactly liked as a child, but it fascinated me and has haunted me a little ever since.
What if your average numbered walking guide, turned out to do much more – going beyond the basic geography to be predictive, intuitive, even psychic? If that happened, it might go something like this…
I often find it’s the unexpected encounters, or ‘walk shocks’, that make a particular trip memorable.
That was certainly true of at least three I’ve been on this year – plodding along, looking out for particular views, famous sites, when, wham! something, usually from the more-than-human world, was suddenly present, changing the view, changing the day, changing everything.
I once tweeted a thread featuring a highly abridged adaptation of a folktale called ‘One Tree Hill’ for #FolkloreThursday, which seemed like it might make a poem. Below is my attempt to do just that, with a ballad-style version of the story. I don’t write a lot of poems with fixed rhyme schemes, but it…
It is more than possible to lose yourself inside the wood. Not, of course, physically in a Hansel and Gretel way, more like released, albeit temporarily, from the cares of everyday life.
This is a poem I shared on #TopTweetTuesday, an inclusive forum on Twitter for sharing poems every Tuesday – a lovely initiative from https://www.blackboughpoetry.com My ever-present, sleeve-tugging inner punster, almost had me call it Plainsong – but I resisted. It’s a familiar tree, though perhaps not as celebrated as some others. I actually prefer its…
It’s easy to forget sometimes that “nature” isn’t always, or only, to be found somewhere else. I was reminded of this with a visual jolt from a poppy this morning. On a road about five minutes’ walk away from mine, between the foot of the iron railings of a factory (makers of corrosion prevention and…
At times I’ve found the last year reminiscent of my teenage years. All those extended periods of longing for something to happen, for life to get going, to have stuff to look forward to. All combined with often intense feelings of boredom and frustration; alleviated to various degrees through reading, listening to music or simply…
If I could travel back in time to visit the me of ten years ago, when I started writing this blog, to tell myself that he/I would still be doing it a decade later, I doubt I would have been believed. That I would be writing this anniversary piece under the shadow of a global coronavirus pandemic, as the UK entered its third national lockdown in a year, would have been a greater surprise than the fact Richly Evocative was still going – but only slightly.
For a lover of hills, this small region of the country offers quite the range: steep hills, lone hills, round hills, hills with views of the sea, hills buzzed by kestrels, or patrolled by buzzards, internationally renowned hills with ruined churches on top, hills crowned by stands of trees, hills once topped by hill-forts, hills with winds that land a flurry of blows near the summit and hills disguised as city streets, with houses and shops groaning up and down their slopes.
I like to start at the western end, off Finch Avenue. To get there, I walk over a railway bridge that looks nothing like a railway bridge, then before reaching the corner, hop up the low wall between a hawthorn and a young oak, and then like many others, cut across the desire path worn into the grass.
At first glance, there’s not much to see. At second glance, not much more. There are two hedges either side of a gate, rectangular slabs of green, largely blocking sight of the road beyond. They’re a little raggedy, but provide a popular skulking place for the local Dunnock; especially the hedge on the left, technically forsythia, but mostly serving as a framework for ivy. Though currently, scruffy spears are poking up, dotted with those cheerfully in-your-face lemon yellow flowers.
Always there was something to take pleasure in seeing, always the ongoing news of fires, along with smoke haze and smells of distant burning, gave a constant reminder that nothing could be taken for granted. I’d notice something and point it out to the children, then privately wonder whether that species of bird, or fish, or plant would still be here if, one day in the future, the boys ever came back. Every sighting might be a farewell.
The day Bristol Museum and Art Gallery’s Chinese Room disappeared, was the day I first realised that places, like people, can change. It came as something of a shock.
It’s a strange thing to walk into someone else’s memories; especially those that have been woven and tangled about a place. A place that you’ve heard about, but never visited. Somewhere that means a great deal to the person who told you about it, but for you, who’s never been, it retains the status of a rumour.
Surrounding the wall, stubby ash and elephantine coils of Cherry Laurel gave a writhing border to the site, which, just for a moment, became an abandoned sacred grove. For some reason – the unnatural quiet perhaps – the spot felt like a Celtic ‘Thin Place’, or more accurately a broken thin place, as here it seemed, any doorway to the eternal world had been blocked by litter and forgotten.
The large frames created between the support struts, beneath the corrugated iron roof, seem like glassless windows, with ash and oak, horse chestnut, hazel, sycamore and brambles pressing themselves right up to the edges. Sometimes it feels as though passengers are being protected from the looming sylvan creatures beyond.
Going down to the mill is something we do every time we come here. It’s a short distance downhill from Rue de la Roche, where my parents-in-law live, to the town’s second river. When the water is low, as it usually is in August, the visit also includes a walk across the stepping stones and…
I started to wonder how far I should go, without a map or much water, but a trail leading out of town and into the fields is always hard to resist. After all, as Richard Jeffries notes in in Nature Near London, one should “Never omit to explore a footpath, for never was there a footpath yet which did not pass something of interest.”