Walk with Maggie Hughes, local resident and member of the Kingfisher conservation group. Cotswold Road to the bottom of Windmill Hill.
Maggie and I had lunch at the Windmill pub, just round the corner from her house on Cotswold road. She told me with great enthusiasm about living with the Malago at the bottom of her garden, and the wildlife she sees from her window. There’s a magpie making a new nest at the top of a slender silver birch, and she shows me how it’s dismantling last years nest to re-use the sticks. It’s like us taking a scaffolding pole in our mouth, she says.
Maggie is part of the Kingfishers, a local group who look after this stretch of the river, doing litter picks, trimming back brambles, and keeping an eye on goings-on. She is outraged by the plan that’s been mooted to build a ‘Rapid Transit Route’ over the Malago – burying what’s left of the river in Bedminster to create a route for a bendy bus. She is part of the ‘Save the Malago’ campaign.
She takes me down to the cycle path and talks with passion about the birds nesting in the trees, the colours at different times of year, and how well used the greenway is. I have passed this spot multiple times now, but looking at it with Maggie, this small stretch of the river takes on new value and meaning. She tells me how last year she bought some waders for the clean-up, and was very glad she did, because she ended up thigh-deep in quick-mud and had to be hauled out with a rope. Maggie has an elegant way of moving her hands as she speaks, describing the life of birds, or the swift movement of an eager litter-picker.
As we walk, we meet a woman with a young child. They creep slowly along the path, sometimes stopping for the girl to point at a back garden and proclaim ‘Maaa’. Yes, says the woman, it’s a cat.
Back at Maggie’s house, she shows me a book about this area. On the front page is an extract of a song by Adge Cutler (of the Wurzels) called ‘Moonlight on the Malago’: a tribute to the lovely ladies of South Bristol.