Walk with Helen Adshead (NETWORK South Bristol) and Kathy Derrick (Bristol City Council). Bedminster station to the Victorian Interceptor, and back under the railway to Whitehouse Lane.
Helen and Kathy work for the council, monitoring the health of Bristol’s rivers, encouraging people to explore them, and supporting community groups who work on conservation. They were intrigued by this project and what might come of it. Helen organises an annual walk along the Malago, which is well attended by those who live near to the river and intrigued ramblers. Kathy said something that really struck me – that the Malago is more like a jigsaw than a continuous route. Each bit you come across has a different character, and belongs in a different community. This rang true with my experiences of hunting for the river over the past few days – and trying to piece it together in my head.
They were able to tell me a bit more about the architecture of culverting, and when the river was re-directed. They also took me back past Bedminster station and onto Whitehouse Lane, where there’s the final section of the Malago before it disappears under Asda. This bit flows (or limps) through a square channel. It passes a garage and there are several large tyres dumped in the water. Then there’s a sharp corner and a remarkable floodgate, once again out of proportion with the volume of water.
Kathy explains that they conduct water quality tests every month for all of Bristol’s rivers, checking for pollutants. The also do surveys on the number of shopping trolleys found in the waterways. Shopping trolley sightings can be reorted through Bristol City Council and there is a service to fish them out. The data is available online at www.bristol.gov.uk/rivers
Before we go our separate ways I ask Helen exactly where the Malago emerges into the Avon New Cut. There are two places – the storm tunnel that goes from Manor Woods underground and carries most of the water, and the tunnel that takes the trickle we have followed under Asda’s car-park. She shows me on a map and tells me how to get to a good viewing spot on the other side of the river. She tells me to look for a large tidal gate that covers the tunnel outlet. When it’s been really raining, there’s a surprising amount of water pouring out.